Frequently Asked Questions
Miking and Recording
The discussions on Miking and Recording that follow are posting to Handbell-l. They are offered as expressions of experience of the participants. There is conflicting information, but the comments, un-edited except for brevity when necessary, will help an individual decide and experiment to obtain the best sound reinforcement or recording of handbells in his/her own situation.
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Miking from Behind.
Kath Wissinger Wrote "A quick note for now... We recorded our first CD in 3 sessions, all live unedited, during worship or concert, with the mike in the "audience."
Our CD guy said, next time around, to get the mike as close to the bells as possible, and he'd work with it. So at our last concert, we placed the mike BEHIND the bass bells (remember, the sound goes in all directions). Our CD guy hasn't heard it yet, but just from the DAT I can tell the bass is much richer and louder, the trebles less shrill (they were placed in front of and below the bass bells in the sacntuary where our FirstNight concert was), and the audience noise (coughing, papers) is less noticable, but still there. We will certainly use this recording set-up whenever we can. (We use) a DAT recorder the size of (your) palm and a single mike, that's it. We're not focused on making recordings, but adding to worship, so the taping is just an add-on for us.
I also did all the logging of running times for all the pieces on the three DAT tapes that we wanted on the CD, so the computer input was very fast, and saved money and time by knowing exactly where the clips were. We didn't have any mastering done, except balancing volume levels (so you don't
have to fiddle with the volume controls when you listen to it in the car!), and one piece, Broken for You, a very quiet one, the studio guy wanted to bring up too far to balance, made the bells sound distorted, so I had him lower it back a notch for "reality's" sake.
That's all I can think of for now, but it looks like I'll get to do this again....so I'll learn more the next time, too!
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Ongoing Discussion of Miking on Handbell-L
In hb-l0395.288, Jerry Olson writes to the list on 95/03/28:
Help! Our group's methods of recording concerts are so archaic and abominable, I thought I would solicit tips on recording techniques/equipment that have proved successful for other groups. After listening to playback of some of our concerts I realized we really need to get into the 20th century soon before it is over. It seems to be hard to get a true sound reproduction from handbells given that some overtones are wildly exxagerated (as well as the clunking of the clapper) and others completely disappear. I am not looking necessarily for CD quality.
I would just like to know brand names of various pieces of equipment that groups are happy with; which piece in the recording chain is most/least important (microphones, recording machine, cassette tape type, etc); rough estimate of equipment cost; importance of placement of microphones.
I am really most interested in what ideas people have come up with to ameliorate the particularly nasty idiosynchrasies of handbell recordings. (and of course, am happy to entertain all suggestions that are CHEAP to implement).
The Hour of Power broadcast of SONOS had good clear sound. Anyone from SONOS have knowledge of the some of the details of the recording setup?
Any comments would be appreciated on/offline. Thank you.
Jerry (Olson) -
Date: Wed, 29 Mar 95 00:09:28 PST
From: Rusty Sanders
>I thought I would solicit tips on recording techniques/equipment that have proved successful for other groups.
Please provide some detail on how you've been recording. It's hard to assess what's wrong with it without knowing what you're doing. That said, unless you're down to "the boom box in the front pew" method of recording, I can take a guess what the biggest problem you have... which is mike placement.
>It seems to be hard to get a true sound reproduction from handbells given that some overtones are wildly exxagerated (as well as the clunking of the clapper) and others completely disappear.
Actually, the biggest problem I've heard on most handbell CDs is the "hole in the middle" syndrome. On moderatly decent stereo, you always seem to end up with all the 6's, 7's, and most of the fives on the left speaker. All the 3's, 4's are on the right speaker. The rest of the fives seem to come from center.. but it's only, like, 6-8 notes. Whiplash time.
OK... Another difference in recording technique comes from what bells are being used. Are you using Malmarks or Schulmerichs (or White Chapels)? Believe it or not, I'd place microphones differently for Malmys or Schullies. The strike tones are different. If you're complaining about overtones and clapper clunk, and are using "standard" recording technique, I'd say you are close miking, placing an array of mikes within a few feet of the bells. Rule number one, the closer the mike, the more the clunk.
>I am not looking necessarily for CD quality.
I'm going to be majorly responsible for recording my community choir this semester. I very much am looking for CD quality :-). As it turns out, most of the problems I've heard with handbell recordings sound just as bad on cassette quality recordings as on CD quality.
>I would just like to know ... which piece in the recording chain is most/least
>important (microphones, recording machine, cassette tape type, etc);
Microphones are important. Really. But you can spend all the left arms of a large choir on microphones if you want to get good ones. That said, compared to the other problems you face, microphones are not your biggest problem. In my experience, the MOST important thing to making a "good" recording is microphone placement, and type. The second most important thing is a good recording media.
I'll address the second, first. Buy a DAT deck. DAT is great. DAT is good. Buy DAT. Just do it. Bells mastered on cassette ... well ... I won't use the first word that comes to mind (or the second or third). Let's suffice it to say that bells mastered on cassette provide a vastly inferior sound quality. Most of this can be attributed to flutter and signal to noise. Dolby can help S/N, nothing can help the flutter. If you want to record bells and organ (as I have, in the past), the problem gets even worse. Organs and Cassettes, jusy say NO!.
A DAT recorder can probably be had in the $500 to $1000 range (or more, if "professional"). Look in to it, buy what you need. Portable is cool, but I use a "deck", because it has better editing features. Whatever.
As to mike placement... this one is REALLY contentious. One of the members of my community choir ... finished a CD of his church choir last semester. It was professionaly recorded, at a sound studio. Second lesson: professional studios know how to record rock bands and chamber orchestras. Bell choirs are neither of those. Summation: (most) professional studios don't have a clue. His "experts", using standard practice, close miked everything. Net result? Unnatural tone and really clunky clappers. Probably sounds OK to most people, but it drives me nuts.
How do I mike? Well... I'm at the complete opposite end of the spectrum I like to place 2 (yes, 2... really... stereo... how primitive) mikes at a distance from the choir. I prefer to use omnidirectional mikes, placed 3 feet apart, aimed straight ahead at "eye" level to that average strikpoint of the bells. Distance from the tables is determined by how wide and deep the source is. For my wife's choir (the one I have most experience recording) the width is 18 feet and the depth is 10 feet. They play in a (very compact) U shape... like this:11122222223333333444Where each number represents 10"s, or so. Each number shows a 6'x30" table. This is a VERY compact choir, playing 5 octaves on approximately 24 linear ft of table. The joys of a small dais.
Anyway, for this choir I set the 2 mikes some 15 feet from the center. If you're using cardiod mikes, you might want to put them closer together, or move them further back. Now most of my experimentation has been dictated by the physical confines on the room I'm working in (the santuary), but this seems to work.
What results is a rounded balance, with a much reduced hole in the middle. It also adds something often lost with close miking, which is "air". Bells are most often played in a large room, which adds ambience and warmth to the sound. I feel this is lost with close miking techniques in a dead room.
My community choir director has finally agreed that close miking is bad, but I haven't gotten her to buy off on the "less is better" approach. So, our current strategy is to have 8 mikes, spaced along an array at some 12-15 feet, mixed down to a stero track. That should work too... but I'd much rather get rid of the mixer and the panning, and just do it with two.
>I am really most interested in what ideas people have come up with to ameliorate the particularly nasty idiosynchrasies of handbell >recordings. (and of course, am happy to entertain all suggestions that are CHEAP to implement).
Well.. cheap and audio are a relative thing. To set up a fairly good recording situation from scratch you might expect to spend (mind you, these numbers are pulled completely out of the air, I could be vastly wrong): -- (remember the date is March 29, 1995 -- Ed.)8 channel mixer: $2000 (cheap mixers add noise, expensive ones add effects)I'll presume that this number isn't cheap :-). I prefer 2 mikes (electrits), with a simple mike pre-amp, plus the DAT deck. You can probably get that for less then $2000. You probably still don't consider that cheap. Using 2 dynamics and a DAT deck bring the cost down to the <$1000 range. Without going to cassete (*yuk YUK*), that's probably the best I can think of.
8 phantom powered mics: $4000 (phantom is best, but adds cost to the Mixer, electrets eat batteries, and dynamics generally are worst performance)
DAT deck $750
>The Hour of Power broadcast of SONOS had good clear sound. Anyone from >SONOS have knowledge of the some of the details of the recording setup?
I've heard a VCR recording of the the SONOS HOP performance. To my ear, it was very clunky. Since they were performing in a straight line, from the sound I'd say they were fairly close miked (2-3 feet away) along the line. I haven't heard a stero recording, so I can't say anything about the sound stage. I'm going to take a guess and say that HOP has a significantly more expensive audio set up then you are going to want to get into.
Date: Wed, 29 Mar 95 11:49:15 PST
From: Mark Decker
>>In hb-l0395.288, olson writes to the list on 95/03/28:
The three most important elements in recording bells are pretty much the same as in real estate: location, location and location, specifically, mic location. Unfortunately, the ideal placement depends very much on the acoustics of the hall, so the best suggestion I can make (especially for choirs who pretty much always record in the same place) is to spend a LOT of time experimenting with different setups. Then you can find the best mix of presence, echo and clunk to suit your tastes.
One suggestion for recording on the cheap, especially for just archival recording is to use a Hi-Fi VCR. The Hi-Fi stereo audio tracks are recorded digitally with nearly the same quality as a CD, and you can record for two hours strait without worrying about flipping over a tape. Obviously if you are buying a deck to record sound, you are better off getting a DAT, but someone in the group may already have a Hi-Fi VCR, which you could use for free. You can use a standard cassette deck as your microphone preamp, but instead of recording on the cassette, feed the line out from the cassette into the line in on the VCR, and away you go. I have an Akai VCR with separate left and right recording level controls and a stereo recording level meter that works great for this, but if you are using the cassette/VCR setup I describe above, then the level control on the cassette is probably
The biggest disappointment I have with most handbell recordings is that I feel much too distant from the sound. Admittedly, I'm spoiled. I ring G&A 4 a lot, so I stand near the center of the table and have the sound of the whole choir just washing over me, especially in pieces like the Buckwalter Nocturne, and I want that same sense of being right in the center of a wall of sound when I listen to a recording. Unfortunately, all the handbell recordings I've ever heard (granted a pretty small sample) give me the feeling of sitting halfway back in a very large hall, with a very distant and detached feel to the sound. Someday I'd like to experiment with hanging a couple of omni mics directly above the bell tables, just above our heads, and see if we can't get more of a sense of the wash of sound I'm looking for.
Date: Wed, 29 Mar 95 22:47:59 PST
From: Rusty Sanders
>In hb-l0395.297, olson writes to the list on 95/03/29:
> (DAT tape is about $10-$12 to purchase)
Ahah!... A little known secret here. Audio DAT tapes are expensive. So, don't buy them. Find a good wholesale computer outlet, and buy "4 mm backup media". Computers use DAT technology for a tape backup device. I've seen 90 meter tapes go for < $6.00. For a conversion factor, 30 meters of tape is 1 hour of audio. So, 90 meter tapes play for 3 hours of DAT audio. As best as I can tell, there is no difference between the tapes. There is certainly no audible difference.
They charge more for "audio" tapes because they can. Don't buy them. Buy computer tapes. If you're DAT deck won't handle 3 hour tapes (some don't), buy 60 meter tapes... which all decks should handle.
> This allows us to play around with options with nominal investment (our group is on a tight budget as I am sure most are). Later, when we have possibly come to agreement on equipment purchase, we can then do so after having tried the various setups. Mikes may be something we always rent as they seem to be rather expensive purchases.
I think you're on the right tack. Mike placement is so much more important than anything else that any "cheap" work you can do experimenting with that will pay off. Once you find a placement that works for you, improve the other pieces of the chain to make a good quality tape.
But keep in mind, unless it's just a study tape, you need to worry about royalties and copyright. If you start selling the things, it's REALLY important that all the people who have contributed to your ability to make the music earn the benefits of their efforts. It's only fair.
Rusty "Bonzai Bell Banger" Sanders
Date: Wed, 29 Mar 95 23:19:22 PST
From: Rusty Sanders
>(Mark Decker Wrote) The three most important elements in recording bells are pretty much the
>same as in real estate: location, location and location, specifically, mic location.
I like it! Well said.
>Unfortunately, the ideal placement depends very much on the acoustics of the hall,
Another hall characteristic to concern yourself with: ambient noise. My wife's church borders a busy street. I've had more single recordings absolutly RUINED by that idiot motorcycle than any thing else. Find a site away from busy streets, and try to record at off peak traffic hours.
>One suggestion for recording on the cheap, especially for just archival recording is to use a Hi-Fi VCR.
I'll add to that... if you have multiple Hi-Fi VCRs, and can get multiple sets of mikes and pre-amps, record several different configurations all at the same time. I've never done this, but I've always wanted too (never thought of using VCRs before). The biggest problem with evaluating mike placement is A/B comparisons. "Is the placement better, or did we just really *suck* that last time"... Simultaneous recording of multiple placements is a REAL bonus. Especially if you're doing the 2 mike route.
>The biggest disappointment I have with most handbell recordings is that I feel much too distant from the sound. ... Unfortunately, all the handbell recordings I've ever heard (granted a pretty small sample) give me the feeling of sitting halfway back in a very large hall, with a very distant and detached feel to the sound.
That was my experience too, when I first started recording. I'd listen to the tape, and think "it has too much 'air'". I'd play with mike placement, move them closer, close mike, multi mike, everything. It either sounded clunky, with poor left-right placement, and no depth, or "airey".
Then I did some recording of a choir I wasn't actually playing with. Guess what? Bells really sound that way. I tried sitting out in the front pews and listening closely, then comparing to the tapes. It was really pretty close. VERY DISAPPOINTING. After playing at the table, and listening from the floor, I feel terribly sorry for all those "mundanes" who don't get the chance to hear why we REALLY love it all.
So, I guess, if you want to make a "pure" study tape, for the choir to listen to for a sense on ensemble, you should try to "fix" the problem. My guess would be a whole bunch of mikes, placed BEHIND the choir, mixed down to a semblance of a stereo track. Of course, nobody else in the world would think that's what a choir sounds like, but it might be interesting.
But, I'm afraid, if you want to sell anything that sounds anything like what people think a bell choir sounds like, it's going to be somewhat distant and airey. It's not a problem with the recording technique. That's just (at least, according to my ears) what bells sound like to begin with. Oh well.. just gotta get more people to get to the other side of the table.
>I know Campanile is heading into the studio soon to do a new age recording, and I'll be very interested to hear the kind of sound quality they achieve, since new age music tends to be recorded in the kind of rich, enveloping way I'm looking for.
For new age, maybe they can give the "complete" experience... not from the listener's position, but from the ringer's spot. Since most people who listen to that type of music have probably never heard a bell group - no harm, no foul. Rima, do you know how you're group is planning on approaching this question? I think the recording engineers have three choices for what you want to do...
1) Close miked (near field card's), right above the table in front of the bells.
2) Ambience miked, some distance from the tables.
3) "Choir miked" ... omni's mounted like the members of the choir would hear the sound.
Rusty "Bonzai Bell Banger" Sanders
Date: Tue, 4 Apr 95 22:06:00 PST
From: Gail Berg -
Another thing to remember about mike placement is to get above the level of ringing - or you may get a lot of the mechanical sounds of clapper movement and striking, rather than the music produced.
From Rusty Sanders (12/17/96) -- Carl Landis writes:
>We just found out that our handbell songs are not being recorded during our church services because "they don't record well". I say "Nonsense!".
You may have two seperate problems here, and knowing the difference may be very important. My guess is your church is using your sound system for two completely seperate purposes. The first (and most obvious) is sound reinforcement, which enables the congregation to hear over the speakers just what's being said up there.
As an adjunct, they're using the same system for service recording (presumably for shut-ins and such).
The demands for mike mixing for those two functions are completely different! What your sound engineers may be saying is "when we tried miking the bells, it sounded much worse then just the natural unamplified sound" (stay out of this Rima, in a quite church with good acoustics you don't really need to amp bells :-). And they're probably right.
I had this same problem at the contemporary service, but with the piano. The stewards couldn't understand why I'd want a mike for the piano, since it was so loud already. The answer was I wanted to mike it for the tape, NOT for sound reinforcement.
So, you need to find out if you can have a separate mix-down for your inputs for the recording, vs. what goes out over the mains. In our case, we have the recorder on an effects send, which allows us to individually adjust how much of each input goes to the recording. For sources that aren't being reinforced (like a piano, the pipe organ, or bells) we don't send that input to the main mix. But we DO send it to the tape recording (and also the hearing impared system!).
Now, if you want high quality CD sound recordings of bells, THAT'S REALLY HARD. I just don't think you're going to get it in a church service environment.
But if you're just trying to get down on tape, here's a few words of advice:
A) Don't close-mike the bells (have mikes real near them). They sound really clunky that way. You should have at least a few feet between the front of the tables and the mikes. Given a choice I like to have the mikes at least 6 feet away, or more.
B) Because the mikes are "far away", you'll need to turn up the gains. If you're feeding into the main mix, this will likely cause feedback. That's why you need to make sure what you're trying to accomplish before you start. If you really ARE trying to amplify, then you'll need to closer-mike the bells, and live with the clunk.
C) Instrumental mikes are probably the best to use. The ones the vocalists use are probably fine. But what height you have them at probably depends on how you ring, where your books are, and how much you want to annoy the parishioners. The best height would be at lip level. But that's probably visually annoying. So set them down just a little above table height, and aimed up a bit (towards the ringing position) That may work well. I'd really like to try out some good PZM or PCM mikes (especially with the group my wife rings with, since they set up in a U formation around the communion table, so a coule PZMs on the table should just perfectly do the trick).
If they've just got the tape-out as a slave to the main mix, they may be right. Without reconfiguring the system, there may be nothing you can do...
---Rusty "tapes-a-lot" Sanders
Check OVERTONES article about bell recording techniques: Summer or Fall 1995
> BE WARNED! The PZM will pick up EVERYTHING. The first time we used one I
kept hearing this thud, thud, thud...
Rima Responds: Yeah, Campanile h ad this problem too. That's why we don't use PZMs any more.
We just tried out a new system. We rented it to see how it worked; now we know it works, so we'll buy it (when we can scrape together the cash....)
We got a pair of shotgun mikes, crossed 'em at the edge of the stage, and we got the BEST mix we've EVER had, and believe me, we've tried EVERYTHING.
We have, up to this point, been using vocal mikes, one for each ringer, but we can't crank the bass enough without getting feedback.
With the shotguns, we put 'em slightly off center toward (what is loosely) the bass and got a PERFECT mix. PERFECT.
Hope this helps. Oh, and BTW, the rental on the mikes was CHEAP. We have our own board and stuff, so we just got the mikes - it was $40 for two $1500 microphones for 3 days. Can't beat the price for finding out what works.
And once you figure out what you need, maybe some wonderful member of your congregation works at an audio shop and can help you out....
Date: Wed, 2 Apr 1997 09:02:36 -0800
From: "Brown, Ken (SD-MS)" -
Rima wrote: >yeah, Campanile had this problem too. That's why we don't use PZMs any more.
>snip ... >With the shotguns, we put 'em slightly off center toward
>(what is loosely) the bass and got a PERFECT mix. PERFECT.
Rima forgot to point out for those who haven't seen Campanile, that there ensemble plays in a tight U shape. And to tell you the truth, I kinda expected them to get a good recording this way. Unfortunately, most of us are in straight lines or close to it. So 2 mics won't work as nice. But, maybe multiple pairs of mics.
Rima, could you ask Roger how far back the mics were from the tables. It seems like they were about 3-4 feet in front of the U.
For the basic diagram, the mics weren't pointing at any one bell ringer. Everybody was kinda at an angle to the mics. Both mics were on the same stand.
The mics have an extreme cutoff of sound behind them. Where most directional mics still pick up some sound behind them, these were designed to pickup almost none behind them. Also these shotgun mics are full range type, some have frequency limits.
Now, if I didn't need that new mixer board, I might be able to swing one of those mics in 5 years or so. Oh, well back to the grind stone.
kenb (Ken Brown)
>Hey Rima, Sonos, R/R, any pointers on how to survive the session? I don't think half of them understand the demanding routine involved.
Rima Wrote: I'd say, most important: KNOW EXACTLY WHAT YOU'RE DOING BEFORE YOU GET IN THE STUDIO. Once you're in the studio, TIME IS MONEY. You don't want to be fixing ringing problems at $100/hour.
Next, make sure your bells are in shape. Get rid of any clicks, buzzes, or squeaks BEFORE you get in there, or you'll end up re-doing perfectly good performances 'cause A4 is still buzzing.
Do a session BEFORE the session that will allow your engineer and producer to understand how to get the sound they want. NOBODY knows how hard bells are to record until they've done it. Don't start laying down your tracks until you're confident that they've figured out how to get the sound you want. Watch your highs. Make sure your lows and battery don't get lost.
As far as stamina goes, that's Jason's department. Sonos, as I understand it, goes in and does a marathon session and lays down the whole thing in a short period of time.
Campanile takes a completely different approach to recording (required by the kind of sound we want) which doesn't allow that kind of marathon. Our required stamina is over months of concentration, not days locked in the padded room. Different thing. Easier in some ways, harder in others.
My guess is, you'll do the 3-days-locked-in-a-room thing. It's a little cheaper, and will give you the "full choir/cathedral" sound you're probably looking for, so DEFINITELY ask Jason and Dave how to surivive it without burning.
Roger 'sound man' Bowerman posts:
Hey Ronnda, you asked:
>Has anyone had any luck using microphones to amplify the bells? If so, where would you place them and how many?
As Rima replied:
>Sure, Campanile ALWAYS plays amplified. Roger????? You out there? Can you fill Rhonda in on what we're using these days?
Campanile has experimented with several ways to amplify bells. In the long run, the system that seems to work BEST is to use a pair of highly directional microphones (called cardiod microphones). Currently we use a pair of Neumann KM 184's, since they seem to roll off the higher frequencies while accentuating the mid-to-low ranges. We mount these two mics on a 'stereo bar,' which is attached to the top of a single mic stand. The stereo bar places the two microphones about 9" from one another (theory: that is the distance between our ears, so this is a good way to capture a stereo sound). The problem with these microphones is cost. They run about $4,200 a piece. (Maybe you could rent them?)
The problem you will have in a typical 'multi-purpose' school situation is FEEDBACK. The typical school room is an accustic nightmare -- the sound bounces off the walls, and feeds back into the mics. You will need time when NO ONE is in the room to get a feel for how the mic setup might work.
Roger 'sound man' Bowerman
Date: Thu, 4 Jun 1998 22:41:36 -0700
From: Matthew Wrensch
Lois Jean Castle inquired about overhead microphones for the new sanctuary that her church is building.
Studies have shown (and more importantly my own professional recording experience has shown) that a nearly fool proof (no snickering please) method is to use just two microphones positioned in the ORTF configuration. The mic capsules are positioned 61/2 inches apart and are angled 110%. The mics need to be mounted on a T bar. Use good quality microphones such as Shure SM81s ($300.00 per mic) or AKG 414s (Close to $1,000.00 per mic), or most other condenser, phantom powered studio mics.
MICROPHONE POSITIONING CAN MAKE OR BREAK A GOOD RECORDING (or sound reinforcement). What you are aiming for is a proper balance from the bells ( or whatever you are recording), AND you need a proper balance of direct sound vs. reflected (room) sound. This usually takes some experimenting. The overhead mics should be flown-suspended by their cables. Using this method serves a couple of purposes. You have great flexibility in mic positioning. It's easy to adjust height as well as fore and aft placement. The cables also reduce the possibility of vibrations from the building reaching the mics. I use mic shock mounts in addition to flying the mics. Mic shock mounts for my SM81s cost about $50.00 apiece.
For starters try positioning the mics 8 to 12 feet above the floor and about 10 to 20 feet in front of the bell tables. Listen to the sound through a good quality headphone. Sony MDR-7506 works well (about $130.00). Set the mics flat. No bass rolloff or attenuation. Move the mics around the general area for the 'best' sound. Please DO NOT USE ANY EQUALIZATION on the mixing board! This is not needed. EQ has its place, but not here. It's artificial. It changes the tonal balance. If you feel you need a 'better" or different sound, try changing the mic location relative to the bells. Remember, the mics hear what your ears do, and then some. The ONLY exception to no EQ is to reduce or eliminate rumble from the room usually caused by the ventilation system and/or traffic outside.
This is not 'all you wanted to know about mics but were afraid to ask', but merely a starting point. There is much more concerning this subject out there. I hope this helps you in your wonderful endeavor!
Sincerely, Matthew Wrensch
Date: Fri, 5 Jun 1998 10:02:15 -0700
From: Keith G. Koch
RIMA says: -------- This is because, with the kind of music we play, we consider FFF extremely
important, so we WORK on it. But I don't think anybody else out there does. It's hard to do, especially with control. You have to practice enough (*sigh* there's that word again!) to be strong enough to push that hard and still have control.
(Keith Koch) If you watch Campanile on Video or in person, you will see that they do really WORK up a real sweat in moving those bells to get their FFF sound. The production of FFF is NOT for the faint-hearted or the weak.
Note: since bells do "speak/ring" at their lips, more volume will be directed to the audience by having your ringers hold their bells perpendicular to that audience and/ or their tables. More sound will be physically transmitted from the bells to the listener's ears. This can help in the production of a louder sound.
Showing the audience the "mouth" of the bell will deminish the sound to their ears and spread the ringing sound waves to the ceilings and the foam & covered absorbing table tops -- this is also one additional technique to help get those ppp passages.
Miking bells overhead --( not necessarily for recording purposes ): I have found that a PZM (pressure zone mic) placed in the middle of a 2-1/2 ft radius plastic circle and suspended overhead can do a very good job of picking up bells. This gives the mic a half-hemisphere pick-up pattern of sounds underneath. Two of these mics are usually all that is needed for a group of 10-16 ringers. The mics are suspended by their cables to the ceiling, etc.. The clear plastic circle usually soon fades from the viewers eyes and the sound from the mics are normally very good and even.
We use such a set up with phantom powered condenser mics -- cost around $300 each. There are less expensive ways to accomplish this same idea.
For recording of bells for tape or CD's another message on the -L gave some good advice from a person in a recording studio environment.
Bells are "explosive" percussion-type of instruments. They can easily overload cheap microphones and mics which may be too close with their initial clang. Bells also fade out fairly quickly in levels after their initial strike/ring which can add to some difficulties in some mic pick-ups.
Condenser mics usually are very sensitive and can pick-up any extranious noises, page turnings, blips, bleeps ,etc. Non-conderser mics normally are not as sensitive, nor as expensive, and therefore some of these noises may go un-amplified.
Keith & Linda Koch
Date: Wed, 30 Dec 1998 21:57:45 -0800
From: Matthew Wrensch
On Dec. 28, Michele Hirt asked about miking Bells in a large hall (or church).
Studies have shown (and more importantly my own professional recording experience has shown) that a nearly fool proof method is to use just two microphones positioned in the ORTF configuration. The mic capsules are positioned 6 & 1/2 inches apart and are angled 110%. The mics need to be mounted on a T bar. Use good quality microphones such as Shure SM81s ($300.00 per mic) or AKG 414s (Close to $1,000.00 per mic), or most other condenser, phantom powered studio mics. MICROPHONE POSITIONING CAN MAKE OR BREAK A GOOD RECORDING (or sound reinforcement). What you are aiming for is a proper balance from the bells ( or whatever you are recording), AND you need a proper balance of direct sound vs. reflected (room) sound. This usually takes some experimenting. The overhead mics should be flown-suspended by their cables. Using this method serves a couple of purposes. You have great flexibility in mic positioning. It's easy to adjust height as well as fore and aft placement. The cables also reduce the possibility of vibrations from the building reaching the mics. I use mic shock mounts in addition to flying the mics. Mic shock mounts for my SM81s cost about $50.00 apiece. You may of course use a good mic stand, and when you do BE SURE to use shock mounts. For starters try positioning the mics 8 to 12 feet above the floor and about 10 to 20 feet in front of the bell tables. Listen to the sound through a good quality headphone. Sony MDR-7506 works well (about $110.00). Set the mics flat. No bass rolloff or attenuation. Move the mics around the general area for the 'best' sound.
Please DO NOT USE ANY EQUALIZATION on the mixing board! This is not needed. EQ has its place, but not here. It's artificial. It changes the tonal balance. If you feel you need a 'better" or different sound, try changing the mic location relative to the bells. Remember, the mics hear what your ears do, and then some. The ONLY exception to no EQ is to reduce or eliminate rumble from the room usually caused by the ventilation system and/or traffic outside.
Sincerely, Matthew Wrensch
Date: Wed, 20 Jan 1999 17:47:22 -0800
From: "John L. von Wolzogen"
> Does anyone have info on what microphones are best to use with bells. We are having trouble pulling the bells out over the choir and orchestra. Thanks - Cheryl
For choir, use a wide area mic like a voice choir would. These are different than vocal solo mics, which have a very narrow pick-up radius. Try to have the mics placed at chest height. Also, I would use at least one mic per 6 ft of table.
As far as mics for solo, I think this is a question that should be answered by Christine Anderson. I hear she has a secret weapon! Trust me!
Date: Thu, 21 Jan 1999 06:06:27 -0800
From: Jack Frost
John L. von Wolzogen wrote: Does anyone have info on what microphones are best to use with bells. We are having trouble pulling the bells out over the choir and orchestra. Thanks - Cheryl
> For choir, use a wide area mic like a voice choir would. These are different than vocal solo mics, which have a very narrow pick-up radius. Try to have the mics placed at chest height. Also, I would use at least one mic per 6 ft of table.
The above will work, but you'll still have problems with the voice choir and orchestra.
Ideal for both choirs and bells are actually uni-directional mikes, not wide area. On a inexpensive budget, you'd use wide area, because set up right you can just about cover a whole choir with one mike. You'd need at least 4 or more uni's.
The theory is you need to pick out your bells. To pick out one sound from many, you need uni's. You'll probably need one every 3 or 4 foot of table because you'll be placing then relatively near, so as not to pick up choir/orchestra. You'll place then about 2 foot over head height, angled down to point directly at the bell ringing area, about 5 feet away from the ringers. (You put then above pointing down so you don't pick up sound from behind the ringers). (Oh, tell your ringers "no clearing throats!" (or grunting)). For 18' of table space, that's 5 or 6 mikes. That's also 5 or 600 bucks. You'll also need to play around with the individual positions a bit so you hear the correct balance of bells coming out, e.g. the bass bells might be picked up louder so you move the mike away (or do it with a mixer).
On the plus side, you've got the beginnings of a great set up for making good recordings of the bells. Add a 8 track portastudio (about 800 bucks I reckon) and you've got a semi-pro system there. If you experiment with 4 mikes (you'd probably have to move then farther away from the ringers), you could get a 4 track portastudio, around 300 bucks. Get some VERY nice recordings.
If you use wide area mikes, you'll pick up the choir and orchestra on them, plus all the sound reflections of the hall. You can do it, but it's less than ideal. Also if you want to make recordings later, you'll have to get uni's anyway.
Oh, and you can't go wrong with Shure. Just go into a music store and say "I want a Shure unidirectional for around 90 bucks or so". You will need some kind of mixer to mix them down. Might as well get a portastudio at the start to do that.
On the other hand.... there are actually "choir microphones" (try a web search). They run about 400 bucks each.
Date: Thu, 21 Jan 1999 13:48:03 -0800
From: Roger Bowerman
Jack Frost writes about micing bells: >The theory is you need to pick out your bells. To pick out one sound from many, you need uni's.
Unidirectional, rather than omnidirectional -- which is what John VW seemed to be suggesting. I really think Jack is right on in his point here.
>You'll probably need one every 3 or 4 foot of table because you'll be placing then relatively near, so as not to pick up choir/orchestra. You'll place then about 2 foot over head height, angled down to point directly at the bell ringing area, about 5 feet away from the ringers. (You put then above pointing down so you don't pick up sound from behind the ringers). (Oh, tell your ringers "no clearing throats!" (or grunting)). For 18' of table space, that's 5 or 6 mikes.
This, from the experience we have had with Camapanile, works very well. It does cut down on 'background' noise (although it doesn't eliminate it entirely), and also reduces SOME of the feedback problems.
>That's also 5 or >600 bucks. You'll also need to play around with the individual positions a bit so you hear the correct balance of bells coming out, e.g. the bass bells might be picked up louder so you move the mike away (or do it with a mixer).
Actually, the bass bells (at least in OUR experience) are the ones that need the MOST amplification. The low end simply does not carry, while the 6's and especially the 7's cut through almost all other sounds. We have found that you can really reduce much of the high end (even by using an equalizer), and that you can then amplify the frequencies that really need it ... the 3's!!
>On the plus side, you've got the beginnings of a great set up for making good recordings of the bells. Add a 8 track portastudio (about 800 bucks I reckon) and you've got a semi-pro system there. If you experiment with 4 mikes (you'd probably have to move then farther away from the ringers), you could get a 4 track portastudio, around 300 bucks. Get some VERY nice recordings.
This all depends upon having a quiet place to use if. This is one the problems with trying to record outside the studio. Nothing like having a fire engine scream through a great take!
Actually, Campanile has, over the last 3 years, come up with a new micing strategy. While we had used Jack's model, we were not satisfied that you really captured the whole range of bells. There were always "hot" and "cold" spots on the table (some ringers and closer to mics than others), and you also hear very definate differences as the bells move toward and away from the mics.
We now use much higher-end microphones -- Neumans or Senheizers, depending on the venue -- which list at from $1,500 to $2,400 a piece. The advantage of these, however, is that they are more sensitve, have a better frequency response, and are more DIRECTIONAL. You can place a pair of them, in a "X" style (you use a stereo bar and face the mic at about 75-80 degrees from each other) about 8 feet in front of the tables. For best results, put them up about 10 feet off the ground, and point them down toward the ringers. With this setup you get almost completely equal coverage over about 25-28 feet of table. No hot spots. No moving in and out of pickup range.
I know the cost sounds really high, but these mics can be rented!! We do it, around $45 a day for the pair, when we tour. It has really solved many of our audio problems!!
>If you use wide area mikes, you'll pick up the choir and orchestra on them, plus all the sound reflections of the hall. You can do it, but it's less than ideal. Also if you want to make recordings later, you'll have to get uni's anyway.
The microphones discussed in my response above will also make for a much better recording ... and you can use the two extra channels to help create "room space" by placing some lesser microphones out in the hall. Makes it have that real "live" feeling!!
For an example of how this mic setup works, take a listen to Campanile's latest recording: Campanile LIVE! It was recorded with this setup in a live concert situation. It's really pretty darn good, if I do say so myself! We used the extra chanels to provide close micing for handpercussion, as wellas getting a better 'room' feel.
Not that I have an opinion on micing bells ;-)
Date: Fri, 22 Jan 1999 08:08:02 -0800
From: "Keith G. Koch"
Campanile Roger writes: >We now use much higher-end microphones -- Neumans or Senheizers,
depending on the venue -- which list at from $1,500 to $2,400 a piece. The advantage of these, however, is that they are more sensitve, have a better frequency response, and are more DIRECTIONAL. You can place a pair of them, in a "X" style (you use a stereo bar and face the mic at about 75-80 degrees from each other) about 8 feet in front of the tables. For best results, put them up about 10 feet off the ground, and point them down toward the ringers. With this setup you get almost completely equal coverage over about 25-28 feet of table. No hot spots. No moving in and out of pickup range.<
Keith responds: Roger is right when he writes. We are fortunate to have pros help us in this. I come at recording bells from a studio mentality. (Been involved with a studio since 1963 -- our new six room studio will be done this FEB.)
With all things being equal, if you purchase a mic you can get a "better" or more "even " frequency response with an omnidirectional mic than you can with a cardiod or unidirectional mic AT THE SAME PRICE RANGE. Roger is correct when he says that good mics cost more $$$. Also, good mics do not "overload" or distort as easily with higher sound pressure levels. Bells can easily overwhelm cheap equipment as they have a very loud and
quick initial ring, with decay falling off rather quickly afterward.
Also, Roger is giving a good tip on the location. Higher up with fewer mics is much better than closer to the tables with more mics. You need to amplify or record bell sounds so that all bells actually sound even -- not too loud or too soft. Too close in miking makes some bells louder than others. This is because sound pressure is greater near the source. Getting a good mic a little higher and further away allows all the bells to have a more even sound pressure, thus easier to record/amplify. (This principle also applies to recording choirs, etc.)
Also, Roger is VERY correct re: bass bells. Their frequencies usually are lost even when you sit relatively close to them. Thus his comments about "boosting" them -- that is, making certain they are heard -- is well founded.
Not only do you need a good mic(s), you need a good mixer. The mics Roger suggests need a mixer that can produce "phantom power" or 48 or so volts DC to power the condenser circuit in the mics. Macke has some excellent small mixers under $400. also Yamaha has a great 12/4 mixer in this same price range. Don't even think of Radio Shack for either the mics or the mixer. (Of course you can do it, but soon you'll be upgrading.)
Along with the ringers, you need a "sound guy/gal" who will monitor/work the system. If you are just talking about recording, then you'll need a GOOD recorder with low "wow & flutter"; if your talking about amplifying your sound to an audience, then you're needing speakers, amplifiers, etc. in addition to the mics & mixers.
Just think of it this way -- the sound stuff costs money, but the sound stuff still may be cheaper than the bells. All cities have pro sound equipment for rent. Also, their may be some recording studios in your area that will rent, give advice, personnel, etc. Also, any community with Cable TV probably has a mandate that a channel is for Public Access. Therefore, most Cable TV operations have equipment, personal, etc. that MUST be made available to teach, train, etc the local population. Also, many churches which have bells, may also already have sound equipment and personnel that are available.
Keith & Linda Koch
Ken Brown Wrote:
I have experimented in my church and because of our previous feed back problems we always had trouble micing the bells and not picking up the congregations noise or some kid sitting by the mic stand that thinks it is a kicking post. This works for sound assist and I have not experimented using this for recording and don't expect it would work, at least not with fill mics farther back. My bells are set up in 2 groups of 6' tables for a total of 12' on each side. I place 4 cardiod mics laying flat right on the tables. They are located on the edge closest to the audience. I generally point them at my weakest ringers. The sound guys bring up the mics only to help fill the sanctuary but not to overpower. That way everybody pretty much hears the real bells and the amplified portion helps 'push' the sound out. I seem to have less problem with the clapper sound. When we have martellatos, the sound guys are on their toes, mainly for the bass bells. For solos or duets I use 2 - 3 mics depending on how spread out the solo/duetist are. My sanctuary holds sardine style about 250. I have used this technique in another church that seats about 1000 and it works.
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