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Recording good audio on concertinas


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Hi everyone,

 

What methods do you use to record nice audio on your concertinas?  I'm interested in seeing what solutions work for this instrument, what equipment you may use etc.  Forgive me if this has already been discussed - if so, a link to any relevant threads would be great.

 

I have wanted to do quick and easy recordings so far (as I'm so new to it, I didnt want to overwhelm myself with setting up loads of stuff..might not have got round to it at all if so!) - for that a phone and a nice quality small recording device are quite handy for when you're in a rush or out and about.   The phone's audio is fine for rough ideas and seems ok enough but the video - well at the moment I am investigating the possibility that it introduces a strange distortion (a watery burbling), which might have something to do with some settings on the phone, a microphone used by the phone when videoing being duff or possibly stuff introduced by Windows 10..investigations ongoing!

 

However, I do have access to some vocal mics (although no condensers - these are performance mics) and mixer/recording software on a computer (no instrumental mics at the moment that are suitable - only instrument specific mics on my piano accordion - so yes, I'm familiar with an instrument having two ends that move!!)

 

Edited by Kathryn Wheeler
remembered something else!
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Hello  Kathryn,

 

I  use  a Zoom  H2  .  Simple to  use and not  expensive.  Mine is about  10 years  old  so  perhaps  these  small  recording devices  have  been refined  but for  recording yourself  I think these  are  ok.  You can  hear my  results  by  searching  my  name on Soundcloud..  For  balancing  left and  right  I  use a pair of  headphones to  monitor  the     recording...  with the    device  within  reach  on a table, shifting it  from    side to  side  if  needs be.

Edited by Geoff Wooff
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11 minutes ago, Kathryn Wheeler said:

Hi Geoff, 

Thanks for that - how far away do you place the device?

 

I can hear a lot of subtlety in the sounds and it seems nice across the range, from low to high :)

It  is  within  arms  reach, for  actuating the  function buttons,  so  quite  close.  I  like to  use  it  on a table  as opposed to  on a tripod  so I  can move it  about with ease  and  there are no  trailing  cables.

The room I  used  is  my  workshop  where  I  am  very  familiar  with  the  acoustics  and  the  recordings  sound  natural  to  me.

 

I  should  add that  my  wife  uses  a similar  device  which includes a  speed control  function.  This is  very useful  for  slowing down  tunes  recorded  from  any  outside source  as an  aid to  learning    and /or  transcribing  .

Edited by Geoff Wooff
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I use a little stereo Sony IC Recorder - https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sony-ICDSX733-Professional-Voice-Recorder/dp/B00BOK99MU to do my recordings, like those on my Virtual Greenshoots page (https://pghardy.net/greenshoots/virtual/). It sits about a metre away, and I try and face it. However I then load the recording into Audacity and use that to amplify left and right channels to the same volume level for balance, as well as editing out blank time and merging any retakes. Finally I use MP3Tag to set metadata fields.

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Thank you Paul - I actually have something virtually identical.  I didn't use it on my initial video though, using only the phone (doh!)  (And that's probably where the problem lies!)  Useful that you have it about a metre away.  Audacity is good isnt it!  I just havent used it for concertina yet.  Thank you for the tips.  Very reassuring.

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Everything I’ve ever posted on YouTube or SoundCloud was recorded using the internal microphone on my MacBook. It may not be professional quality, but it’s perfectly adequate for recordings that are generally going to be heard through a computer speaker. Since the left side (lower notes, bigger reeds) of my Hayden Duet concertina  plays louder than the right (higher notes, smaller reeds), I tried to position myself with the right side closer to the computer when doing audio-only, but for the videos I didn’t concern myself with that and it didn’t seem to be a problem.

 

Since the pandemic and my experiments with JamKazam, I bought a pair of Sterling Audio SL230MP Matched Pair, Medium Diaphragm Condenser Microphones and an external audio interface (I mount the mics at right angles), but I haven’t recorded any SoundClouds or YouTubes since.

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For quick and easy recordings, a portable MP3 recorder will do the job nicely.  I've recorded a lot with a Zoom H4n, on a mic stand, about 18 inches from the center of the instrument. When I do this, I record in MP3 format, import the file into Audacity and clean it up.

 

For recording solo with higher quality sound,  I use 2 SM57 mics on short stands, on either side of the instrument, feeding a Scarlett 2i2 USB interface to my Mac.  I've used both Garageband, a Mac-only app, and Audacity, a multi platform program. Good results with both, but I prefer Garageband, especially for overdubbing. I record in stereo, but generally mix down to mono; the sound of the music flipping from side to side seems to annoy people.

 

For quick and dirty recordings - like when I'm trying something new and want to see how it sounds - I sometimes use a single SM57 pointed at the center, but you lose a lot of signal. 

 

I have a pair of excellent condenser mics that I use for live sound, but they seem like overkill for this application, and I don't like leaving them out where they can knocked over by the dogs or the grandkid.

 

At band rehearsals, I've used my iphone when I've forgotten the Zoom, but the sound is pretty muddled (but i play in a very loud band, so others may have different experiences).

 

 

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15 hours ago, Daniel Hersh said:

 

I like the idea of a simple microphone I can plug into my iPhone to improve the quality of the sound. This one seems to be mono only. Is there a stereo equivalent?

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On 1/13/2021 at 9:42 PM, David Barnert said:

Since the pandemic and my experiments with JamKazam, I bought a pair of Sterling Audio SL230MP Matched Pair, Medium Diaphragm Condenser Microphones and an external audio interface (I mount the mics at right angles), but I haven’t recorded any SoundClouds or YouTubes since.


David, 

How have you found JamKazam as a way of playing live with others?

 

Also have the new condenser mics been essential for doing that, and/or have they made a noticeable difference to the sound.  Have you tested it by recording (for your own use if not YouTube/Soundcloud) If so in what way would you say it’s better? 
 

Thanks!

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I forgot to mention that I found your MacBook recordings really interesting from the point of view of being another Apple device - I’ve noticed certain similarities with what I did using iPhone video in terms of sound.  Ive been doing some experiments at different distances with if - I never realised til now that it has more than one microphone and I was doing the video in selfie mode which uses a microphone on the back of the device!  Quality seems better if I do it in normal mode rather than selfie (not sure at this stage if that’s common to all of just my phone ie whether I have a problematic mic on the rear)

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22 hours ago, Jim Besser said:

At band rehearsals, I've used my iphone when I've forgotten the Zoom, but the sound is pretty muddled (but i play in a very loud band, so others may have different experiences).

 

 

Jim, Thankyou!  Such a wonderfully detailed and informative response.

 

Another vote for a Zoom device!

 

I had been wondering about a pair of instrumental mics either side for nice quality stuff (when I’d done session work I’d had a piano accordion miced up in a similar way - it did make me think about exactly how much space I can take up and how use of bellows can really influence the result!) but the info about changing from stereo to mono for the final result is really new to me and fascinating!

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11 minutes ago, Kathryn Wheeler said:

Another vote for a Zoom device!

 

I had been wondering about a pair of instrumental mics either side for nice quality stuff (when I’d done session work I’d had a piano accordion miced up in a similar way - it did make me think about exactly how much space I can take up and how use of bellows can really influence the result!) but the info about changing from stereo to mono for the final result is really new to me and fascinating!

 

The Zoom H4n is a pretty amazing device, but now that I have a permanent computer workstation in my music room, I use it much less.  It does add extra steps - ie getting the recordings into the computer for editing.  Generally, I just remove the SD card and plug it into the Mac.

 

Mics - we've been discussing/arguing about this on c.net ever since there was a c.net, and in the end there's no one-size-fits-all solution. For my particular needs - playing in noisy dance environments and recording in a less-than-ideal home studio--  two directional mics, placed close to the ends, have produced the best results.  For live sound, 2 Shure KSM137 condenser mics, for recording 2 SM57s.

 

I have a friend who's a highly respected recording engineer; he has recorded concertinas using a single studio quality condenser mic, correctly positioned, and prefers that setup,  but he conceded that this might not be true outside of his acoustically perfect recording studio.  And that's generally a poor option in band situations; to get enough gain from a concertina miked this way, you have to crank gain way up, and end up with a cacophany.

 

The weird stereo issue may be peculiar to Anglos, and the way I play. It wouldn't be a problem if I played Anglo strictly along the rows, with chords/basses on the left and melody on the right, but I usually play cross row, with chords/basses on the left and melody bouncing back and forth.  This produces a jarring effect, or so I've been told by people who have listened to my tracks, so I've been mixing recordings to mono.  I'm guessing this wouldn't be as much of an issue with duet or English concertinas, and certainly not with an accordion.

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28 minutes ago, Jim Besser said:

The weird stereo issue may be peculiar to Anglos, and the way I play. It wouldn't be a problem if I played Anglo strictly along the rows, with chords/basses on the left and melody on the right, but I usually play cross row, with chords/basses on the left and melody bouncing back and forth.  This produces a jarring effect, or so I've been told by people who have listened to my tracks, so I've been mixing recordings to mono.  I'm guessing this wouldn't be as much of an issue with duet or English concertinas, and certainly not with an accordion.

 

It would be every bit as big a problem with English concertinas, where any scale bounces back and forth each note. But on any concertina, pointing one microphone at each end and then panning them to separate stereo channels will sound unnatural. I'd have thought the solution was to use a crossed pair. You'd get a more natural sound without the dullness that comes of mixing down to mono.

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25 minutes ago, Little John said:

 

It would be every bit as big a problem with English concertinas, where any scale bounces back and forth each note. But on any concertina, pointing one microphone at each end and then panning them to separate stereo channels will sound unnatural. I'd have thought the solution was to use a crossed pair. You'd get a more natural sound without the dullness that comes of mixing down to mono.

 

Makes sense.

 

Educate me: what do you mean by a 'crossed pair?'

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