We have explored the Sound (recording & playback) Hierarchy, looked at assembling quality playback systems, the relationships of recordings and playback, the idea of critical listening, and fundamentals of True Stereo recording techniques. All of this information is important for us to understand, and that these chain of events, when working together help us to formulate creative ideas in competently completing our intended result.
The True Stereo process although simple in concept relies on a firm knowledge of both musical instruments, and how to maximize them within a given acoustical space. Capturing an image in photography is roughly the same principle as True Stereo recording. Framing an acoustical event, that when played back presents as precise an image as possible.
The limitation of recording in True Stereo as in all recording methods is determined by the quality of the microphones. Once we have a well matched pair of microphones, a given ensemble, and a preferred space in which to record, we need to consider how to best use the space, and the position of the instruments in relation to the microphones.
The first priority is to find the location for the ensemble. This is determined by locating the area in the space where the effect we are trying to assimilate is most adventitious. Trying to avoid areas where too much reverberation or dead ambient qualities exist, listening for bass character, staying away from standing wave problems, and essentially looking for the most even linearity of sound within the room. Having adequate space to position the ensemble for acoustic balance is paramount. If we have an even balance in the room but are not able to get enough separation to achieve a good balance of the ensemble, all our attempts will be spoiled. Deriving a proper balance is more important that the spatial positioning which we consider only after we have achieved a good balance of sound.
Of coarse every room as well as ensemble will dictate these relationships. Getting the balance of the instruments in the space with as linear character as possible. When the music is speaking in the room it’s only then that placing the microphones will allow us to realize maximum benefits.
Once we have found the logical positions within the space and acoustical positioning of the ensemble placing the microphones will complete the picture. Using our own sense of hearing in the room, we can listen for overall balance. Then using an adequate monitoring set up, headphones and or loudspeakers, adjust for an acoustic balance and spatial positioning. Subtle microphone or instrument positioning will have huge effects, but using our ears as the basic guide will get us close enough, relying on the musical content as much as the apparent balance will in the end allow us to finalize our quest.
Experience is the key to any craft, experimentation, exploring different possibilities, understanding limitations, but not settling for anything but deriving our intended results.
Ken Christianson, Pro Musica, Chicago