Mikaela Grob is an emerging composer and performer. She also interns at Enmore Audio. We asked her to reflect on her experiments in recording and producing music at home and in the studio.
Recording a live instrument can be daunting – especially classical instruments such as the cello. Pulling from experience, I have found a few helpful strategies to ensure a solid recording and a sound that has real depth.
Recording cello demos at home can be a daunting task for beginners, but following these simple strategies can really help keep your mind in check and ensure you capture a solid recording with depth and quality.
I have one microphone in my current home studio – the Rode NT1A. This simple condenser microphone has proved to be incredibly useful in all of my projects. When recording the cello, I set up around 60cm away from the middle of its body. With this placement, the NT1A draws a warm and full tone. A sound that could hold its own in the mix, or a solid basis on which to build with reverb and EQ.
When recording your demo try and keep an open mind toward quality – you’re not aiming to record the best possible sound, so work with the equipment and instrument/s you have. It’s also important to think about the room you are recording in. Using a space that has simple reverb and reflections, live but not too live, will make sound more conducive to sculpting in the latter stages of a production.
Playing Around with EQ
Equalisation is your best friend. When editing a live recording always adjust your spectral fields as this can add a great deal of character to your recording and drastically improve your project. Remember that EQ is a powerful tool – a little goes a long way – so it’s best to change the microphone placement first if you’re not satisfied with the raw sound.
The cello is the tenor voice of the string section, and therefore it has a naturally deep and resonant tone. Apply EQ in a way that enhances this tonal quality.
Player, Musician & Score
Collaborating with musicians is incredibly important. You have to rely on each other’s expertise and knowledge of their instrument, so don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help. Before constructing a written score it is vital to ensure your part is playable. The last thing you want to do is send an impossible score to a musician – this is unprofessional and wastes time. Beyond this, it’s important to understand the articulations and expressive techniques that the cello is capable of.
Obviously, you want to get the best recording possible. Working with an experienced cellist is important, but knowing what you as the engineer/producer or composer can bring to the sound of the cello is just as crucial. Arming yourself with as much knowledge as possible, especially of instruments that you don’t play, can be the key to bringing a diverse production together.