Recording an Orchestra - Six part video tutorial 

 

Part 1 - Pre-Production

 

Part 2 - Project Management

 

Part 3 - Equipment and Setup

 

Part 4 - Stereo XY Technique

 

Part 5 - Spaced Pair Technique

 

Part 6 - Mid-Side Technique

 

This six part orchestra recording project was developed and presented by Professor Rob Toulson in order to cover a specific aspect of music production which is very difficult to teach in hands-on practice. Generally it is not easy to organise an orchestra performance purely for a class of audio production students to record, neither is it easy to simulate the professional aspects of planning, communication and dealing with unexpected issues during the recording session. The six part tutorial shows a single orchestra performance being recorded with three different stereo microphone techniques, to enable a discussion around three common stereo microphone techniques and to evaluate the final recordings in a critical manner.

The recording is by no means perfect, but serves as an example of what can be achieved with a small amount of portable recording gear and some detailed planning and preparation. The audio in the videos above is not intended to be of full-range quality, though lossless versions of the stereo recordings can be downloaded from the associated Bandcamp site, and hence used for critical comparison, here:

Download Lossless Orchestra Recordings

The project was equally aimed at enabling an analysis and discussion of learning and teaching methods for audio, music technology and music production students. The project is also discussed in the following research paper published in the Journal of The Art Of Record Production, available online here:

R. Toulson - Creation of Media Based Learning Material for Audio and Music Technology

Much of this pegagogical discussion is evaluated further in a collaborative article by Rob Toulson and Russ Hepworth-Sawyer, published in the Journal on Music Technology Education here:

R. Hepworth-Sawyer and R. Toulson - Connected Learning Journeys in Music Production Education

Further Reading

A valuable case study in a large scale music production project is that of Elbow’s performance with the BBC Classical Orchestra, recorded at Abbey Road. This performance brought together a rock band with a classical orchestra and choir, requiring in excess of 100 microphones in all. The performance was broadcast live on BBC radio, filmed for BBC TV and released as a commercial music CD. Watch Elbow Live at Abbey Rd here:

 

 

The production methods are documented by Inglis (2009) which give valuable insight into the techniques used and issues encountered and resolved. Read the Sound On Sound article describing the Elbow Abbey Road recording sessions here:

S. Inglis - Rupert Flindt: Recording Elbow Live at Abbey Road, Sound on Sound, September 2009.