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Amplifying a live chamber orchestra

OP
Mason

Mason

Active Member
All I'm saying is playing all instruments at forte fortissimo with heavy drums doesn't sound like a good use of live musicians.
When did that become something new? I did not ask for orchestration help. My question is about amplifying so please keep this on topic.
 
OP
Mason

Mason

Active Member
I forgot to mention that there’s a jazz vocalist as well who will need a mic.
 

leon chevalier

Piano roll musician
I forgot to mention that there’s a jazz vocalist as well who will need a mic.
Hello Mason !

I'm not giving you any advise on recording but if I may, I very friendly advise on this thread.

I feel that the way you handling this thread is leading people that are willing to help you in the wrong direction.

Reading you're initial post made me though that you were trying to play live an epic track. But it seems now that it's not the case.

Anyway, I strongly encourage you to give more details on your project like the composition of the orchestra you're writing for, and even better a short midi demo (if it exists) of your composition.

Leon
 

Saxer

Senior Member
I wouldn't have a problem with a natural orchestra plus additive solo mics. In jazz it's done all the time... big band playing without amplifying but the bass and guitar players have their amps, the singer is amplified and there's a mike for the solo players too.
Yes, you can write for an acoustic orchestra that doesn't need amps. But it can be an artistic decision to use amplification. I'm a flute player myself and I know how helpful a microphone can be, even beside an acoustic piano. It expands the possibilities.
 
OP
Mason

Mason

Active Member
Hello Mason !

I'm not giving you any advise on recording but if I may, I very friendly advise on this thread.

I feel that the way you handling this thread is leading people that are willing to help you in the wrong direction.

Reading you're initial post made me though that you were trying to play live an epic track. But it seems now that it's not the case.

Anyway, I strongly encourage you to give more details on your project like the composition of the orchestra you're writing for, and even better a short midi demo (if it exists) of your composition.

Leon
If that’s the impression it has not been my intention. I just wasn’t very interested in discussing orchestration techniques as this is not the issue. I’m very interested in any advice on dealing with the amplification.

I can’t share the music because of © but the instrumentation is: Solo flutes, acoustic guitar, string orchestra and rhythmic ethnic percussion, and a couple of singers. It’s a crossover work with ethnic, jazz and classical.
 
OP
Mason

Mason

Active Member
I wouldn't have a problem with a natural orchestra plus additive solo mics. In jazz it's done all the time... big band playing without amplifying but the bass and guitar players have their amps, the singer is amplified and there's a mike for the solo players too.
Yes, you can write for an acoustic orchestra that doesn't need amps. But it can be an artistic decision to use amplification. I'm a flute player myself and I know how helpful a microphone can be, even beside an acoustic piano. It expands the possibilities.
Thanks, do you have a mic on the flute or a headset microphone?

Let’s say there’s a larger string orchestrac they could probably play without amps, while if we used just 1 or 2 on each part we could be fine with that as long as they have amps?

So small string section means less fees, but more technical challenges.
 

Saxer

Senior Member
Thanks, do you have a mic on the flute or a headset microphone?

Let’s say there’s a larger string orchestrac they could probably play without amps, while if we used just 1 or 2 on each part we could be fine with that as long as they have amps?
I use normal mikes on a stand. Easier for me to change instruments. I had a built in flute mic but there was a lot key noise.
Amping smaller string sections make them louder but not fuller. Live string sections are hard to amplify. Especially outdoor. Never heard really good results. I'd try to keep the strings natural (if possible).
 

MatFluor

Senior Member
From what I saw on some stages with Symphonic metal
It's very hard to make it sound good.

What I would say - a) keep the orchestra separate from the "band" to minimize spill (meaning either set the band before them with amps aiming at audience, or orchestra off to one side) b) section mics + spot mics c) good control of the volume of the band (since they occupy a ton of the spectrum by themselves).

In live usage, you often have a ton of stuff occupy the spectrum - like heavy drums (bass+Snare+Overheads occupy the whole spectrum alone already), so careful EQing would be crucial in my opinion.

Definitely get a proper soundcheck and a FOH guy who is worth his money. To be honest, most live "band+Orchestra+ things I heard, in heavy rock and metal, were disappointing and would've sounded way better with samples or a prerecorded CD. Since that isn't an option for you, try to treat it like a mixing session rather than a live concert - EQing, maybe some compression and stuff like that.

Considering micing up - mostly the usual stuff for everything, maybe a 2-3 section mics for each section with a more kind-of kidney characteristic (at least not omni because audience+band spill) and solo mic lavalier or the like to really get as much closeness as you can. Then moce the faders until it sounds right, and add effects like reverb and the mentioned stuff to taste.


Take that whole thing above with a grain of salt though, I only have experience live mixing rock and metal bands (and one Salsa band - I was drunk ok?) with Keyboard (that "emulates" an orchestra or pads), but never miced or mixed an orchestra, let alone a combo.
 

Nick Batzdorf

Moderator
Moderator
That’s not really relevant for my music.
You just need a mic on the flute and a standard keyboard amp. The easiest way to mic it is with a clip-on. I have an Audio-Technica ATM35 that works very well for this kind of thing, don't know what the current model is.
 

dflood

Active Member
Your problem is interesting, for me anyway, because I’ve been a player and a ‘sound guy’ in a variety of situations, some of them truly appalling. I sometimes have nightmares about performing and not being able to hear myself at all, and then I wake up and realize, wait, no, that really happened.

The key to a successful performance is first making sure the players can hear themselves and each other, and that the best possible sound is projected toward the audience. Sometimes the room itself is all you need. Your decision about whether and how to use sound reinforcement depends on many factors:

1. What is the venue: indoors? outdoors? large hall, medium or small?
2. Audience size and distance from the musicians?
3. The orchestration of the piece(s)
4. Orchestra size

Is the chamber orchestra the focus or are they providing support for a ‘band’? You mentioned a flute, a guitar, and a vocalist, so it sounds more like the orchesta may be providing more of a supporting role? Originally I thought you might just amplify the feature performers in place as Nick suggested, but with the addition of a vocalist, you’ll likely need a full PA system that will enable your sound person to properly mix the amplified signals and balance them with the ambient sound. The choice about whether to mic the rest of the orchestra depends on the above factors and whether your sound people feel that they can provide a good listening experience without it.

Best of luck with your performance. Please keep us updated on how this all works out.
 

Beat Kaufmann

Active Member
It is not uncommon to amplify quiet (solo-) instruments in connection with loud orchestras.
I always experience that when I do recordings in large concert halls. This is especially often the case when soft solo instruments play along with symphonic wind orchestras for example.
But the amplification often does not need to be very "strong". Usually a kind of support is enough. Nevertheless, you should have a good amplifier system (quality). Attention must be paid to the correct miking of the certain instrument as well.

If you want to keep the position of the amplified instrument, I recommend the amplification over only one speaker close to the instrument itself (example). This preserves the character of a "playing instrument from the orchestra" just so as the listener it can see it as well. Often the mistake is made that the amplified instruments are transmitted over an entire hall speaker system. Of course... most listeners do not care about such details.

Beat
 
OP
Mason

Mason

Active Member
It is not uncommon to amplify quiet (solo-) instruments in connection with loud orchestras.
I always experience that when I do recordings in large concert halls. This is especially often the case when soft solo instruments play along with symphonic wind orchestras for example.
But the amplification often does not need to be very "strong". Usually a kind of support is enough. Nevertheless, you should have a good amplifier system (quality). Attention must be paid to the correct miking of the certain instrument as well.

If you want to keep the position of the amplified instrument, I recommend the amplification over only one speaker close to the instrument itself (example). This preserves the character of a "playing instrument from the orchestra" just so as the listener it can see it as well. Often the mistake is made that the amplified instruments are transmitted over an entire hall speaker system. Of course... most listeners do not care about such details.

Beat
This is truly helpful, as well as @dflood. Since I'm not an expert and don't know what to recommend, do you mind if I share this with he performance organization so that they understand the importance of this technological requirements? Don't want everything to be ruined, and I think the sound engineer will be the most important person of the performance!
 

X-Bassist

Senior Member
Thanks, do you have a mic on the flute or a headset microphone?

Let’s say there’s a larger string orchestrac they could probably play without amps, while if we used just 1 or 2 on each part we could be fine with that as long as they have amps?

So small string section means less fees, but more technical challenges.
The sound engineer should have some solo mics ready, just let him know how many and who will be mic'ed. Headset mics are only for voice, and then only if not seeing the mic is important. In your case I would just make sure in the stage layout there is sufficient room between the solo mics and loud instruments (brass, percussion) to reduce bleed. The flute should be mic'ed mid-body just above the instrument, but each instrument is different based on how it's played.

Also, besides good mics, a good speaker system is needed. If there is not a great house system I would at least have some QSC K10's or 12's on stands on either side of the stage. The sound engineer should be mixing from somewhere center of the room to get the audience perspective and balance it right. As you said, it's the audience that matters.

If the players don't need a monitor (sometimes they do if the orchestra is loud) then you should be good to go. Sometimes section mic's are needed to add clarity and presents to strings or woodwinds, but many times it's only needed in outdoor venues. For this you would base the mix on the strength of the louder instruments interacting with the room (and not mic them). Any recording made would have to be done with a separate set of mics/recorder.

All the best on your live performance! Nothing like hearing good players bring a piece to the next level. :) Cheers.
 
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Beat Kaufmann

Active Member
This is truly helpful, as well as @dflood. Since I'm not an expert and don't know what to recommend, do you mind if I share this with he performance organization so that they understand the importance of this technological requirements? Don't want everything to be ruined, and I think the sound engineer will be the most important person of the performance!
I have no problem with "sharing my post".

As a supplement perhaps this: The microphones for the instruments to be amplified should be relatively close, so that as little as possible from the rest of the orchestra sound is amplified. The best solution is to use clip microphones. Most sound engineers have a set of such microphones ... even wireless versions. The advantage beside the proximity of the microphone is also that the distance of the microphone is constant even if the musician moves around (emotion). As my previous poster "X-Bassist" already mentioned: For a sound recording, you should always choose an extra microphone that is placed a little further away... as if you were recording the instrument in a classical concert.

Beat
 
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