Friday, April 19, 2013

The Art of Recording

I'm working up my first suite for guitar so I can record it later this month. The problem with most recording spaces is that they are designed for the use of popular and jazz musicians--not surprising as they comprise the majority of working musicians. But the technique of recording this kind of music is radically different from that of recording classical music. Most recording spaces are designed to be dead, with very little resonance. Instruments are recorded separately on different tracks and mixed together. They are often processed in various ways with limiters and compressors to get more 'punch'.

Classical music is recorded quite differently. The CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation), for example, since they record so much classical music, has specially designed studios. They are much larger, often large enough to contain an entire orchestra, and have a natural resonance. The ones I am familiar with have wooden parquet flooring, for example. Wood makes for a lovely natural resonance. Then, if recording a solo instrument like guitar, a pair of microphones are used, about ten feet back from the instrument and they pick up both the direct and reflected sound. Churches are often used--the Naxos series of guitar recordings are all done in a church in Toronto. Churches have a lot of resonating space and a long decay, which really favors the guitar.

Sometimes you see recital spaces that are designed for classical music with banners to increase or decrease the amount of reflected sound. For a guitar you want the maximum, but for a brass quintet, much less.

In any case, I've been keeping an eye out for a good recording space. I have an excellent engineer, but his studio is small and acoustically dead. Yesterday I tried out a private home with a huge living room. It has a high vaulted brick ceiling like a chapel. Just an amazing sound! Makes the modestly-voiced classical guitar sound huge. So we will be going in there in a couple of weeks to record my Suite No. 1. Should be fun.

Here is a picture of the kind of ceiling I'm talking about:

And here is a little clip of my playing:

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