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December 22, 2011 / Randy Coppinger

Live Recording: Christmas Concert

On December 2nd I got a call from my friend, Dr. Lincoln Hanks. He was asked to record the annual Christmas Concert at Pepperdine University and wanted to talk about techniques for using an A/B pair. The more we talked, the more I wanted to drive to Malibu and help. He was easily persuaded.

The University owns a lovely Focusrite ISA 828 front end for ProTools, 4 AKG 414 ULS mikes and a Rode NT4 stereo mic. I brought my AEA Decca Tree and Heavy Duty Mic Stand. We hoisted a pair of 414s in omni as the left and right mikes of the Decca Tree with the NT4 at the center position. The other two 414s (cardioid) were placed lower at the front of the stage as spot mikes.

Deciding the height and angle of the array was all about compromise. The higher the mikes, the more even the front to back volume ratio. But that put louder sources like brass at an unfair advantage. The lower the mikes the more front-heavy, giving the strings a better chance against the brass but risking that the choir in the back of the stage would get lost. We knew we needed spot mikes up front for some soloists, so they also doubled as string section spots. That meant we could raise the mikes higher and aim the array at the choir without too much fear of losing the strings.

No one told the violin soloist why there was a spot mic at the front of the stage, so it was a Christmas miracle when he played right into it. We could also hear the time delay between the spot mic and the main A/B pair. This is why spot mikes are delayed in time to match the main array… so spot mikes can be blended in without sounding unnatural.

I didn’t like the visual distraction of having all of those mikes front and center between the audience and performers, but at least one audience member who I spoke with during intermission thought it looked cool, which just goes to show you never can tell.

Here’s one selection from that performance: a medley of Christmas songs. Thanks for listening and happy holidays.

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