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Articles Nov-Dec 2021

Jamdub SoundLabs Installs Dolby 7.1.4 Speaker Setup

ProMusicals deploys an immersive solution to the Chennai-based Jamdub SoundLabs with a comprehensive Dolby 7.1.4 setup.

Located in the quiet suburbs of Thoraipakkam, Chennai, Jamdub SoundLabs provides end-to-end post-production solutions to artists from the music and film industry with a unique experience. Established in..... read more

Seamless Solutions for Evolving Workplace

NEC WD551 Windows Collaboration Display Product Review by Abdul Waheed, Managing Director, EYTE

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L&T’s Corporate office gets a Digitally Savvy Tech Makeover

Eyte Technologies Crafts a Versatile AV and Acoustic Setup at L&T’s AM Naik Tower, Powai, Mumbai

L&T group envisioned a Tech-savvy Corporate office for their Powai Office that would enhance the synergy and boost the corporate functions. This feature explores..... read more


Nikhil Mehta, Founder, Sudeep Studio 1935-2021

Much-Respected and self-taught sound engineer, the founder of Sudeep Studio and games, Nikhil Mehta, passed away..... read more

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Pramod Chandorkar - Founder, SoundideaZ Academy

Chandorkar offers expert tips on achieving a good recording with details about room dynamics, good microphones and their placement, and more.

In this age of Sound engineering, is the art of recording still alive? I had an opportunity to discuss the same with my contemporary engineers and seniors recently. It was a very relevant topic, which I thought could be discussed here.

Actually other than vocals hardly any instrument is recorded in today’s time. This applies to the most released popular music in India. As far as the recording art is concerned, its still kept alive by the Bands, Classical Music and other private non-film Music.

I cherish those memories when I used to record live instruments every day. Those were the days when I got to practice the art of recording. Microphone placement plays a major role in getting a good recording. My Guruji taught me “when you are recording you are actually capturing a precious time of the performance of an artist”. These words are engraved in my mind.

An important aspect for a good recording is the ‘Room’. The sound of the room plays a very important role in getting a good recording. Despite using the most state-of-the-art equipment, if the room is not acoustically right, the recording will never come right. In today’s time where space is so expensive, the size of the studio has been curtailed to a small room. Can we actually get a good recording out of these small rooms? Yes we can get a good recording out of these rooms as long as we understand the role of the room in a good recording. Different strategies need to be applied for recording different sounds.

Vocal recording

While recording solo vocals, ‘Distance’ is one factor, partly because of the proximity effect of the cardioid microphones typically used for vocal recording. A Mic further away from the singer picks up a more natural representation of their head and chest resonances. Close proximity to microphone will enhance the Lip noise; Esses & pop Sounds. Higher frequencies tend to beam slightly downwards from the nose and mouth, so positions below the nose will tend to be brighter than those above. Some consonants, such as ‘S’ and ‘P’ sounds, tend to be worst directly on axis vertically. When a microphone diaphragm is placed right in front of the lips or little below, the sound captured will be brighter in nature. If the microphone diaphragm is placed a little higher in line of the nose, the head resonance is captured. Depending on the performer the placement should be decided. The horizontal plane is a bit more of an unknown quantity, as it seems to me to vary more from singer to singer and many vocalists sing asymmetrically too, so the best thing to do is experiment, if you have the time. When you’re moving the Mic around, you need to make sure that the singer doesn’t follow it with their head position and posture; otherwise they’ll counteract the expected effect. The easiest way to prevent this is to set up the pop shield and have the singers locate themselves accordingly, rather than according to the Mic. Putting lyric sheets in a sensible location can also do a lot to direct the singer’s attention in the desired direction irrespective of Mic position.

Changing the angle of the Mic in any given position will also change the sound, especially if you’ve followed the norm of using a large diaphragm cardioid condenser Mic. Even the best large diaphragm cardioid mics deliver an altered frequency response off axis, which usually means less sensitivity to the high end of the spectrum, and in principle you could, indeed, use this to soften backing vocals.

Backing Vocals Or Chorus Recording

Recording multiple singers for a Chorus section has been a very important part of Indian film music. Using an Omni directional Condenser Microphone at a distance of 2-3 feet will give Impressive results. In the case where the section is singing an high octave part and are large in numbers the distance from the microphone can go up to 4-5 feet. This technique will deliver a good balanced Round sound. This technique will also capture the room sound to give the bigness of the section. For low octave or soft sections the distance can be reduced to 1-2 feet. Using different polar patterns as figure of 8 and spreading out the vocal section in such a way that bright vocalist can be off axis and softer ones on axis also improves the overall sound. The decision to apply the Mic technique also depends on the musical part being performed.

AKG 414, Neumann U 87 is widely used for these recordings.

Indian Percussion (Dholak & Tabla)

Indian Percussions have a very large range in terms of loudness and timber. They are played with sticks as well as hands. We will differentiate them with their characteristics. Hand played percussion’s include the following

Dholak, Tabla, Dholki, Pakhawaj, Mridungam, Khol. The mentioned instruments are not very loud in nature. However, when played loud, these instruments sound different. When we Mic these instruments, the style of playing or the genre in which they will be used is important to know in order to make a decision on how to Mic them. These instruments are also played solo or in an ensemble where you can have group of percussion’s playing together. The micking for such ensembles will be different than that of a solo performance.

Solo Micking

Shure SM58 & 57 is a very widely used dynamic microphone for these percussions. They should be placed 6-8” away from the source and pointing towards the center of the Instrument face. There have been a lot of instances where its debated weather to use one microphone for a Tabla or two!! Tabla consists of two individual parts a ‘Chati’ and a ‘Baya’. These are placed next to each other and the sound source is very much in the center. Ideal placement is one microphone in the center of both, the distance being 6-8”. The ‘Baya’ generates low mids and lows, where as ‘Chati’ generates hi mids and Mids. One SM 58 can very well capture them both or even a Neumann U 87 (Condenser Mic). In case of the later the distance can be 1 feet. Now based on the style of playing, you should ensure that the transients are not too loud and will be well captured by the microphone without getting overloading and saturation. A condenser microphone will give u a very clean character with pristine top end; if the distance is right you can capture the transients very nicely.

A Dholak also can be captured well with Shure Sm 58 & 57. Here the sound sources are exactly opposite to each other and you need 2 microphones. The distance has to be 6-8 “ apart. Generally a dynamic Mic is preferred than the condenser for recording a Dholak or the rest of the above-mentioned instruments other than the Tabla.

Ensemble or sections of Dholak

When recording sections of these percussions doing a collective micking to the section will deliver better results than doing individual micking. This will capture a room tone and a good ambience sound, which makes it sound bigger. Close micking or spot micking will not give a big sound. Some engineers nicely blend the spot mics with room mics. A thorough knowledge of Phase is required when you use multiple microphones for the sections.

In this technology dominated world of sound lets not forget the fundamentals of good recordings. An Acoustically designed room; good Microphones, Proper Knowledge of Mic Placement, Decent or good recording equipment’s only will lead to a good recording and a great Mix.

To Be continued..