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Topic: need advice, recording a saw and piano

  1. #1

    need advice, recording a saw and piano

    I\'m going to be recording a rather unusal instrument this Saturday, a saw. This guy twists a hand saw blade into an S shape and bows it with a violin bow. It sounds like a funky flute, it can sound really eerie. I\'ll be recording it in a Carpeted building with a sound stage, and will not be a live recording.

    What I would like to know is what are your ideas for recording the Piano and saw together. Should I place the saw player inline between the piano and the stereo distant mic\'s and use spot mic\'s? Or is it better to place the saw and piano on opposite sides to some degree for a stereo image between the two instruments? Or should I put a stereo pair over the piano strings and place the saw player as far away from the piano as possible?

    Any and all ideas are welcome!

    Thanks in advance,

  2. #2

    Re: need advice, recording a saw and piano

    You want the musicians to feel comfortable first and foremost, so I wouldn\'t separate them too far. That will also make it easier for them to balance themselves.

    Saw needs a lot of space to develop that sound, so I\'d try to record it in a large room or preferably hall. [Edit: I see you are already.] Do you have a lot of mics? The distant mics may be the most important. I don\'t know what its radiation pattern is, so I\'d walk around while he\'s playing it and see whether there\'s a spot where it sounds best. There may or may not be one.

    I like to record piano with two mics about 3-1/2 feet above the strings (with the lid open): one in the middle of the bow over the high strings, and one at the foot of the piano over the bass strings. That gives you a wide stereo spread, so you probably want to pan the two in quite a bit.

    Then you could set up a stereo pair for the saw a few feet away.

    So you have six mics: two on the piano, two on the saw, and two in the room. If you don\'t have that many mics, just use one on the saw.

    That\'s my instinct, anyway. I\'ve never recorded a saw! It\'s a cool instrument, though. One of the oboeists in the LA Phil (Victor Goodman, Goodhill? something like that) plays the heck out of it. He\'s amazing.

  3. #3

    Re: need advice, recording a saw and piano

    A friend of mine plays the saw. It\'s not very loud. It may be okay with piano, but with a folk/bluegrass thing going on, it really gets lost in the spectrum.

    I\'ve never recorded him, but if you have spare tracks and preamps, I\'d work in a close mic - just in case. Obviously, it would need to face the flat side of the saw, not the edge. My friend uses a direct-mount pickup as well, so he can put it though effects and an amp. You might consider that, again as a backup.

    The last thing you want is to play back the recording and find that the saw is swamped by the piano and its own resonance.

    Last year this same friend got a Theramin to go along with his saw and collection of slide whistles. He\'s got a good ear, but lacks the patience to learn instruments with discrete notes.

    Besides, he knows that these instruments can\'t really be sampled, so he\'s got job security :-)

  4. #4
    Senior Member Bruce A. Richardson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 1999
    Dallas, Texas

    Re: need advice, recording a saw and piano

    If your soundstage has a supply of gobos, or something that can be fashioned into one, I\'d put a gobo between the piano and the saw player to get some isolation. They\'ll still be able to hear each other, but you won\'t get as much comb-filtering between the closer mic positions, and the distant ones will image better because you can place the players in a more performance-oriented juxtaposition. If you spread them out too far, your ambient mics are going to image strangely and give you a \"hole in the middle.\"

    There\'s a great saw player here in Dallas, too, and your post just reminded me of him. He played one of my shows once...a really big party trade show that was spread out over the entire Meyerson lobby. I remember walking in the door and hearing him, and wanting to go say hi, I started looking for him. It took me about 20 minutes to search him out, the sound carried so far and wide through the space!! Ironically, it may not be the piano bleeding that you end up fighting...it may be the saw!! It\'s not a loud sound, but it\'s an almost pure sine-wave at times, and it really engages the air and carries.

  5. #5

    Re: need advice, recording a saw and piano

    Thanks to everyone for their input.

    I have 6 plus mics, I like your piano mic idea, it\'s very close to the way I did my last one, but sounds like it might pick up a tad more bass that way. For stereo micing I have a stereo bar with microtek gefels setup as a coincident pair; and a Royer sf-12. It will be interesting to see which one I like in the distant position. Right now I tend to think the Royer will be the best one in the back. I\'ve got a matched stereo pair of C414\'s I\'ll use on the piano.

    I\'m glad you said something about the \"side\" of the saw. I will be sure to position the musician sideways toward the balcony of the hall. I don\'t have a direct mount pickup.

    If this stage does not have any, I could bring my own. I wouldn\'t have bothered to bring them if you hadn \'t said something though! But you are right, that piano could do more harm than good to the saw.


  6. #6

    Re: need advice, recording a saw and piano

    >> \"Ironically, it may not be the piano bleeding that you end up fighting...it may be the saw!! It\'s not a loud sound, but it\'s an almost pure sine-wave at times, and it really engages the air and carries.\"

    Good point, Bruce. The thing with the saw is that it lacks definition. It\'s like when Young Frankenstein\'s Monster grasps the air for the music. It\'s at once everywhere and nowhere. The \"everywhere\" will make it bleed into your piano track, and the \"nowhere\" will make it dodge your saw mics. Jamming with my friend is like playing along with a huge pad - the whole room is filled with sound. But when he cuts loose on a solo, we all have to back way off to be able to hear the actual melody that he\'s playing. Another problem with his style is that he often uses a mallet, so the thunk-thunk swamps the tone as well. With the bow the attack is amazingly slow - hence the pad feel and the lack of definition.

    The bad news is that it will be a tough challenge to record. The good news is that few people own and cherish a collection of saw recording masterpieces for comparison :-)

  7. #7

    Re: need advice, recording a saw and piano

    >> \"Ironically, it may not be the piano bleeding that you end up fighting...it may be the saw!!

    Interesting, here i was concerned about catching a nice fat sound from the hall, and that sound might become my enemy. A two edged sword, I\'m doomed! [img]images/icons/smile.gif[/img] That\'s alright, I like challenges.


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