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Topic: String Quartet Panning

  1. #1

    String Quartet Panning

    String Quartet Panning

    I am working on a new recording of my string quartet #1 (Yuki):

    http://www.sibeliusmusic.com/index.p...&scoreID=45934 (The old recording is there with the score.)

    I am playing with various pan positions for the four instruments.

    I am not sure if there is a standard seating plan, the best I can find is from left to right is Violin 1, Violin 2, Viola, and Cello. However right I have also seen reference to Violin 1, Viola, Cello, Violin 2 seating.

    Right now I have the pan set to Violin 1, Viola, Violin 2, Cello.

    Any feelings on anything of these?

    • Violin 1, Violin 2, Viola, Cello.
    • Violin 1, Viola, Cello, Violin 2.
    • Violin 1, Viola, Violin 2, Cello.

    How wide should I make the pan?

    // Ars longa, vita brevis
    // http://edosbear.blogspot.com/

  2. #2

    Re: String Quartet Panning

    1 or 2 would be acceptable, although 2 has its weaknesses (the 2nd violin is turned away from the audience by being placed on the "wrong" side of the stage) there are still some groups that use it. 1 is the more common.

    3 has no reason whatsoever. it's just... wrong.

  3. #3

    Re: String Quartet Panning

    Hi, Ed

    Since you're going for a "as if recorded in concert" recording, I like plan 2:

    Violin 1, Viola, Cello, Violin 2.

    With the Cello only just right of center. Lower frequencies sound best at center or close to center, but you'll still be in the realm of seating that's actually used in real life.

    I wouldn't pan very wide. The wider the pan, the closer the listener/audience member is - and getting very wide would put them on stage with the musicians. Just a slight spread, with the outsides being maybe around 25% from center in the two directions.


  4. #4

    Re: String Quartet Panning

    A second on Randy's opinion.

    One of the most common errors in rendering a
    string quartet synthetically is panning too wide.

    Remember, on a real stage, the players are just
    a few feet apart.

    David Sosnowski

  5. #5

    Re: String Quartet Panning

    In my quartet we usually sit this way: Violin I, Violin II, Cello, Viola

    I think that's a pretty common seating pattern.
    Dan Powers

    "It's easier to be a composer than it is to compose."
    --Ray Luke (1928-2010)

  6. #6

    Lightbulb Re: String Quartet Panning

    Hi Ed,

    Most of the string quartets that I've recorded in concert were in arrangement 1. While conceptually I like the idea of the violin harmony lines to be right and left, the stereo spread may be too great and some homogeneity may be lost.

    I'm assuming that you are placing the sound sources virtually using sample libraries (ie you are not doing a live string quartet recording)? I'll talk a bit about recording a live string quartet, and hopefully you will be able to intuitively translate what I mean as it applies to your scenario. Both cases involve visualizing sound images in a stereo field, and while writing this post I thought of a way to potentially recreate the natural string quartet panning with pre-recorded samples.

    I've recorded a number of string quartets in the past, and for stereo string quartet recording I favour an omnidirectional spaced pair configuration with a wide spacing (microphones about 3 feet apart). The amount of reverb and warmth desired is effected by how far the mics are spaced apart, how high they are located, and how far they are from the performers. The stereo spread is obviously effected by the spacing of the performers, the distance of the mics from the performers, and the spacing between the mics in a spaced pair configuration (it depends on other things as well for different mic configurations). A spaced pair microphone configuration encodes stereo cues as timing differences between our ears, called "interaural timing differences", or ITD. This can be replicated in a DAW by placing left and right channels slightly out of phase (more on this coming up).

    Panning can be accomplished using amplitude cues, timing cues, frequency cues, or any combination of those things. Panning in a DAW or mixer is usually done by changing the relative amplitude between channels. However, when we hear the stereo spread in real life our hearing system is using mainly timing differences between the ears and frequency cues (part of our ear called the pinna acts as a filter). I probably did not need to mention all of that, but my point is this:

    Imagine the stereo field in terms of space and time--and if you want to do highly realistic panning, then I think the following departure from pure amplitude panning would be a great thing to try (this is what I would do if I was panning a string quartet with a sample library--it basically involved virtually mimicking a live recording):

    • check page 26 of the pdf hosted here: http://www.engr.uvic.ca/~timperry/Documents/Elec499-SurroundSoundIR.pdf. This diagram is from an old project of mine that's not directly related, but there are four squares on the stage diagram labeled "Qfl, Qbl, Qbr, Qfr" (corresponding respectively to 1st violin, 2nd violin, viola and cello). Dimensions are in cm. This is a bit wider than a typical live recording position, but this is where I would llikely place them if I had the mics located at "L1". If I was using a stereo pair (which I probably would use for a string quartet) I would locate the mics a bit closer (maybe 1/4 of the way between the end of the stage and the position labeled "C" and several feet above the heads of the performers, depending on the room acoustics) and move the positions a bit closer together.

    • virtually transpose this mic configurations stereo imaging to your recorded sample tracks using time delay instead of or in addition to amplitude panning (in which case, the amplitude panning would be less than usual). This could be done using math, or intuitively done through experimentation. Likely the easiest way to do this is to first duplicate each track (if you had a single mono track for each instrument, 4 tracks total, you would copy each one such that you now have 8 tracks). For violin 1, it would now exist in two tracks that you could name violin1L and violin1R. To create the panning, you would first amplitude pan violin1L 100% left and violin1R 100% right. Next, you would offset the track (or apply a latency/delay) so that violin1L starts sounding a fraction of a second (maybe try 10-15ms as a starting point) before violin1R. This will pan violin 1 to the left of center using timing cues (if I recall, a difference of 20ms between the ears will make something sound as if it's completely panned to one side... this information is available online and in a book I have, so if you decide to try this please give me a shout and I can dig up more specific info)

    • Frequency cues between the two ears can also be toyed with by applying differing EQ to each left/right track. For example, for violin1 in the given set up you would want the track violin1L to sound brighter than violin1R. This is a refinement that may not be necessary for a desirable result (a typical spaced pair recording will not have much in the way of frequency cues, but a highly realistic binaural recording will in order to simulate surround sound the way our head does). For most peoples needs we can skip this step and move onto the next, crutial point...

    • Create the spatial impression using EQ, gain, and convolution reverb. Apply EQ on the Qbl and Qbr tracks in such a way that they sound further away than the Qfl and Qfr tracks. I mention a bit about how you can do this sort of thing on pages 3 to 5 of this pdf: http://www.fileden.com/files/2007/11...Elec340-A1.pdf. Reduce the gain on the Qbl and Qbr tracks so that they have slightly less amplitude, and also send slightly more of these tracks to the convolution reverb (ie a wetter sound for instruments that are more distant).

    Well, after writing all of that I want to try it myself sooner or later and possibly write something up about it. I hope that this helps you out, or at least brings up some ideas. Does anyone have any insightful thoughts on this? Let me know if anything that I mentioned is confusing (if you are wondering what's with the emoticons... well, this post did not look like an inviting read at first glance, and the crazy eyes do go hand in hand with with what I'm visualizing).

    "If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away." – Henry Thoreau

  7. #7

    Re: String Quartet Panning

    Above and beyond all other panning methods known to man...
    Altiverb by Audio Ease is going to give you the ability to manipulate your
    samples into the most realistic environment you could ever imagine.

    Simply panning the dry tracks and "adding" reverb to the dry samples
    is NOT going to make a convincing mix.


  8. #8

    Re: String Quartet Panning

    Quote Originally Posted by DPDAN View Post
    Simply panning the dry tracks and "adding" reverb to the dry samples
    is NOT going to make a convincing mix.
    ....So so so true, hence my huge shpeal above.

    I knew that Altiverb allows stereo placement, but I was under the impression that the positions were fixed (if not, then awesome!). If someone could not justify buying Altiverb (maybe it was food on the table vs Altiverb), then they might attempt to do/find an effect that does what I mentioned (the stuff past the blue text) with the aid of a cheaper convolution reverb. I know that it's still not ideal as it will not be using a different impulse response for each instrument's location, but adding timing cues and depth perception EQ will take care of some of that. The main missing ingredient in my mind would be the first reflection data... so certainly having IRs for each instrument position is the most desirable/practical appoach.
    "If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away." – Henry Thoreau

  9. #9

    Re: String Quartet Panning

    Hi Tim, great to see you here
    the very things that you spoke of are incorporated into Altiverb's stage positioning feature.

    Check out these video demos I did a while back about using Altiverb.


    I was blessed about four years ago and was finally able to buy one of these Schoeps CMXY4V stereo mics..
    After using Neumann's, AKG's and many other great mics, all I can say is... now I know why people use Schoeps mics for classical music. Just amazing! There are two, (matched of course side addressed cardioid capsules that pivot to adjust vertical angle and the two capsules rotate with a unique gear mechanism to adjust the width of the pattern. A person can sing/speak and move from extreme left to extreme right and there is no noticeable difference in sound, no phasing issues of any kind. So cool!

    OK back on topic

  10. #10

    Re: String Quartet Panning

    Ed, here is a link for "All I Ask Of You" from Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom of The Opera.

    1st and 2nd violin are the Garritan Stradivari,
    viola is from GPO and the cello is Garritan's Gofriller Solo Cello

    I did dome recording with the Arianna String Quartet and they sit from left to right like this...


    This mock up recording I did has the following seating (panning)



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