AES Journal Forum

Sound Board: Food for Thought, Aesthetics in Orchestra Recording

(Subscribe to this discussion)

Document Thumbnail

[Feature] Although there are many ways to approach classical music recording and mixing, it is the end result that is truly important—a mostly accurate capture of a large ensemble that generates a compelling listening experience. I say “mostly accurate,” as in certain cases we may be trying to present an enhanced experience, with a “larger than life” presentation. Extra-low-frequency content, a wider perspective, more reverb, and clarity in low-level details and slightly exaggerated solo balances are all important areas of attention in modern recording. This stems from the very practical problem of trying to capture the experience of listening to a full orchestra in a great hall and then reproduce it over medium-quality loudspeakers or a pair of inexpensive headphones.

JAES Volume 63 Issue 4 pp. 303-304; April 2015
Publication Date:

Click to purchase paper as a non-member or you can login as an AES member to see more options.

(Comment on this feature)

Comments on this feature

Default Avatar
Andreas Klein

Comment posted April 2, 2015 @ 21:29:46 UTC (Comment permalink)

A wonderful introduction to recording a large ensemble! Unfortunately, no specifics or details have been mentioned. So this contribution to the discussion of how to record classical orchestras is really just a starting point. 

At this time, I'd like to offer a comment on the last paragraph, "Using close microphones as the principle audio capture": perhaps this "method" is best reserved for sound-for-movies. Even though it offers the producer/engineer excellent over balance and input control, this approach takes away the natural balance which the conductor wants and rehearsed and enables the engineer to "play God" as (s)he can slide faders and turn knobs setting up their personal preferences. This is a dangerous style and might just work very well only, if the conductor and production team have the same musical understanding. I personally adher to the approach "Record as if you would listen to it".

Iker Olabe
Iker Olabe

Comment posted April 15, 2015 @ 16:44:55 UTC (Comment permalink)

The article offers a great introduction to the art of classical music recording and a very well layed out parallelism with cooking. I would like to add some further general ideas. An orchestra is a sum of sound sources and uses the concert hall as an acoustic / resonance box. Orchestra players adjust musical dynamics with respect to direct sound pressure level received by their instrument and reflexions received in the concert hall. A main stereo recording approach is more difficult and risky but will be the "main shot" of the orchestra. If the reverb radius of the hall is known before hand a good starting point position can be predicted.

 When engineering an orchestra recording two main routes can be taken :

  mixing  - "main system to spot mics"    or 

             - "spot mics to mains"

The first option uses the spot mics only as accent channels or to add detail and presence of some instrumental sections and soloists, the main sound of the orchestra will be given by the main system. It is important to consider the use of delays to have a similar time arrival between main system and spot mics and not a direct signal (spot mic) followed by a further signal (main system).
The second route proposes a mix made of mono spot mics panned to position and a faint addition of a stereo main system used to blend the recording. Usually these recordings tend to sound rather "spotty" (if I may say) unless, digital or convolution reverb is used.  This will not be necessary if the room mics have an optimum position which offers the ideal difussion and reverb decay time in the hall...

Having said this once more, I appreciate the very well put together introduction to this branch of sound recording which Richard King has published.

With best regards

Dr. Msc. MA. Iker Olabe

Subscribe to this discussion

RSS Feed To be notified of new comments on this feature you can subscribe to this RSS feed. Forum users should login to see additional options.

Join this discussion!

If you would like to contribute to the discussion about this feature and are an AES member then you can login here:

If you are not yet an AES member and have something important to say about this feature then we urge you to join the AES today and make your voice heard. You can join online today by clicking here.

AES - Audio Engineering Society