Sunday, February 13

Recoding Tricks

During the fall, I would use my lunch breaks to practice in my truck… that was actually one of the reasons I chose a Ford Edge! One day the bright idea came to me to use my my cell phone’s sound recorder on while I practice: the benefit was immediate and crystal clear. I heard things about my playing that were really not like I thought they were. This included tuning, but mostly about attacks, sustaining the notes and general phrasing.2009-NAMM-Zoom-H4n

Now, I can no longer imagine productive practicing without recording. For example, the benefit of the metronome is multiplied by recording when the playback clarifies if I really was playing with it or not.

Naturally, my cellphone (best free keyboard phone I could get without a data plan…) does not provide very good fidelity for sound quality!!! So my wife agreed I should get a really good portable recording device with emphasis on the quality of the microphones. Well, naturally, I looked at Sony, Korg, Yamaha, but it turns out that the reviews are unanimous that the best of the best for my purposes is the Zoom H4n built especially for photographers who do ad hoc videos.

The price was about the same for all of them in the same category, but this one had far superior specifications. It allows you to do multi-track recording itself (no computer needed) by playback dubbing and plugging-in many different inputs (guitar, other mic, CD player, H4N-5D-back_wires_screen-webcomputer, etc.). It can also serve as a microphone plugged into a computer: even on my Windows-7 computer, all I had to do was plug-in in with a USB cable, do simple Windows device configuration and POOF, it works perfectly with simple or excellent multi-track recording software like Audacity (free and powerful). It even has a chromatic tuner and metronome!

Sound tips for oboe

The Zoom H4n and others in its class are professional tools. This means that you need to know how to use them and use them well or else the result can be worse than with cheap tools! In my 1st You-Tube recording (Gammal fabodsalm fran Dalarne), I was a bit disappointed with my sound which seemed to have more buzz desktopSetupthan in real life. Well, I know that I have to experiment more with room selection and the layout of instruments and microphone, but today I discovered a few things about the microphone itself that greatly affect the final quality:

  1. The H4n has recording sensitivity: if the level is set too high (very sensitive) it will add buzz. Being in a small room and playing just one yard (1m) away from the microphone, there is no need to have the recording level over 25%
  2. The microphone adds buzz when it is lower than the bell. The best level, at very close range, is about half way up the instrument.
  3. Playing towards the microphone gives a“more alive” sound. Playing away from the microphone sounds a little artificial.
  4. Playing with the bell below a table and the microphone on the table also seems to darken the sound.

So are all these tricks cheating? What is the real sound coming out of my Lorée with my reeds? Well, I think its not cheating and the real sound coming out of the instrument depends greatly on where the listener is standing (sitting) and where the oboe is playing! My wife’s photography proves that cameras are not a faithful witnesses to what we see, and it should be known that even the best microphone recorder is not a faithful witness of how we perceive sound… I REALLY like the way I sound when my laptop does the recording (el-cheapo mics)!!!

I’ll be working on this for my next recording, hopefully in a week or two!


Anonymous said...

I'm going to try this with Jacob!

Anonymous said...

I have a Zoom H4 and need to learn to use it properly.

RobinDesHautbois said...

Well, if you already had one, great. If you bought one just to help Jacob, you might want to return it for a cheaper one. Acoustics is hard: I'll try to do a video this weekend because I found the best position in my house to preserve my real sound. Otherwise, use the manual to learn how to connect it to your camera. Plugging it in to the computer to use with Audacity for multi-track recording is easy when you know how the software thinks. I'll try to say more on that on a post on the weekend.