Sunday, March 2, 2008

Guitar-like instruments in an orchestra

I've just went to watch the PA Youth Chinese Orchestra in Esplanade, part of the Beautiful Sunday concert. Overall a good performance. Quite professional. :D

I realised though that they faced the same problem as the guitar ensemble. Guitar-like instruments are soft instruments. When the Pipa, LiuQin, or YueQin sections are played together with the Cello, Double Bass, or even the Erhu, they are drowned out (I do not even want to mention the flutes). I could see the Pipa has some interesting runs, but I couldn't hear a thing. It was such a pity. Even at parts where I know they are having some kind of solo, I could only hear maybe the LiuQin where they are doing some strumming, but not the Pipa. The PAYCO only has 2 condenser mikes on top to capture all the sound though. That might explain why I can't hear a thing from the plucked instruments section.

However, this is exactly the same problem facing the guitar ensemble when we try to add in other loud instruments. Looking from the recorded pieces wave patterns, sometimes I see some super loud instrument that disrupts the wave patterns causing the guitar sounds to be drowned out. I'm not an expert at miking but I would think they would face the same problem too. Increase the mike's sensitivity and the loud instruments will cause that funny humming feedback sound. I also notice that high frequency instruments, like the flute or the Alto guitars, seems to get picked up by the mikes very easily, so the sensitivity cannot be too high too. Translated, a high frequency instrument cannot share a mike with a lower frequency instrument (e.g. alto and prime). The Alto will be picked up, but the Prime will not.

So far, I can't think of any solution to resolve this miking problem. If its an all plucked instruments orchestra, it will be far easier to mike up, which is evident from the recorded pieces I see. The wave patterns are much more normalised, with no weird spikes.

But then again... I do not know if what I'm seeing in the wave patterns is the same concept the sound engineers use to mike up a performance. Hmm...

Back to PAYCO's performance. Maybe I'm not a fan of chinese orchestra music. The first half an hour was okay for me, but towards the last half an hour, I found it a little draggy. Maybe its due to the cello and erhu's sound. Listening to it for 1 hour is the max for me though. :D

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