Mixing Sixteen Cellos

Spent the weekend sorting out dramas in my world and also putting the final touches on the new Cello album JUNEAUREVOIR.

Mixing cello can be pretty rough. It’s so full of bass, obviously, but the more you pull back on that bass, the more tinny the high ends seem.

Also, it’s one of those instruments you just want to cover with the frosting of reverb. But I’ve found that it is very very easy to go overboard on cello reverb. It has its own resonance which gets lost the more stacks of reverb you throw down.

As far as dramas of my life go? Well, let’s just say that plans, even when huge and pivotal, the big boulders of plans, can slip out of place and wreak havoc. More to come on that later.

If your are interested in how I record the cello (ie you are a recording nerd like me), read on!

I’m sure some people have figured this out, and that nicer microphones can make it sound great. I have figured my own “method” out on this last album. It is simple, not profound, and is as follows:

I take my nicer mic, an Audio Technica that is powered, a fairly small condenser mic, it looks sort of like this. It’s not that one. Anyways, it has a full bodied sound and also picks up the “icy” part of the cello, those highs where the bow moves across the string. I put that in front, facing the bridge, about six inches from it, straight on, or as much as possible.

I don’t believe in mic’ing the f-hole. Too many fluctuations in tone and none of that bow sound action. I happen to like the bow sounds, even on “perfect” classical recordings. Or, I should say, especially on “perfect” classical recordings. My favorite recording of the Bach Suites is Pablo Casals’ very early recordings of them. One take, wax cylinder, lots of imperfections, no retakes, lots of real natural beauty. Perfect and authentic sounding to me. You can really hear the bow moving across the string. I like it.

And then, and this is odd, but it works, I decided that it is ok to record with a pickup if the pickup picks up some tones that a mic just can’t. So I used my Shadow Nanoflex Cello Pickup and recorded the two, mic and pickup, together. The blend of the tones allows for a more full tone. I tend to roll off the low end on the Audio Technica, and also to roll off the high end of the pickup. Low end of the mic is full of hum, high end of the pickup is full of hiss. But they compliment each other nicely.

So what you end up with is like, if you had your ear right up against the cello PLUS you have a prime spot seated in front of the cello. I like the blend of the two.

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