There are a lot of things to plan for and take into consideration before a musical piece can be recorded successfully, either for commercial sales or art purposes. The place to make the recording must be considered, what equipment to use, the tempo, the genre of music, the personnel needed for the recording, the time constraints as well as budgetary limits (Morgan and Chung, 2014). This paper is a proposal for a musical recording, specifically recording of an opera musical performance. An opera is a classical Western art form that combines libretto and a musical score; the specific genre to be recorded is the Operetta, the little opera. The case scenario is an orphanage that trains orphaned children from around the world in various arts including music. The Adelaide based group is due to make several performances and the upcoming event is especially important as they will perform for global leaders and guests attending a regional economic forum for Asian leaders. The manager at the facility has made a request to the author to record the performance as they intend to sell copies to the leaders in attendance as well as to other interested individuals. The manager has stressed the need for quality and professional recording of the performance. This paper discusses the preproduction phase, discuss the required equipment, create a functional budget, and discuss how the stage will be prepared, as well as tackle the rehearsals and other possible incidentals.
The score is called from the piano vocal score and has some occasional notations given on the instruments playing different specific notes. The score is set up into a rehearsal prompt book; this is the master copy of the script (score) that has all the cueing, blocking, and information management regarding the rehearsal and performance. After familiarizing with the score and creating it, it is important that the most suitable tempi are determined for the recording and this requires closely working with the maestro. Having a condensed score for the piano is important in determining the tempi.
The plot of the opera has to be well understood and important information for this is provided for by the score. A Libretto book can be consulted for this such as the Complete Libretto Series book by Castel.
This is obvious where the score being played are placed for easy reading by the artists; it makes it easy to read and follow the score comfortably ('Home Studio Corner', 2016)
Microphones and pre-amps
Low noise type microphones with condenser that are directional are used. The microphones are stereo type and free field. For this recording, the Oktava MK 319 condenser microphone with a large diaphragm fo0r better sound capture. It has a frequency response of between 20 Hz and 18 KHz, which is large enough and 122 DB maximum SPL. The microphone self-noise level is less than 14 dB (Busietta, n.d.). The Avalon and the Apogee converter that will be hired from the opera house
Stereo bar and the one to be used is the AEA (Audio Engineering Associates) model, also to be hired for the recording
Digital recorder of the highest quality is proposed for the recording and the Edirol R-09 will be used as the primary digital recorder.
The recording will be done using a Panasonic 4 K digital video recorder that will be placed on an adjustable tripod for recording. The camera will be set such that the singers are recorded directly while they are facing the camera (Cooke, 2005).
Macintosh laptop with the Tunes library; this will be used for mixing and post production at a later stage.
These will be hired or the clients’ equipment be used for the recording; a grand baby piano is sufficient for the recording
High quality audio cables are used for connecting all the musical inputs to the mixer; cables will be needed to connect the microphones, the piano, monitor speakers to the mixer; high quality cables with gold plated terminals are desired to ensure the highest quality of sound (Ihalainen, 2008).
The budget is based on actual prices for products and estimates or others, such as labor hours. The production will be done with a significant number of equipment being hired as they are likely to be used just once. The budget is shown in the appendices
The rehearsal ground plan is taped out to have the exact dimensions for the rehearsals, setting tables that will hold the equipment to be used by the artists, and putting in place the relevant costume racks (Friedlander, 2014). The singers will be staged downstage from the proscenium line and this space is taped out. The stage apron is also set and taped out; the curtain line is also marked out to know where it falls; this is especially useful for the stage director. The conductor area is also set downstage of the edge of the pit, the at the center line. This is where the tables that the stage manager and director are set up; the stage is set up in conjunction with the maestro, especially on where the piano will be placed and this is also determined by where the maestro places the violin section (Gallo, 2006). The baby grand piano is angled to allow the player to be able to see the maestro. A reading lamp is placed on the piano for the player to see the music clearly. A section is also set for storing assets such as the score. The maestro is at the center of the performance, meaning that the placement of the director and stage manager and piano also depend on where the maestro is placed. The director table is set to the left of the maestro while the table used by the assistant manager is also set to the left of the stage manager’s table. The conductor stand is set in place as well as the chairs for use by the personnel. The team moves to the site, with all paperwork refined and equipment such as computers at the ready. The equipment are tested and ensured to be well connected and working, with elements such as the desired sound tested and the tempi gotten correctly
The recording is done after the tech week is complete; the tech week begins by the paper tech when stage manager and director go over all aspects of the musical. This is followed by the dry tech when a technical rehearsal is done involving all shift scenes; the rail cues and special effects are undertaken in the absence of the artists (Holmes, 2008). This is followed by the piano tech when rehearsal is done with the artist and the piano. The first and second orchestra dresses are done in full costumes and check lists done. The recording is done when the curtain is raised and the stage manager makes the necessary calls.
The setup of the microphones has an effect of the quality of the recordings because of the effect of acoustics. In choosing the venue for recording, the acoustics effect was taken into consideration as quality of the recording depends to a great deal on the size of the team. For an opera, the recording is not possible in a studio hence the choice to use a concert hall at the local theater. Care was taken in choosing the acoustic venue and the particular venue chosen has a general oblong –horse she shape that will enhance the sound and recording quality because after recording, changing the acoustics is difficult and may affect the overall sound quality. Factors considered include sound reverberation; it should not be too long as this would cause smudgy sound; a natural sound is what the recording intends to achieve. The walls of the building are sound proofed to minimize sound reflection on the walls and the floor is fitted with heavy rugs that absorb sound (Klein, 2016). To evaluate the suitability of the venue, a walk through with an assistant clapping helped determine how the place ‘sounds’. The reverberation length alone is not sufficient for determining sound quality; other factors come into play as well.
The size and hall shape, the material used on floors and walls, other surfaces, and decorations used all affect the sound quality. The optimal time for reverberation is a compromise between the intensity of the sound, the clarity, and the live-ness. For clarity, a short reverberation time is required, a high reverberation level is needed for high intensity and for live-ness, and a longer reverberation time is required (Meyer and Hansen, 2009). The average required reverberation time for an opera/ orchestra is 1 for a 10 cubic meter rom, 1.4 for a 100 cubic meter room, and 1.8 for a 1000 cubic meter room (Bies, 2009). As the frequency increases, the reverberation time drops; the aim was to get a reverberation time of two seconds for the hall which is about 1200 cubic meters; this would ensure a high quality natural sound. The considered parameters include intimacy, where playing in a big hall should sound as if the room were small; live-ness, warmth (relates to the fullness and live-ness of bass tones). The intention is to have clarity of sound where the direct plus early sound should be greater than the reverberated sound. The sound should have good spatial distribution with a good balance and blend and have an ensemble of good reflective surfaces above and on the sides of the artists (Bies, 2009).
The chosen microphones good quality stereo, but the best capture occurs if there is consideration for the micing distance. The main artist(s)/ singer(s) will be standing/ seating on the piano ad this sound must be captured in a very clear way, taking into account aspects like live-ness and clarity. To achieve this, matched condensers will be placed 15 feet in front of the piano and the microphones placed 8 feet above the floor of the stage and 3 feet in front of the singer (Moylan and Moylan, 2007). The condenser microphones ensure better quality live sound because of their low distortion and a high signal to noise ratio. Ribbon and tube microphones will be used as backup to capture natural and background reflected sound. To balance the direct sound, the microphones are moved back and forth until the right balance is struck and backup microphones placed in a curve from the main microphones to capture other directional sound. The microphones are mixed such that most sound comes from the two main stereo pair of microphones placed 3 feet from the piano. The backup microphones are to capture ambient sounds and the direct ones are adjusted to take into consideration time delay between the microphones and the instruments. Mixing is organized so that close up microphone sounds arrives a few milliseconds later than sound from the main microphones (Rumsey and McCormick, 2012). This setup gives the best capture of direct and reverberant sound and is better than placing microphones closer to the principals Artists) there will be changes to the sound, especially vocals, creating unnecessary bass
Setup of the microphones and monitors along with the speaker is shown in the image below;
Many copies of the recording will be available given that every day, the opera is recorded in two-three hour sessions. In total, there will be 21 recordings to produce 7 tracks on CD and production is to start through nondestructive editing and the software to be used is the Logic X DAW (digital audio workstation) by Apple. Fast cross fading will be used when moving from one take to the next so as to minimize the effects of ensemble balance and timbre changes. Continuous volume enveloping is done at recording so intimacy, balance, and space is further added to the recorded opera and then individual sections joined together. Mixing is to be done on Logic X starting by panning to each aspect (bass, reverb, vocals) in place before editing and subtractive equalization. Compression will be used to achieve greater sound density and special effects (as requested by client) and those deemed fit are added; the voice of children, waterfalls, horses will be added in addition to any special effects deemed suitable and all effects processed to add tone and create a 3 dimensional ‘sound space’. Additive equalization to be used to shape the mix based on the sounding of the instruments and vocals. The final mix is printed with Logic X and audio mastered ready for delivery to client for opinions; copies can then be made as per request (Owsinski, 2013).
Bies, D. (2009). Engineering Noise Control: Theory and Practice. 4th ed. Abingdon: Taylor & Francis, pp.344-345.
Boyden, M., Kimberley, N., Staines, J. and Boyden, M. (2002). The rough guide to opera. 1st ed. Hoboken: Wiley and Sons, p.103.
Busietta, C. (n.d.). A look at an opera singer's equipment. [online] Christopher Busietta. Available at: https://www.christopherbusietta.com/en/blog8.html [Accessed 19 Nov. 2016].
Cooke, M. (2005). The Cambridge companion to twentieth-century opera. 1st ed. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, p.282.
Friedlander, C. (2014). How to Make a Great Demo Recording. [online] Musicalexchange.carnegiehall.org. Available at: https://musicalexchange.carnegiehall.org/group/voice/forum/topics/how-to-make-a-great-demo-recording [Accessed 19 Nov. 2016].
Gallo, D. (2006). Opera: The Basics. 1st ed. New York: Routledge, p.108.
Holmes, T. (2008). Electronic and experimental music. 1st ed. New York: Routledge, p.288.
'Home Studio Corner', (2016). 7 Tips for a Successful Live Concert Recording [With Audio Example!]. [online] Home Studio Corner. Available at: https://www.homestudiocorner.com/7-tips-live-concert-recording/ [Accessed 19 Nov. 2016].
Ihalainen, K. (2008). Methods of Choir recording for an Audio Engineer. [online] Publications.theseus.fi. Available at: https://publications.theseus.fi/bitstream/handle/10024/10509/Ihalainen.Kirsi.pdf?sequence=2 [Accessed 19 Nov. 2016].
Klein, S. (2016). Acoustics: Basic Concepts, Guidelines and Materials : Steven Klein’s Sound Control Room, Inc.. [online] Soundcontrolroom.com. Available at: https://www.soundcontrolroom.com/acoustics-basic-concepts-guidelines-and-materials.php [Accessed 19 Nov. 2016].
Meyer, J. and Hansen, U. (2009). Acoustics and the performance of music. 1st ed. New York: Springer, p.386.
Moylan, W. and Moylan, W. (2007). Understanding and crafting the mix. 1st ed. Amsterdam: Elsevier/Focal Press, p.269.
'Music career', (2016). Stage Manager (Opera and Music Theatre) - Music Career. [online] Musiccareer.com.au. Available at: https://www.musiccareer.com.au/index.php/Stage_Manager_(Opera_and_Music_Theatre) [Accessed 19 Nov. 2016].
Owsinski, B. (2013). The mixing engineer's handbook. 3rd ed. Boston: Thomson Course Technology, pp.Chap3,4.
Rumsey, F. and McCormick, T. (2012). Sound and recording. 1st ed. Amsterdam: Elsevier/Focal, p.128.
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