Recording the Theremin

Posted: 9/25/2008 10:44:28 AM
Alexander

From: Bristol, United Kingdom

Joined: 12/30/2006

Now normally, for me, this subject isn't an issue, because I don't record using anything [i]other[/i] than Theremin. But currently, writing and producing a multi-instrumental album, I'm hitting snags.

Most of the music recorded so far has piano on it somewhere. Now, recording piano is a whole other world, but however you decide to do it, what you are left with - or at least, what I am left with - is the sensation of the room around the piano as well, due to acoustics, resonance, which microphones you used etc.

Most of the time, I record the Theremin direct to desk, but on these recordings it sounds really out of place; right at the forefront and clearly separate from the other instruments I've recorded.

I notice this on a lot of other recordings of Theremin, in fact. The track is always abrasively present, right in the ear, whilst other instruments may convey a sense of space. This is not very nice if half of the atmosphere of a recorded piece lies in the acoustics.

So - how do you best like to record your Theremin? What digital trickery do you use? Do you use microphones? If so, which microphones? Amplifiers, compressors, reverbs - share your wisdom.
Posted: 9/25/2008 7:56:10 PM
omhoge

From: New York, NY

Joined: 2/13/2005

Don't want this thread to roll off unanswered, probably not much wisdom and you all know I'm terribly low tech, the mics I use are whatever I have and can afford. I use either a port-a-studio or a small single stereo recorder, laptop-hd forget it.

I think your key is either a mixer and some sort of common ambient effect, or a live recording. What I've done when combining different instruments with the theremin are:
- record each track/instrument separately and apply as much as possible identical reverb/ambiance processing to them, and in the master: mix the theremin back a bit so it's not so in your face but center and do some panning with the other parts to put some space around the theremin especially if it's a solo line.
- or maybe a simpler way, record everyone live, with the theremin via it's amp correctly balanced with the group for that room and record everyone live in stereo with two mics in the the typical X /\ or Y \/ positions. but you lose some of the fine control in the final mix.

I think an all at once live recording with two mics to stereo might be best, but if you cannot get the players spread out you might need a mic for each and then still mix them down. But you'll get the most vibrant performance out of everyone.
Just don't underestimate what you can do with two powered (or not) mics, I've assisted in a bunch of choral recordings with both organ and orchestra that came out great once the mic positions were set right. Great sense of presence and space.

If you have to add the theremin later - keep tweaking the mix. Good luck.
Posted: 9/26/2008 9:58:46 AM
GordonC

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

Similarly not much to add here.

I've watched a professional producer (Pierre Duplan) mixing tracks with theremin in them on several occasions.

I didn't notice him give it any special post-production treatment - he jut kept coming back to the theremin and pushing it further down in the mix.

(Maybe it was just my playing. Hohoho.)
Posted: 9/26/2008 10:17:59 AM
Alexander

From: Bristol, United Kingdom

Joined: 12/30/2006

That for White Noise, Gordon? I think that kind of outlines my problem - mixing electronics is pretty easy, but a combination of electronics and acoustics gives you a few more dimensions to stress over.

I might see what happens with PZM room micing. Which is somewhat radical for the Theremin.

Omhoge - I'm recording everything track-by-track myself because I have no money ever. So placement with other instruments isn't the issue, it's literally making the Theremin sound like it's in the same room as the piano :) but your suggestions are helpful, thankyou!
Posted: 9/26/2008 10:39:28 AM
GordonC

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

Uh, Sonic Weekend, yeah.

We close miked my amp with whatever mike he uses for general purpose recording.

Stuff like reverb and equalisation was applied to the whole mix, which I imagine would tie the separate instruments together.
Posted: 9/28/2008 8:07:43 AM
omhoge

From: New York, NY

Joined: 2/13/2005

Been pondering it more.
Though I usually mix the theremin pretty much in the middle of the stereo mix, or even mono on top of stereo backings, I wonder if you split the theremin part into stereo and panned it really hard right and left, or slightly more to one or the other, and tweak the other instruments a bit to to stagger the stereo field a bit, plus a common ambient effect; if that would help pull the theremin back and help it sound more as a member of the mix and not a hard upfront part?

Interested in hearing how you work it out.
Posted: 10/19/2008 3:16:18 PM
omhoge

From: New York, NY

Joined: 2/13/2005

Alexander.
So? Nu?
Hope it worked out OK.

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