Something Borrowed

I was lucky enough to record the Queensland Wind Orchestra for the second time on Saturday and it was an amazing concert. They played a set called “Something Borrowed”, which was the third concert from their series “Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed and Something Blue”. Their Conductor, David Law made the joke last time they performed that at the end of the concert series the audience and orchestra would be married! The performance was in the concert hall of the Old Museum Building in Brisbane.

QWO – Something Borrowed, Conducted by David Law

  • Overture to Candide – Leonard Burnstein, trans. Walter Beeler
  • Wild Nights! – Frank Ticheli
  • Fantasy on a Japanese Folksong – Samuel Hazo
  • Wings of Daedalus – Andrew Ball
  • ‘Adventures on Earth’ from E.T The Extra Terrestrial – John Williams, trans. Paul Lavender
  • Hill-Song No.2 – Percy Grainger
  • An American in Paris – George Gershwin, trans. M. Van Gils

Recording Equipment

  • sE 44ooa (matched pair)
  • Neumann KM184 (matched pair)
  • Mbox Pro
  • Mac Mini
  • Pro Tools
  • XLR’s
Pro Tools rig to the side of stage
Pro Tools rig to the side of stage

Mic Placement

The mic’s were set up in a similar configuration as last time with a few minor adjustments, because if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! The KM184’s were placed ORTF behind the conductors head (about 1.5 meters above and behind) and the 4400a’s were set on the figure-8 polar pattern, about 3m to the left and right of the ORTF.

ORTF behind Conductor, 4400a's to the left and right
ORTF behind Conductor, 4400a’s to the left and right

It is like a big instrument

I had an epiphany when I was recording the Orchestra this time around, being that when capturing an ensemble like this, think of the whole band as a “big instrument”. It is not really different at all to recording an Acoustic Guitar for example, for the theory is exactly the same, when you capture the sound of a single instrument you think of what mic placement would let the instrument be represented accurately and allow an appropriate position and distance of the mic’s. If we think of the orchestra just being a big instrument then the job is really simplified and the results are astounding!

sE 4400a Matched Pair

This time around, I got to test out my matched pair of 4400a’s and all I can say is that I am so happy that I bought them! Last time I used AKG C414’s and they were great, but the 4400a’s absolutely nailed it! When the ORTF is taken out of the mix, it doesn’t deflate it at all, the ORTF just adds some definition to centre. The 4400a’s are $1000 cheaper than a matched pair of c414’s but they do not sound cheaper at all, in fact the 4400a’s actually have a flatter frequency response than the c414’s. I would even go so far to say that I could record the orchestra with just the 4400a’s. If you are patient then in a couple of weeks I should hopefully have permission from some of the Composers and the band to give you a demo of just how good they sound.

The Team

I had two assistants with me, Daniel Nelson and Jackson Martin, who are SAE QANTM students and they performed brilliantly, setting up the mic’s, running leads and were always polite to the musicians and conductor. Seeing how well we work as a team and the educational benefit of these recordings, the orchestra manager, Lauren Wallace has mentioned a possible partnership between the QWO and SAE QANTM! This would be a great benefit for both parties, the QWO gets quality reference material of the recordings and SAE QANTM students get real world experience recording large ensembles! It’s not what you know, it’s who! lol

It was a fun night and I have gained some more experience in recording orchestras, which is exactly what I need to become the game-sound-guru that I am aiming to be. Not only have I gained more experience, my contacts are growing and I have organised to record a Concerto for Tuba and Orchestra with the QWO’s principal Tuba player.

Thanks again to Lauren Wallace, David Law and the QWO for having us and allowing us to hone our skills in orchestral recording! See you soon 🙂




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