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RECORDING THE STRING QUARTET

In response to a question about "miking" a string quartet:
I quote from John Eargle,"Handbook of Recording Engineering" (New York: Van
Nostrand Reinhold, 1986), considered to be one of the basic books on the
subject.
"Recording String Quartets
This most intimate of chamber groups poses some problems for recording.
The players normally array themselves as shown [in a sort of square].  When
they are so closely spaced, it is difficult to get a pickup with good
stereo localization without moving in quite close to the ensemble.  if at
all possible, the group should be persuaded to space themselves in a wider
arrangement [a semicircle facing the stereo pair].  In this way, a
coincident of quasi-coincident pair can provide good stereo interest at a
distance above the floor of, say, 2.5 to 3 meters (7 to 10 feet), while
maintaining good blend and cohesion.  The back lobes of the microphone
patterns may be adjusted for the final balance of direct to reverberant
sound.  Intimacy is important, and images should pretty well fill the
stereo stage.
In a studio setting, some artificial reverberation- no more than about 1.5
seconds, in the mid band- should be added." (pg. 252)
My personal experience is that this works well, although experimentation is
often warranted.  I recall setting up in the "tight" formation and putting
the microphone closer to the floor and closer to the group; this was in a
studio, and we were not concerned with an accurate live sound.  A lot
depends on your goals, the quality of equipment you have, and the
performance space. If you are trying to amplify the group, my guess is that
contact mics or pickups would give the minimum of feedback, but present
some challenges for mixing.
Good luck!
Bret Smith
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