Recording your acoustic accordion
#1
Per Glenn's request in THIS POST, he said:


(31-05-2019, 04:40 PM)Glenn Wrote: Thanks very much guys for your interaction.
I have learned a lot from the video which was comprehensive and well presented (headphones a must). A further discussion on how to achieve left/right separation at the recording stage would be interesting. Nicely played by the way.

I'd like to start a thread on tips how to record your accordion.  Starting with the topic of how to achieve some left/right separation and maybe hope to start some talk about hardware and sharing of knowledge and opinions from others on this forum.

About two years ago, I bought a pair of very cheap condensor mics (Neewer NW-800, which were just under $20 each).  I had some fun with them, but knew that I wanted to soon get something a little better.  That's when I started researching what it would take in terms of hardware and made a blog post (LINK HERE), about how the search for my hardware of choice went.  Later on, I made a short post of my findings about mic placement (LINK HERE).

I found that there were many different ways one could capture sound at a pretty good quality with one mic, but that two mics offered the choice of a stereo image.  Right after that I realized that I could get to the point where too much of a good thing could negatively impact a recording, meaning that I had enough stereo separation that it stopped sounding natural, however, with this level, I suddenly had control to decide how narrow or wide a soundstage I wanted on any given recording.

So herein starts the meat of my contribution to this thread...

Rule #1.  If you don't have control over how the sound bounces around in your environment, you cannot control the content of your recording.  This means that if you are playing in a room with 4 bare, hard walls and lots of echo, all your recordings will have uncontrollable echo.  Though some like this, most of us do not.  

Step #1 should be to create a series of hints about the recording location.  Here are my tips:
1. Try not to record in a square room.  I know, we record where we can, but if we have a choice, rectangular is better than square.  "L" or "T" shaped rooms are better than rectangular.

2. Gain control of your environment.  If you are in a room with lots of echo, we need to reduce it.  A room that is "live" is commonly a room with lots of echo or reverb.  A "dead" room is a room that basically either redirects sound or absorbs it so that there is no echo coming back and being captured by the mics.  It is almost impossible to have a 100% dead room, and in most cases, not only is it hard, it is not really desirable, however, the less that is entering the mic that you do not want, the better.  This can be controlled by using blankets on the walls, by creating small sound absorbing walls that roll around on castors or that can be put together and create a small sound room.  I even often saw people prop the mattress on a wall or hang thick moving blankets to absorb a lot of sound and make significant improvements.  

3. Here is a little caveat... foam is great a redirecting sound, but it sucks as a sound absorbing material.  Don't waste your money on those fancy and overpriced foam acoustic panels, there are better and cheaper alternatives already mentioned here!

Mic Placement Techniques

Rule #2. There is no one perfect way to place mics that will work for every song, every accordion under every environment.  Basically what I am saying here is that there are many fantastic ways, and a few really bad ways to capture sound in a manner that let's us create files that we can work on and result in awesome songs.  That said, the ways that I have worked with and the results that I have had come from the following ideas:

1. THE A-B or “FAR APART” TECHNIQUE (also known as "SPACED PAIR")
This is where the mics are at least 3 feet apart, about 30 inches off the floor and aim right straight ahead.  Forming a bit of an equilateral triangle between the 2 mics and the center of the accordion is the basis of this setup.  Advantages are a great left/right separation and a strong sense of intimacy to the sound, but there is a slight loss of quality of the famous Cassotto sound *if * your accordion has it.  It is extremely subtle, though, and it takes a great set of headphones and ears to hear this.  I used the HyperCardioid setting of my mics to give me more separation between the left and right sides.  Perhaps using a cardioid pattern would reduce the stereo separation a small amount, but add a touch more balance to the final recording.

Though I have not fully yet tested all possibilities, there are some very potentially interesting variations of the A-B Technique (like getting them further apart, say, 4 to 6 feet).  Other combinations would be thinking outside the box... like how about not placing them side by side, how about placing the mic for the bass further to the back of the accordion and the accordion right hand is placed in front and to the side of the accordion… and so on).  All stuff to play with yourself and see if it works for you!

FACTORY SOUND BAR SETUP TECHNIQUE
When I purchased the sE4400a Matched Pair of microphones, I received a small sound bar that holds both mics on a single stand.  It places the mics about 15 inches apart.  Placing them about 30 inches off the ground, this is again a kind of triangle but the mics are much closer together, though about the same 3 feet away from the accordion.  Advantages are a fair to moderate left/right separation, but the famous Cassotto sound is there in full force and there is an even stronger sense of intimacy to the sound, definitely more than the A-B technique.  As mentioned previously, the Cassotto effect is extremely subtle and it takes a great set of headphones and ears to hear this, but it is there in full force and pleasant.  Using the HyperCardioid setting of my mics gave me even more separation between the left and right sides and perhaps changing that to a cardioid pattern would bring the image closer together but with a pleasant smoothing effect.

MID-SIDE TECHNIQUE
This one is the most fascinating, because if you look at it, it seems like it cannot have any kind of stereo image, but quite the reverse is true… if done right, it presents a surprisingly wide sounding image with a very different feeling final result.  The disadvantage is that you must use 2 different mics, where the other systems really do benefit from a matched pair.  The setup requires that one mic be a Cardioid mic and one mic that can do a Figure-8 pattern (both of which my SE4400a’s can do).  Also, the setup is a bit more complex in that the cardioid mic is placed facing the center of the accordion and the 2nd mic (switched to Figure-8 patter) is turned 90 degrees.

Another draw back is that there is some added post processing needed to be completed before you can hear this effect. The magic happens only when you do some post processing with the 2 files captured (one from each mic).  In your DAW, you have 2 files, the Cardioid file and the Figure-8 file.  Place the Cardioid file in TRACK 1, place the Figure-8 file in TRACK 2… here is where things get interesting… place a 2nd copy of the Figure-8 file on to TRACK 3.  Leave the PAN setting of track 1 in the center, place the PAN setting of track 2 100% left and place the PAN setting of track 3 100% right.  Here is where the magic happens… you *must* invert the phase of track 3!

Now, place the slider of track 1 to zero db and with tracks #2 and #3 started fully lowered to zero, play your music, and slowly slide tracks #2 and #3 up at the same time… and be prepared to hear a really cool effect!

So… between these three techniques so far, you may be curious to know which I prefer.  It’s really hard, as I like *all* the results, however, after doing some quick “back and forth” listening, there are some very interesting traits with each system.

I think that the “A-B” technique can give you the biggest separation between left and right channels with a nice amount of “sound intimacy”, the Mid-Side technique gives the most unique stereo image with a high feel of room ambience and the Sound Bar gives a great sound with less stereo separation, but a bit more of the Cassotto effect and the greatest feeling of “sound intimacy” of the group so far.

My favorites in terms of highest to lower preferences are #1 the Sound Bar, #2 the A-B setup and #3 being the Mid-Side technique, however, I really like them all and it’s a very tight race.  I can see some songs working better with specific mic setups, it is all lovely!

This is where I am so far in my "studies".  Do not think that we are just limited to 3 setups... indeed not!  There are many other micing techniques like:

- Blumlein Pair
- X/Y Stereo Recording
- ORTF Stereo Recording
- Deca-Tree variant
- ... and many more!

Let's see where the conversation goes from here.  Smile
___________________________________________________________

My musical memoires blog/website: http://www.AccordionMemories.com
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#2
Hmmmm... I just clamp my Zoom H2N to the bottom of my music stand and push record.
Cordially, Tony
Artisto, Italian, LMM, 41/120, PA
Warning: Only speaks/understands American English
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#3
(03-06-2019, 10:25 PM)StargazerTony Wrote: Hmmmm... I just clamp my Zoom H2N to the bottom of my music stand and push record.

The whole trick is... do whatever makes you happy.  If you like what you hear, that is all that matters! Smile
___________________________________________________________

My musical memoires blog/website: http://www.AccordionMemories.com
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#4
(03-06-2019, 10:25 PM)StargazerTony Wrote: Hmmmm... I just clamp my Zoom H2N to the bottom of my music stand and push record.

I don't know how different the H2N is from the H2 but with the H2 you can record from either the 2 front mics or the 2 rear mics (or both together). The 2 reer mics give a wider stereo spectrum. The H2N has something else with 5 mics I believe... so what setting do you use? There is more to it than just "push record".
Paul De Bra (not Debra...)
http://www.de-bra.nl
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#5
It is a nice basic little recorder/audio interface that has it's own built-in mics hard-wired in to it (5 mics in a small area within the enclosure).  From the point of view of if it does what you need, it is perfect, but if you wanted to get a little more complex or customize mic placement (for example), I do not think you can do that, for example, it doesn't support external condenser mics and cannot generate a 48v phantom power.  A known great little unit, but it has limitations as to what it can do.

[Image: h2n.jpg]

I too would not mind seeing what you did to maximize quality of your unit for your uses (or see what your workflow is), this is after all, what this thread is all about.  Smile

Edit: Just wanted to add another hint/tip concerning mic placement... the closer you place a mic to one side of an accordion, the louder than hand becomes and the greater the separation becomes.

But the closer you place a mic to an accordion and the more separation you get (as the recording volume needs to drop to accommodate the higher volume of that side you are recording, hence "hearing" the other side less), you will also hear the mechanics, clicks, bellows, register changes and even your own breathing during moments of silence if it is too close. Here is where a little experimentation is going to come in. How close is too close will depend on each person's preferences and the kind and age of the accordion. Too close, one may hear too much mechanical clatter... too far and you lose separation and start to hear other noise and room ambiance. For some, 3 feet is too close, to others 6 inches away from the accordion grill works just right.
___________________________________________________________

My musical memoires blog/website: http://www.AccordionMemories.com
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#6
I'd quite like to know how you're using the H2n too.

I bought one last week and I've just ordered a music stand, a bit late I know but the sofa I put the music on is starting to get in the way :)
It's already pointing out how bad my bellows technique is.
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#7
(04-06-2019, 02:07 PM)Glug Wrote: I'd quite like to know how you're using the H2n too.

I bought one last week and I've just ordered a music stand, a bit late I know but the sofa I put the music on is starting to get in the way Smile
It's already pointing out how bad my bellows technique is.

I am not sure how Tony does it, but the H2N has a standard 1/4"-20 hole on the bottom.  

[Image: h2nhole.jpg]


If I had to do it, I would get one of those $1 plastic clamps, drill a small hole in the handle, and screw in a 1/4-20 bolt and screw the H2n to that.  I could then just clamp the H2N to the music stand and enjoy.  Smile
___________________________________________________________

My musical memoires blog/website: http://www.AccordionMemories.com
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#8
Yep, that's the plan.

I also do photography so I've already got several tripod related clamps and ball heads, and a small tripod I could use instead.
But mounting it on the music stand sounds like a great idea.
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#9
(04-06-2019, 03:08 PM)JerryPH Wrote: I am not sure how Tony does it, but the H2N has a standard 1/4"-20 hole on the bottom.  

[Image: h2nhole.jpg]


If I had to do it, I would get one of those $1 plastic clamps, drill a small hole in the handle, and screw in a 1/4-20 bolt and screw the H2n to that.  I could then just clamp the H2N to the music stand and enjoy.  Smile

A cheap gorillapod goes well with these small recording devices. And if you need much more height a camera tripod can be used.
Paul De Bra (not Debra...)
http://www.de-bra.nl
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#10
or a standard adapter from "camera" thread to mic stand thread
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#11
I found an adapter, for $0.99, in the junk bin of a music store that works well. It was originally designed to attach, by a clamp, “something” to any round bar. The male part of the bolt is set on a gimbal so it can be turned mostly to any position. The only other part I needed was an adapter to change it’s threads to match the threads on the bottom on my H2N. That adapter was five times the price of the clamp. I simply attach it to the upright of my music stand. 

I normally use my H2N in the “mid side stereo “ mode so I get sound from all around it and i can record with the controls facing me. It’s used for training. To hear how I sound to others. That’s a lesson everyone should have. What you think you sound like from the players prospective is not what you sound like to others, especially with bellows control. 

As an aside, the female threaded receptacle on the bottom of the unit is plastic, therefore a wearing part. I’d much rather it be metal bit it’s not. Caution is urged.
Cordially, Tony
Artisto, Italian, LMM, 41/120, PA
Warning: Only speaks/understands American English
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#12
Anytime one uses external microphones in front of an accordion, this is normally how everyone else except the player themselves would hear it, that's basically the goal. The differences would be that a recording is structured to remove any undesirable traits such as playing mistakes, room echo, and generally stuff that you don't want to hear in a recording.

Tony also brings up an important point... not all recordings are meant for "public use" in that in his case, it is a tool used to learn from and improve his playing.

I'd like to challenge everyone that wants to participate to share a basic recording (video or audio only), of them playing anything for any length of time that they wish to share (30 seconds to a full song), and tell us about how they created that recording and some of the small things that they did to accomplish it. Share some tips of how you think you improved your recordings by doing certain things. Not only would we all learn from each other, but I bet we'd have a good bit of some very nice music to hear! Smile

We have some very talented and very smart people on this board (Prof Paul, Piotr, Boxplayer, Terry to name a few that come to mind, there are many others too!)… share some of that good knowledge friends! Wink
___________________________________________________________

My musical memoires blog/website: http://www.AccordionMemories.com
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#13
I have a zoom r8 recorder that I have used as a stand alone (ie built in mics) now and again..and whilst it does give a more dynamic sound I find I have to sit the other end of the room as it picks my breathing up and slings it high in the mix... Its no fun trying to play for two minutes while holding your breath... So nine times out of ten I end up using my rather crappy phone... Also I keep birds in the house that seem to manage to get in on the recordings too so I often have to try and find time when they are dormant.
Right or wrong make it strong...when in doubt miss it out...
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#14
I'm definitely not one of the talented and smart people on this board, but I appreciate Jerry's sharing of this interesting information. I use the Samson Go Mic on a standard boom stand for recording into my computer, and my phone for recording for YouTube and social media. Probably some day I will try to make better sounding recordings.
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#15
Terry, Tom, thank-you both for your contributions.

Terry, the solution to your problem is actually the opposite... the closer you get the mics to the accordion, the louder it becomes to the recording device, the lower the recording settings have to become and the less you will hear your breathing, however, I myself have heard breaths in the quiet parts while playing around making recordings, so I know exactly what you mean.  

A lot of that is alleviated with proper distance and mic placement.  For something like a Cardioid or Hyper-Cardioid mic the best thing to do is to actually place the mic at something close to 90 degrees away from facing you, and pointing more towards 1-2 feet in front of the accordion.  Doing this, we use the part of the pattern to catch the music and reduce and possibly eliminate all breath sounds.

This weekend if I get the chance, I may demo this in a quick video.  Smile
___________________________________________________________

My musical memoires blog/website: http://www.AccordionMemories.com
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#16
Cheers Jerry... Just checked manual and mics built into Zoom R8 are omnidirectional... There are two.roughly 8 inch apart... Throw your wisdom at that please..
Right or wrong make it strong...when in doubt miss it out...
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#17
(11-06-2019, 05:29 PM)losthobos Wrote: Cheers Jerry... Just checked manual and mics built into Zoom R8 are omnidirectional... There are two.roughly 8 inch apart... Throw your wisdom at that please..

Two options... we now know that the integrated mics pic things up in all directions, so we can place the R6 on a stool or a small table in front of the accordion about 1-2 feet away.  Adjust recording volume to max out at -12DB and see how that works.

Option #2 is better as it lets you record while taking a video without a chair/table in front of you, and that means using external mics.  2 cables, mics and stands today can be had for reasonable investment and the results would be quite satisfactory.  Cables can be had for around $10-$20 each, stands can go anywhere from free if you have that or some photography tripods or light stands to $20-$25 each.  Mics can go from under $20 each (like I have) to something very interesting like the Shure SM48 which is available under $40 each.  If you want something more serious, AudioTechnica makes the AT2020 for well under $100 each and those start to approach the results of some fairly serious pro quality results (check out any of Piotr's videos where he is recording his acoustic accordions).  Place that setup within 2-3 feet and about 1/3rd of the way up between the top and bottom of the accordion as a test starting point recording again at -12DB.

Just a couple of options, but no matter what mic used, the further away it is from the accordion, the worse the results as you catch room ambience, echo and pretty much anything else in the room or whatever is coming in through an open window or anywhere else within 360 degrees of those omnidirectional mics.
___________________________________________________________

My musical memoires blog/website: http://www.AccordionMemories.com
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#18
Here is what I recorded today, using the microphone positoning and track editing which Jerry proposed. The waltz is called Tesoro mio by Ernesto Becucci https://www.dropbox.com/s/nmnxvsdc2bx259...o.mp3?dl=0
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#19
OK, speaking technically... wow, you have come a LONG way from the first recording! Short of saying that the song was a nice piece played very well and that I enjoyed listening to it, I will stop here and see what the other members who post here will say.

Also... what do YOU think of your recordings at this point? Do you feel that you are now free to place less attention to the technicalities and can concentrate more on the music? Smile
___________________________________________________________

My musical memoires blog/website: http://www.AccordionMemories.com
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#20
Well, I think i finally achieved the best sound quality that I can get with this equipment and this room, so the only thing that is left is to produce better sound with the source of the sound  Big Grin . I found that if I control the bellows with more "feeling" and generally play a little quieter the final outcome is better, the sound is less "punching", which is often a problem with all accordions.
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