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Recording session photos - professional mic set ups?

Johnny

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I was curious how some well-known contemporary accordionists are recorded in professional studios, and what information could be gleaned from photos of them in action.

Here are five photos (below) of accordionists in the recording studio—Luciano Biondini, Pietro Roffi, Viviane Chassot, Toninho Ferragutti, and Richard Galliano.

This is not an exhaustive list of (my favorite) well-known players nor a rigorous study of recording techniques. Every sound engineer probably has their own preference for recording accordionists, depending on the musician(s), instrument, and situation. The ever-moving bass side of the accordion must add a bit of fun, too.

Some good folks on the Sound Engineering subreddit took a stab at identifying the mics in these five images. Condenser microphones (as opposed to dynamic mics) and specifically Neumann microphones (priced new between $3,000 and $5,000 USD) are, apparently, ubiquitous in these photos:
  • Neumann M 149 - #1
  • Neumann U 87 - #2, 3, 4, 7, 8
  • Neumann KM 184 (or possibly Beyerdynamic MC series) - #5, 6
  • Sony C-800 - #13
So, one conclusion—which Captain Obvious would quickly declare—is: professional players use very nice mics in professional recording studios! 😂

But even in this tiny sampling of recording sessions with contemporary accordionists, I was surprised by the variation of microphone positions and placements around the instrument, especially distance and height.

Accordionist and recording engineer David Lange has tackled the nuts and bolts of recording the accordion. In his video tutorial, Lange tests and recommends a series of mics using his Petosa, including an ATM 35 attached directly to the exterior of the bass section. Lange's recordings sound wonderful, in my opinion, and the YouTube tutorial is both in-depth and practical, likely aiming to assist non-pro accordionists recording at home with *non-professional* budgets. (None of the microphones Lange demonstrated in his tutorial make an appearance in the photos posted here, to my knowledge.)

This is all just casual exploration and fun after a few photos piqued my curiosity. I appreciate how forum members with recording expertise regularly share their knowledge on this website. @JerryPH comes to mind as well as many folks in this thread: https://www.accordionists.info/threads/your-accordion-recording-technique.8354/

To be clear: I will still be using my iphone to record for the foreseeable future! 😅🥴🤣

Edited on 2022-06-12 for clarity and to add new information.

biondini-mics.jpeg
roffi-mics.jpeg
chassot-mics.jpeg
ferragutti-mics.jpeg
galliano-mics.jpg
 
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Valski

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Those are all impressive microphones and in a professional studio setting they help to justify the steep price paid to rent the space. There are a couple of items which may even be more crucial; the mixer technology and the trained audio engineer. I'm sure that even if a simpler $200 microphone was used a professional with a mixer could also turn out a great recording. Just pointing out the obvious. :unsure: 🪗
 

JerryPH

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Those are all impressive microphones and in a professional studio setting they help to justify the steep price paid to rent the space. There are a couple of items which may even be more crucial; the mixer technology and the trained audio engineer. I'm sure that even if a simpler $200 microphone was used a professional with a mixer could also turn out a great recording. Just pointing out the obvious. :unsure: 🪗
In discussing accordions that have no internal mics... for 99% of us, for sure one doesn't need $35,000 worth of microphones to do a damn fine job. Mic technology has not only evolved and improved, more importantly one can get some really good mics for very cheap. We also don't need 10 mics surrounding us. TWO mics properly placed, based on the kind of sound you want can give excellent results.

I have several kinds of mics that have proven really good for recording acoustic accordion...
- The king of cheap, a pair of Neewer NW-800 at under $20 each delivered to my home
- An old Realistic SM58 clone (maybe $75 new, available on Ebay for about $25 used now)
- A pair of Neewer SM-410 mics ($99 new on Amazon)
- My fav a matched pair of SE Electronics SE4400a (~ $1000 from Sweetwater)

More important than mic quality is how the sound is captured, location and, method used and post production. I've made my $20 mics sound better with post processing than my $99 mics dry (I can take the cheap tinny sound of a single NW-800 and make it sound damn close to a $750 Shure SM-7b mic!). There are several ways a pair of mics can be placed (far to the sides, X-Y, Blumlein, etc...), and give you a WIDE assortment of sounds that are absolutely amazing to hear (I used to have several examples on my website, unfortunately, its still down).

Again, 99% of us can place the mics 3-4 feet away from the sides of the accordion and get great results.
 

jozz

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  • Neumann M 149 - #1
  • Neumann U 87 - #2, 3, 4, 7, 8
  • Neumann KM 184 (or possibly Beyerdynamic MC series) - #5, 6
  • Sony C-800 - #13
So, one conclusion—which Captain Obvious would quickly declare—is: professional players use very nice mics in professional recording studios! 😂
so it appears there are no 'accordion specific' microphones

of this list a pair of KM184's would be my preferred choice

they are incredibly versatile, either live or in studio
 

Johnny

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Hey all, thanks for the advice and thoughtful comments.

From Jerry's reply:
Mic technology has not only evolved and improved, more importantly one can get some really good mics for very cheap.
This is promising news. As a newbie interested in experimenting with home recording, equipment prices are intimidating. If the trend is 'better tech at less cost', hooray for that! :)

----
As noted in some replies: microphones are just one part of recording (and possibly a less important factor). I agree - but I can't help thinking of that old computer science maxim: 'garbage in, garbage out'. Surely some microphones capture a sound source more accurately (or appropriately) than others? And if so, are there metrics or guidelines to determine this? Maybe it's all subjective, which, hey, is wonderful, too.

Last quick thought: post-processing is powerful and also more accessible these days. However, IMO post-production capabilities can be a blessing and a curse (especially in the hands of amateurs). Some pitfalls come to mind: pitch correction/auto-tuning, splicing together many different takes, and overuse of reverb. Oh, and a personal peeve: excessive 'cleaning' of 'extraneous instrument noise' such as accordion button clicks, etc. Personally, I love to hear the clicks and clacks of an accordion on a recording, as if I were sitting right in front of the accordionist.

That said, perhaps heavy post-production is part of the art, too, and equally authentic. Glenn Gould philosophized about this a lot and elevated his own studio recording & post-production work above live performance, if memory serves.

In the end, I suppose this is why musicians compensate experienced recording engineers for their expertise!
 

jozz

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That's interesting. You mean like Harmonik microphones and that kind of thing?
No, i mean what we could have derived of those pictures out of all mic's out there.

Like maybe the 184 was recognized as THE goto mic for accordion a long time ago. Like a sennheiser 421 is for live brass.

Maybe if we have a more extensive list of studio photo's we see a specific model being used more on accordion than others.
 

Johnny

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No, i mean what we could have derived of those pictures out of all mic's out there.

Like maybe the 184 was recognized as THE goto mic for accordion a long time ago. Like a sennheiser 421 is for live brass.

Maybe if we have a more extensive list of studio photo's we see a specific model being used more on accordion than others.
Oh, I see - got it! Helpful observations, Jozz. Thanks. Especially how we're just seeing just a sliver of studio accordion mic setups in these photos. It would be super interesting to how mic preferences for accordions changed over time, as tech improved, etc.
 

JerryPH

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If one watches a lot of videos or if you were around in ‘those days”, you would see that the vast majority of accordions used whatever mic was on the stage, if they did not have any internal mic’s… and the king of stage mic’s was and IMHO still today, is the Shure SM-58… and the results were always quite good.

I’m now going through a bit of an analog or analog/digital hybrid phase. They always say that analog has a nicer sound than digital (which I think is BS but want to see with my own eyes and ears). So far I hear the differences but am not really hearing the “better” part. I hear the warmth, added saturation and natural compression, but I also hear the warble, distortion and tape hiss, which drives me nuts. ;)
 

Johnny

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That's cool, Jerry. The analog vs digital project sounds fascinating! You've got some sharp ears.

I'm not sure if this counts as back in "those days" but I do love these old-school photos by William Gottlieb of Joe Mooney and his quartet in 1947. They've gathered around a single microphone:

5061912165_fa50871d98_c(1).jpg
5061911987_ab4067e790_c.jpg

And, perhaps not unrelated to any discussion about recording gear or 🪗🪗, the Mooney Quartet's recording of "A Man with One Million Dollars" 💰💸😄:

 

JerryPH

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Oh awesome vids and pics, and you are even about 30-40 years earlier than my “those days”.. haha

The single mic setups were revolutionary in their day and are only 1 step away from rotating vinyl recorders and before that, a roll of wax tubing and the musicians all huddled in close to a cone type device, lol

I am enjoying my setup (but oddly saying that while my home is currently without power right now, but linking an iPad to my cell via mobile hotspot).
 

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