Notes from the Shore

Work, marriage, kids and music

Recording Session: Dulcimer

Took advantage of a quiet house this morning to lay down some tracks on my Appalachian Dulcimer that I got in a trade for some piano work several years ago. I’m finally recording the track I had in mind for it when I got it. This post is Part 1 because I’ve lined up at least four more recording sessions for my Hymn CD project through Fall – two more at home, one at a local church to record their 9-foot Steinway Grand, and one last one to record a local Handbell Choir.

For the mildly curious, the mics are set up in a Mid-Side arrangement. The top mic is my new MXL cardioid tube mic, and the bottom one is my trusty old Apex 215 Dual element ribbon mic.

In a nutshell, Mid-Side, or M/S is a recording technique where one microphone provides the sound in the center of the stereo image, and the other microphone provides the sound around the edges of the stereo image. Since the Apex is a Figure-8 mic (and note that it is aimed 90-degrees away from the dulcimer), it works well in this application.

The trick is that the mono recording from the Side mic is copied and then the phase is flipped. The results are two-fold: first, the stereo image of the instrument opens up really wide; second, if the image is collapsed into mono, the two tracks cancel each other out completely, rather than causing all sorts of odd comb-filtering effects that muck up the sound.

Lastly, I learned something about the cheap headphones I bought – there’s something screwy going on with the wiring. Any sounds in mono (i.e. identical signal in left and right sides) cancel completely. What this means is that somehow the left and right sides are both wired backwards from each other and crosstalking with each other. What it also means is that I’m really looking forward to when I can afford a pair of these.

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