Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start Episode 211 of #AskVidasAndAusra podcast. This question was sent by John, and he writes,
Could you also talk in your podcast about actually recording the CD, like where to place the microphone, or what sort of microphone to use. How to pick the repertoire, what sort of editing processes should be used, and how to organize the actual recording schedule. For example, did you do the whole CD in one hit, or over several days or weeks? Did you record at night when there is less background noise (in a city location).
So Ausra, this is a question which needs a lot of technical knowledge, right?
V: We have recorded several CDs, but those were taken from live performances.
A: Yes. And actually, in some of those cases, we just hired a professional sound engineer to do it. As, for example, at Eastern Michigan University, remember?
V: Oh, so that was additional? Additional cases?
A: Yes, but we have the CD from that.
V: Mhm. Additional, or a couple of CDs that I did alone, or with a soloist or with the choir at our church.
V: So yes, to hire a professional sound engineer is probably the best quality choice, right? Because if you do it all by yourself, then it puts a lot of stress on yourself.
A: That’s true. Unless you know about where to put the microphones, I think in each case it’s the individual’s choice. It depends on the organ, and the room that organ is built in, and so on and so forth. But of course, if you will record, then it’s best to do it at night; then you have less outside noise.
V: Mhm, mhm. And it’s important not to be interrupted, right?
A: That’s right!
V: Because even the slightest noise can be heard in the final recording, and it will be evidence, basically--and it will be there forever!
A: That’s right. Now, about how to record it, it depends on how you want to do it. If you want to have a live performance, that’s one way to do it. Then you will just have to play everything, each piece, from beginning to end. And if you are thinking about editing things, then you can do several “shots” of each piece. And the most important thing that way is that you would pick up the same tempo each time. That way you will be able to edit, to cut some things, and to edit some things, and to glue things together.
V: Mhm. Yeah, sound engineers can do that without the slightest break.
A: Yes. Although for myself, I prefer a live recording, without any cuts and edits.
V: Depending on how long the piece is, right? If it’s like, let’s say...Let’s say you’re playing Sonata by Reubke, which lasts 25 minutes, right? And to play it at a level suitable not only for a recording, but as evidence for years to come for you, it might be exceedingly difficult.
A: Well, yes, that’s true, but you know, it depends on what is the reason for your recording.
A: If you want to sell it, then yes, do as much editing as you can. But if you are required, for example, to send a recording for (let’s say) an audition, for (let’s say) a recital in some famous cathedral, or you are applying for an organ competition somewhere--you are required to send a live recording.
A: Without any edits, any cuts. So it depends on what your final purpose is.
V: Or if the mistakes are very minor and not really obvious…
V: Then it might be okay for a gift recording.
A: That’s true. And sometimes you even have to provide a witness, somebody that the people that you’re sending a recording to actually know and can trust--
A: That you really did it without any editing.
V: Right. So, those CDs that we recently published with Kunaki--we chose live performances we’ve played, from real concerts that we felt were sort of acceptable. They might have one or two very minor things, but we didn’t notice them, right? We didn’t look at them under a microscope. And nobody will look through the microscope at your recording. Basically, you have to be happy with your performance, and the most important thing is that you feel satisfied with the quality level for many years to come, right? And then you can release it as a public recording. Don’t you think, Ausra?
A: Yes, I agree.
V: Some people are too meticulous for my taste. They work in small fragments, like several measures each, and then basically spend weeks with their sound engineer. Not only is it very expensive to do it this way, but it takes the life out of the recording.
A: That’s true. I think the live recordings are the most exciting.
A: Of course, there are people who just listen to the CDs or to any recordings, and the main goal of their listening to it is to find your mistakes.
A: There are people like that.
A: But usually, those are people who cannot play well themselves.
V: Exactly. And if you receive a harsh comment from them, and you ask them to give an example of their playing, they usually back off--and disappear!
A: I know.
V: So...for John and others who are wondering how to record a CD, we would like to offer the following advice as a summary, probably, of what we have said so far: that yes, you need to be basically prepared. Regardless if you are playing it live or not, with a sound engineer waiting for you, you have to be as well-prepared as possible. Don’t waste your or your engineer’s time. Right? Not only is it expensive to do many many takes over and over again, but it’s not really professional, right?
A: True, true.
V: Your sound engineer might be annoyed. And so, spend as much time as you can preparing yourself. And you can do the following: if you have a good camera, video camera or even a microphone with an audio recorder, you could record your own live concerts, and play as best you can; and then, you can freely choose whatever you like. Even some pieces you don’t like, you can omit, right? And you can make a compilation CD out of 4 or 5 or 6 “recitals” over the years, not necessarily in one sitting. But those pieces would be done live, right Ausra?
V: Without any extra work on your part. You just show up and play, and if you like the performance, you can publish it in a recording.
A: Yes, and these make great gifts for your friends.
V: Mhm. But if you do need a sound engineer with some editing, I think playing your piece at least 3 times would be helpful.
A: Yes, that’s true, because sometimes things happen like, you play a piece straight through
A: Without any stopping. And somehow you feel that everything went just fine. But then, after listening carefully back to your recording, you might find some small things that you would want to change.
V: Exactly. That was the case with me, playing d minor Toccata by Bach. And the first passage, or a couple of pages, went really smoothly--I thought. And I left it without any repetition, without any retakes, because I was happy. But then, when I brought the recording to a sound engineer, we both listened, and right at the end of the first page, I made a small--the slightest!--mistake. And I didn’t have a second run, or a third run, like I did for the Fugue, for example. And he had to work really really hard to cover my tracks.
A: I remember that time, actually. And you know, it’s a funny thing, very bizarre thing: I hadn’t heard that mistake either. I was present; I was turning pages for you.
A: I don’t know what happened to us. Seems like an elephant stood on our ear that night.
V: Haha. So, I hope an elephant will be present in the room, but not on your ear, when you record. So try it out; try both ways: live recording, or with several takes, and see what you like most, right? One last thing, Ausra: when are you more relaxed, when you know that somebody is recording you, or when you don’t?
A: Of course when nobody’s recording me!
V: So, if let’s say, if we said, “This recital will be recorded and hopefully published as a CD,” you will be very stressed out, right?
V: Me too. And whenever I play this way, I make one or two mistakes; I get very nervous about the entire recital. And it’s not good. I think when you make a mistake like this, you have to relax and say, “Oh, NOW it’s official. You made a mistake. It’s not for public release. ...Now we can make music!” And guess what? Maybe other parts of the recital will be suitable for public release.
A: That’s true, yes.
V: Because of this. Thank you guys, this was Vidas.
A: And Ausra.
V: Please send us more of your questions; we love helping you grow. And remember, when you practice…
A: Miracles happen.
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Drs. Vidas Pinkevicius and Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene
Organists of Vilnius University , creators of Secrets of Organ Playing.
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