A bit off-topic, but when you go to a live concert, and close your eyes, do you hear a very clear placement of the instruments?
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I'll try to answer Viridian's question:
When I go to concert in good venue and close my eyes, I often hear a clear placement of instruments. I certainly can't tell placement of each 'line' violinist of large symphony orchestra, but able to place small jazz or chamber quartet that performs with no mikes in Minnesota Symphony Hall, Place of Arts(Montreal), Gesu(Montreal).
"A bit off-topic, but when you go to a live concert, and close your eyes, do you hear a very clear placement of the instruments?"
IF a good venue, production and good seats, I hear a soundstage consistent with the perspective from my location, meaning I can focus on any of multiple things going on in different locations at any time.
Perspective changes with location and affects what we hear with our two ears in much the same way as what we see with our two eyes. That's why God gave us two of each!!!!
Love Art Blakey. In that sample and in all jazz recordings of that era, a minimal amount of microphones were used, plus all members of the ensemble were playing together in one room. This technique provided a sense of space and "air" between the instruments. In the recording, the soundstage included the ambience of the room and an accurate reproduction of the location of each musician.
Not so today; multiple mic's are used and positioned close to each instrument...too close IMO. For example in the 50s and 60s the drums may have had only one or two mic's overhead, now-a-days each drum and cymbal gets it's own mic. This technique will make it more difficult to isolate one instrument. Of course there are engineers who know how get that open sound like the old jazz records.
Also, it's now common to record each musician alone in the studio and then combine the ensemble during the mixing process. The engineer can add reverb and other effects to simulate the entire group playing together, but the result will never have the same soundstage as the the early recordings.
Some of today's engineers can work magic and position the musicians in their proper space, but as you've noticed it can be hit or miss. It's the producer and the record label who decide the sonics of the album. You may already know about today's recording techniques, but I thought I would mention it anyway.
I just picked up a new Pat Metheny CD and the cymbals are positioned in front of Pat, and the drums sound like they're right next to him. And don't get me started on compression.
Thank you all for the responses, I think you all pretty much answered Viridian's question for me.
I like to "see" the instruments in front of me when listening.
Take this one for example, master trumpet player Andre Heuvelman's gorgeous rendition of "Oblivion";
on the website for the album download, if you scroll down, there is couple of photos from the session where one can see the musicians placed in a half circle around the microphones, and that is also more or less what one hears when listening. Here is a link to liner notes;http://www.soundliaison.com/products-from-our-studio-masters/71-andre-heuvelman
from the "After Silence" liner notes;
After Silence was recorded with the musicians playing together in the same room, without headphones.The reason being that in our opinion that creates a number of musical and technical benefits....... The musicians interact much more as they would do in a concert situation...and as they are not ''separated'' by headphones the musicians are forced to create a musical balance...the need for compression to control levels is no longer necessary...we can use a minimalist microphone setup and there by reduce phase problems...since everybody is in the same room, the boxed sound which is so common in many modern recordings is absent...the sound of the room helps ''glue'' the sound of the recording. That sounds like an easy solution but bear in mind that in order for this to work:e studio has to have a good sound.....the musicians have to be very good and well prepared as it is very difficult to repair mistakes because of the ''cross talk'' between the instruments....we have to be very precise when choosing and placing the microphones...and the puzzle of placing the musicians at the right distance to the main stereo microphone pair and at the right distance to each other is very time consuming.
I'll add to Czariveys post. In a good concert hall and on a good recording you can certainly hear and visualize that the string section forms a semicircle in front and that the woodwinds are centered behind them. You can distantly hear each section but not any one instrument. (Unless it's a solo).
At home I can visualize the orchestra.
More modern CD labels that tend to record simply for clear and accurate placement of instruments are Dorian and Mapleshade.
I second Low's assessment. Sometimes, under ideal circumstances at home, the bar can be pushed further to where more individual instruments in an orchestra or individual voices in a chorus can be triangulated upon and located.