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Applause in classical recordings

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Does anyone else who does recordings of symphonies and chorale groups notice that the loudest thing is the applause? Am I the only one who turns down the applause to bring up the overall level of the music? Or am I committing sacrilege by fiddlin' with the levels in a classical recording (dare I say "editing")?


I guess some may say I have a mic placement issue, but isn't the point to get the "audience perspective"? And when you're in the audience isn't the applause the loudest thing you hear?


And for those who will ask, here is my ususal system: the main high res setup of small diaphragm condesors in the ORTF setup going to the laptop, and a M/S stereo condensor feeding a Sony walkman DAT as the backup. Both mic setups are on the same stand, 2 feet out in front of second balcony and probably 30 feet behind the conductor, where the supposed "sweet spot" is at. I think its a 700 seat room. Suspending mics on cables and elaborate boom structures are not an option.


So, to summarize, my problem is that with all these recordings, the audience is at least 6 db louder than the very loudest peak of the loudest part of the music. Can someone give me permission to modify the dynamics of a classical recording???

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I give you permission to drop the applause level in your final master. Unless it was a special occasion, I'm not sure I'd want want to buy a classical recording with applause in it -- but for radio broadcast, it's certainly customary to include it (but even classical stations usually have some limiting going on, as a rule).


I'd say your local symphony association is the 'man with the gold' who'll be making your rules on that stuff, though.


I'm glad you've found a place to record without dangling wires.


It seems almost bizarre to me (not being an acoustician) but over the 15 or so years I've subscribed to my local symphony, I've come to the conclusion that suspending mics from overhead cables, even just one or two, effects the clarity of the sound.


I know that sounds wack -- it's a big hall, about 4 thousand, I'm thinking, but they've gone back and forth on it and I've had plenty of experience listening. On one occasion, I realized I had a chance to do a 'blindfold' test, since I hadn't noticed if the mic cables were up and I was not looking up. I closed my eyes and was positive the cables weren't up, and was right. Hardly scientific, but if I could re-run that test for the next fifteen years... :D


Anyhow, the sound and the duration of the applause probably conveys more of a sense of things than sheer loudness. Our perceptions of loudness are very much a moment to moment thing, I personally think (no science on that at my fingertips).


Also, one last note, you might not want to believe it, but these days, with symphony time so expensive and studio technology so invasive, it's actually fairly common to do some manipulation and editing of classical music. It's not the way I'd like it (though I edit the heck out of my own pop) but it's the reality.

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It's pretty common to mess with classical music applause without it being considered an affront to the sanctity of classical music blah blah blah. And of course, this happens in reverse as well -- lifting levels of applause to make it seem like the audience was more enthusiastic than they actually were.


It's really no different than the sporadic applause and coughs between symphony movements. Live broadcasts retain them, but recordings edit this stuff all the time. In fact, recorded classical concerts edit out spurious noise, coughs, seizures, explosions, and other such sonic interuptions from throughout the live performance all the time.

Dooby Dooby Doo
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There's nothing wrong with bringing down the applause. I do it all the time....


On the other hand.....


You have your mics 30 FEET BEHIND THE CONDUCTOR??!!

THAT's a big part of your problem. "Distance" or "ambient" micing does NOT mean 30 feet behind! Yikes! :eek:

Get yourself a good book on classical recording setups. For a typical orchestra you'll probably want to be about 8 feet back and 10-12 feet high from the conductor as just a starting point. 30 feet back to "mics to feed to reverb only" range.

The "sweet" spot for a audience member is NOT the same as the "sweet" spot for a pair of mics.


Give it a try at a rehearsal one day... If you're having problems with the conductor about hanging mics let him/her listen to what you get at the rehearsal with your mics in a better place. Buy small mics that can't be seen as much when hanging. Do whatever you need... but don't record from 30 feet back!



BTW: Listen in to NPR's broadcast with the LA Phil of Handel's Messiah latter this month from Disney Hall. I'll be working on it... and I promise it won't be from 30 feet back. :)

Valkyrie Sound:




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I realize 30 feet back is too far away but there really isn't another choice at the moment. The powers that be for the orchestra are much more concerned with the asthetics of the live show than with the recording. And the powers that be at the theatre are not open to hanging wires. I'm doing my best to find a happy medium.


Anyway, back to applause - I would love to remove it completely but there are always songs where the applause starts before the end of the last note or reverb tail, and I personally feel it sounds funny to have a second or two of applause starting and then fading out right away. I normally let it go for 8-10 seconds from beginning of applause to the end of the fade. My clients seem to like that approach best so far.


Well, thanks for the ideas and thoughts (and permission to edit away), and I will try to persuade all of the powers that be to consider some way to get the mics closer.


Maybe I will post a few samples of this recording on my site and get some opinions - too late tonight to mess with it but maybe tomorrow. Thanks again everyone.



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Yep... 250 pairs of hands smacking together are going to be pretty darn loud. That is a lot of instruments compared to the orchestra.


I did a recording with ORTF in the back of the room... once. By the way, it was later suggested (by another forum member) that they put out a dish of cough drops and encouraged the audience to enduldge.


Can you afford to go wireless in the future? Would that not be feasable? Maybe, the batteries wouldn't hold up for more than 4 or 6 hours. Has any one done this?


"It's all about the... um-m-m, uh-h-h..."

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