Microphone for Auditions

August 1, 2020, 10:19 AM · Hello,

I hope you’re all having a good weekend.

I’m wondering if you have any recommendations for a good microphone to record auditions. I’ve heard that the Blue Yeti is good, but then I came across a few comments (I think on a different site) that said otherwise. I asked my teacher and he doesn’t know either, so anything would be helpful.

Thanks for your time!

Replies (23)

Edited: August 1, 2020, 10:57 AM · The Yeti has worked fine for me for the last 10 years or more (I've been using it all day today). But this is a highly contentious topic and there's a likelihood you'll wind up with many recommendations!
August 1, 2020, 12:12 PM · Given the way things are going it may be worth investing in a good mic.

Expensive ones:
Coles 4038
Schoeps mk4

Budget options:
You could try an inexpensive ribbon mic such as the golden age r1 Mark 2.
Line Audio makes an inexpensive cm4 mic.

Edited: August 1, 2020, 12:58 PM · See what I mean? Michael, have you ever actually compared these with the Yeti or are you reporting received wisdom?
August 1, 2020, 12:59 PM · What sort of auditions?
August 1, 2020, 1:07 PM · USB mics can only be so good, but will probably be fine for an audition.

I always like to use an analog to USB interface with an inexpensive ribbon mic. Total outlay of cash would be about $350.

https://youtu.be/K4lvz3B6doI

August 1, 2020, 1:09 PM · USB mics can only be so good, but will probably be fine for an audition.

I always like to use an analog to USB interface with an inexpensive ribbon mic. Total outlay of cash would be about $350.

Oops, wrong link

https://youtu.be/qa9SbQWyex0

Edited: August 1, 2020, 2:51 PM · Microphones and violins are similar in many ways, starting with the price curve (kind of a logarithmic relationship of quality against price). Microphones below about $100 are like violins below about $1000. Also, like a violin, a microphone will be relatively ineffective in the hands of someone who has no idea how to use it -- how to prepare a studio for recording, how to position the performer within it, and what to do with the raw sound data once it's in your laptop. Those latter factors are likely to have much more influence on your sound than the microphone itself, if you have not thought about them at all.
August 1, 2020, 4:10 PM · @Arthur & Paul - I'm not convinced. Violin sound quality as perceived by a listener doesn't respect price points (as has been amply demonstrated by many blind tests) and I'll need some empirical evidence to prove that microphone quality does. To some people maybe, to cloth-eared plebs like me (we are legion) maybe not. And as to the other factors, if it's the unadulterated sound of the violin you're after it's simple; just use a decent microphone in an acoustically inert space. Then you can tart it up artificially to your ears' content.
August 1, 2020, 4:52 PM · Steve, there is much more to recording that doing it in an inert space. Where will you position the microphones relative to the performer? All kinds of stuff. Also, what do you mean by a decent microphone?

You will probably be surprised to learn that microphones that accurately capture the sound of the violin are not necessarily the most desirable ones. Such recordings can sound excessively bright and can be difficult to listen to.

Many violinists prefer ribbon microphones, as they do not capture as much of the high frequency detail and have a way of smoothing out the sound.

This is for an audition, so the assumption is that the audience is discerning.

August 1, 2020, 5:30 PM · @Stan Yates It’s for a high-level youth orchestra audition, but the way things are going now I’ll probably be recording for concerto competitions too. Maybe university too...

@ Paul Deck & Michael Berger You’re right that I have no idea how to use the equipment. CIM’s YouTube video suggested to record in the largest room in the house. How far away and at what level do I put the microphone?

Edited: August 1, 2020, 7:26 PM · I got this USB microphone and my teacher was like "what's wrong with your sound, it was fine last week." He asked me to revert to the built-in microphone in my laptop for our Skype lessons. He said on his end it sounds way better. Probably just not capturing all of my scratching and scraping.

As far as mic placement in your large room, I have absolutely no idea. I would record in a room that has a lot of soft material in it, like a carpeted bedroom. But if you're going to use your large room, then you can just play a few bars of something. Mark 10 sequentially numbered locations on the floor of the room, and then move there and play your passage again, each time just saying the location number out loud. Thereby you can optimize your position empirically, and of course you will have to do your mic placement the same way, it could take some time but if you are thoughtful about it you might learn something.

Reverb can always be added. It cannot be subtracted.

August 1, 2020, 7:54 PM · @Paul Deck Thank you for your advice. Sounds like a lot of time and effort, but I will give it a try. My house only has hardwood floors so I’m out of luck for soft material.
August 1, 2020, 8:21 PM · Ok sounds good, I expect for high-level youth orchestra and concerto competitions a simple inexpensive solution is fine. I am doing something more complicated right now (good mics, audio interface, good camera, music and video production software) but that is a hobby, and unless you want to do music production, I think your time and money are better spent on violin. For college and professional auditions, working with a pro might be money well spent.

Remember, you need video not just audio, so with an external mic you need some way to combine that with whatever you're using to shoot video.

August 1, 2020, 9:45 PM · If you are recording for auditions, you can take two approaches. One is to use your cellphone and hope they make allowances or use a more professional approach. I agree with Stan that an audio interface, a proper DAW and decent mike are the way to go. You can be well set up for about 400 dollars if you are smart. The Scarlette 2i2 is a great little package and the only extra thing you will need would be a microphone stand
August 2, 2020, 12:55 AM · @Michael. I'll admit to not having performed any direct comparisons but I rather doubt that anyone else here has either. We're all of us simply reporting what "works for us". You may be right that the most accurate recordings aren't necessarily the most pleasing to the ear, but surely accuracy is the gold standard that you have to pay serious (not counterfeit..) money for. I doubt that the audience for an auditionee will be particularly discerning in the audiophile sense and will be listening mostly for skill of the player rather than the sound of the violin. In my experience a "decent" microphone like the Yeti placed about a yard away is all that's necessary to make a violin sound pretty good.
August 2, 2020, 1:41 AM · Auditions and competitions generally do not allow *any* sound engineering or video editing, so your best bet is to find a solution that will give you decent sound without any real effort.

I like my Zoom Q4n camera. They've unfortunately discontinued it, but you could get the slightly more expensive Zoom Q2n-4k. Ideal placement is about six to ten feet away.

August 2, 2020, 1:59 AM · @Lydia. I wonder what an adjudicator's reaction would be to a recording made in a flatteringly resonant acoustic as compared with a dry one? "What a great sound!" or "Anyone can sound like Pavarotti in the bathroom"? It's much trickier to make a decent recording when there are reflections and echoes to contend with, and to keep the latter at a relatively low level I'd favour closer miking than 6 feet.
August 2, 2020, 7:37 AM · What I use for onsite recordings is the Zoom H6 (https://amzn.to/3hXFE6Y). It can record audio directly to an SD card and has high quality built in microphones. It has several inputs for additional microphones and can be used as an audio interface as well. Additionally, it comes with basic audio editing software that will be more than adequate for your needs.

For the recording here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A-DLcMIM31Q&feature=youtu.be) I used the Zoom as the room mic and an AKG414 for a close mic. I also used a pair of Shure KSM 147 for the piano when there was piano accompaniment. But for college auditions the audio quality on the recorder itself would work great, part of recording is the room. Get into a great sounding room!

August 2, 2020, 11:21 AM · @Steve Jones. I don't care if you're not convinced, and I'm not trying to convince you anyway. :) USB mics are noisy and bad compared to even cheap analogue mics. The best they, USB mics, can offer is convenience.

To the op, do what you want. The board or whoever is judging, is listening to your ability, not the crystal clear sound. Your phone in a mixed surface room is probably going to sound ok.

Edited: August 2, 2020, 1:46 PM · Steve, we just received a Blue Yeti for registering my daughter in an online cello festival, so the participants will have consistent sound - I need to buy the $29 Lightning to USB 'camera adapter' but I'll try to arrange for a direct comparison at some point, to see if I can get a decent sound with an external mic and the standard iPhone camera app. Even with this setup you'd need to buy a mic stand and a camera tripod and a tripod adapter for the iPhone.

Anthony is right about the room, but it is very tough to get into a good sounding hall these days. If you're fortunate maybe someone knows of a church with good acoustics and a good piano you can use but even that will be tough to find and get into now.

Edited: August 2, 2020, 4:19 PM · I am not a recording engineer. In my limited experience, I’ve achieved good results for audition recordings using a stereo pair of KSM 137 microphones for audio and the Zoom q8 for the video (the pair of mics on this were good but the shure were superior and allowed for precise placement). Room has been critical. A dead space, like those you would find in regular/non-classical recording studios, sounds bad and affects players — they end up working hard to get the sound they want and it can change the way they play, and not in a good way. A church space can be okay, but too large and too live will also affect playing and result in horrible unusable recordings (been there, done that— see Paul’s comment above re removing reverb). Mic placement varies depending on the space. Too close is not desirable — too much noise... too far doesn’t work well either. I tend to try to get the sound a fairly close audience member would hear and like... so it’s usually been some several feet above the violin and roughly 6-10 feet back depending. Best to experiment. I have never used any post recording effects.
August 2, 2020, 6:31 PM · None of this expensive gear is necessary. It's like medical technology (like CT scanners, positron emission tomography, etc.). All of that is obsolete now. All you need is your iPhone.
August 3, 2020, 1:07 AM · I agree with Sean that a dead acoustic doesn't make for the most enjoyable musical experience for players or listeners, but when practising I think it's important to be able to hear exactly what kind of noise you and your violin are making. Some violins that sound fine in the grateful acoustic of a showroom seem to lose the will to live when you get them home. If you become too reliant on room resonance you can get a nasty surprise when confronted with some musical venues, but if you're used to making the violin sound good in a shoe-box it'll sound good anywhere. If I were an adjudicator I'd be listening for how a player sounds under those kind of conditions.


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