Recording ~ Microphone & Woes

Posted: 12/28/2011 4:02:26 PM

From: In between the Pitch and Volume hand ~ New England

Joined: 12/17/2010

Hello Friends :)

This weekend I recorded a beautiful song (Winter Light) with theremin in it and it was such a project to get all the right levels into my recording software :( It took me 2 hours to set up and 20-30 minutes to record the parts needed for my song. There has got to be a better way to do this! What I did is I plugged my theremin right into the external mic port of my laptop and after fiddling around for a loooong time with Windows 7 sound settings to get the darn thing to record on my music software, I was ready for a vacation! The major problem was that I had a really hard time to hear what I was playing through my amp along with the song, the sound seemed so dim... i guess i'll need more pactice right? I was frustrated (and tired) to say the least.

Then, to record videos, I have been playing with different setting. While my cam captures decent images, the sound is less than desired... i am looking into getting a different mic to record the room sounds as "one". I have been looking at different microphones and it seems that "shotgun" style mics are best suited to record in these type of settings...? What do you all think of that? If so, what kind do you have or what setting do you use? I can certainly learn from all of you expert thereminists!

thank you for reading and allowing me to vent a little :) I feel a wee bit better now!

Posted: 12/28/2011 4:14:58 PM

From: A Coruña, Spain

Joined: 9/26/2010

When I record my videos, the theremin goes to the effects pedal, the pedal goes to my PC's line-in, and my PC's line-out goes to the amp. On the PC, I use Guitar Rig. It's a simple, inexpensive piece of software, I guess it's not very professional... but it does the job for me nicely: it lets me play a backing track, adjust its level, adjust the input and recording levels, and record in real time with the ASIO4all drivers. I have tried more complex programs that I guess are better, but that one Just Works(tm) for me. You can even use it to emulate any effects pedals that you don't have (although now that I have a real reverb pedal, I prefer it to Guitar Rig's reverb).

About recording room sounds, I have no idea, since I only record the theremin + backing track.  

Posted: 12/28/2011 5:24:09 PM

From: In between the Pitch and Volume hand ~ New England

Joined: 12/17/2010

Al ~

Thank you for your reply.

I use Cool Edit Pro for my recording software. Although I have Cubase, i don't find it too friendly for recording vocals. The bad thing with Cool Edit, is that I am not able to select the driver I'd like to use... so. :( I have a USB soundcard (M-Audio fast Track) and it's awesome for recording vocals. There is a guitar "in", and when I put the theremin line in that one, there was no sound to be recorded. i guess i'll have to try to plug it into the vocal port, maybe that will work!

i asked about the Gunshot Mic cause I wanted to see if I could record the sound for a video project rather than using the mic from my camcorder, as it is mediocre at best. I don't want to mic my Theremin all the time and would rather record the sound that an audience would hear...

thank you!

PS: have you worked on "silent night"? :)

Posted: 12/29/2011 6:48:51 AM

From: Colmar, France

Joined: 12/31/2007

Every Theremin has not only the audible audio signal at its output but there remain RF artifacts in the signal. Although they are unaudible they usually create some anti-aliasing problems when being digitized. This makes a directly recorded theremin signal often sounding thin, metallic and/or synthetic.

That's why recording it with a microphone through your usual amplifier/speaker will definitively give better, that means more natural and organic results.

I remember that PP alias Coalport has written an excellent and long article about recording and sound setup but I'm not sure if it was here on TW or on Levnet (I'm getting old). And if you have a look onto the BBC video on YouTube with Celia Sheen playing the Midsumer Murders theme,you will also see that they are mic-ing the theremin through a monitor speaker.

I for myself decided also after years fiddling around with low pass filters and so on that the "Père Noël" should bring me a M-Audio vocal microphone this year, so that I'll be able to record my theremin played through my Yamaha MSP3 active powered monitor speaker.

Talking about multitrack recording software: Audacity is the tool of my choice. I used it on Windows, on Linux and now on the Mac. It's not only available for all platforms but it is also free.

Posted: 12/30/2011 1:09:28 AM

From: Jax, FL

Joined: 2/14/2005

I have been using a Tascam DP-01FX for a few years now but I have dabbled in Audacity as well.Running though an amp and a mic solves some problems while creating others but ifed indefinitely worth trying. Sometimes I do both at the same time so I can have elements of both sounds. 



Posted: 12/30/2011 11:09:29 AM

From: Canada

Joined: 8/1/2008

Professional players of electroacoustic instruments (electric guitars, basses, pedal steel, etc.), when they record in a studio, will almost always opt for a miked amplifier rather than plugging directly into the recording console. Why? Because the sound will be warmer and richer if it has the acoustic qualities that an amp and speaker can add to it. The same is true for the theremin. Whenever possible, thereminists should try to record acoustically. 

Amey recorded WINTER LIGHT by plugging her Wavefront directly into her computer. This turned out to be a good idea (IMHO) precisely because her instrument ended up sounding very thin and "reedy", with a bagpipe quality to it. Normally, this is not the way most people would want their theremin to sound but in this case the timbre complemented the vocal very nicely and did not compete with it in any way. If she had gone for a rich, vocal theremin sound, the instrument might have occupied too much "sonic space" on the track.

"With the theremin, less is more." Clara Rockmore

As the late Dr. Bob pointed out, the theremin is an entirely electronic instrument and is totally at home in the electronic environment. The trick is not to be overwhelmed by the tremendous number of choices we have when we record it. When you consider that the sound can be radically altered at the instrument, at the console, and at the speaker/amp/preamp, and that even a small change in any one of these three parts of the chain will influence the way the others respond in the mix, the choices are endless. 

As Amey knows, it doesn't matter what you do. Some people will like it and some will not. 


Posted: 12/30/2011 3:20:42 PM

From: In between the Pitch and Volume hand ~ New England

Joined: 12/17/2010

Dear Coalport ~

First of all, thanks for replying. You are completely right when you said: "When you consider that the sound can be radically altered at the instrument, at the console, and at the speaker/amp/preamp, and that even a small change in any one of these three parts of the chain will influence the way the others respond in the mix, the choices are endless." It is so true... That is exactly what I did when I started to mix the theremin part in "winter Light". The song called for a very soft and airy feel and wanted to give the theremin interlude a taste of that mood as well. I think it really complemented the feel of the song. I also believe that the theremin and elecronic music composition are really well suited for each other. But mostly, the theremin can be part of any music, it depends how it is played, how it is "processed" among many other things...

After i read here that many opted to record directly from their amp, i gave it a shot on an electronic composition that my husband did several years ago. although it made it VERY easy to record, it also came with background noises like the "vvvvvvvvvvvvv" from my Amp. I'll have to fiddle with my set-up and determine what is best for what I am doing...

If any of you want to listen to the 2 songs that Peter and I talked about you can do here:

Winter light : theremin recorded directly into my computer
Coral Island Sunset: theremin recorded through my amp.

They both sound totally different...

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