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I need to make an audio recording of performing vocal and piano (acoustic piano, two different performers), using the "pocket studio" recorder (Tascam DR-07MKI if the model matters). I cannot bring any larger equipment or connect external microphones.

This recorder has two condenser microphones on the top. These microphones can be rotated to cross together or moved widely apart (this appears to be a common feature of many such recorders).

The manual talks very briefly something about X/Y and A/B modes but does not even clarify which one is which, leave alone when to use one or another. I tried some test recordings, both configuration do record sound. From Wikipedia, seems that X/Y is a "crossed" and A/B is a "opened" position. This still leaves the question about the optimal setup unanswered.

Which microphone setup (crossed together or flipped apart) should normally be used for recording piano and singer playing together in relatively silent room at close distance?

  • You may also want to try this question on the SE Sound Design forum as well. That is a little more geared toward these types of hardware questions and the connection to your end result. – Basstickler Apr 17 '14 at 14:03
  • @Basstickler I found out the hard way that duplicate questions on multiple stack exchanges are not allowed :/ – Alexander Troup Apr 17 '14 at 16:44
  • @AlexanderTroup - I see. Well then my suggestion would be that if you don't get an answer you like it could be migrated there, which I assume would be ok. – Basstickler Apr 17 '14 at 16:56
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Since you'e not going to end up with piano in one channel and vox in the other, it's personal choice. Whichever way, you're going to end up with some piano and some vox in each channel. It will depend on things like how far apart the two are, whether the piano is much louder than the vox, what the acoustics of the room are like - bright, with sound echoing off the walls, or dull, with some frequencies somewhat muted, if the piano is against a wall or the back is exposed to the mics (assuming it's an upright!).There's only one way to find out...

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You set the performers going and walk around the room until you find a spot where they sound good and well-balanced. Put the recorder there. Probably X-Y mode. If it's a good-sounding room, this may well be the classic 'back a bit and up a bit' position. If it's a bad sounding room, consider going a bit closer. If it's a REALLY bad-sounding room, move to a better one.

But there's no rules-of-thumb that will get you better results than a bit of experimenting. Listen critically, on a good system, not just on ear-buds. Set recording level so there's NO chance of overload. Piano is a very percussive instrument!

And WHY can't you connect an external microphone?

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Every microphone has what is referred to as a "sweet spot". They're not all the same, but they have an area and angle where they sound noticeable better when the performer or instrument is positioned in that spot. That's the first thing you'll need to work out, is locating that spot, once you've found it, the rest of the process should yield acceptable results if you use the recorder correctly and the performance is acceptable.

  • So where's the 'sweet spot' of a coincident (or almost so) stereo pair, and how do you place both piano and vocalist in it? – Laurence Payne Apr 25 '18 at 18:40
  • @Laurence Payne- Well now you're talking about the sometimes difficult part. You can happen upon it accidentally or you can spend a considerable amount of time and experimentation trying to find it. My experience tells me there is no set formula, but there's no arguing with when you've found it, your recordings are optimized. Ignore the sweet spot and achieve lackluster results. – skinny peacock Apr 26 '18 at 14:18
  • I hope you listen to the music you're recording better than you do to comments here! – Laurence Payne Apr 26 '18 at 14:38
  • @Laurence Payne- Perhaps you are right, listening is how I generally find the sweet spot when I'm setting up to record, and it's entirely possible that I missed the message you intended in your comment. – skinny peacock Apr 26 '18 at 21:33

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