Recording Frustrations

I have been reading more and more about recording harps, trying to get a better sound for my clips. The more I read, the better I get at listening — which is a good thing. But the better my listening gets, the more critical I become.

There are two good things about recording. First of all, you really get to hear how  you sound in a different way than when you are simply playing. By listening to my recordings, I’m learning that simpler really is better! The second best thing about recording is that you can really hear progress when you are working on new techniques. Now that I am through with making my sample recordings for IHTP, I have redone a few from the beginning of the program, and I am so pleased to hear the difference in how I play and sound. I always tell my students to keep their best paper from every class to go back and see their progress, but it is so rare that I take my own advice.

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I started recording for the IHTP by simply sticking my phone in front of the harp, and I’ve been slowly moving up; the operative word here is S-L-O-W-L-Y. Currently, I am using two pickups, to get a little richer sound. My harp has one pickup, and the second one is the little clip on pickup I use with my tuner, believe it or not!

I run both of these into a cheapie audio interface, into my latptop, where I record using Audacity. So far, I haven’t done a lot of work with those raw files. I remove the noise, and fade in and out, and sometimes do a little compressing.

Until about a month ago, I thought I was the cat’s pajamas, but now I’m at a road block, and trying to figure out how to move forward. There’s a big ol’ resonance right around A5. You’ve probably heard it if you have tried out my recordings – just be glad I didn’t put the worst ones on the site. I’ve tried a high pass filter and EQ’ing the low A out, but have only managed to make it sound more and more processed, without managing to remove the ring.

Now it’s time to listen to the voice of experience. Steven Vardy, is not only the husband of the amazing Canadian harpist Allison Vardy, he  is also her amazing sound guy – and says this:

The harp will have a dominant resonant frequency where the whole instrument will resonate in the presence of the same frequency. Celtic harps are natural microphones. Rooms also have resonant frequencies and will amplify those resonances when present as well. If the resonance of the room and the harp match then you may have problems. 

When amplified, a harp may put a frequency (say 400 Hz) thru the sound system out in to the room, which resonates at an even more amplified/ louder 400hz, which makes the harp resonates more strongly as well, which puts an even stronger 400hz from the harp back into the sound system and around and around the signal goes until the system becomes unstable and you have feedback. … EQ if you can.

I’ll keep you all posted about how it goes.

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