Recording binaural classical music

So this is the first article in a series we’re working called “Go Binaural” about how binaural audio recording can be applied to different genres of music. Different styles have different considerations when it comes to ideal acoustics, movement, energy, and the balance between a realistic “live-capture” and crazy sonic ear-candy.

Typically, a good classical recording is a realistic recreation of what the performance sounded like live.The first genre I want to talk about is classical, but I use the term loosely because a lot of what we’ll go over here applies to any acoustic instrumental music.

Typically, a good classical recording is a realistic recreation of what the performance sounded like live. Classical musicians spend countless hours working on their technique, their tone, their interpretation and their instruments to make sure that they’re the very best they can be, so it’s important not to mask or colour what they’ve so carefully crafted. They don’t want or need to “fatten up their tone” in the studio.

Classical musicianIn my opinion, close-miking a classical ensemble is intrinsically dangerous, because the artistic control passes from the conductor/musicians to the mixing engineer — who has to recreate the sound of the ensemble as it was in the hall (even though he/she was probably in the booth while the recording took place!). Decca trees and other stereo miking techniques can provide a nice open sound, but in my opinion, they end up sounding disappointingly flat, or thin. (I mean that in terms of the sonic image, not fidelity — they just don’t pull you in.)

Of course, the beautiful thing about a binaural recording is that it is an honest, clean capture of what comes off of the stage as the audience hears it. That means of course, that every sonic element that the audience experiences live is captured in the recording:

  • the placement of the instruments in the ensemble (including the height/depth/width of the stage, and the distance between each instrument)
  • the placement of the head and its listening perspective (height, distance, angle, etc), and
  • the characteristics of the venue (acoustics, ambient noise, etc).

In the next article, we’ll take a closer look at some of the main considerations for deciding on a venue to make a binaural recording for classical, acoustic music.

In the meantime, you can find a general overview of how binaural audio can bring life to a variety of genres on our “Why Record Binaurally” page.


About the Author

Alex KallI'm the owner and head engineer here at Kall Binaural Audio. Aside from my career/love affair with binaural audio recording, I've worked as Symphony Nova Scotia’s stage manager and marketing coordinator, and am also a freelance bass player and designer.View all posts by Alex Kall →