Taking bell recordings - part two
fartwell2000 at y...
Wed Feb 27 21:55:54 GMT 2002
--- In bellhistorians at y..., "oakcroft13" <bill at h...> wrote:
> Here are some further ideas (born in the main of bitter experience)
> concerning the recording of bells. The issues I'll address here
> * frequency stability of recorders
> * automatic level control
> * frequency response of microphones and speakers
> * the loudness of bells
> * ambient noise and recording location.
> 1) Frequency stability of recorders
> If you are recording bells for analysis purposes, or just want the
> pitch to be accurate, frequency stability (i.e. variations in
> and playback speed) can be a real problem. Some guidelines are:
> * domestic cassette recorders are usually terrible in this respect
> * where possible, play back recordings on the recorder they were
> taken on (though this is often not enough to fix the problem)
> * speed variations can be compensated for by recording tuning
> handbells etc. but this is a real fag to do
> * machines I have used that display good stability include video-
> cameras and recording direct to PCs. Steve Ivin and George Dawson
> speak highly of mini-cassette recorders, I have no personal
> 2) Automatic level control
> This is an unfortunate feature of domestic cassette recorders and
> other such beasts. Because bells are so loud compared with ambient
> noise, recordings with auto level control usually consist of a loud
> hissing noise interrupted by the fainter sound of the bell or
> If the level control cannot be over-ridden you will not get good
> results. Video cameras (based on the small sample of those I have
> owned) appear not to have auto level control and are OK.
> 3) Frequency response of microphones and speakers
> Speaking subjectively (because I have not done detailed response
> tests, yet), even quite small, cheap microphones give good
> response and dynamic range. Video camera microphones have proved
> good, and the microphone I use with my laptop came (ahem!) free
> a PC I bought a few years ago. On the other hand, cheap and small
> loudpeakers are usually very poor, with bad bass response and fake
> resonances. You need to play recordings back through hi-fi
> (or at least PC speakers that cost more than £15!) to judge their
> 4) Loudness of bells
> Bells are very loud indeed, as we all know. I have found that a
> single clapper blow recorded close by the bell will easily overload
> the various recorders I use. There are two ways to get around this.
> First, distance always helps - recording from another floor,
> from the tower etc. Learn the characteristics of your recorder and
> how close you can get without overload. Just because the recording
> not audibly distorted does not mean that you are free of overload -
> looking at the file with a sound-file editor will tell you if
> clipping is occurring. Aim for no more than 80 or 90% of full scale
> to be sure. The second cure is to always do a level check before
> taking a final recording, and either move further away or turn down
> the record level to get satisfactory results. Aim low - within
> reason, loudness can be boosted with a sound file editor but there
> no way to remove overload.
> 5) Ambient noise and recording location
> The ability of recorders to pick up blackbirds, traffic, wind and
> bellropes is remarkable. Wind can to some extent be cured with a
> on the microphone (I believe, I have not tried this). The
> noise needs to be minimal for a good recording. In achieving this,
> watch for multiple sound paths from the bells to the microphone.
> Examples include: echoes off surrounding buildings, closeness to a
> bell-opening, or to a hole in a floor giving undue prominence to
> certain bells, etc. Locations inside the tower are often
> satisfactory, especially if it is possible to go above the bells
> an intervening floor or two to cut the volume down. On floors below
> the bells, rope or mechanical noise often spoils the recording. If
> is sheltered from the wind, the roof of the tower may be a good
> location. The church roof is often too close to the bell openings
> one side of the tower. Some of the very best recordings I have
> were taken in the bell chamber, but needed professional equipment
> capable of handling the sound intensity.
> Hope the above thoughts are useful. They are not definitive, I'm
> others have views.
> Bill H
Thanks Bill-Much appreciated.
I have experianced some of the problems that you have
I have made recordings with cassettes recorders,two speed dictaphone
machines(mini cassette) and on an old Marconiphone reel to reel tape
recorder(of reasonable spec.)and would have to say that I would
appear to have got my best results using reel to reel and a cheap
Tandy omni-directional microphone(£2.99 about sixteen years ago).
I dont really know if a minidisc recorder would really be a
better option for me or a better mp3 system as I cant really see much
point in a minidisc recorder as I have a cd writer at home.
I look forward to downloading the trial version of the software you
reccomended. By the way,the full version is $69-You dont happen to
know if it is available in the U.K do you?
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