Here’s an interesting question as posed by a reader.
“How many microphones are allowed in a live recording to not be considered “cheating”? I think there at least two levels of “live” music, for example: 1) Two microphones (left and right) where the band is playing. The microphones would capture the real distance and space of the recording venue. 2) As many microphones as you want. You could place one microphone literally one inch away from the singer’s lips, another inside a piano, and another in front of a saxophone’s mouth. Then all those microphones would have to be mixed into a 2-channel presentation. I imagine that some people might see the second approach as “cheating”: although you are recording “live”, the rendered mix is not happening in the room the way our ears would capture them.”
I think we can all agree we want the final product to sound live.
How we got there can be interesting.
In a pure two-microphone recording we capture without affect that which we would hear if we were standing on stage. A purist’s viewpoint.
While technically correct it is empirically incorrect because it’s missing one essential element.
When a group is playing onstage the listener’s attention shifts along with the music. As soon as the pianist begins her riff we mentally turn down the level of the others and focus on the soloist.
The same happens when we listen to a 2-channel playback of the event but only if the musicians are working together to make that happen—something quite rare in live performances. When we cannot see the players it reduces our mental filter’s ability to shift focus.
The long and short of it is we have two choices in a live recording. Either the musicians are skilled enough to titrate their performance such that the listener is constantly directed where they want or (more typically) that job falls to the recording and mixing engineers.
If the end result of the recording serves the music then how we got there doesn’t really matter.
Only the music matters.
PAUL McGOWAN / PS AUDIO