To give you an idea of how fanatical people can be about recording gear, there's an online forum called 'gearslutz' where recording engineers go to argue about equipment and occasionally insult each other. So I joined this forum, and initiated a thread describing my project. Then I sat back and listened to these guys go at each other in technically erudite and often acrimonious ways about what was the right gear for my project. It was very entertaining. Through this process I decided to buy the following gear. Thanks 'gearslutz', I have not been disappointed.
- Apogee Duet II preamp. This is a small, dual channel processor, designed specifically to work with a Mac computer. There are plenty of more sophisticated units on the market, with many more channels and mixing and editing capabilities. But for recording a solo instrument with a pair of mics, you can't really do any better than this unit.
- Beyerdynamic MC-930 Small Diaphragm Cardiod Condenser Mics - matched pair. I really wanted a pair of the famous Neuman KM184's, but the guys on gearslutz said they'd be too bright. I rented some, and they were right!. I also rented a pair of AKG451C's favoured by one engineer, who described them as having an 'icy elegance'. You can hear them on the De Visee gigue. I liked them a lot, but I wanted a more natural sound. In the end I trusted my gearslutz advisors and ordered a pair of MC930's, without trying them out first. I have not been disappointed. They really capture a natural sound. Leave it to the Germans… These MC-930's are the BMW's of mics. They have a solid, gunmetal feel to them. They look cool too.
A final note on recording technique. Wow, what a difference a slight change in mic placement can make! I never realized. I recorded these pieces one at a time, over a two and a half year period. I never got the mic placement set up quite the same with these pieces. They all sound a little different. In fact, for some of the 'variations' pieces, I would record one variation, get up for a cup of tea, and come back to record more. Unfortunately, just a slightly different sitting position changed the angle on the mics, and produced a different sound within the piece. (Sorry Señor Frescobaldi)
For those of you who may be interested, I placed one mic about three feet from the sound hole, and the other over my right shoulder. This created some depth to the sound. All pieces were recorded sitting on my sofa in the living room. I moved the coffee table aside to allow the carpet to absorb unwanted small-room reverb. I hung wool blankets against the opposite wall to achieve the same results. I added reverb on Garageband. However, for the majority of the De Visee suite, which was recorded in the 'servant's hall' at Islay House, I just used the natural reverb produced by the room. (A little too much natural reverb…)