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PALM Education Series

Neumann Home Studio Academy India Edition

In Conversation with Meghdeep Bose

Meghdeep Bose is a noted arranger, composer and music producer. In this exclusive interview with PT, Meghdeep talks about his collaboration with Sennheiser and Neumann for the Indian edition of Neumann Home Studio Academy Series using classical Indian musical instruments like the Tabla and the Sarangi and the various miking and stereo recording techniques one can use when arranging music in their home studio.

What inspired you to collaborate with The Neumann Home Studio Academy India edition series? Tell us how this collaboration came about.

I have always believed that education is the most crucial step towards success and growth of an individual in any field. When an opportunity struck for a possible collaboration with Neumann for their home studio academy series, I was more than happy to compile and share some expertise with the audience.

It was an honour for me to be able to engage with the new generation in whose hands lies the future of the music industry.

I will continue to engage in such educational ventures in the future.

Globally, the Neumann Home Studio Academy has offered high-quality tutorial videos on various aspects of recording via a dedicated website and an associated YouTube channel. The videos, which have met with an extremely positive response in recent years, are described by viewers as being the best in this field. On a similar note, Neumann wanted to present the India edition series to offer the best practices and insights on how to record typical Indian instruments. Hence, Neumann considered me to present the India Edition for this esteemed series.

It has been a greatly enriching and learning process to consult professional engineers and research on various principles of recording arts.

It is a matter of great privilege and honour to work with, Neumann Berlin which is a giant brand in the Music Industry.

So, what does this collaboration mean for you as well as the studio industry in India?

The pandemic has led to a huge shift in the way the Music Industry functions. Performing Artists / Session Musicians & Composers who have been strongly dependent on professional engineers and studios have suddenly been compelled to go DIY and in some cases ensure their survival by working from their homes.

In such times when artists, composers and producers cannot afford professionally trained, capable engineers and well calibrated and equipped studios, this collaboration with Neumann for its Home Studio Academy Series is a step in the direction to empower musicians and artists who are recording music from their home by educating them about the ways in which professionally acceptable or rather optimum results could be achieved with the equipments/gear they own. Sennheiser and Neumann are doing an excellent job in helping the home-bound music professionals up their skills, especially during this pandemic.

Who is the target audience for The Neumann Home Studio Academy? These sessions are most beneficial to which segment of industry professionals?

The India edition series of Neumann Home Studio Academy will be beneficial especially for music professionals like Singers, instrumentalists, music producers and even budding professionals who now have to deliver most of their works from home. These session tutorials deal with the basics of miking the instruments and showcasing various stereo recording techniques.

You are a well-known music producer, composer and arranger with songs like Swag Se Swagat, Slow Motion, Bol Do Na Zara and many more under your belt. Have you also recorded these songs or have you only composed and produced them? Tell us a bit about your journey in the music recording industry in India.

I’ve arranged, produced and co-written the instrumentals of the above mentioned songs.

A music producer working for Indian films happens to record a lot of material within a song or score while being in the process of writing. There are many things that get recorded as a rough doodle but are often not replaced by dubbing them later because they eventually become the song’s characteristic elements. In light of the fact that writing and producing music is a very personal process it becomes almost impossible to book studio sessions and engage a sound engineer to be present throughout the process.

For example in Bol Do Na Zara there’s a bagpipe piece in the second interlude which is actually not a bagpipe but a handmade plastic-straw wind instrument innovated by my flutist friend on the spot for the sonic demand of the song.

It was simultaneously recorded & processed at my home setup while I was in the process of writing the arrangement and was finally retained as it is within the song without being replaced by an overdub later.

Also there are guitars & analog synthesisers that I play and track in almost all the songs I arrange.

Recording instruments simultaneously is definitely inevitable in most writing & production ventures but the importance of having a professional recording engineer controlling every gain stage hands-on must never be forgotten or ignored.

How many sessions have you done till date for The Neumann Home Studio Academy and what is the emphasis while deciding the topic of the session?

The Neumann Home Academy Series was 3-part video series of the home studio recording wherein we introduced some of the basic recording and miking techniques for tabla and sarangi along with their brief history and how it originated. We further highlighted on how people can position their Neumann microphones for the best sound quality output and    detailed out the difference in the sound of the instruments by using various miking techniques.

These academy series were created with the intent to first teach the basics of tabla and sarangi to our audience, and then later deep dive into recording techniques. 

For your session on How to mic a tabla and a sarangi, of all the Indian Musical Instruments why did you choose the Tabla and the Sarangi specifically?

Rhythm and melody are the backbone of making music. The magic that beats of tabla and notes of sarangi can create fascinates me. I have always been intrigued about tabla and sarangi’s history and where they originated from.

Reason why I chose these two instruments for our first season is to portray two different nature of instruments. Tabla being a percussive instrument contains pitch and a complex harmonic detail that comes with different “bols” and their combinations.

On the other hand Sarangi is a beautiful melodic instrument which is played using a bow.

I believe that the complexity of these two instruments was a good way to cover various aspects of capturing sounds.

Tabla was originated when Amir Khusru in the 15th or 16th century invented the Khayal style of singing and Pakhwaj- an Indian instrument seemed a serious sounding instrument to accompany Khayal. Hence, Tabla came into existence. It’s versatility in all musical styles has won an unmatched status in the world of percussion instrument.

Sarangi is widely believed to mean 100 colours- indicating its adaptability to wide range of musical styles, its flexible tunability and ability to produce a large palette of tonal colour. Whether it is a folk or classical music, Sarangi is one of the rare instruments which comes in closest proximity to the human voice. Sarangi became popular in the mid 16th century to accompany vocal music and is often described it as the Indian violin.  Its tone is rich, extremely enchanting, and can be used to perform in exceptionally large variety of genres. 

Was the focus of this session more on arrangement or recording? Can you provide a brief summary of this session and the important tips you had to offer?

The focus of these sessions was to provide holistic knowledge on how to record tabla and sarangi using various miking and stereo recording techniques.

In the first of the 3-part video series of the home studio recording, we introduced viewers to the basic recording techniques of Indian instruments. As part of the video, we deep dived into the history of Indian classical music, nuances of Tabla and Sarangi, and a brief history of these instruments and where they originated from.

The second part of the series focused on how people can position their Neumann microphones accurately for the best sound quality output, and how the tone changes with the different settings of these microphones. With the help of microphones such as the legendary Neumann TLM 102 or TLM 103, even the slightest sounds of the instruments can be captured.

We further deep dived into the mono miking techniques wherein we use TLM 102 which is usually positioned 3-4 inches from the middle of right and left for great output.  There are variety of positions that can be used to pick up a sound source. For example, if a microphone is kept close to an instrument, it might sound a bit different as compared to the microphones that are placed at a distance. To mike a sarangi, the best place to position a microphone is a couple of inches away from the instrument, at the same level of a bow- pointing to a spot where the bow meets the strings of sarangi. 

In the third and the final part of the video, we introduced various microphone techniques that can be leveraged using Neumann microphones. The video further details out the difference in the sound of the instruments by using various stereo recording techniques.

Are you planning to focus on other Indian Musical Instruments in the future sessions?

Social media responses have indicated a major demand for tutorials on capturing Sitar, Harmonium and percussive instruments like Dholak & Pakhawaj. I’d like to present the next season with information on how to capture the above instruments.

How do you decide what mics to use for which instrument?

I am not a trained sound engineer and so I play it by the ear by going around the instrument and place the mic where it sounds and feels the best to me. But I make sure that I capture the instrument’s room in parallel.

What did your session on Various stereo recording techniques using different Neumann microphones cover?

The 3rd part of the Neumann Home Studio Academy series covered various stereo recording techniques such as XY Technique and ORTF Technique. We showed our audience how we can record and capture the natural sounds of the instruments using these couple of techniques.

To demonstrate how to record the instruments using XY technique, we made use of the directional microphones. These microphones are sensitive to the sound coming from the front and has a high rejection sound coming from the rear. For this, these microphones are positioned at the same place with a 90-degree gap from the tip of the microphone. If we have to achieve a stereo affect, it is through the differences in the sound pressure levels between the two microphones. Due to the lack of differences in the time of arrival and phased ambiguities, the sonic characteristic of XY recording gets generally less spacey with less depth.

The ORTF technique requires cardioid microphones. Cardioid microphones are appropriate for this technique as they suppress sound coming from the back. This technique combines both the volume of 2 microphones which are spread to 110-degree angle. To achieve the best recording quality, the microphones should be as similar as possible- possible of a similar model or of the same frequency. The result is a realistic stereo field that has reasonable compatibility with mono playback.

While XY technique is the most natural of all the stereo techniques, however if we are looking at XY with an exaggerated feel, that is where ORTF comes in.

Which models of Neumann Mics did you suggest for the various types of stereo mic techniques in this session and why?

We have suggested Neumann TLM 102, TLM 103 and KM184 microphones for miking both tabla and sarangi.

The TLM 103 is the ideal large diaphragm microphone for all professional and semi-professional applications requiring the perfection in the sound quality. This microphone is perfectly suited for vocals and audio drama productions in high definition as well as for demanding samples production and instrumental recordings. The TLM 103 features unattained low self-noise at the highest sound pressure level transmission. The capsule has a cardioid pattern, is acoustically well-balanced and provides extraordinary attenuation of signals from the rear.1

The TLM 102 is one of the most compact microphones which makes it perfect for a room that has lesser space. The TLM 102 is ideal for vocal and instrumental recordings. Its finely tuned sound signature especially accents the area of 8 to 12 kilohertz which is crucial for human voices. The recordings get a silky elegance which is typical for large diaphragm microphones; the voice gets a noble presence in the overall mix.2

To aspiring young musicians and sound engineers, what tips would you like to offer with regards to Indian instruments and basic recording techniques?

I’d like to say that above all sonics and techniques stands the art of writing. Anything well written and well performed will outshine any technical short- comings.

A good quality instrument, well written part and a great performer are the perfect combination to be a great source to capture.


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