Pinchgut Unplugged


You might have noticed in our production of Rameau’s Castor & Pollux that the soloists wore small microphones taped to their cheeks. Some people have asked us whether their voices were amplified. 

Certainly not! 

The mikes were to capture the voices for the ABC Classic FM broadcast as well as our Pinchgut LIVE recording. What you heard in City Recital Hall was the music in the natural acoustic of the hall – unvarnished and unamplified. 

We asked our recording producer and resident sound whizz, Tom Grubb, to give us a better understanding of the necessity for these microphones. 

Tom: Every new Pinchgut production presents us with new recording challenges. The placement of microphones is a compromise between achieving the optimal sounds for an exciting and engaging live CD recording, and interfering as little as possible with the set design and lighting. At City Recital Hall we are only able to hang eight microphones from the ceiling to cover the orchestra and the performers on stage. And those microphones cannot hang too low or they will be too obvious to the audience. A number of floor-standing microphones along the front of the stage also cover the performers when they are singing in the front half of the stage, but unfortunately these also tend to pick up a lot of extraneous foot noise and movement. 

It is for these reasons that we also use radio, or ‘lavalier’, microphones to record the principal singers. These help with the balance in the final recording where, for instance, someone may be singing at the back of the stage, or in an area not covered by the main microphones. It also allows us to reduce stage-noise by reducing the level of the front-of-stage microphones in passages with a lot of movement. 

A good live recording has to convey to the listener what is going on onstage, but naturally lacks the visual element that helps identify sound sources. Radio microphones are helpful in defining where a singer is on stage or how quickly they move across the stage. In mixing the sound for the CD, we will ‘pan’ the radio microphones to follow the performers, thus creating a more solid stereo image. 

In an ideal studio environment, where microphones and the cast can be placed anywhere, radio microphones would not be needed. In a live performance however, they are essential in creating a recording that is both listenable and enjoyable. 

Pinchgut: Tom is, by the way, an accomplished musician (organ and harpsichord) and is one of Australia’s most experienced recording engineers. See for yourself at We are proud to work with him. This year we will try to disguise the mikes a bit more so they don’t bother people. And, by the way, the Pinchgut LIVE recording of Castor & Pollux will be available mid-year. Stay tuned (pardon the pun) for more information.