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-   -   Recording a BIG brass band (http://www.dvinfo.net/forum/all-things-audio/145682-recording-big-brass-band.html)

Bill Thesken March 12th, 2009 05:41 PM

Recording a BIG brass band
At the last minute I decided to film/record a concert tonight for the school. The high school and middle school bands are getting together for their spring concert at the college. I think there's about 70+ players with every instrument. Its a fairly large room that can seat around 300 and angles down to the stage. I'm thinking of setting up at the very back of the room to get all the sound, and looking down towards the stage. I have an XHA1, Rode NTG-2, and a Sennheiser MD-46. The Rode I'm using on a camera mount with the rubber band dampers and the big fur cover over the mic. I'm just wondering if I should hook up the MD-46 also for some additional pickup. Any thoughts?

Jon Fairhurst March 12th, 2009 07:43 PM

Definitely don't record audio from the back of the room. You'll get bass buildup.

The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra VancouverSymphony Orchestra | Home has open seating. I've sat in different positions before and after intermission. Sitting in back was the worst. On one occasion, the basses were a bit on the light side when up front, yet they literally hurt my ears in the 4th row from the back - and I like rock 'n roll too.

Ideally, you'd be able to suspend mics from the ceiling out in front of the band. The next best place would be 1/3 to 1/2 of the way back from the stage - 20 ft back, at minimum. Elevate the mics, if possible, to avoid recording the crowd.

Steve House March 13th, 2009 04:29 AM

Shotguns are generally not well suited to micing a large group and in music recording would be pretty much used to isolate a soloist from a group. They also tend to coloration when in an environment with a high proporation of reflected to direct sound hitting them. The Senny MD-46 is a cardioid dynamic and though it's designed as a reporter's handheld mic it might actually work in this situation as I would expect pretty high SPL. As John said, pointed at the centre of the band about 20-30 feet back from the stage, not from the back of the house.

Les Wilson March 13th, 2009 11:57 AM

I know this is late but the adage "the closest mic wins" comes to mind. You don't have the ideal equipment so proximity is the next thing you can control.

I would think the built-in stereo mic of the A1 might have given a nice full sound if placed centrally and within the first few rows. The stereo effects of hearing the instruments on the side they were onstage will probably be more recognized by your viewers than the more subtle differences of tone and reverb.

I would have used AGC to handle the dynamics of orchestra performances.

Rob Neidig March 13th, 2009 12:25 PM


I agree with your post except the last part "I would have used AGC to handle the dynamics of orchestra performances."

That's the LAST thing you want to do is to let Automatic Gain Control control dynamics. What it would do is bring up the soft parts and clamp down on the loud parts, thus destroying the dynamics of the music. You want to have those soft parts soft or the loud parts lose their impact. A limiter might be in order to keep those loud parts from going into distortion, but overall, setting a recording level that's going to preserve the dynamics, with at most having to occassionally manually bring the level down on the loud parts, is going to preserve the quality of the music.

Have fun!


Bill Thesken March 13th, 2009 02:52 PM

Well it turned out pretty well from I can hear from the tape. I transferred to Vegas last night and it's still rendering some of the footage this morning. This is a classic case of woulda shoulda coulda. I shoulda just brought the MD-46 and mounted it on the XH camera bracket and recorded on the other channel just to hear how it worked, it's such a good mic. There's another concert in a couple of weeks and I'll try it out then. As it turned out the place was packed, I was at the back middle of the room with the NTG-2 on auto gain. It was dark and I just wanted to focus on the camera movement. They had 7 mics spread in front of the band with big speakers mounted 30' over the stage pointed at the audience. Seemed like the sound was funneling through the room right at me. I'll post a 3-5 minute clip hopefully by tonight and link to this thread.
Thanks for the advice.

Les Wilson March 13th, 2009 04:15 PM

You are correct. I tried to choose my words carefully (handle not control) to reflect my experience shooting without an audio person. AGC lets me set it and forget it but as you point out, at the cost of capturing the dynamics. It's backward, I know. It's a band concert. The most important thing is the AUDIO!! I have a beautifully filmed play but the audio track distorted on loud parts due to poorly set audio levels. Ruins it. DOH!!!

Jon Fairhurst March 13th, 2009 05:39 PM


Originally Posted by Les Wilson (Post 1027144)
I know this is late but the adage "the closest mic wins" comes to mind.

That's true for dialog, but not musical instruments. For classical recordings, you want the sound of the hall. For Big Band, you want the instruments to blend. Get too close, and the Alto Sax will blare and you won't be able to hear the piano. Also, the band will be loud enough that you don't have to worry about noise and extraneous sounds - as long as you don't have the mic(s) too close to coughing/rustling/talking audience members.

Les Wilson March 14th, 2009 04:53 AM

True. I was thinking "close" in the sense of the back of the hall where you get a lot of boom and air noise versus front of the hall (about 8 rows back) where you get the acoustic sound or sound reinforcement from the house with not so much "air". You CAN be too close as you said. I have a recording of a musical where my up front camera was front row on the side of the brass .... those instruments are LOUD ...

Jim Andrada March 14th, 2009 06:58 AM

I've been recording our brass band for a couple of years now and have had very good luck with an M/S stereo pair placed on center and relatively close to the band - usually only a few feet behind the director and slightly above her head. Since we rarely perform in acoustically good venues (lots of community centers, etc) this has worked out better than recording from further back.

When we do have a good hall, ideally I would like to drop mics from above, but have never had the ability to do so and have tried to position about 1/3 of the way back and on center, as far above the heads of the audience as I can get. Different kinds of mics will respond differently depending on relative location.

Using mic's and speakers and amplifying a brass band sounds like an absolutely horrible and unneccesary idea in the first place, and the use of 7 mics spread across the stage sounds like a recipe for disastrously bad sound in the hall. Just my opinion!

It's all about signal to noise, and aside from jet and rocket engines, there are few things that put out more signal than a brass band - although sometimes the signal may sound like noise to some people!

Jimmy Tuffrey March 14th, 2009 12:29 PM

Having recorded big bands and brass bands as well as playing in big bands I would recommend close mic'ing for a Big Band and a stereo pair just behind the conductor and at above 6 foot high for a brass band.

Brass and orchestral music sounds good in a reverberant space where as with a Big Band the use of artificial reverb on the brass and wind is best as you do not want that on the drums, piano, bass and guitar. That is why Big Bands sound better in dead halls and brass bands sound good in church. A big band or small jazz combo or anything with a rhythm section (drums especially) sounds awful in a traditional church acoustic.

Basically a brass band or orchestra or small chamber ensemble sounds acceptable with a stereo pair but a Big Band will be harder to achieve a good result like that.
Having said that one does need to bring one's soloists out somehow. With a brass band you can get them to stand out front towards the conductor which will bring them nearer the mic's.
I have been involved with some successful orchestral recordings derived from sound re-inforcement set-ups. ie many mic's as close as possible for out door live events. Anyway I am rambling on...

Bill Thesken March 15th, 2009 01:47 AM

Please check out the sample:


Jimmy Tuffrey March 15th, 2009 01:00 PM

Ok for a home video but it sounds a long way off. The hall seems ok too. In a more ambient space your audio would sound even more distant.
Personally I would like the sound to be a lot closer. Drums in particular suffer with too much distance as does the stereo image. If possible a stereo pair centre stage and equal distance from the front row, just behind the conductor and above his head height would be the easy way to get the best sound for this. Then of course there is the whole issue of which mic's to use....

Bill Thesken March 15th, 2009 02:17 PM

When I edited this clip, I think I made a mistake and had the conductors voice too high, and the music too low, so I have to turn up the volume when the music starts to get the full effect. I put a clip on a DVD with surround sound and it sounds okay, but I notice a tiny bit of hiss, probably from the audio setup in camera, too much gain maybe at +12db. There's probably a way to tap into the mic feeds but that would be $$$ in equipment. Hanging mics from the ceiling is probably not an option either. Next try will be with the MD-46 as the 2nd channel.

Jim Andrada March 15th, 2009 03:25 PM

I also noticed that he bass section was pretty much missing - with the number of low brass on stage there should be a lot more more bottom to the sound.

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