Mic-ing a brass quintet at DVinfo.net

Go Back   DV Info Net > The Tools of DV and HD Production > All Things Audio

All Things Audio
Everything Audio, from acquisition to postproduction.


Reply
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Old June 10th, 2007, 09:00 PM   #1
Inner Circle
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: Tucson AZ
Posts: 2,207
Mic-ing a brass quintet

Sometime in the next month or so I'm probably going to record a local brass quintet. We're only planning on using excerpts from the recording for the video, but would also want to make a good quality CD of the whole performance.

I've had some folks make suggestions, including one who suggested mic-ing each intrument individually.

Seems like a lot of trouble and complication in both setup and mixing, to say nothing of a lot of $$$ for the mics. I was thinking that a reasonable M-S mic configuration might be enough.

The quintet will most likely be seated in a somewhat open U or even a V configuration with trumpets stage right, French horn in the middle (to get some support from the backboards considering the rear facing bell) and tuba and trombone on the left.

As a newbie, I'd like to solicit any suggestions and comments, including what hardware might be appropriate, what to look out for considering the instrumentation, etc.
Jim Andrada is offline   Reply With Quote
Old June 11th, 2007, 06:12 PM   #2
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: Southampton, England, UK
Posts: 70
Spot mics on each instrument are useful in that you could re-balance the mix after the event - to some degree at least. But you're right in thinking that, with care, you should be able to get a very usable result with a stereo pair in which ever configuration you decide to go with.

The key will be in balancing the instruments against each other and the only realistic way of doing that is either by adjusting the seating positions and distances from the mics, or adjusting the dynamics on the sheet music. I would suggest that the former will be sufficient, provided they can all see each other and the conductor/leader, and you shouldn't have to move them around too much, seeing as they are all brass instruments and there aren't many of them.

Personally I would place the Tuba centre-back - they are often better 'felt' rather than heard too loudly. Although you might pan double basses and cellos in an orchestra to their usual stage positions on the right, bass instruments are generally happier in the centre of a mix were they won't create phase issues in a mono mix, or create a lop-sided stereo image with too much weight on one side.

I doubt if the French horn will present too many problems in a typically reflective space. You could always ramp a piece of hardboard up behind him/her if you feel that more reflected sound would make a difference to the balance.

Make sure you record in a decent sounding room as well, as that will be your source of reverb. The distance from the instruments is also crucial, not for adjusting levels but for adjusting the balance of reverb versus direct sound - again you won't have any second chances if you are recording in stereo, though you could err on the side of less reverb as you can always add a splash more in post.

On the other hand, if the room sounds dull and lifeless, or just too 'roomy', mic the ensemble closer in the hope that you can cut out as much of the room reflections as possible and add a better sounding reverb at the mix stage. In this instance, be careful that the stereo image doesn't become too wide.

Ideally, you would want a separate monitoring room with decent speakers and good seperation from the performance area. But I guess this is also unlikely, so your best investment will be a good pair of closed headphones. Move the mics around for the best mix and then adjust your recording levels for a safe, clean recording.

If I was doing this on the cheap, I would take my stereo pair of Oktava pencil mics and either record direct to DAT, a camera with XLR inputs, or to recording software on a laptop. If you can record in 24bit, so much the better as you can preserve more headroom without losing too much quality. A Zoom H4 would even make a good attempt at this, especially when fed with external mics.

Just make sure you are on your game on the day and listening intently to everything that's going on. Get a rehearsal in if you can too. That will settle the nerves and allow you to run careful tests and check the results in the comfort of your studio before the big day.

Good luck!

Colin
__________________
2b Media Services
Colin Willsher is offline   Reply With Quote
Old June 11th, 2007, 10:32 PM   #3
Inner Circle
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: Tucson AZ
Posts: 2,207
Colin,

Many thanks for your comments. It's exactly the kind of good info I was hoping to find.

The idea of putting the tuba in the center for balance is a good one.

I'm thinking of recording to my M-Audio unit rather than to the camera, although if I do eventually go with multiple mics I would probably record to the PC

I can see the advantage of mic-ing each instrument as it would give a second chance to tweak the balance. I'm not too worried about the relative balance between the first and second trumpet so had thought of maybe using a single mic on the two of them, but balancing the other instruments can be a little trickier because their voices are so different.

So maybe I'll stay with the stereo mic idea and work on the balance as you suggested - the old fashioned way, ie getting the group itself in good balance.

Again, thanks much.
Jim Andrada is offline   Reply With Quote
Old June 13th, 2007, 08:02 AM   #4
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: Southampton, England, UK
Posts: 70
No problem Jim.

I suspect that if this is an ensemble which plays and practises together regularly they should be able to balance themselves pretty well, just by listening to each other. But there's often one (the proverbial rock guitarist) who just wants to keep turning up the volume! ;o)

As I say, seeing that they are all brass instruments and of similar volume and dynamic range, there shouldn't be too many problems to overcome.

Good luck with it. Sounds like a fun project!

C

P.S. For anyone interested in recording live ensembles here are some very useful articles from Sound On Sound Magazine (not sure if an e-subscription is required for these - hope you can see them!):

Location Choral Recording
Youth Orchestra Recording
Live Jazz Recording
Recording Bands On Location
__________________
2b Media Services
Colin Willsher is offline   Reply With Quote
Old June 13th, 2007, 04:36 PM   #5
Inner Circle
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: Tucson AZ
Posts: 2,207
Colin,

Thanks for the links. I'll take a look.

I'm not too worried about the "rock guitarist" syndrome as this is a group of "older" folks with a lot of interest in Baroque music.

An ensemble like this lives and dies by it's balance and generally playing together well - more important than getting the notes 100% right. It's all about playing while listening to the whole ensemble and adjusting one's dynamics and tuning etc accordingly

Having said all that, one does have to pay attention to the trumpets - they probably come closest to the rock guitarist at heart.

I think that room effect is probably a bigger issue than balance within the group.

Now for the closely held secret - I'm the tubist in the group and we're thinking of a demo DVD or CD that we can show people who might be interested in having us play for an event.
Jim Andrada is offline   Reply With Quote
Old June 13th, 2007, 05:27 PM   #6
Inner Circle
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: Tucson AZ
Posts: 2,207
Colin

Thanks much for the reference to Sound on Sound - I came up with a couple of good articles on brass recording, including

http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/jan9...s/brass778.htm
Jim Andrada is offline   Reply With Quote
Old June 14th, 2007, 02:10 PM   #7
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: Southampton, England, UK
Posts: 70
Nice one Jim, that article rings a 'bell' now!

Unfortunately they have omitted the explanatory diagrams which I seem to remember were really useful. Still, the processes are well described in the article.

Good luck with the recording and happy tubing!

C
__________________
2b Media Services
Colin Willsher is offline   Reply
Reply

DV Info Net refers all where-to-buy and where-to-rent questions exclusively to these trusted full line dealers and rental houses...

Professional Video
(800) 833-4801
Portland, OR

B&H Photo Video
(866) 521-7381
New York, NY

Z.G.C.
(973) 335-4460
Mountain Lakes, NJ

Abel Cine Tech
(888) 700-4416
N.Y. NY & L.A. CA

Precision Camera
(800) 677-1023
Austin, TX

DV Info Net also encourages you to support local businesses and buy from an authorized dealer in your neighborhood.
  You are here: DV Info Net > The Tools of DV and HD Production > All Things Audio

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search

 



Google
 

All times are GMT -6. The time now is 06:52 PM.


DV Info Net -- Real Names, Real People, Real Info!
1998-2017 The Digital Video Information Network