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Brass Band ( setting up a studio ) the story so far.

Discussion in 'Brass' started by its_jon, Nov 14, 2008.

  1. its_jon

    its_jon Active Member

    Hi.......

    This is my first post so this is the story so far.

    I am part of a contesting brass band in Scotland...
    We have made CD's in the past however the cost of recording far outweighed the return.
    The market for brass band music is very narrow with only a handful of the top bands making any money at it.
    Our CD's are mainly a matter of historical document to show new generations of the band what the oldies were capable of .... and of course presents for grannies at Xmas.

    This year we decided to take the bull by the horns and a recording sub committee was set up (the recording committee) to decide what we wanted to do in the future and how to achieve it.

    First of all - We own our own band hall. it is 2 story with a medium high roof upper floor and a lower floor sectioned off into 3 rooms. We were fortunate enough to receive lottery funding to aid the purchase and fitting of the location about 10 years ago.
    At the time, what was important was that the hall be made very dry, so we have large drawable velvet curtains on most of the walls and a thin carpet to stop the squeaks. We did this so that all players would sound more or less isolated for rehearsal purposes... its sounds VERY dry.
    A microphone was set up in the center of the band, quite high up but not on the roof which fed a Sennheiser infra red sender to a bank of wireless headphones... (for the hard of hearing) .... this must have been set up well as it pics up the whole band quite naturally.

    We also had funny looking boxes fitted on the skirting board which no-one knew anything about. 3 plugs either side of the band and twelve at the other side of the hall.

    First thing we did was to find out what the boxes did.... (stage boxes) and we realized that although the mic on the roof was working well it was useless to us unless we could get the sound into a recording device..... We have bought an extension XLR cable and bypassed the infra red gadget, and plugged the roof mic into a stage box..... the back out at the other end of the hall, into a borrowed mixing desk and into the bandhall PC....

    So....we have made a start.

    We burnt off a disk and took it to our local recording studio to find out what we have..... the studio were very happy with what we recorded saying it was just how they liked it for mastering.
    They did a quick demo of what could be achieved and we were well impressed...
    Unfortunately we don't know the make and type of mic we used as its too high up at the moment for our ladders to reach. The studio suggested a matched pair of whatever we were using at the moment.

    2 weeks later..... we borrowed a different desk with 2 byerdynamic mic's with a similar response (according to the graph) to shure sm57's (which had been recommended by the studio) We placed these 2 mics as high as the mic stands would go, grills together pointing at a 45 degree XY stereo configuration (as suggested on the shure site) unfortunately the mixer was more of a power PA thing by Yamaha and had no stereo panning on the channels..... however we recorded using these two and the roof mic into the bandhall PC..... I was not as impressed by the results this time..... A lot of the middle section of the band was lost with very little bass.

    My Theory's..........

    I think a brass band needs a lot of physical headroom to naturally mix its sound before picked up by a mic. ?
    In this case, obtaining a full frequency and balanced stereo image could be difficult ?

    Budget and plans..........

    Bearing in mind we have 3 XLR inputs either side of the band leading to a main box the other side of the hall.
    We purchase 4 Shure SM57's ? and mount them in XY 45 degree pairs quite high over the band..... one pair over the bass section the other pair over trombones, horns, cornets..... Boost the bass on the back pair and keep the front pair as natural sounding as possible. ?

    Eventually multimicing the whole band will probably be the best option .... so we are thinking ahead by choosing SM57's ?

    I am aware of LD mic's some within budget however we are as interested in getting the band to sound better than it is (through a desk) as much as the pin prick accuracy LD mics offer.....

    So..... we are in an experimental stage at the moment where we are learning all the jargon, trying out different mic spots and ways of doing stuff.
    I have been using Soundforge 6 to record through a Audigy box.... Thinking about Ubuntu Studio though.

    Any suggestions MOST WELCOME !!!!!!! :)

    Budget is the limiting factor though as the band is a charity.
    For mics, leads and a mixer we dont want to spend much more than £300/400

    Got a PC......
    Got the Space
    Got the enthusiasm.

    Our band is
    http://www.jedforestinstrumentalband.org.uk
     
  2. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    Very nice web site. I didn't see any pictures of your practice space. Are there any? I seem to have been distracted by the photos of attractive young ladies in pubs.

    Given your budget, you want to start as simply as possible, but leave yourself room to grow in the future. You have already made a satisfactory recording with the single suspended mic that you already own. Seems to me that the thing you should concentrate on first is buying equipment that will allow you to duplicate that performance while allowing you to expand in the future. That means (1) recording - digital audio workstation (DAW) software and (2) an interface/mixer that includes preamps for the microphones, inputs for other preamps, digital to analog (DA) and analog to digital (AD) converters, and connections to the computer.

    Purchases of good quality items here could easily eat up your current budget. But a good mono recording will beat a bad stereo recording any day. Granny won't know the difference and it will be fine for archival purposes.

    You may already have software. What are you using now?

    What did you use as a mixer on the first successful recording?

    In the long run, you want to improve your selection of microphones. Again, I would start simple. The key to a good acoustic recording is getting a good sound from a single stereo pair. You can add mono spot mics of individual sections for added detail, but the basic pair is the backbone of the recording. And the key to the main pair is placement. The kind of mics matter, but placement is more important.

    There are two parts to placement (a) the relative positions of the two mics and (b) the location of the pair in the room. To do this right you are going to need (1) a stereo bar and (2) a really tall, very heavy duty mic stand. While you are at it, purchase a ladder tall enough to adjust the stereo pair and work with your current suspended mic.

    You have experimented with the relative position known as XY. I tend to use that on single instruments not a large band. I would use ORTF or AB. If you have a selection of microphones with different patterns you can experiment with all sorts of configurations.

    As far as microphones, what do you actually own right now? It was not quite clear what was your and what was borrowed.
     
  3. GeckoMusic

    GeckoMusic Guest

    The SM57 makes a great spot mic, but for an overhead it tends to have quite a bit of noise.
     
  4. its_jon

    its_jon Active Member

    :D

    thanks a lot for the interest !

    Although not totally new to audio... we are very new to recording and pro audio so really respect any advice on offer... especially as we are in charge of spending money gained by charitable means.
    Additionally if we can prove that we can do it, this experimental phase could form the foundations of a grant application to generate a more substantial wish list.... we don't know enough about what we are doing to start with such an application though.
    We are set in a rural area of Scotland with no studio's for miles. Our aim (after this experiment phase) would be to get grant funding for a community recording facility that would be accessible by local education authority's, and non commercial musical groups, choirs etc... and to specialize in acoustic recording work all to help support our own charity.... the brass band.
    So .... a subsidized recording facility for the community.


    I'll start with what we own....

    Instruments::

    1) big flexible hall with lots of thick drawable curtains, rectangular with a open roof (no loft)
    2) full percussion, inc full kit, melodic percussion, and effect percussion, + 4 timps.
    3) Hammond Organ
    4) Baby Grand
    5) Full set of brass

    Computer::

    PIII 800mhz with 300+ ram
    XP Pro
    Soundforge 6 (recored and edit)
    Creative Labs external USB sound card with 24 bit processing
    Basic (home standard) stereo amp
    High end (flat) near field monitors (I use to design and build them - a past lifetime)

    Recording Hardware::

    One dynamic mic (on roof - don't know make yet - reported to be good)
    Looks like this from a distance. (hope it is !) probably not though as I think the mic in the pic needs phantom power. Certainly looks very similar though.
    KMS105_P.jpg
    One Shure Prologue 16L
    Stage box system (max 6 in's either side of rehearsal space)
    1 rackmount mic mixer with CD and AUX inputs 5 XLR ins one XLR out. (was used to power roof mic for headphone system (hard of hearing people)
    Sennheiser infrared sender unit

    Borrowed Hardware (at the moment)::

    2 Byerdynamic dynamic Mic's
    Yamaha EMX 640 Powered Mixer
    EMX640.gif

    _________________________

    The first (good recording) used the one roof mic (about 5 meters high) center of the band 5 ft above the roof gutters ie the triagular loft space above it.

    This should link to a PDF containing some pics of our hall.
    http://www.jedforestinstrumentalband.org.uk/brassnotes/BN_hall.pdf

    We fed this through a Behringer eurorack ub1622fx-pro
    UB-1622-FXtop-a8edb5d871274695a994c1a7399d4a6c.jpg

    2nd take (the bad one) used the above Yamaha mixer, the two byerdynamic mic's in XY in front of the band plus the roof mic with all mic's providing equal input (not clipping) all eq set at neutral.
    Within Soundforge 6 I tried my best to bring the recording up but it was just horrible, unbalanced, out of phase ? My guess bieng mic position not working. We picked up little middle to bass..... with trombones and cornets to the immediate left and right of the band, thats all we got. As I understand it only the best of mic's pick up bass well so I was thinking of placing the mics at the back of the band facing the conductor in a ORTF setup next also using the roof mic as I guess placing a stereo set over the bass section may cloud the overall clarity.....

    As the Yamaha mixer is not actually capable of stereo seperation we have borrowed a Tascam 464 protastudio to play with next.... we will of course be bypassing the tape deck and using it as a mixer....

    I actually got a VERY GOOD result solo micing a trumpet using the Shure16L we have !!
    I can see us using that mic for soloists and a couple of mic's on the piano and split it into our 2 stereo track ability tweak the two tracks then mix them back into a better stereo blend.
    Micing the band looks like its going to be more work though.

    Our 5 mic mixer - we were thinking of using a drum kit mic set into that.... and placing it on a stand next to the drummer.... that way we can balance the kit out and only use up one channel on whatever mixer we end up owning.... probably not the best way to do it, but we thought it would be a cost effective way to gain some control of percussion (with a cheapo kit mic set ) whilst we spend the main money on a stereo mic set ? or 4 SM57's ? thinking we may be able to use them on the kit as we upgrade ?
    Another thought about sm57's is that we have a good quartet in the band at the moment. One way to get some funds in would be to create a quartet and solo CD and 4 sm57's would be perfect ?

    What would be the best budget overhead option (as an investment) ?

    Whatever we spend, we want it to be an investment..... so a way to capture the whole band in stereo is our first priority.....be that 4 SM57's or 2 of something else.....or ????

    One of our problems is that a brass band always sounds much better in a nice, live acoustic.... Thats not what we have , we have a very dry acoustic.... probably more suited to multi micing ? ..... probably the reason the roof mic is working so well is that it is so high and the band sound is mixing very well up there in the roof...... trouble is, two mics up there will never capture a stereo image (i think?)..... here lies my dilemma.

    Thanks for the nice words about the site.
    site was made by me :cool:
     

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