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Micing Live Performance of Sax Quartet

Discussion in 'Brass' started by LSinoff, Nov 2, 2014.

  1. LSinoff

    LSinoff Active Member

    I have a sax quartet and need to record our performances for some QC. The music we play are jazz standards and the arrangements have a lot going on in the inner voices. We need to be able to listen to our performances to check out how we balance on set vs in rehearsal. Our set up is usually in a V. I am unable to place a mic stand in front of the group past the front music stands. If I have to have the mic stands in in back of the group or close in front, what cost effective microphone(s) would you recommend I use, placed where and pointed where? I am not concerned with house sounds that may bleed in as these recordings are not for publication.
     
  2. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Yikes, not ideal. a few guys here will have more advice but I'll start first for fun.

    cost vs cheaper. Since you are a pro and quite possibly may plan on using this mic for more than this (personal mic) ? I'm a firm believer to invest in things that add to my sound.

    I'm thinking (one) Royer ribbon, preferably the R-122 set as an overhead, middle above you, keeping it simple and natural. Invest in a solid stand that can reach high and over you with no concerns it will ever tip http://recording.org/index.php?threads/recording-choirs-need-stands-and-setup-advice.48411/page-2. Find the sweet spot, hit record. You can find an R122 second hand (I recently sold two of those) for $1000 each. The R122 would be my choice as they will work with most pre-amps too.http://royerlabs.com/livebrass.html
    Or, same idea as the Royer but choose an Omnidirectional single or pair set in an overhead. I'm guessing either the figure8 or Omni in this room will sound pretty "boxy" but at least give you an accurate balance, which is really all you want.
    Omni' choices are available in many price ranges from Rode to DPA.
     
  3. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

    If the idea is simply so you can check the balance of the group to make sure the unamplified live sound is right, then a simple x/y pair central would do the trick, or even a single omni in the middle with the distance to all instruments the same. You could even use a small omni if you have one for less visual impact. As long as the path lengths are the same, it should reveal your balance issues.

    If you are trying to sort a problem, would it not be best to do this at rehearsal and then physically move people to sort it out? Not quite sure what a recording of the performance will solve? Any problems with one being dominant are too late to sort, and by the next performance might not be much use because the setup, location and acoustics might be different. Telling the baritone to ease up might not work if the next venue is a bit bass thin, so they may vanish altogether!
     
  4. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    When you perform live, how is the section mic'd? is it as a section, in pairs or individually?
     
  5. LSinoff

    LSinoff Active Member

    No sound reinforcement in performance. Usually small venues.
     
  6. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    You have two conflicting requirements: (1) to capture the balance of the ensemble as heard by the audience and (2) not to have microphones placed in front of the group so they are unsightly. Something may have to give.

    You also say you are not worried about the quality of the recordings in terms of room echo and other sonic reflections as they are not for distribution, but this sort of echo due to poor microphone placement will make it difficult to make sensible post-performance judgements on ensemble balance.

    Your problem is not unique, and solving it is often venue-dependent. In your case, you are mainly interested in how the sound of the group is heard by the audience, so your sonic quality requirement is a little different from most. However, I'm sorry to say that although the equipment you might use (microphones, pre-amps, recorder etc) could be of a little lower cost, unfortunately the placement techniques needed are much the same.

    A good starting point to consider would be a single stereo microphone tilted down towards the players and suspended 8ft or so above the performance floor between the front pair of players and the first audience row. We may be classed as sad individuals, but those of us who specialise in recording live sound often spend hours up ladders and crawling round dusty venues stringing tension wires across a performance area in order to hang microphones in a position that balances sonic quality with acceptable visual nuisance.

    Maybe stringing a microphone is something that you should try for a few performances until you have captured sufficient evidence on the nature and extent of any ensemble balance problem. As others have mentioned, problems of this type vary from venue to venue, so learning from an audience-perspective recording can be valuable feedback on how you should go about performing in new locations.
     
  7. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Could this be the the classic over thinking?

    Save yourselves a lot of fuss. Buy a Zoom H4N or even better, an H5 , use your ears like the pro's have for the last century and call it a day! :whistle: Repeat this until you are beaten into the ground and no longer have a career.
    At this point of your career, your performances and balances are something you feel and feed off of, which is subjective to everything from the audience, air temp, room to room and yourselves..
    You all should be able to respect each others parts and do it naturally as you develop.
    My way of thinking: A simple recording is suffice to get the idea. .

    Now if you were actually recording to market it, go to a studio and do it right.

    From a professional 340 days a year /18 solid years of touring .... that's my final edited two cents. :cool:
     
  8. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

    Is he not doing a quality review, rather than a purposeful recording? I am guessing the intent is to assess the balance between the baritones, tenors and alto. Make some adjustments to the performers and perhaps do it again. He's not provided much in the way of info - so we're a bit stuck. This was my understanding, and maybe right out the door of course. Perhaps he will pop back again and explain exactly what he's up to so we can move forward.
     
  9. LSinoff

    LSinoff Active Member

    The arrangements I am using have a lot of interesting figures in the inner parts that sometimes obscure the one person playing the tune. We do work to get the balance right in rehearsal, but we want to know if what we practice actually shows up in performance.
     
  10. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    Fair enough, but it sounds as though you are wanting a recording that can show up the ensemble's inner balance as heard from an audience perspective. This more or less rules out close-micing the performers or having stand mics behind or to the side of the group.

    So the sort of setups you should be thinking about are:

    (1) Chris's simple suggestion of a Zoom H4N/H5/H6 mounted on a camera tripod somewhere central just in front of the front row of audience but at a height that is below the sightlines. This would probably need the Zoom remote control to avoid embarrassing visits to start and stop the recording.

    (2) Replace the Zoom of option (1) with a stereo mic on a low stand with floor-running cables leading off stage to pre-amps and recorder. The recorder could be started and stopped by a member of the group before/after coming on to perform.

    (3) A flown stereo mic above the sightlines with its cable taped to the suspension wire. Pre-amps and recorder as for (2).

    The flown mic (3) is going to give you the best sonics and less of a problem with reflections off the floor, but is much more trouble to set up. It would be worth experimenting in the first instance with the option (1) to see whether it has the necessary sublety to capture problems with the ensemble balance you are looking for in your performances. You could then judge whether you need to go to a more complicated setup.
     
  11. LSinoff

    LSinoff Active Member

    I do have an H5. My last night's experimentation in rehearsal where I placed the microphone in the middle of the group seemed to have a usable result. Does anyone have any experience with the MSH-6 and the XYH-6 optional microphones and would one of these do better if this was the only location I could use. In regard does to this location of the recorder should it be oriented up at the instruments, down to the instruments, or pointed at the instruments?
     
  12. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    It's difficult to answer the question unless you clarify what you mean by "placed in the middle of the group". Do you mean on a centreline away from the group or placed physically amongst the players? Are you using an adjustable tripod to support the H5?
     
  13. LSinoff

    LSinoff Active Member

    The H5 was about 4' from each of the instruments 4' off the floor on a camera tripod and H5 pointing toward the floor.
     
  14. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    Are you using the standard X-Y microphone capsule on your H5? What exactly do you mean by the "H5 pointing toward the floor"?
     
  15. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    I think he means, towards the bell(s)?

    My way of thinking, if he is wanting to know how they sound to the audience, then the mic should be placed where the audience is (mic = ears). The location would be determined where you are most concerned of (mic = ears). However, this seems like a loosing battle with something this fussy. I mean, on one hand, these very detailed parts your are concerned about require acute listening, yet, an H5 in the audience isn't good enough?

    The classic over thinking is getting the best of you. Keep it simple and get a friend to hold an H5 where you are targeting.
     
  16. LSinoff

    LSinoff Active Member

    I so wish I could get someone in the audience to tend the recorder... Last night I was using the XY mic that comes with the H5 and the mics were pointing at the floor. I thought that since the H5 was for all practical purposes in the center of the square with each instrument at a corner, I had no idea where to point it, so I figured some reflection from the floor and equal bleed from the sides would work. Please excuse my lack of expertise in this domain..
     
  17. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    I suppose it all depends on what you want to get out of a recording. Most of the recording techniques we discuss in these forums have a set of end users as a target, for example, a CD of a performance that will sound good in a consumer's living room. In your case, you are looking for an analytical or forensic recording in which you can identify problems in the performance or due to the venue. As such, how you make the recording will have a significant impact on how well it succeeds in that aim.

    I applaud your determination to use analytical recordings to improve your group's performance and hopefully to make small playing adjustments to deal with a range of different acoustics. However, the point is that there are different recording techniques for different purposes, and it's the case that some are not that easy to put into practice, particularly where there's a critical audience present.

    Your positioning of the H5 vertically in the centre of the group, effectively recording reflection off the floor, may give a result that is below par in sonic terms but would be sufficiently accurate to be able to identify problems in intonation, for instance. What it certainly will not do is give any idea of how the audience receives the group sound in a given venue, including things like ensemble balance. For that, the sort of microphone positioning we have been advocating is going to be necessary.
     
    bigtree likes this.
  18. LSinoff

    LSinoff Active Member

    Boswell,

    Thank you for your patience and making the critical distinction. Yes this if a forensic effort. Would you see any value in using the optional MS mic for the H5?
     
  19. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    We love our Boswell! :love:
     
  20. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    No, not at least in the first instance. Long-term followers of this forum will know that I'm a great advocate of M-S technique in its various forms, but here is a case where I think it would confuse the issue. One of the things that you make work for you in M-S is the acoustics of the venue, but for this near-forensic activity, I think they would be a distraction.

    During your next rehearsal or sound check in a performance venue, I would take your H5 on its tripod and place it forward of the audience front row in a horizontal plane about 4ft off the ground with the axis of the unit on a line through the centre of your quartet. I know that the acoustics will be different without the seats being filled, but I think you would nevertheless find the recordings educational.
     
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