1. Register NOW and become part of this fantastic knowledge base forum! This message will go away once you have registered.

Mobile / Home Recording of Brass Bands

Discussion in 'Brass' started by Razzman, Nov 17, 2012.

  1. Razzman

    Razzman Active Member

    Hello everyone.

    Wondered if someone on here could give me some advice?

    I am an ex brass player who now conducts the local brass band. As part of this I would like to record their rehearsal performances, for analysis at home. I need a system that is relatively portable and can be setup without too much fuss.

    Obviously a simple stereo recording systems would satisfy my immediate needs, but I have been looking at some websites and the general consensus is that an 6-8 track recording of a brass band produces a high quality amateur recording. I therefore don’t want to buy equipment which will limit me at a later date. I think essentially I think need some sort of multitrack recorder, some microphones and a way of editing / rebalancing the recording at home.

    Having looked on the internet, I have looked at; sE Electronics sE1a Matched Pair and a Tascam DR-680. Initially thinking of setting them up at the front of the band, just to get me started.

    I have powerful PC’s and laptops at home as im a self employed mechanical engineer. I don’t have macs and don’t particularly want to buy yet more laptops and learn the apple interface! What software should i use for PC and what connections do i need? I have a Lenovo T510 (top of the range model with solid state hard drives) free at the moment, would that be any good?

    When adding in a mic stand, leads etc this probably would be my budget limit for now.I was wondering if you could recommend any alternative systems or solutions? Or opinions on what i have looked at. I don’t mind buying second hand, slightly older technology and am not looking to buy everything at once, more slowly build a decent quality system..

    At the same time, I will be recording a lot of concerts and site work, so I dont want to go down the route of carting round half a house of gear.

    Oh and please keep the explanations simple for me, or point me to places where I can learn about any technobabble terms.

    Thank you

  2. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    Welcome to the site!

    This is one of those situations where I would advocate not going for the final solution in one go. It may seem that you would be spending money on gear that you might not use once you get more advanced and experienced, but actually the amount spent on the right sort of starter gear is a much better investment than spending a larger amount on the wrong things just because you hadn't got the experience gained from using the starter gear.

    One simple and relatively cheap way to start is with a Zoom H4N. This is a 4-track recorder with a built-in pair of quite good condenser mics plus sockets where you can plug in external mics. On occasions when I've been constrained for space and weight, I've done several band recordings just using the H4N, both using only the built-in mics, only external mics and also internal+external combinations for whole band plus "spotting" of soloists.

    The H4N can be connected to a computer to transfer the tracks, or you can take the SD card out and put it in a standard SD card reader. Once the tracks are in the computer, you can edit and balance them to produce an acceptable demonstration mix.

    The H4N is not the only game in town, but I would caution you against trying to go for gold first time around - it can be expensive! Any external mics you get now can, of course, be used in the future with a larger setup. This may consist, for example, of an 8-channel interface and a laptop.
  3. Razzman

    Razzman Active Member

    Boswell, that seems like a great idea. If I were to buy a couple of microphones to help with recording, which ones would you recommend, and in what positions? ORTF? Bearing in mind i have brass instrumentalists from Eb Soprano corners, to
    Bb Basses and percussion to pick up.

    Thank you for your help, its really appreciated.
  4. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    For this type of work I generally use a pair of small diaphragm condensers (SDCs). I have several different sets of SDCs that I use for different types of recordings and venues, but the most versatile I have in the medium-price bracket are probably the Rode NT55. These come with high-pass filter and pad switches as well as interchangable omni and cardioid capsules, and so cover a lot of bases.

    With a pair of SDCs, you would need a stereo stand mount, and it's this that allows you to set up a number of different patterns on one mic stand, including X-Y and ORTF. For spaced omni patterns such as A-B, you would need two stands, or, in some cases, a wide mount on a single stand.

    The big unsaid thing about all this are the acoustics of the room or hall in which you would record, since this has at least as much influence on the recording as the type of microphones. For really resonant rooms, I sometimes go for several dynamic mics placed closer to the players just to reduce the reflected sound from the room, even if it means adding a little artificial reverb when mixing the recording.

    Depending on your players, you may find that the percussion is a problem when recording, as it can easily sound far too dominant in the result. I have found I have to be very tactful asking for half-volume from the percussionists during a recording (as opposed to a concert performance).

    The H4N recorder I mentioned is only an example at the lower-cost end of the choice of recording devices. If you have a little more money available, you could consider one of the newer audio interface units that can connect directly to a hard disk or a memory stick and record to that so you would not have to lug a computer to the recording venue. The sort of thing I had in mind is the RME FireFace UFX, which has 4 microphone inputs plus expansion capability for many more via external pre-amps as your needs grow.
  5. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    I'm very much in favor of Boswell's suggestion of the Zoom H4N. I'd hold off on buying any other mics until you are better at placing the Zoom, setting recording levels, and post processing. It is a great learning tool and an extremely useful device even after you have upgraded to a more sophisticated multitrack system. For instance, you can record a practice in a compressed format and put it up in a dropbox for everyone to access right after practice. They can download it as soon as they get home. And you can record a concert from your seat and make your smartphone sound like the (audio) toy that it is.

    As far as additional mics go, the zoom's internal mics (which are good enough that you have to spend a fair amount to improve on them) are in XY, so they are basically your default center pair. The other two mics would either be outriggers or soloist mics. For brass soloists I like the Sennheiser 421. (I covet a 441, but have not been able to bring myself to part with $900 for a dynamic. I realize this is irrational since I've paid more for ribbons and condensers, but there it is.) If you want small diaphragm condensers for outriggers there are lots of choices, and you'll need to give us some idea of budget.

    If you want to get better advice on external mics, you need to give us more information about instrumentation, configuration, number of pieces. It's easy to recommend the Zoom since it is just a central pair which you can use for anything from a soloist to an orchestra. But once you start adding additional mics, the configuration is important.
  6. Razzman

    Razzman Active Member

    Boswell & RobRogers, Thank you for your input.

    I am going to go ahead with the Zoom unit and see how i get on. No doubt I’ll be back!

    Thank you both again for your guidance.
  7. Razzman

    Razzman Active Member

    I have now been using my zoom h4n for a couple of months now, with surprisingly good results. So thank you to the advice earlier in this thread. I have now obtained a very tidy stereo matched pair of SE4’s.

    I was wondering about the best way of applying both the zoom unit and mics. I have been looking at decca tree setups, using the zoom as the centre mic(s) and the match pair as the outer two mics. Will this work? I am also looking for some advice on XLR cables to connect the systems together, looks like a mine field to me.

    Thank you
  8. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    Was it you who bagged the pair of SE4s on Ebay yesterday?

    Choice of XLR cables is not really a minefield. All you have to do is go for good branded ones such as Mogami or Whirlwind.

    I have to say I can't picture the H4N working with a pair of cardioid SDCs in a Decca Tree configuration. My feeling is that, having done some recordings using the H4N mics, you should do some recordings just with the SE4s, and then expand that by experimenting with 4-track, using the H4N mics as the main stereo pair out front and the SE4s as individual spots. Getting the mixdown right by applying appropriate delays to the spot tracks is a skill on its own.
  9. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Last year I recorded a 4 piece jazz combo at a friend's anniversary party, using the Zoom, and I was very pleased with the results.

    Clarity, depth, space, definition; after transferring the tracks to Sonar for tweaking, I found that I had to do very little in the post stage.

  10. Razzman

    Razzman Active Member

    Yes DonnyThompson, I have been very impressed with the h4n, the ultimate in plug and play / point and shoot recordings. Great for me to evaluate the performance of the band in rehearsals! It was even good enough to produce an unofficial live recording of the bands Christmas concert for the house bound, who couldn’t attend.

    Boswell, I did indeed buy them on flea-bay! I hope they are ok when they get here. I hear from someone who records brass bands that these mics are good at picking up the frequency range of brass instruments, so heres hoping. Ive blown my budget for the next 6 months, but i figured that the se4’s would come in, in the future if i decide to become more serious. I know they are budget end mics, but the reviews seem reasonable.

    I was indeed going to use the se4’s on the stereo bar to start with till I became familiar with them. I was then hoping to use the 4 track facility on the h4n.
    The h4n struggles with picking up the basses and percussion (at the back of the band), when I get to recording 4 track what would you suggest? H4n at the front and the se4 overhead, further back?

    Your “appropriate delays” concerns me. Understanding that sound waves take time to move, does this mean that the sond will hit one set of mics first before the others and i have to re sync them? Please explain, thank you for all your help!
  11. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    Yes, as a first trial. Because it's fixed as a stereo set, the H4N is less suitable for spot miking than a pair of individual SDCs, so I would leave it out the front and run XLR leads to the other mics set up as required for the piece being performed.

    It need not be a great concern, but it's something that a lot of mix engineers don't realise. When blending in spot mics or outrigger mics, it's important that the first sound that hits the listener is that from the stereo pair at the front, as that sound establishes the intensity and spatial position of the source. Re-inforcing it with spotting or outrigging needs care not only with the spatial position (pan) and amplitude (level), but also with adjustment of the time at which the sound is re-inforced. As a rough guide for this type of work, I use 2ms delay plus 1 ms per foot of path length difference between source to spot and source to main. Adjusting the delay (and phase) is actually more important for mixing an acoustic guitar pickup in with a mic 12 inches from the fretboard than for outriggers either side of an orchestra, but by carefully adding delay, the effect of spotting of instruments in a tight band can be greatly improved.
  12. Razzman

    Razzman Active Member

    Thank you, i will let you know how I get on! and no doubt be back for some more of your great advice - thank you again!

Share This Page