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Recording a brass band

Discussion in 'Brass' started by Markd102, Feb 23, 2006.

  1. Markd102

    Markd102 Well-Known Member


    In about 3 months I'll be starting a recording project with a local brass band.

    The best pair of mics I have access to a pair of B&K 4007's, (which are SD omnis for those who don't know). If I were to use these as the main stereo pair, what do you think would be a good starting position? Am I going to get enough of a stereo result? Or would I be better off running with cardioids?

    It will be in the local theatre, which is about a 250 tiered seat auditorium. Acoustics are not bad, but certainly not perfect. Proper theatre stage with fly tower etc.

    Music will be a mixture of classical, marches, hymms and show tunes.

    The main mics I have are....

    2x B&K 4007
    4x AKG C-535 EB
    1x Neumann TLM-103
    1x MXL V67

    .... I'm also toying with the idea of buying a mate for my TLM-103. Will depend on budget though.

    Preamps available are a Buzz Audio SSA1.1, a Sebatron 4000e and the Pres in the Digi002R.

  2. ghellquist

    ghellquist Member

    Hi. I like the 4007-s. Will work nicely as a main pair.

    I tend to set my main AB pair rather narrow, down to 1.5 foot (0.5 meters) and then add in a pair of outriggers. Depends a lot on the acoustics though. In some rooms the AB pair has to be much further apart, some put the 20 feet or more apart. Beware of the "hole in the middle" though, it may take a middle mic to fill it in.

    Find a place say 10 feet behind the conductor and 10 feet above the stage floor for the AB pair. From there you can go back or forward depending on the amount of ambience you want and how balanced the group sounds. It may be beneficial to go higher or lower with the mics as well.

    Once you have found the sweet spot where everything mixes itself, listen to what areas would benefit from a bit of help. Outriggers, that is mics left and right of the main pair adds stereo width and maybe a bit of ambience. Spot mics helps out single instruments or groups that disappears in the mix.

    Another suggestion is to record at several rehearsals to get the feel for the acoustics. Listen critically to the recordings both in headphones and on speakers. Some recordings can sound gorgeous in heapphones and really bad on speakers. Rarely the other way round though.

  3. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    I was once at Carnegie hall with the Syracuse New York Symphony Orchestra where my father was concertmaster. A recording was to be made with the CBS records remote crew. They had over 30 microphones placed in and around the orchestral members. They also had 3 U87s left, center and right that were approximately 8 feet in front of the orchestra. For a multitrack recording everything sounded quite nice but at the break I asked the chief engineer about the front 3 microphones and how they sounded. He smiled and said "listen to this"! The sound without the other 27 microphones was simply gorgeous in and by themselves. He thought so also although they put the other 27 out as standard operating procedure. He said the recording would be gorgeous with just the 3.

    So I suggest to you that you utilize the B. & K. omnis as a spaced pair and use the Neumann TLM 103 as your center cardioid microphone. I would utilize your other microphones as spot ancillary microphones for any of the softer instruments or ones that you want to accentuate, if at all.

    I think you'll find yourself making a glorious recording that way with a good strong center image. I used to have a pair of B.& K. omnis and have made recordings in the way I have just described. Unfortunately my B . & K. omnis were on loan and I no longer have them. They were fascinating and fabulous sounding microphones!

    I also much prefer when recording brass instrumentation to use Beyer M160's/130s and RCA 77 DX ribbon microphones as they provide a beautiful smooth sheen to brass instruments. The Beyers are quite affordable as ribbon microphones go and would be an excellent addition to your collection.

    Sometimes I use my ribbons for curlers! (NOT!)
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  4. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Yeah, I would go with the B&Ks as an AB pair also.

    Since with brass band (I'm assuming you're talking old-fashioned british-style brass band), you're going more for timbre and tone color more than precise imaging, the AB would work quite well.

    For this application, the 4007s are perfect.

    There are many "common" seating arrangements for brass bands ranging from semi-circle, to straight line to slightly-curved straight line to a 4x4 square and so on...Find out what they're comfortable with and use that to your advantage. Obviously staight lines aren't the best for recording - unnaturally wide and very shallow sounding. An arrangement similar to a standard concert band should be just fine (if there are enough musicians.)

    Anyway - good luck and enjoy!

  5. Markd102

    Markd102 Well-Known Member

    Thanks heaps for the suggestions folks. Much appreciated.

    Just picked up some live audio work at a couple of jazz festivals, so I should be able to pick up a mate for my Neumann. Then I will have lots of options. Always good to have a pair of quality cardioids anyway.

    Might be good to record the Neumanns ORTF in the centre and the B&Ks as a spaced pair simaltaneously. Should give me lots of choices.

    Thanks again.
  6. Markd102

    Markd102 Well-Known Member


    OK, I've decided to take a plunge.
    My mate and I are buying a pair of C-414 XLS between us.

    Quick question.... with the 414s in ORTF, what pickup pattern would you recommend?
  7. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    I would suggest regular cardioid or wide cardioid. But why do ORTF when you can do MS?? I just love MS. Solid mono compatibility with adjustable stereo width. No gap in the center like you get from ORTF along with the associated phase problems from the time differential between the 2 capsules. It's easy to decode in software but requires an "adapter" decoder box if mixed live, for stereo. It can also be done on a small console utilizing an XLR "Y" cable for the figure 8 microphone and a phase reverse reverse button or in-line XLR phase inverting adapter along with its requisite 3 inputs on your console.

    the queen of MS
    MS. (it figures) Remy Ann David
  8. Markd102

    Markd102 Well-Known Member

    MS has always confused the crap out of me :wink:

    People have tried to explain it to me in the past..... I think I actually need to see it done.
  9. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    I think I could provide you with a detailed explanation that is both simple and effective?

    I believe you would find it makes more sense when decoding it through your console? Many software's include a preset frequently that may also help clarify the process? If you would like an interactive explanation, just drop me an e-mail and we can do AOL instant messenger at a prescribed time and date?

    The first and most important part is how the microphones are set up and arranged on a single stand with a "stereo microphone bar". The "middle" cardioid microphone faces the stage and/or talent, while the "side" figure 8 microphone is mounted perpendicular or sideways. That is to say the figure 8 microphone faces the left and right walls of the auditorium or room. It is most important to have both capsules as close to one another as possible. So you end up with something that sort of looks like this <^>. Obviously the Arrow that is facing upwards is your middle cardioid microphone facing the stage or talent. The left and right arrows are your single figure 8 microphone that is mounted directly above or below the middle cardioid, as close together as possible. The left and right arrows denote the single figure 8 microphone.

    To make the incredible stereo thingy happen, take the figure 8 microphone and connect a XLR " Y " adapter so that you can plug it in to 2 microphone inputs on your console (the " Y " cable will lightly load down that microphone but should not be a problem with that condenser microphone and won't hurt the frequency response). Take input 1 and pan that full left. Take input number 2 and pan that full right. Now invert the phase only on input 2. If your console does not have a phase flip button, you will need to create the phase inversion with one short XLR cable that has been "miss wired" with pin 2 & 3 reversed at one end of the cable to create the phase inversion on the number 2 input.

    Now take your middle cardioid microphone and plug that into input 3 and set the pan pot to center. Bring that microphone level up to the same level as the first two inputs and voilĂ ! Incredible mono compatible stereo! Tell me if you don't think it is totally incredible (I get all excited just thinking about it)?

    To adjust the stereo width just play with the input number 3 mono microphone input. Having it full down, will leave you with a completely out of phase "side" signal of the figure 8 microphone which if collapsed to mono will completely electronically cancel out and disappear, like magic! You would then hear nothing at all! But if you include the center mono microphone, that is the only signal you would hear if you took your stereo signal and collapsed it to mono. The effect is simply breathtaking when you hear it!

    If you do it within software you would then only take the 2 separate channels (tracks) of the 2 microphones and just select the MS preset. If the stereo doesn't sound right, reverse the channels and that should make it sound correct.

    Being a good and competent engineer, you should work hard at making this happen as it is an important and invaluable technique that will amaze you and everybody else of its startling qualities.

    I hope you didn't MS. anything?
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  10. FifthCircle

    FifthCircle Well-Known Member

    Mid side is pretty simple. You have 2 microphones at 90 degrees of each other. Basically using a simple sum and difference matrix, you get a stereo image.

    Traditionally, you use a cardiod as a center mic (although it can be anything), and a figure-8 side mic. The center faces forward and the null of your figure-8 faces the performers. The image is a result of taking your middle and adding it to the figure 8 and subtracting it from the figure 8 (which as you know has a negative part of the pickup). The math works out to M+S for your Left and M-(-S) for your right (which is another positive - remember your high school algebra).

    The practical side of the theory is you split your sides, flip the phase on your right and the level of the sides gives you the width of the image.

    Clear as mud? :D

    Using the 414's as a pair will likely work quite well (regardless of your pickup). I'd then space your omnis as a flanking pair, probably about 6-8 feet out each side of the main pair. Depending on the room, you may need a percussion spot for clarity. Your 103 would work well for that (as would the 535).

    You'll get a traditional sound on the group with this kind of setup.

    Sounds like fun. Brass bands are a blast to record.

  11. Markd102

    Markd102 Well-Known Member

    Hey, I think get it!

    I'll have an experiment.

  12. Simmosonic

    Simmosonic Active Member

    Excuse me for chiming in a bit late here, but...

    How big is this brass band?

    What is more important to the client - pinpoint stereo imaging or a sense of size?

    Will there be an audience in the auditorium?

    Is there any acoustic interference (airconditioning, traffic noise, flight path, etc.) to contend with?

    The answers to each of these questions may help to determine the most appropriate approach to the recording.
  13. Markd102

    Markd102 Well-Known Member

    About 35 players.
    Recording in a 250 seat auditorium. Outside noise not a problem unless it rains.
    No audience.
    They are just an amatuer town band and will probably be happy with anything I give them, but I just want to get the best result I can for them.
  14. Simmosonic

    Simmosonic Active Member

    That's a reasonable size. The pinpoint imaging provided by a coincident pair is not much of a concern at that size, in my opinion...

    Handy! You won't have to consider audience noise or similar, and you don't have to consider audience sight lines, stage perimeters, etc.

    All things considered, then, I'd be going for ORTF with your two shiny new 414s. It's fast and easy to set up, there's no mystery in positioning it, it's a very forgiving technique, and it usually delivers an acceptable result. Just make sure you match the gains first or it's going to be lopsided...

    ORTF won't give you the pinpoint imaging of a coincident pair (including MS, of course), but that won't be an issue with an ensemble of this size. It will, however, deliver a good sense of size or 'spaciousness' (which coincident pairs don't do so well in my opinion). That 'bigness' will impress the client more than anything else... ORTF does have reasonably good stereo imaging, though, so nothing to worry about there.

    A pair of spaced omnis will also provide a good sense of size or spaciousness, along with better LF response (good if the music has a lot of LF, sometimes bad if you have a lot of distant traffic rumble although you can filter it out later). If you're familiar with that technique and know how to play the juggling game between mic-to-ensemble distance for direct/reverberant balance, and mic-to-mic distance for stereo imaging, then you may want to go for that. If you know what you're doing and the room sounds good, the results could be excellent. Those B&Ks are fine microphones!

    If you have enough time, why not set up both? You have enough mics, preamps and inputs...
  15. Markd102

    Markd102 Well-Known Member

    I will probably stick to ORTF simply because of instant playback. With mid-side I'd have to do the decoding before I can play anything back on the spot.

    Current plan is to run the 414's in the centre ORTF, the 4007's as a spaced pair, and the TLM-103 over the basses just in case more bottom end needs to be added. This will get the percussion also. (I'll worry about phase aligning this one later).

    What are everyone's thoughts on overdubbing soloists later?
  16. Simmosonic

    Simmosonic Active Member

    On the positive side, it gives great separation and control. On the negative side, it loses the sense of being part of the ensemble and often the feel is not the same. Sometimes you have to go to great lengths to make the overdubbed soloist 'sit' with the rest of the music. Not much of a problem if the overdubbing takes place in the same venue and you're careful to get an appropriate balance of room sound at the time - rather than close miking and putting it out of perspective with the rest of the music.

    Also, I generally find that once people know they can overdub and drop in and so on, you're in danger of entering a downward spiral of time-wasting and dissatisfaction towards some (usually bogus) concept of perfection.

    Then there is the question of monitoring while they play. Headphones? Speakers playing back in the room? These things need to be sorted out; some musicians really can't play so well with headphones on.

    That's my two cents worth...
  17. FifthCircle

    FifthCircle Well-Known Member

    In short, don't. Never works out. The advantage is control in a mix and editing (the ensemble won't screw up your soloist take). The disadvantages include lack of ensemble and other issues that Greg mentioned.

    Record it all at once, you'll thank yourself at the end..

  18. Markd102

    Markd102 Well-Known Member

    Well the first of the long-awaited brass band recording days has finally happened.
    Here's a track for your enjoyment. Totally raw, no eq, processing anything... just bounced.

    2 TLM103's in ORTF through the Buzz Audio SSA1.1
    2 B&K4007's as spaced pair through the Sebatron VMP with the "deep" eq setting engaged.

    They aren't bad for an amateur town band.

    Londondary Air

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