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recording live Jazz...

Discussion in 'Recording' started by sharpeleven, Jan 25, 2004.

  1. sharpeleven

    sharpeleven Guest

    I am going to record a live show in a local Jazz Club next week. I have quite a bit of experience in recording Jazz in the studio but this will be the first time I record live to multitrack outside of a studio setting. What should I watch out for? Maybe some one could share some his/her experience in live recording.

    The instrumentation is grand piano, upright bass, drums, trombone, trumpet, alto and the pianist will also be singing on some tunes.

    The location is a rather large Jazz club / restaurant / bar, about 60 x 25 feet, the stage is raised and about 25 x 9 feet, adjacent to a wall. The ceiling is pretty high at about 14 feet. The room sounds decent / open, lottsa wood, not boxy at all.

    My plan is to bring in some gear from my studio: computer/ PT HD, one 192I/O w/add. AD card (16 tracks) , a rack with preamps (api, chandler, cranesong etc) and a selection of mics. Setting up gear next to the band.

    I am very tempted to go with the same approach that has worked for me in the past in the studio, using a ribbon close on bass, omnis on piano and the horns and lottsa room mics but now I have second thoughts....

    I am concerned about:

    • picking up way too much bleed (bass), since my approach usually requires at least some degree of separation or a few baffles between the drums and bass/ piano and that obviously won't work on stage...

    • noise: the place will be packed and food will be served during the show, the kitchen is right next to the stage. There is also a bar section and sometimes louder bands are performing upstairs simultaneously.

    • Stage seems a bit shaky. Any foot tapping might shake up those mics...

    • There will be a FOH engineer micing the band already. How would you go about placing separate mics alongside the ones from the live guy? specially on the hornz?

    • bleed from the monitors? Phasing issues?

    • how would you guys set up the band? Will a Royer 121 work on bass, having the piano and drums to either side in the dead spots of the mic?

    • Should I just go with dynamics?

    • how should I go about capturing room sound without picking up too much noise from the audience?

    Thank you so much for your help!

  2. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Recording in a live situation is always a bit tricky.

    You have done the right thing by going to the venue and checking it out and the questions you raised are all good ones.

    The other problem that you will run into is where to setup, monitoring on headphones, whether there is enough power and isolation for your setup and coordinating the setup with the FOH mixer.

    Most times when there is a live recording going on the microphones are sent to a microphone splitter and one set of outputs is sent to the mixing console, one set to the monitor console and the other to the recording person. This may or may not be possible in this situation. Most times this is done to keep down the clutter of miking everything twice. If you want to put your microphones onto the sound persons stands you will have to coordinate it with him and in some cases there is, believe it or not, a small fee for doing so.

    If this is a union controlled house (IATSE) then you will not be able to place your own microphones and will have to tell a stage person where to put the microphones and you may be required to pay for an additional stage person to assist you. Depends on the area of the country and how tight the stage hands union is in that area.

    As to your approach. The best idea would be to set up and record the rehearsal if there is one as you will be able to verify all your microphone setups and listen for problems.

    You did mention that there were monitor speakers on stage. You will most certainly be picking up some feeds from the PA which will not be pleasant for the recording. Use good quality microphones but stay away from ones that are fragile since accidents do happen and an SM58 is less likely to be damaged in a fall than a $600 condenser microphone. As to the bass (I assume acoustic) think about using a pickup instead of a mic. One trick I used a lot was to take a good quality laviler microphone wrap it in foam and put it in the bass "F" hole if you cannot get a good quality pickup or if the bassist is not willing to have one on his bass.

    The crowd noise adds somewhat to the live quality of the recording. If you can find a copy listen to "Jazz at the Pawnshop". It is a very good example of a good on location recording complete with tinkling glasses and waiters moving about. (Proprius PRCD7778 is the number)(It was done direct to a 2 track REVOX A77 tape recorder all analog). You could also pick up any of the BLUE NOTE cds that were recorded in the club and hear what it sounds like.

    As to the floor. How about a good quality somewhat fancy rug that will cover the stage and keep the floor quiet and also dampen floor reflections that can kill the isolation between instruments.

    There are lots of pit falls and lots of rewards and KUDOS for doing a great job.

    Sounds like an exciting project and I wish you well.

    One other important note: Make sure you get release forms signed by ALL the band memebers and the house manager/owner for the recording so there is no question later about fees or addition payments and so you can use the recording for your purposes without reprisals from the band. It may sound trivial UNTILL someone wants BIG $$$ later on down the road. It maybe best to ask a lawyer about this if there is any idea of later using this for commerical purposes.

    Please report back and let us all know how it turned out.
  3. jonyoung

    jonyoung Well-Known Member

    What's the quality of the house sound system? Any chance of pre EQ direct feed to your PT rig from there? Major venue live recordings are typically done this way. Perhaps you can coordinate with the house to use your mics & pres to their board and feed the computer from there. The house will be mixing to minimize bleed/feedback from the monitors and you'll get a simpler setup
  4. Bill Park

    Bill Park Guest

    Never interface with the house system unless it is yours. Major venue live recordings are NOT done this way. (At least, not very often.) Don't use their board.

    If you can use any of their mics, use a transformer balanced splitter (pref with ground lifts) and take the direct feed yourself. (This means that you have to supply phantom.)

    But better quality mics where theirs don't meet spec. Augment their mics to account for the things that they undoubtedly miss. Don't forget to run a number of audience mics.

    Do your own power distribution from the mains. Try to stay away from the same feeds as ice machines etc. Isolated sound power is best, but most small venues don't have such a thing. Major theaters and venues do.

  5. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    All good suggestions from Bill Park.

    Stay away from the house sound as much as you can. Try to get a mic splitter feed so you are not tied across their equipment/rack grounds (a ground lift switch on the mic splitter is a necessity) or you can have X number of ground lift adapters but if you use them you cannot sent phantom since it needs the ground to work.

    A good iso transformer with a good power conditioner can work wonders in preventing line noises coming back from the stage lighting dimmers and other electro mechanical devices like motors. Try to get a clean feed with nothing on it like an ice machine or neon light transformer.

    Try and set up really early so you can check everything out before the show starts. Make sure everything is working BEFORE you secure your microphone cords with gaffer's tape. Check with the club to see what the fire laws are and whether you can run cables across the aisles and what other restrictions will apply. There is nothing more frustrating than to get everything setup and checked out only to have the fire marshal come in and tell you that all your cables have to be taken down since the cross an egress.

    The devil, as someone famous once said, is in the details and you have to get it right so you will have no surprises later.

    We had setup to do a recording of a classical concert. Everything was going great when all of a sudden we got a terrible buzz in our equipment. We tried everything and looked all over the place to see what was causing it. It turned out to be the neon sign over the refreshment counter that said OPEN and it had not been on until the concert was ready to start. A $10 bribe convinced the person running the refreshment booth that they did not need the sign lit up except during the intermissions when we could have cared less about the noise. Things went off without a hitch (although we had to go out and ask the man to unplug the sign after intermission.

    We were lucky we found it so quickly otherwise it would have ruined a recording we were getting paid to record.

    Again best of luck!
  6. Bill Park

    Bill Park Guest


    " (a ground lift switch on the mic splitter is a necessity) or you can have X number of ground lift adapters but if you use them you cannot sent phantom since it needs the ground to work."

    Lift on the side going to the house.

  7. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Most of the sound companies I work with want to phantom power the microphones from their console so they give themselves the direct feed (meaning no transformer so they can phantom power) everyone else is transformer isolated. Biggest splitter I worked from was 64 channels of three way mic split making 192 patch points total. And it sounded GREAT. I believe they were using Jensen transformers. All good suggestions in your post.
  8. sharpeleven

    sharpeleven Guest

    Wow, Danke Thomas, thanks riversedge and Bill for all your input. I will defenitely follow your advice and touch base with the live engineer. Good point about the legal aspects and the union thing aswell. It now looks like they might only mic up the piano, vocals and get the DI from the Bass. I'll let you guys know how it turned out. :c:

    Thanks agian!

  9. Bill Park

    Bill Park Guest


    Right. But if you can get it, you want the direct mic feed. Often the sound company does not care, so long as you can provide the phantom. (It really shouldn't matter to them, anyway.)

    The PBS Do Wop stuff is about 60 channels of rented XTA splits, sent three ways.

    At CBI I had a 40 channel split in my monitor rig, half Jensens and half Whirlwind. CBI had other splits as well, but that was a dedicated rig while the others were up for rental.

    Biggest rigs that I have done were an industrial with nearly 200 mics in a United Nations-type setup; and an Andrew Lloyd Webber thing, which was about 110 hard wired mics and about 20 wirelesses. For the Sir Andrew piece I was stuck in a basement with a bunch of consoles and a rack of DA-88s, and played "guess which mic?" all night. Lots of fun.

  10. Bill Park

    Bill Park Guest

    If that is the gig, I would add mics to the bass and probably the piano, and put a few in the audience for ambience and audience reactions. No drums? Then is is a small gig and easy to do.

    2 piano
    2 bass
    3 vocal
    4 audience (spread them around and get them high)
    and track each ot it's own tarck, mix down after the fact. Ulitmate flexibility.

    Cool, looks like an easy and fun gig.

  11. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Yes playing who owns the phantom can be a bit of a challenge. We did a concert sound gig where the people doing the recording DEMANDED that they provide the phantom power for the event. (Why I have no clue) So ok fine. Problem was about two thirds of the way though the second set they ran out of tape and decided to start packing up early so they turned OFF their console. The sound got very quiet and the only mics that were working were the dynamics.

    My assitant engineer spent some very frantic time repatching the splitter so we could get on with the concert and provide phantom to our mics. It is the LAST time I let someone else supply the phantom when I am doing concert sound.

    But you are so correct in in really does not matter (unless they pull the phantom plug)
  12. Bill Park

    Bill Park Guest


    That sounds like just a matter of bad communication, and amatuers doing the work. You rightly let the recordists have the direct feed. The fact that they were bozos doesn't make your decision wrong, it just makes them jerks. If I am recording, I really, really, really try (read:insist) on the direct feed.

  13. lorenzo gerace

    lorenzo gerace Active Member


    Last year I was called in to do FOH and record a live show of an artist whose record I engineered and mixed months before; since I was doing FOH too I had no problems in setting up the way I wanted, and the sound company's guy (who also was their main engineer) was extremely helpful;

    I sent a raider ahead with the specs I needed for the recording, the mics I asked were directly provided by the sound company, the PA with delay lines was set up and aligned flawlessy. I brought my own preamps and went from the built in A/D straight into my Pro Tools rig (recording 12 tracks), while the analog out was sent to the line in of the Soundcraft console for FOH, 48V came from my Focusrite pres; this way I only used their multicore from the stage to the FOH, and recording was isolated from mixing FOH duties; the recording and the show came out great; preparation and some talk with the engineer of the sound company was key to the success of the gig.

    Hope this helps

  14. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Communication is the key to a good live recording. I have been in many situations in concert sound, live recording and TV productions where a little pre planning went a long way. I always do a site checkout no matter how small the gig. I find out where the circuit breakers are located, what the fire laws are, if there are any acoustic or electrical problems that the venue knows about, who is the contact person, when the venue will be open for setup, special regulations like NOT using gaffers tape on the rugs or no distractions to the audience by placing microphones where they can be seen.

    Even with all the advanced planning things can go wrong. Case in point.

    We were asked to record a choir in a church near here and we did a site survey. Nice church, good acoustics, no real acoustical problems, a nice room to set up in and the church was located on a very quiet street. We talked to the minister and asked if there were any noise problems or if he knew of anything that might make a lot of noise when we were recording. He said no and that Sunday mornings were always very quiet. We were at the church about two weeks before the gig.

    We came to do the recording, it was a Saturday, and when we got out of the car we heard the roar of bulldozers and the beeping of horns. We walked around to the front of the church and the nice quiet street was no longer so quiet. In the intervening time they had torn down all the houses across the street from the church and were clearing the land to build a government building. I got setup, called the minister who said "oh yes I forgot to mention that" then I walked across the street and asked the foreman when the workers would be done for the day. He told me 12:00 noon.

    Our recording was scheduled to begin at 11:00 so I had to ask the choir to have lunch BEFORE the session and not afterwards. At 12:00 noon the construction stopped and after all the cars left it was very quiet again.

    Who was it that said "the best laid plans of mice and men often don't go the way they should"?

    [ January 28, 2004, 08:27 AM: Message edited by: Thomas W. Bethel ]
  15. I won't get into rules and regs of club/band/live recording however, I record my band live alot and I do have some things I have run into such as being able to have a good place to listen and get levels. Keep that in mind when picking the headphones you want to bring. Since it is Jazz I agree with a previous entry about using PZM for room noise but if you can try the Crown PCC its a hyper and requires lots of attention to placement. These mics will pick up a pin drop in the room.. Have fun!

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