Recording Wind Quintet

Discussion in 'Location Recording' started by JoeH, Jan 4, 2005.

  1. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    Hi all;

    This time I'm the one looking for ideas and mic suggestions from anyone and all, regarding mic choices, experience, etc. I have my own ideas, but i'd welcome any one else's thoughts as well.

    This will be a studio recording, no audience. The space is a trapezoidal room, roughly 20x40, 8' ceiling at one end, rising to 10' at the far end, hardwood floor.

    The lineup is Fr. horn, clarinet, flute, oboe & bassoon.

    I have the following mic's available:

    1. B&K 4006's (2)
    2. AT 4050's (2)
    3. AT 4040's (2)
    4. Neuman KMi-84's (2)
    5. AKG 451's (2) omni's
    6. SP C4's (2)
    7. Royer SF-24 (1)
    8. SM-81s (2)
    9. AKG 414's (2)

    And a few others I think I've left out...

    I plan to do at least 1 mic per instrument (the french horn is going to be tricky, of course) and at least one stereo pair for all. I may be able to have them move around/spread out a bit to help with the mic'ing, but I'm sure they will have a specific ensemble setting to see/hear each other properly.

    We'll have about an hour warm up to set levels, etc., and then we'll spend about 2 hrs tracking the music. Mixing will happen later.

    Any ideas on best mics for these?
  2. FifthCircle

    FifthCircle Well-Known Member

    If it is a good quintet playing well orchestrated pieces, you shouldn't need more than a stereo pair or a stereo mic.

    I'd definitely go with the Royer as a main pair. For the horn, you may want to consider getting a hard surface to put behind the instrument to reflect the sound towards the mic. something as simple as a wood folding table can do wonders for a horn's sound. I'd also make sure that it is angled slightly upwards as well...

    If you must mic each individual player, I'd probably go with the KM 84's on the flute and clarinet, Probably a 4050 (or 4040 or 414) on the bassoon, 414 on the oboe, and a 4006 way off axis of the bell of the horn. If you have access to a Sennheiser MD-441 or 409, they can work well micing the reflections of your baffle. Also a Shure SM-7 can be a great horn mic. In any case, make sure you're way off axis of the bell and you give the mic some space.

    I'd still make sure your main pair is good enough to capture the whole thing in any case.

  3. LittleDogAudio

    LittleDogAudio Active Member

    I would carefully set the group up in the best sounding position in your room, only you know what that is.

    I would use the B&K's (spaced pair) in front wherever it sounds good to your ears and then place the Royer between the B&k's.
    Whichever stereo mics give you the best imaging between the two sets, would be your stereo pair.

    I would spot mic the french horn with the 414 (from behind).
    The clarinet and oboe with the AT4050's (cardioid)
    the flute with the KM84
    and the bassoon with the other 414.

    If you get your stereo pair just right, then you can avoid using the spot mics at all. Spot mics on ensembles usually make things smaller and phasy.

    My .02


  4. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    Thanks guys, I like BOTH sets of suggestions, they make a lot of sense to me. (I'm really itching to try out the Royer stereo ribbon right in the middle, and my plan did include spacing out the B&K's to each side.)

    I agree the spot mics will probably be overkill, and most definitely are there as a fallback in case I need something at the mix portion of it all. (The Fr. Horn player will indeed be the wildcard.) Ideally, a stereo pickup of the "ensemble" sound will be best.

    The players are totally professional level (Curtis & Julliard grads) and they are doing a demo to sell their "new" ensemble & name for tours & appearances. Three are coming down from NY, and one is flying in from who knows where. The leader/founder is here in Phila. I know they're working on a recognizable name, and they plan to tour all over, so I'll let you know what they're calling themselves once the demo is ready to go out.
  5. LittleDogAudio

    LittleDogAudio Active Member

    Good Luck.
    Let us know how the recording turned out and what worked best for you.


  6. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Hi all. I'm going to apologize in advance, but as many of you know, I'm very opinionated. (Although, I don't know if you can call me opinionated if I'm always right... :lol: ) However, being a professional horn player as well as a recordist, I have some very strong feelings about proper mic'ing for horn.

    Ben is pretty much right, you shouldn't have to do much more than a good stereo pair. Personally, I would go omni about 8 feet off the ground and only a little in front of the group. Since the ceiling will be so close, you might want to put some type of acoustical treatment right above where the mics are to avoid slap echoes.

    As a horn player, let me plead with all of you --- NEVER MIC A HORN FROM THE REAR!!!!!!!!!!! We sound like $*^t from the back end. We depend on the beautiful reverbs from the room to make us sound better. (There's a reason the Germans - the master engineers that they are - chose to face our bells in the wrong direction!) We also take into consideration that everything we play will sound late to the audience, so in general, we stay on the front of the beat. Directly mic'ing the horn will make the ensemble seem out of correct timing. If you have to put some type of reflective surface behind the horn player, please be sure that it's a soft wood and angled upwards. In any case, your horn player probably won't like it.

    Strangely enough, a warm sounding pair of mics in X/Y would work quite well too, especially if you plan on adding reverb. Since the quintet will be formed in an arch with the horn presumably at the center and the others only slightly flared from that, you won't want to pan hard left and right, but maybe 70% give or take a bit.

    If I had my druthers, I would use the Schoeps MK21 sub-cardioid for this type of pattern. True, there wouldn't be an expansive stereo field, but with WW 5tet, there isn't much of one to begin with.

    With small ensembles like this, I like to use the simplicity method of placement - let them play a few pieces and as they are playing, walk around in front of them all the while facing the group. When you hear what it should sound like, put a stereo pair up right there. This doesn't work so well with larger groups but ww and brass quintets are perfect for this type of set-up.

    Remember though, as I said above, please be kind, don't shove a mic up the ass of the horn!



    Anyone know the difference between a bull and an orchestra????
  7. LittleDogAudio

    LittleDogAudio Active Member

    I've had great results using a spot mic on a french horn from the rear. But, a well placed stereo pair will make most spot mics moot.

    I appreciate your opinion, but I go with what works on a consistent basis.

    After 22 years as a recording engineer, I'm still open to recording techniques that others use with good results. My opinion is based on what I prefer to do and what gives my clients the desired results.

    Thanks for your opinions Cucco, the learning continues...

  8. FifthCircle

    FifthCircle Well-Known Member

    Hmm... Evidently you have some strong feelings... So let me get this right. You do like it when a mic is "shoved up the ass of the horn." :? :shock: :p

    It really all depends on the room. One of my best clients is a top-flite horn soloist (now on faculty at Bowling Green St. in Ohio after winning the big International Horn competition). He screamed bloody murder when I wanted to put a mic behind him in a couple rooms that he liked performing in. I gave him the "trust me" speech and he got the best sounding recording he had ever had made of himself. The trick to making a mic back there work is to allow for plenty of space so the sound of the instrument smooths out, to carefully choose the mic, and to put that mic off axis (as we never hear a horn from on axis anyways). In a couple other rooms I work in, when we do brass choir stuff the horns are in the center/back and they get lost. We'll take a stage riser and tilt it up behind the horn players so that their sound projects into the hall. Otherwise there is no hard surface near them.

    When I do put a microphone back there, I'm very picky about what I use. First of all, I will not use condenser mics usually. My favorite mic on horn is the Sennheiser MD-441. The slower transient response of a dynamic mic just seems to smooth things out. I've used Beyer ribbons, but I don't like them as much.... One of these days, I'll try the Royers or I'll rent a Coles or AEA/RCA and see how that works... I think it could be quite nice.

    Now in the case of a studio, if it is your typical small to medium sized rather dead (but comfortable) studio, you likely won't need anything back there- microphone or reflecting baffle. If things get reverberant, you'll need help.

    With a bull, the horns are in the front and the ass is in the rear...

    Ba-dump bump.

  9. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    "I don't know if you can call me opinionated if I'm always right... "

    Doesn't that just mean your OPINIONS are correct? Hehehe...

    I have to say, I LIKE to see you guys duking it out about this topic....pretty interesting stuff! (Ben is a clarinettist, right? Jeremy is a horn player....lots of hot air going around! OUCH!! Sorry about that... :twisted:

    But seriously, folks.... I'm not surprised to hear Jeremy's comments about NOT mic'ing the horn from the back. I've heard this before, and for the most part, I tend to agree with that thinking But sometimes (in a big mix, anyway), that extra little detail gets lost, and needs a little help. I was talking about this with Eric Ruske, whom I've had the pleasure to record TWICE in the last 2 years with a full symphony orchestra (Delaware) and chamber orchestra (Philadelphia).

    Actually, both recordings were Mozart Horn Concertos, and the size of the ensemble was almost the same both times. Two very different halls, though, and interesting differences. For both recordings, I had a Neuman KM84 in front and back, on short stands. The Delaware recording (in the Wilmington Grand) was much more reverberant, a large traditional stage with a proscenium arch, soupier acoustics (esp for the horn) and the sound really rolled around the stage. I needed the rear mic just to keep the melody (and his amazing cadenza) clear and focused in the mix. For the Philadelphia concert (Kimmel Center, Perelman Theater), I barely needed anything at all beyond the main stereo pair. (it's more of a recital hall, 650 people, lots of wood and no proscenium arch, seating in the round, almost.) Eric is an amazingly talented guy, and if you ever get the chance to see/hear him play or give a masters class, it's worth the trip.

    This session will be dramatically different, I'm sure....esp in a studio environment. I'll get back to everyone here, with the results.
  10. FifthCircle

    FifthCircle Well-Known Member

    Hey, there.... I resemble that remark... er... uh.... as you were. :D

    Yeah, I'm a clarinetist by training... My background is in performance.

    Erik Rusk is a great player. You're lucky to get players of that caliber to work with. Heck, with him, a SM-57 would probably sound like God...

  11. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member


    With a few of your caveats, I can accept placing a mic behind the horn. But, I have to stress, never close mic the butt of a horn.

    If anyone here is familiar with Dale Clevenger - he is arguably one of the greatest horn players on the planet (I won't comment on his personality though). If you ever get to sit in a section with him, you will honestly think "How the hell did this guy get this gig (Chicago SO)?" Then, if you have the balls to speak to the guy and ask him about his tone, he won't make any bones about telling you that it doesn't matter what the sound is like behind the bell, it's only about what happens in front of the bell. --true-- afterall, the audience sits in front.

    The fact is, the further you get from the horn, the more it sounds like our (the audience's, not the horn player's) ideal horn sound.

    Just for giggles, if you have a little extra money to blow - buy Mozart Distilled - Peter Landgren and Atlantic String Quartet. That was recorded with ORTF over the quartet, a solo spot mic over and in front of the horn and a single hall mic.

    To me, this is the best sounding chamber recording with solo horn and chamber group.

    Also, check out Philips' recordings of Hermann Baumann. Single solo mic in front of and below the the horn with overheads for orchestra. Also an amazing sound.

    For some of the shittiest horn sounds, check out John Cerminaro's solo w/piano accompinament (don't recall the title, but it's a blue jacket and the first track is Eugene Bozza's En Foret). This was mic'ed from the butt end of the horn. Despite John's huge tone quality, it sounds nasally and bright.

    Yep, Eric is one of the best horn players in the biz. I had the fortunate opportunity to play a gig with him almost 15 years ago. The guy's sharp! He also knows how to party!!!

    Just some more thoughts...

  12. bap

    bap Member

    I am a piano player [collaborative artist, ahem...] by training. When in Grad school I used to accompany Louis Stout [formerly of Chicago SO] a bit. Once he was giving a presentation and wanted to perform the 1st mvmt of Schumann Concertstucke [4 horns] at 8:30 in the morning. I arrive to find that they had only a 48" console piece of sh*t piano for me to play. The horn players arranged themselves directly in front of me [limited room] and blasted away with bells only a couple of feet away and pointed at my face. :shock:

    It was an experience I don't ever want to repeat!

  13. mathieujm

    mathieujm Active Member

    Horn recording


    I wanted to ask you for your experience about horn recording and i found in this thread a lot of great advices. Thanks.

    In a few weeks, I'll record a horn and piano duo. Not classical horn repertoire but contemporary musiq with great french musicians.
    It will be in an 1000 seats hexagonal concert hall with a Steinway piano. The horn player like playing there when it's empty.

    I'll report you what solution i'll choose.

    Jean-Marie Mathieu
  14. Sonarerec

    Sonarerec Guest

    What Ben said with this caveat-- try the Royer in M-S in that small a room. For a horn reflector the flat cases are quite nice when correctly placed.

    My only hesitation with a ribbon in this instance, tho, is that it won't quite have impression of transients that the KM84s would, so i would try them first. ORTF or NOS-- see which sound you prefer.

  15. FifthCircle

    FifthCircle Well-Known Member

    Different strokes for different folks... The think I tend to love about the ribbon is the fact that it doesn't have quite as fast of transient response as the condensers out there.... Tends to smooth out many of the "warts" in the sound of an instrument or ensemble. Woodwinds (and some other instruments, etc...) have a lot of production sound associated with them. The ribbons tend to smooth out those sound. Sure, it may not be quite as "accurate" (see my post in another thread about what I think of accuracy) yet it can be very pleasing to the ear.

    I'll also say that Royers for me have been the best ribbon out there I've used for area micing. Others just don't have the top end on them to have an ensemble sound right with them. I absolutely LOVE Coles, RCAs, etc... but I think twice about using them as area mics.


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