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Tuba recoding advice

Discussion in 'Brass' started by jazzbutcher, Aug 16, 2007.

  1. jazzbutcher

    jazzbutcher Guest

    Howdy,

    I'm to record a tuba sextet next month...the recording will take place in a small church without an audience, vocalist, or any other instruments.

    Any suggestions for mic choice? I honestly have never recorded tubas...much less a whole gaggle of them together!

    I instinctively am reaching for some ribbons... I was thinking a Royer SF-24 or an AEA R-88 along with a pair of John Hardy pre's ought to do the trick. I had some other ideas too...but honestly I am afraid of using something too dark with the deep brass. Any suggestions here?

    Also, any advice on mic placement? My thought was to get out in front of the group by 10-20 feet and put the mics up in the air on a tall tripod (maybe 10' off the ground).


    Tuba experts of the world, lend me some good advice!


    thanks,

    -dave
     
  2. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    It's a nice use for the stereo ribbons, but I fear that in classic Blumlein X-Y at that distance from the performers you may get too much venue reverb from the rear lobes. For this group, you could try experimenting with M-S Blumlein (45 degree rotated on X-Y), putting both lobes of the S mic to work while facing the rear lobe of the M mic directly down the axis of the church.

    Assuming the performers are arranged in a semicircle, I'm not sure I would not go as high as 10 feet for the mic position, but it's going to be a matter of trial and error depending on the acoustics of the building.

    Post a sample when you're done!
     
  3. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    Boswell - I don't understand this configuration (which I had never heard of before - M-S and Blumlein almost seems like a contradiction). Could you explain a little more? Thanks.

    And I just want to say it's good to get up in the morning and read a post by a "jazz butcher" from Durham who wants advice on recording a tuba sextet. Not exactly the "same old same old."
     
  4. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    Doh! Think I figured it out. Basically M-S with a figure 8 instead of a cardioid for the M. And the S lobes are "put to work" because you are inside the semicircle.
     
  5. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    Yep, you take a standard Blumlein figure-8 X-Y and rotate it 45 degrees so one mic (the Mid) is facing the acoustic centre and the other (the Side) remains perpendicular to it. It's like conventional M-S, but the M is a figure-8 instead of cardioid. Lovely sound with a pair of ribbons, due in no small part to the superior off-axis performance of a good ribbon versus a condenser.

    I thought it might be worth a try in this OP's session where, in order to get to a position where there is a well-balanced direct sound field from the performers, there is also a danger of excess reverberant sound coming into the X-Y rear lobes.

    I forgot to mention, of course you decode Blumlein M-S with a conventional M-S decoder.

    And I agree, nice to hear of a new performing group - makes a change from "how do I mike a drum kit?".
     
  6. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    In my experience the tuba as a solo instrument is not easy to record. It has a lot more level coming out of it than you would think and it is a very dynamic instrument. Tubist like to play out fully and when I had to record a "Tuba Christmas" album with 10 to 15 tubas all playing LOUD it was mic pad time. They are definitely going to "excite" the church and may cause you to have to put you microphones away from where they would be optimal just to get the whole sound scape at a comfortable level.

    Best of luck.
     
  7. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    I can tell you from much experience that ribbons are not the best choice for tubas. In general, they're too dark and can lead to an indistinct sound.

    For tubas, I almost always go for large diaphragm condensers (TLM193 or Gefell M930). I feel that the girth often provided by the low end colorations of a good LDC help provide a punch and clarity to the oom-pahs.

    Also, for many things, I find XY too narrow, but for tuba ensemble it works well, especially when using a flanking omni pair.

    Granted there's a lot of low end from a tuba, but bear in mind, there's tons of high end too. Don't be too quick to eq out high frequency stuff. (Not that you said you would...just a preemptive statement.

    Another thing to kep in mind, the reverb in a large church can be problematic for tubas. If you can tame some of that down, it probably wouldn't hurt. Do you have several extra spare moving blankets that could be draped?

    Good luck and keep us posted!
     
  8. FifthCircle

    FifthCircle Well-Known Member

    I usually go spaced omnis when recording tuba. As Jeremy aluded to, Tuba can get really muddy sounding. Going for a flat microphones that has an accurate low end is your best bet. When I've used Blumlein, I've used an AKG 426 stereo mic.

    Given I choice, I prefer omnis though. My omni of choice for Tuba is ually a DPA 4006- usually with the silver grid. Out of my current preamps, I'd probably reach for an A-Designs Pacifica or Vac Rac preamp first as well. Basically a warm but still transparent pre.

    --Ben
     
  9. mdemeyer

    mdemeyer Active Member

    Scratching my head on the suggestion to use crossed figure 8's in MS as being less reverberant than using them in Blumlein. Since the back node of the M mic is getting all hall (which the MS processing does nothing to reduce), how does this get you a less reverberant pickup than the Blumlein arrangement? Of course, you can cut back on the S mic (with loss of width in the recording), but this still seems like a bad solution to the reverberance problem.

    What am I missing here?

    Michael
     
  10. mdemeyer

    mdemeyer Active Member

    Scratching my head on the suggestion to use crossed figure 8's in MS as being less reverberant than using them in Blumlein. Since the back node of the M mic is getting all hall (which the MS processing does nothing to reduce), how does this get you a less reverberant pickup than the Blumlein arrangement? Of course, you can cut back on the S mic (with loss of width in the recording), but this still seems like a bad solution to the reverberance problem.

    What am I missing here?

    Michael
     
  11. jazzbutcher

    jazzbutcher Guest

    Not the same old same old....

    Hey guys,

    Thanks for all the replies and advice...as I said, my experience with tuba to-date is nada...although i've recorded a lot of trumpet/trombones in jazz combos...but tuba sounds like a fincky beast from the comments here. I will proceed with caution.

    To clarify, the church in question is fairly small, with the sanctuary 1500-2000 sq ft. I don't think it's an overly reverberent room based on my visits there. I have a few extra rigid fiberglass bass traps I could position if needed.

    As I said, my gut reaction was to reach for a ribbon with the brass....but Ben's comments about having a flat mic with an accurate low end makes sense to me. I can see how a tuba (or a gang of them!) could muddy things up. I don't have any deelightin' DPA 4006's laying about, but I do have a pair of 4061's, which I've had good results with in the past. What would you suggest for spacing in a room like this? 15" or somewhat wider?

    I guess I do not think of the Royer SF-24 as "muddy" - it seems less colored than say a pair of Coles or RCA's...but compared to omnis or LDC's, I reckon so....

    Boswell, I had thought about having the mics up in the air, say 10', because the players are on a small platform that is maybe 2' off the ground...but perhaps that's still a bit high... The players will indeed be in a semi-circle and one player will have a brief solo backed up by the others.

    I do not want the room to overwhelm the tubas or to have them sound 'lost' in the room.

    If I was going to use LDC's, I don't have a pair of matched LDC mics (oh, the shame, the shame!!!) but I have a 414eb and I can borrow another 414eb from a friend - I could always try the M-S with these guys.

    Normally I record on-location with RADAR, but for this gig I am traveling light and will be using an Edirol R-4 (with external pre's - John Hardy M1's)....so, I could use up to four tracks here and experiment a bit...

    Any suggestions welcome!

    thanks,

    -dave


    PS: Bob, glad my post provided some excitement and is not "the same old same old"...or perhaps, as the motto for Fat Possum records goes "Not the same old blues crap!" :D
     
  12. Zilla

    Zilla Active Member

    In order to offer advise on equipment or technique, the advisor should have a clear aural picture in their mind of what a tuba ensemble is supposed to sound like in the first place. This is tough because most won't!

    I certainly don't. Is bottom ultimately that important? Will one find that too much low end will cloud the music. Or not. You may need mics that complement the ensemble's timbre. Or maybe contrast it. Hmmm...

    I think that answer may lay in first understanding the repertoire. Tuba arrangements must be fairly unique. How would you imagine the sound of that ensemble playing the music to be recorded? How can you get the intent of the compositions, as performed by the tubas in that church, captured onto disc? A study of the repertoire would probably be my guiding light for finding how to making this recording work.
     

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