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I am an audio student, and for my semester project in a recording class we have to record a group using at least 16 channels. Most of the class is recording rock bands in the studio, but I was asked by the director of bands to record his new piece. The recording will take place in an auditorium that has fairly good acoustics. The ensemble will be made up of about 30-40 musicians, including grand piano, upright bass (with a D.I.) and full percussion. I have limited access to microphones, but I know I can at least check out 16-18. They would be a mixture possibly including:
Shure SM57
Shure SM58
Shure SM 7b
AKG D112
Neumann U87
Audio-Technica 4050
Oktava MK012

We have at least two of each mic listed above, but only one Neumann.

The reason I am posting this is to see what ideas more experienced engineers have. I have searched the internet for ideas, but I haven't found anything overly helpful. It must be at least 16 tracks, and most of the set-ups I have found don't even reach half of that.

Also, as a side note, we also have access to a Holophone H2-PRO 5.1. So ideas about surround mixing are also welcome.

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Boswell Thu, 02/09/2012 - 03:15

Wow! That's a lot of mics and cabling to set up just for you to use only the central pair in the final mix.

I'm only half joking. Your main sound and all the postional information is going to come from the central pair, so it's important that you choose carefully and experiment with the types of mic and their position for these two. Once you have done that, the others can be chosen and positioned around the band as highlight or spot mics. And then you have to deal with the percussion.

With the exception of the kick (D112) and snare (SM57) drum mics, most of the ones you will want to use around the band will be small diaphragm condenser (SDC) types. I would have another dig in the cupboard and see what else is in there.

What types of pre-amps and recording interface do you have available?

alyak72 Fri, 02/10/2012 - 16:38

I know it's a ton a mics! I plan on using only 2-4 for the actual demo recording, but I have to find a way to add 12-14 more for the class project.

The pre-amps we have available are a couple of Motus, a Motu Traveler, M-Audio Octane, Sapphire Pro, and a Pro Tools one (sorry, I can't remember which one off the top of my head).
The interface we will most likely be using is Pro Tools 10, but I also have Ableton Live on my computer and another in my group has Sony Vegas 9 on his.

TheJackAttack Sat, 02/11/2012 - 15:31

Why must it be 16 tracks? That is a little asinine to assign a prerequisite number without reason.

Stereo main pair: 2 (3 if decca tree)
U87 on piano (single mic not ideal for this purpose but whatever): 1
Outriggers one each on wings: 2 sdc
Bass: 1 (sm7b in this setting.....of your list anyway)
possible spots: 1 flutes, 1 clarinets, 1 saxes, 1 trumpet section, 1 tympani, principal horn [almost never needed]

RemyRAD Sun, 02/12/2012 - 18:49

I would go at this in a little different manner. They are testing you for your knowledge that you have learned and your use thereof in your technique. Your main pair should be MS. A good place to utilize that one 87 & a AT 4050. The 87 could be figure of 8 or the 4050. Then you can use those 2 SDC Russian thingies as highlights for the woodwinds or other lower output not amplified instruments. That other 4050 over top of the percussion drums set. Or, it might be cool to utilize it in figure of 8 mode to better capture a pair of instruments that might be a highly interfered with from louder instruments behind them in a similar but closer position to instruments as the main pair MS similar positioning. All the dynamics highlighting everything else you can stick them on. 16, no problem. Child's play. Beginner stuff. It would even be cooler to try and hide the microphones as much as possible for television.

You pass.
Mx. Remy Ann David

Cucco Mon, 02/13/2012 - 08:22

Let me offer yet another perspective on this.

While I wouldn't ever, as an instructor, say you MUST use x-amount of tracks, I understand that prof is asking you to work with complex signals, routing, channel mapping and management, etc.

For a wind-ensemble/concert band, it is possible to use 16 or more channels, but the moral of that story is finesse. If the hall is good and the acoustics are good, then you're in better shape (and you do indicate that they are).

First, go with your main pair and your flanks. Use MS, ORTF or XY as others suggest and feel free to add the flanks (omnis). IMO, this is what I would go with based on what you have:

Oktava 012 in ORTF or XY
AT 4050 as flanks

total channel count now = 4

For your upright bass (why DI?? this is concert band, no?) I would use the u87

Channels = 5

Piano - a stereo spot - SM57

Channels = 7

Trombone Spots = SM7

Channels = 9

Bass Clarinet/Bari Sax spot (single) = D112

Channels = 10

Timpani spot - SM57 (assuming you have access to multiples of these)

Channels = 12

Chimes spot = SM58 single

Channels = 13

Horn spot = SM57/58 pair

Channels = 15

Bassoon spot (single) = SM57/58

Channels = 16


The vast majority of these spots would only be brought up enough to barely hear them along with the main pair. They should also be panned accordingly. Honestly, with all of these low-quality spots, the recording will likely sound flat and lifeless, but that in itself is a lesson worth learning through real-world experience!

When I considered auditioning for the Army band as a live sound engineer, one of their tests was to set up a live-sound rig for their concert band. It's a bigger band and they have more (and better) gear, but their goal was to see what choices of gear I made and how I used it. I chose not to audition, but I found the exercise to be interesting.

To me, I see this exercise similar for you. Try different mics and see what works.

The other thing I want to point out, I often times put up more mics than I need. For a couple reasons...
A friend of mine who is an orchestra that is on the Sony label (and his friend records) recently cut a classical album that the engineer used over 40 mics on! I'm talking 40 sweet mics too! RCA 77s, AEA 84s, u67s, M50s, etc. Ironically, the engineer said that, while he tracked all of the channels, he knows that the mix engineer at Sony will only use about 8-10 of them for the final mix.

I've got a few clients that are of the mindset that every note and every instrument must be multi-tracked. It's easier for me to smile and show up with lots of mics than to explain physics to them.

One other thing you need to worry about.

Those guys who are tracking rock bands don't need to worry about a mix crashing because the computer couldn't hold up with 16 rolling tracks at 24 bit, 44.1kHz for 90 minutes straight! I'd tweak your system based on stuff you can find on the interwebs and then run some tests (including a dummy recording for 2 hours straight) to see where you have buffer drops and all-out crashes.

Best of luck!

alyak72 Fri, 02/24/2012 - 10:26

Thanks for all of the advice! We are recording tonight, so wish me luck. We've already had set backs in terms of gear. There has apparently been theft, so quite a few of the microphones and cables have disappeared, but we'll work with what we've got. Again, thank you so much for all of your advice.


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