How to record a brassband in a church

Discussion in 'Brass' started by Rudy Holland, Dec 7, 2019.

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  1. Rudy Holland

    Rudy Holland Active Member

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    Dec 5, 2019
    Location:
    Groningen,the Netherlands
    I would like to record a local brassband in our village church . This building has some challenging acoustics .( reverb) What would be the best approach? Condenser mics, dynamic mics, ORTF, MS etc...I'm by far not an experienced soundguy but for me this is just a hobby.
    The mics I have are:
    1x shure beta 52A
    7x Shure SM57
    6x electrovoice 320
    1x Electrovoice RE20
    1x Line Audio CM3
    2x Line audio CM4
    2x Line audio OM1
    2x Neumann KM 184
    3x beyerdynamic M 201 TG
    6x samson CM 10B PZM
    1x AKG C414 XLS
    1x AKG C214
    1x sennheiser MD 441 U
    1x akg D112 MK2
    4x oktava mk 012
    During recording I will not have control of the gain settings or be able to monitor the audio, because I will operate one of my videocamera's. I 'm limited to record 24 channels 96khz/24bit.
    This is the spot they will be playing: https://www.kerk-loppersum.nl/
    A couple of months ago I made an registration of them playing in another building, just using the inbuild cameramics and an handheld audiorecorder to get the sound. This was not the best way I know, but having only 15 min to set up the gear, it was ok for the moment:
     
  2. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

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    As you won't have control (I've done exactly the same thing with having to look after a camera or two) I'd proceed like this - but VIDEO probably is a big issue, because without doubt, the best position involves microphone suspension above the conductors head, or close.

    As you have 24 tracks, and lots of microphones you have some scope.

    Not sure of the physical layout of the church, but if it's old, as our ones are here in the UK, see if they will let you run a catenary cable. If the church has a central aisle, with the roof supported vault style, from pillars it is often, with prior notice and permission, possible to suspend a tight 3mm steel wire cable right across. They'll be comforted by your soft protection for their wood and stone. I usually use the straps I hang lighting bars and truss from round the stonework or timber and then use karibiners to attached the cable. I like a centre X/Y, but also add outriggers to safeguard/add width. A tall stepladder and cable ties does the rest and clears the space for video.

    The trouble is the musicians if they are gifted amateurs and the section balance in these brass bands can be tricky - too many cornets, not enough euphonium! that kind off thing. You also tend to find percussion gets lost if the player is less, er, proficient - so plays quieter. The good bands have excellent self-balance and with a decent conductor, the X/Y will probably sound wonderful.

    At rehearsal (a vital thing to attend) you can spot the instruments that are weak, and sometimes a spot mic for these can help. I suspect that unless the pieces they play are very fast with very precise articulation, then they'll blend nicely and the church acoustics will work well with X/Y. With your mics, I'd suggest the two Neuman condensers for the X/Y with the two Oktavas as the outriggers, and my favourite on your list, the M201 Beyer's for the spot mics of the smaller instruments. The 6 EV 320s are also appealing for the lower brass spot mics if you really need them, but are horribly big, but at least black!

    If you cannot do the wire suspension, then a centre X/Y will probably be unacceptable visually, so an A/B approach on tall stands with the 184s would be my start.You do get a very wide feel with A/B in a church but not normally a 'wrong' sound, just a bit bigger somehow. If you can avoid the spot mics in the mix afterwards, I'd do that - use them for emergency coverage.

    Levels wise - if you ask them for the loudest thing they play, use that as a guide but they will always go past that level, so whatever max level you normally use, set the maximum at rehearsal maybe 6dB lower.

    Other problems will be the audience - who will be noisy. This always makes Blumlein, my favourite, a poor choice where people might clap inappropriately. A/B does reduce the audience - however a couple of mics for recording them can be handy. I wish you luck with it - sounds a great project. I took this just before the recording at one at a large church near where I live.
     

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  3. Rudy Holland

    Rudy Holland Active Member

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    Thanks for your quick response! Would it be a good thing micing up the rhythm section a bit ? I'm not sure if I can position the XY mics near the director but I'll have to improvise I guess. I do have some really high, sturdy lightstands (7m) to tie a cable on, hmm..
     
  4. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

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    To be honest it depends on the player. Very often the drums are very basic. Often a snare and a cymbal. A few use a kit but if they do a single overhead will do the trick. I’d take your collection of mics stands and cables and put out as many as you can in the time. Start with a stereo pair and then add for coverage. You don’t really want a close miked recording but sometimes belts and braces is safest
     
  5. Keith Johnson

    Keith Johnson Active Member

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    The answer to this - as always - is it depends.

    Just to counterbalance paulaears’ statement a little...drums / perx with ‘brass bands’ (the one the OP has posted a link to isn’t quite a brass band in the British sense...it’s augmented with woodwinds for example). ..often isn’t as limited as he states. It depends on both the level of the band and the repertoire they’re playing...a recent recording of mine employed all sorts of stuff including a full drum kit, separate concert toms, extra suspended cymbals, timpani (4), a vibraphone, a xylophone, glockenspiel, 5 octave marimba, Concert bass drum, a large collection of hand percussion...you get the idea ;)

    What is it you’re actually trying to achieve?

    Is it a live concert or studio session?

    Paul has covered the salient points but at its simplest if you’re trying to cover the band as the audience would hear it for video then keeping it simple would be the way I would go...control over individual sections may seem desirable but is it really necessary? At the end of the day, an audience member in the 5th roe isn’t going to be able to turn the euphoniums up (or down...we can be loud ;) ) so for the performance to be audience ready the MD should balance it. Capture his performance rather than trying to second guess and create one.

    Unless that’s your remit.

    Personally I’d rig the KM184s as a stereo pair (I prefer ORTF or NOS over XY but that’s what it is...a preference) and I might be tempted to put another pair towards the back (the CM4s probably) in case I needed a bit more focus because of the room and leave it as that.
     
  6. Rudy Holland

    Rudy Holland Active Member

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    I'm intending to record the complete performance and get a 3min. video compilation for a local facebook newspage. So the audio recording is not that critical and I maybe better off using a limited mic setup and use the time to put my 8 camera's on the right spots. Nevertheless good audio is very important . I expect 200/300 people to come, and that would surely improve the acoustics.(Still I would love to close-mic the whole bunch and have some mix options as I've done before with a couple of bigbands but that will not be realistic this time)
     
  7. Keith Johnson

    Keith Johnson Active Member

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    OK, so from the sound of your post the video element appears to carry a little more weight than the audio though I fully understand your comment about still needing high quality audio.

    Bearing that in mind, the question to ask yourself is 'how important is it that you can't see the recording hardware'? Lots of video directors come with the stipulation that "none" of the microphones / stands / cables etc are visible, and they expect it to be done by magic. If that aspect is important to you, then your mic list precludes certain aspects of that...especially with the LDCs....and perhaps you've got nickel KM184s...

    There are, of course, degrees to which you can go to minimise visual impact...black XLR shells, running stereo cables / multis to minimise spaghetti, use of active cabling or extension tubes if you're using Schoeps / Neumman / A N Other mics, tall K&M uprights on round bases etc, but they all just make it more complicated and / or expensive - especially if they need to remain as good as hidden from 8 camera angles....which again points me towards fewer mics in as optimal a place as you can.
     
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  8. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

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    For the past few years of doing theatre shows, I got fed up losing XLR cables, so I started using purple mic cable. Very easy to spot compared to black. When I got the first of a series of opera recordings this visibility was going to be a problem, so like Keith says, I had to make up dozens of new black ones - and good tip is to make long ones so they can go right around the perimeter of the area. 20m can be considered short in these places! Looking at the photos of the dutch church, suspension from above looks tricky. Anchor points are low and the span wide. Looks vs sound will be a battle!
     
  9. Rudy Holland

    Rudy Holland Active Member

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    Just thinking of some scenarios: if I can not put any mic in a decent position in front/above of the band would a mid/side mic setup between the conductor and the band do any good , (so right in front of the conductor) ? Or do you think this is too close to some trumpets/saxes . Or I could set up some high mic stands with long (2m) boomarms, pointing inwards the group, as well and combine the tracks in the mix. Though comb filter/ reverb issues are to be expected I guess.
     
  10. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

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    I think you'll not have comb filtering issues as the relative volume of each mic's capture is quite different. Much depends on the balance of the players. Brass is a devil sometimes because they're all so directional. You can be close to a trumpet or cornet and find it quiet, but move the mic into it's output cone and it suddenly goes up. Some of the horns go up, not forward, so unlike strings where you can point away in a logical manner, this goes wrong with brass. What happens in a church is that the reverb brass might be quite string and the actual instrument you're close to will be quieter than you expect. If close miking has to be the way for aesthetic reasons, then the positions will be quite unsymmetrical and odd - with the sensible place being able to cover sections. It will probably sound wonderful - just be prepared to move things about in a quite weird way! Don't forget that the conductor balances for their position, so maybe you can mount the smaller mics somewhere there, maybe not as high as you'd like, but still in a good place? Experiment away, and as you have plenty of channels you can get away with it. In that picture I posted, there was a choir and an overhead mic was banned because the DVD was deemed the most critical because it generated the money. I used a stereo mic in the centre, below the conductors eyeliner, and two pairs of outrigged mics aiming at the ear sections which got blended quite nicely.
     
  11. Keith Johnson

    Keith Johnson Active Member

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    I was talking to someone in the UK who records local performances using the mics pointing in scenario, for broadcast on his internet radio show and he sent me some audio samples. The issue he encountered wasn’t so much comb filtering, but serious correlation issues that caused massive image instability resulting in instruments moving from side to side or just skipping about in a frequency dependent manner.

    Another potential is to try 4 mics low down across the front of the stage with an additional pair of rear outriggers between the tubas and the perx - that can give ok results and is often used for AV recording of competitions...again it depends on how intrusive you find the hardware.
     
  12. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

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    If you can't do centre X/Y, or your favourite coincident technique - in a church it's always worth trying A/B with spaced cardioids, or even omni. The acoustics kind of control the success, but you get a stable image and they're out of the visual picture. In bigger, more reverberant spaces it can get a bit much, but other than the tips in this useful topic, close miking is often the only sane solution when you just cannot get the mics where you want them. I even did one where I attached radio mics with omni mics to metal, straightened coat hangers and put low stands out for every section of a choir performing in a circus ring, and nobody really noticed them! I had the kit on the shelf, and tried it, and while not ideal - got the recording.
     
  13. Rudy Holland

    Rudy Holland Active Member

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    I think these musicians are not used to performe in front of a intimidating number of mics and cables, so I guess keeping it low profile would be the best. Since the recording will be around christmas time maybe there will be some decorations to coverup a mic. I do have some sennheiser wireless sets wich I use for voices but I'm not sure this will be suitable for brassinstruments too. I can give it a try anyway. To avoid people tripping over mic cables I could use some of my standalone fieldrecorders and syncing them up in post using timecode, though the preamps are not really the best. On the other hand, the Zoom f6 has 32bit float , so no stress of clipping tracks!
     
  14. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

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    Be very wary of trying this in a larger space. Syncing is easy in a normal multitrack as spill is minimal and wanted to unwanted ratio high but sliding waveforms on a timeline is a very delicate operation and the result can be terrible phase interactions like comb filtering and even an old 60s pop song effects. Sometimes it appears to work well for a few bars then something come in and sounds very odd. I’ve tried it a couple of times with outriggers or spot mics and results were never good unless the spot mic was close to the weak instrument and the outriggers made the mix on a stereo field meter on the output go crazy.
     
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    The New AT5047 Premier Studio Microphone Purity Transformed

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