Recording a 'Big Band', any thoughts?

Discussion in 'Microphones (live or studio)' started by Ed Kinsella, Apr 2, 2002.

  1. Ed Kinsella

    Ed Kinsella Guest

    Howdy Friends,

    The deal is this; I need to record a Jazz big band, (Drums/Bass/Grand Piano/5Trumpet/4Trombone/7Sax) all at once with the following gear avaliable

    3 x AGK C414 (2 B-ULS, 1 EB)
    2 x AKG C3000
    1 x RODE NT1
    1 x AGK D112
    6 x SM57
    6 x SM58
    AGK drum clips (418's and 419's)

    They are very good players

    My question really should be obvious from the kit list, where to focus the quality mikes :confused:
    Basically, I don't wanna use two 414's over the drums and leave the beautiful brass (which is the main body of the group) not properly taken care of.
    Will be tracking all mics individually to a MOTU 2408 MK II through outboard preamps, mixing down through a Midas probably, but not worried about that at this stage, just need to get it in the can.

    Have a TINY bit of budget left if there are any cheap points that need addressing, but not much.

    Basically, which will benefit most from the lavishings of a good mic (C414) a sax, a trumpet or a Trombone? Also, I am resigned sadly to recording the piano in mono with the RODE, pity, but there just ain't enough mics (so what else is new).

    Thanks for your time on this challeging recording problem!

    PS The Room sound ain't all that great, has unpleasant sound really, is too 'Big'. I know this because last time I had to do it with a cross pair and not much else! was pretty nasty.

    Cheers Again

  2. joeq

    joeq Guest

    I just did a small big band - twelve pieces plus vocalist (to ADATs) on location in a church. I used a coincident pair of 414's to get an ambient sound. This room was also kind of "big" sounding- being mostly brick and glass. Instead of using these 2 mics as "reverb" I wanted to get the "sound" of the band on these tracks. I asked them to set up as if they were on stage.

    I used a little clicker (Acoustic Impulse Generator model 0 ) and with the tape rolling, clicked it next to each individual section mic. Then I time-shifted the tracks in the computer so the clicks from the close mics would all arrive at the ambient pair the same time.

    All I had to do was line up the clicks in the waveform editor. I A-B'd the before and after and this technique definitely adds a lot of punch and clarity to the mix

    One problem that I had was not enough mics/channels- a single mic had to cover the whole sax section for example. When mixing it was hard to get the solos loud enough without a lot of bleed.

    If I had to do it over again I would try to individually mic each horn even if it means single mics on piano and drums.

    Speaking of which I actually got a great drum sound with just a small diaphragm condenser over the drummer's shoulder aiming at the hi hat - that's it. Big band drums are supposed to sound "open" - you don't really need to close mic all the individual drums of the kit.

    And the piano sounded great with a single PZM taped to a panel in front of the sounding board.

    I had 414s and they worked well for trumpets and trombones as well as the room. You might even want to try the D112 on the trombones

    Get the soloists to stand up and "address" their mic- but not point the bell of their instrument directly at it. Ask them to aim a bit off to the side.

    I read somewhere that you should record trumpets with a bit lower level than you would think. Something about banging your anti-aliasing filters with all those really high harmonics.
  3. e-cue

    e-cue Active Member

    Oct 5, 2000
    Man, I would highly, highly suggest a pair PZM microphones. Even radio shack Realistic if that all you can afford (if you can't barrow some).
    If you are doing everything live all at once (which any jazz project I've ever worked on was), PZM mics have always helped me capture the overall 'feel' of the performance. The room not sounding good will be quite a challedge. Get on a ladder & move around the room looking for the 2 stereo 'sweet spots', then (I know most people tape PZM's to a wall) place a good sized piece of cardboard on a mic stand exactly where your head is at and tape the PZM mic to the piece of cardboard. This has worked greatly for me with chamber music, symphony, live horns, field recordings, etc... Good luck!
  4. sign

    sign Guest

    If the room doesn't sound good like you say, try to find a sweet spot for an ORTF pair of 414's.

    Use the other mics as spot mics.

    The C3000's will give you a decent sound on the grand.

    Important is you have to deal with spill, which is part of your sound, so you need mics with a nice of axis response for the sax players. This mics will capture a lot of horn sound too. This is no problem at all as long as you have good mics.

    You don't need many mics on drums, a kick and one or two overheads will do.

    Have fun!
  5. Ed Kinsella

    Ed Kinsella Guest

    Cool, thanks Guys! :)

    Some interesting thoughts there, will experiment with the delay realignment with that clicker JoeQ, very interesting. A pair of 414's make great crosspairs I agree, so will look for a sweet spot in the room.

    Perhaps if I use a pair of C1000's over the drums (not brilliant I know, but will get the cymbals through the mix). I can then use AKG 418's and 419's to boost the individual drums thremseleves if nessecary, have plenty of tracks. That will free up the c3000 for other uses.

    Am a bit worried about a condenser pair on the Grand, want to have the lid open, otherwise the piano player won't be able to hear $*^t and the recording of the piano will sound like $*^t! but will be lots of spill from the rythmn section in to these mics!? I know spill is part of the deal, but don't like musshy sounding Big bands.

    So, is it worth using 2 of the 3 C414's as crosspairs in the room? Bearing in mind there will be vox overdubs and we're looking for a tightish sound.

    Thanks very much for your input guys, very interesting.
  6. sign

    sign Guest

    Ed, you can find some very useful posts on a thread from a while ago:

    (Dead Link Removed)

    Hope it helps :tu:
  7. Ed Kinsella

    Ed Kinsella Guest

    Cheers Han :w:

    Some interesting stuff there, will certainly try Recorderman's piano technique, sounds like just what I need.

    Things is though, the big band are not playing 'old skool' big band music, is quite modern/funky stuff, hence the bass is fretless electric. This is good from the point of view of those upright nightmares I have read about!

    Will try a pair of condensers over the drums, then perhaps 414's in crosspair in a sweet spot fancing the brass section. Trouble is, the session is very tight on time, and is essentially on location, so will have no way to listen back effectively at the time :w:

    PS, from what I have read up to now, I get the impression I should be using the dynamics (57/58's)on the trumpets and trombones, and saves the remaining condensers for the saxes?


  8. knightfly

    knightfly Active Member

    Jan 18, 2002
    I love Dave Sanborn's music, but hate his sax sound (takes yer head off) read on liner notes he uses a 414, so If I had a spare 414 left I would put it on the sax only if the sax player took my parking spot :=) Guess it depends on how much you need the sax to cut thru the mix... Steve
  9. knightfly

    knightfly Active Member

    Jan 18, 2002
    I love Dave Sanborn's music, but hate his sax sound (takes yer head off) read on liner notes he uses a 414, so If I had a spare 414 left I would put it on the sax only if the sax player took my parking spot :=) Guess it depends on how much you need the sax to cut thru the mix... Steve
  10. sign

    sign Guest

    Hi Ed

    The thread I was pointing at was about my problems with acoustic bass and thanks to this very good forum (Recorderman and the other guys really helped me) I solved my problem.

    Actually this evening I was called by one of the musicians of the jazzband for whom I started my questioning about the bass micing and he told me the CD has gotten great reviews in the magazines and is selling good.

    One of the reviewers mentioned the very good sound because of the two inch recording and the non editing....LOL :D

    And all this happened because of my fellow engineers gave me some great advise and told me not to be afraid of spill.

    Recording acoustic bands like big bands, jazz bands and whatsoever is something different from rock and pop.

    It all has to do with good mics and placement. I did a lot of FOH for big bands and found out that the most important mics are those for the saxophones, because the horns are so loud they will cause a lot of bleed into the sax mics.

    I used some four or five Sennheiser MD421 or 441's on the saxophones and always got compliments for the sound.

    You can get some pretty good results from the SM57/58 as well, don't be afraid.

    This last weekend I was recording an eleven piece Klezmer band on location, in an old schoolbuilding.

    The room also didn't sound good and it's like jazz and all other acoustic bands, spill, spill and more spill. Imagine some five or six horns, a very loud clarinet, a drummer, a guy with a very big tom on his belt and in the same room a violin, an acoustic upright piano and an upright bass.

    I used a Beyer ribbon for the violin and everybody is very happy with the overall sound which is 60% sound from the instruments and 40% spill.

    Ed, you carefully read the remarks Recorderman made and you will do a great job!!!

    Have fun!
  11. Ed Kinsella

    Ed Kinsella Guest

    Great stuff Guys!

    Okay, I agree with the 414 stuff Knightfly, I did a session once with an alto player using a 414, he wondered during the mixdown why it sounded like a Kazo!! :D
    Took three days to get that sound reasonable!

    Okay, will go for C414 as crosspair overheads in a sweetspot, that is the way I have done most orchestra and Choral recording in the classical context, so will try it here.

    Will trust the trumpets and trombones to the SM's

    You advice has been a great comfort! :w:

    Still open to any ore, is still a couple of weeks off!

    Thanks again

  12. FifthCircle

    FifthCircle Well-Known Member

    Feb 12, 2001
    Los Angeles, CA
    Home Page:
    This is what I would do in your situation:

    A left-center-right array of spaced cardiods for the horn section. Mic them as one section and make them ballance themselves. I'd use the 414's for this and put the EB in the center. I'd suggest about 3 feet in front, 6-8 feet high and aimed down towards the saxes. (move as needed for the best sound) If there are solos inside the section, place SM58s for solos only. I'd only bring them up in the mix at those times.

    On the drums, put a single Rode NT 1 out positioned in front of the set. I would put that mic about a foot or two in front of the set under the cymbals, "looking" towards the snare. If you find that you aren't getting enough kick, throw in the D112, but keep the level low. Once again, let the player balance him or herself and control the sound.

    For the Bass, I'd put a SM57 under the tailpiece or on a small tripod stand on the bass player's left side (high strings), near the f-hole.

    I'm not a huge fan of the C3000, but since that is left, put that on the piano. Position inside the instrument with the lid off or open the opposite direction of the drums. You'll probably need to EQ these mics a bit as the C3000 is pretty bright sounding. There are a million valid ways to mic a piano, but I'd position high-end and low end near the hammers for articulation. You may find with these mics that you'll need to move them closer to the center of the area so the high-end isn't quite as harsh.

    Because you will have substantial leakage, I would pan so that what you hear is what you see. Put the piano off to the left and the horns off to the right.

    The sound you'll have here is somewhat more of an "old-school" approach, but it can get you a very pleasing result. I've done this on numerous shows where I have a shortage of mixer channels rather than microphones. I've gotten some great recordings this way (the big band example on my website's listening page was done very similarly to this).

  13. Ed Kinsella

    Ed Kinsella Guest

    Cheers Ben :D

    I reckon that given the mic shortage, yours is a very sensible solution, am a big fan of the 414 and believe me, the sound in front of this horn section is, as Duke Ellington once said 'Such sweet thunder!' :p

    So should get a phat brass with that setup.
    Have the 2 C3000's for the piano, I agree, they ain't great.

    How about the 2 C3000's in stero over the drums (will be playing quite fucky at times!) and then have the Rode in the piano? Mono piano is probably okay for big band.

    Just a thought, but cheers, you have made me feel a lot less anxious!

    You know how it is, having a good band is great, but increases the pressure to produce results!

    Thanks again


    PS Bass is electric, THANK GOD FOR THAT!
  14. Ed Kinsella

    Ed Kinsella Guest

    Sorry, just seen the horrifying spelling mistake in that post! :(
  15. Ted Nightshade

    Ted Nightshade Member

    Dec 9, 2001
    "Such Sweet Thunder"- God I love that album.
    Oh bliss.
  16. FifthCircle

    FifthCircle Well-Known Member

    Feb 12, 2001
    Los Angeles, CA
    Home Page:
    I would still use 2 microphones on the piano. You'll end up with a bigger sound and a better pickup on the piano.

    I suggest the drums as a single mic because being in the center of the room, the drums *will* bleed into everything. You have one microphone for a bit of definition on the set. The bleed into the horn mics, piano, etc... will provide a bit of space around the set.

    Also, the secret to making this work is to pan as you would see on stage. The drums aren't 30 feet wide so why should they be as wide as the entire band. Same with the piano. It is amazing the kind of sound that you get when you have some imaging. :)


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