Recording Jazz Trio, Grand Piano, Drums, Upright Bass.

Discussion in 'Bass' started by JAZZZZ, Oct 7, 2007.


    JAZZZZ Guest

    Dear Engineers,

    We are trying to record our jazz trio inside a small ..13'x19'x9' room.

    looking at everything from the front, it's just like a 13x19 stage and if you are on the audience side looking at the stage , here how we are set up in the room:

    Grand Piano on the left , Drums in the center, Upright Bass on the right

    the Grand Piano it's on the 13' left wall opening toward the long way of the room and musicians.
    the Drum set it's in the center of the room near the 19' wall facing the short way of the room,
    the Upright Bass it's near the right 13' wall

    We are very close to each other..and we like when our drummer can play at full volume with good dynamic.

    We have enough mics... but we end up using only two condensers "omni" for for the Bass and one for the Piano,
    No mics for the drums, there is already enough drums in the mix from piano and bass mics.

    The more mics we use, the more problems we get.. , and close miking with condensers doesn't work very good either.....

    We are thinking about buying pickups for Grand piano and Upright Bass and go direct.
    Buying amplification for the Grand Piano and Upright Bass.
    keep experimenting just with 2 or 3 condensers and stereo mic techniques, without amplification, moving mics and instruments around the room.
    Experimenting with dynamic hyper cardioid mics only...
    etc. etc
    but we don't have much experience in engineering and we need some help..
    Are we going to make it?
    Which will be the best approach for recording a Jazz Trio in a small room like this?

    We have:
    3 condenser omni measurement mics
    3 small condenser hyper-cardioid mics
    11 cardioid large condenser mics,
    4 cardioid small condenser mics
    5 cardioid dynamic mics
    4 hyper-cardioid dynamic mics
    we record with delta 1010 24/96, protools, we have presonus m80 preamp, compressors, a behringer console.

  2. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Mar 8, 2004
    Fredericksburg, VA
    That's a fair amount of detail. I think we can work with this...

    I sincerely hope Zilla jumps in here as he is by far the expert on this exact type of arrangement.

    In any case, I do an awful lot of recordings just like this (only add vocalist in most cases), so I might have some help.

    First, a couple precautionary statements.

    1- Please don't try a pickup on bass or piano (unless you can try it for free.) You won't like the results nor will anyone else who listens. For bass I would say it *might* be passable, for piano, it just sounds like crap.

    2 - You're likely going to need some minor baffling

    Here's my approach to this kind of recording -

    1 - Piano - stereo mic. I usually stereo mic the piano from inside the instrument. This means that the lid must be on the tall stick or completely removed (the latter is probably better for a grand in a medium/small room). I like to use any of the following for this purpose:
    A- Audix SCX-25
    B- Neumann TLM 193
    C- AT4040

    Depending upon which mic I use, I will change how I use them. For the traditional LDC, I will often do an ORTF or similar above and just in from the outside lip of the piano.

    2 - Drums - For jazz, I most often go with a 3 mic set up - 2 overheads and a kick mic. My overheads range from a pair of Schoeps CMC 6 MK 4s in spaced AB over the kit (aiming down - spaced to pick up certain aspects of the kit. If you don't have the Schoeps, go with something that has a full sound and good off-axis sound without a huge presence peak). I'll also occassionally do a MS pair in front of the kit depending upon the kit then use a LDC in front of the kick to get a nice tight kick sound.

    3 - Bass - omni mic right at the area between the bridge and the tail. If the bassist won't let you mount it inside there with some rolled up foam, just place it slightly off the instrument. You may need a little compression if your bassist moves a bit. Don't worry about bleed into the omni mic, you're close enough to the bass that it shouldn't be a major issue.

    4 - Room - this to me is important. If the room is decent sounding, I would put a spaced pair of omnis in the room where the mix seems to come together well and use this as the main pair of mics. In the mix, bring these mics up to the point where you have a cohesive sound but still plenty of headroom (20 - 25 dB of average headroom). Then, start by bringing the bass in until you get a good, solid foundation without it being boomy or excessive. Then the kit, then the piano. This additive mixing should help create a very cohesive sound without the need for extraneous effects. However, if you'd like, a small touch of a quality reverb may be in order.

    As for baffling - if you need to (and I often do when working in environments such as these), I recommend moving blankets. You can pick some up at Markertek for $20 a pop. Having 4 or 5 on hand for a session like this can be a life saver....too much bleed from drums in the piano mics, place a waste-high baffle, etc. Try to get as much of this solved with mic choice and placement first, then move from there with your baffling. Bear in mind, mic bleed is not a bad thing, especially in jazz. Don't try to completely eliminate it. In fact, I would avoid the use of hypercardioids all together for this type of session as they tend to narrow the sound too much and create way too much isolation.

    Sorry for the long reply - hope it helps.

  3. Zilla

    Zilla Active Member

    Mar 29, 2005
    WY / CA
    Home Page:
    1. Recording with or without audience?
    2. If with audience, is the bass being amplified?
    3. What style of jazz are you playing?
    4. What is the intended purpose of the final recording?

    JAZZZZ Guest

    Thank you for your help and long replay with precious information's.

    Initially we experimented recording with a similar approach 2 mic on piano, 3 on drum, 1 on bass, all condensers.
    "The only difference is that we don't have the mics you suggested
    And also we are not familiar with LDC, ORTF and LDC terminology ...
    so will need to learn about this.."

    Our problem with this kind set up was the drum bleed on piano and bass , that yes, is not a bad thing, but in this case it's really to much!
    The piano mic pick up more drums than piano...

    Baffling will really resolve this? And what kind of baffling will do? just moving blankets?

    About the room mics, we pick up the room sound with 2 condenser mics on 2 of the ceiling tricornes of the long wall ... Axially this sound better "natural" than a regular overhead drum mic that usually in our room tend to sound too boxy...
    Axially all the instruments sound better from the tri corners mics...
    The only problem is the balance between the instruments! there is not enough piano compared to drums...etc...

    Will be appropriate a PA "amplification" for piano and bass to bring all the instruments to an even level in the room?

    A minimalist approach can be an option for a our small room ?

    we found this article on the web...

    """KH: Can you also get good results if a drummer is in the group?
    SJ: Yes. Gert recorded a jazz trio in Stockholm using only two microphones on the eponymous album by the Ludvig Berghe Trio. The album graphics includes (see Figure 2) a photograph taken from above the sound stage looking down on the musicians. The two microphones were in omni pick up located in the curve of the piano. The stand up bass was placed on a riser a foot or so away and slightly to the side of the center of the backside of the omni pair. The drums, which have the potential to overpower the other instruments, were located approximately 8 feet away toward the end of the piano with several tall baffles behind the kit.

    It was evidence of Gert's genius to see the logic of how he balanced the sound and dynamics of the instruments and players of a very energetic and commercial jazz performance using only two inputs and no mixer. (Editor’s Note: The full album credits and three streamed examples are available online by clicking on the “Catalog” option at Even via lo res web streaming, the separation and clarity of the instruments is evident!)[/size]

    Thank you very much for helping.
  5. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Mar 8, 2004
    Fredericksburg, VA
    No problem...

    Technology terminology and acronyms -

    LDC = Large Diaphragm Condenser microphone
    SDC = Small diaphragm condenser
    ORTF = Mic pattern marked by use of 2 microphones positioned at 110 degrees from eachother (or 55 degrees off center axis) with their capsules spaced at 17 cm.

    Baffling the drums with the moving blankets is likely to help quite a bit. However, placement of the piano mics is critical. If you're positioning them so that they are facing the drums (as well as the piano) or even so their sides are facing the piano, you're likely to have a lot of bleed. However, facing them so that the rear of the mics are facing the drums and the fronts are facing the piano, you're likely to get much less bleed. (Although, in a room that sized, the difference won't be HUGE, it will be noticable.)

    I would STRONGLY advise against placing your room mics in the corners of the room. STRONGLY....VERY STRONGLY.

    So much goes on in the corner...reinforcement of bass frequencies, cancellation of higher frequencies, comb filtering and so much other badness, I just wouldn't go there. I would advise placing the mics at a 1/3 distance or 1/5 distance. This means, divide the room in thirds (or fifths) and mark the areas on the floor where these occur. Try placing your mics at the 1/3 or 2/3s (probaly the 2/3s as the 1/3 is probably too close). Then, from there, make minor adjustments front to back. Keep the capsules relatively close - maybe 2 feet give or take 6 inches or so.

    Perhaps some of the moving blankets behind the mics would work here too. Just not too close, maybe a couple feet back and high enough to make a difference.

    All of this is dependent upon whether the ensemble is balanced to begin with. If the drums over power in the room as it is, no amount of micing will fix this. Make sure that the musicians are blending well. I've found that in most cases, when a recording just won't balance well, it's because of:

    1 - Someone's playing without regard to what's going on around them (very common of drummers)
    2 - The acoustics of the room or the placement of the mics tend to emphasize or de-emphasize one or a group of instruments.

    Minimalism is cool and I like working with as little as possible when possible. However, minimalist approaches to recording take into consideration both of the points I listed above. If either or neither of these are dead on, the minimalist approach will not work.

    You don't have to have the mics I referenced by any stretch of the imagination. I simply listed them to give you an idea as to what I use for these situations. It probably wouldn't be a bad idea though to list what you do have a little more specifically than simply type of mic...give us brand and model and we'll have a little more to go on.

    Cheers -


    JAZZZZ Guest

    thanks for your question Zilla,
    1) No audience, we are inside a garage...
    2) the bass is not being amplified for now. But probably a PA for the piano and amplifier for the bass will help us to play better with full dynamic where it's needed.
    3) high energy, dynamic, creative style.
    4) Recording creative music, experimenting with our trio and friends.
    playing and recording at home what's usually not allowed in regular gigs etc..
    Also producing piano, drum and bass protools tracks for friends works composers, producers, etc...

    Thank you for your questions.
  7. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Mar 8, 2004
    Fredericksburg, VA
    Hmmm...if the piano (a grand) needs amplification to compete or blend in the mix, then the drums are way too loud. A PA on piano will definitely not add quality to the recording - only the sound of a poorly amplified piano sound to a jazz combo.

    Upright bass...maybe a different story, but for recording, I still might be inclined to not use a pickup.

    In any case, I'm guessing your drums are way too loud if you need to amplify everything else.

    JAZZZZ Guest

    Thanks Jeremy, thank you for all your teaching. This is a really good learning experience for us.

    1) OK, NO Room mic on the tricornes... we thought it sound more full... not sure why,

    2) Yes the drums over power in the room "axially more on the tape" but not because the drummer playing without regard to what's going on around , He's the first one to realize that the drum over power in the room and he play very soft to compensate for that... but for some songs we just like to play with more dynamic, we just need that for the song...for us...
    So... a bass amp and PA for the piano will kill the recording? Or we should try ?

    here the list of the Mics we have:

    ( 8 ) Oktava MK319 large condensers cardioid
    (2)MXL 2003 large condenser cardioid
    (1) MXL Mogami edition V69 Tube large condenser cardioid
    (2) Sterling audio ST31 small condenser hypercardioid
    (1) AKG C1000 S small condenser cardioid-hypercardioid
    (1) Audio Technica ATM 35 miniature condenser cardioid
    (3) Behringer ECM8000 measurement condenser omni
    (2) Behringer C-2 small condenser cardioid

    (1) Shure SM58 dynamic cardioid
    (1) Shure Beta 58 dynamic hypercardioid
    (1) Shure Beta 57 dynamic hypercardioid
    (4) Shure SM57 dynamic cardioid
    (1) Audio Technica ATM25 dynamic hypercardioid

    P.S. Minimalism will be a good experiment too...but probably this room it is too small for that...

    thanks again for your help.
  9. Zilla

    Zilla Active Member

    Mar 29, 2005
    WY / CA
    Home Page:
    If you need floor monitors while you play, then you are not balancing acoustically in the room, therefore a stereo mic technique will NOT work for you.

    If you decide to let the drummer play loud (overbalancing the ensemble) then you will need to use headphones for a monitor mix. Do not use floor monitors as they will just add cacophony in the room and smear the recording (as Cucco stated).

    A medium size garage (cement floor?) is already a limiting factor for sonics. Add a loud drummer and you are doomed from the start. The drums will not sound their best, and they will bleed strongly into everybody else's mic. The solution is quitter drumming technique. The quality of tone will improve and better separation is the bonus. Use mic placement to capture the energy level, not loud playing.

    In either case, a quantity of packing blankets is needed to treat the room and create more acoustic isolation between instruments. Buy them in a 5 or 10 pack for best economy.

    more later...
  10. JAZZZZ

    JAZZZZ Guest

    thanks again,
    I know what you mean... but look at this, can happen to be like that too :)

    OK .. maybe something in between... :wink:
  11. JAZZZZ

    JAZZZZ Guest

    Thanks Zilla,
    Yes, in fact we are not using bass amp or monitors right now....and the drummer do play with quitter technique and sensitivity and will keep it just like that then... thank you.
    but I guess you and Cucco are totally right ! We need some blankets in between...
    It was all about the recording and the mic bleed really... we are OK in the room, we can ear each other, we can play.
    And yes you are right , the acoustic of the room it's poor.

    So, forget about this approach then... :)

    P.S. How can we use this blankets? several layers attached to mic stands ?
  12. JAZZZZ

    JAZZZZ Guest

    Cucco and Zilla, thank you very much, all this helps tremendously

    We just come back upstairs ...
    We did follow all your instructions and now with all the 8 mic up, everything sound GOOD!!! We never had 8 mics up before...

    We replaced the piano mics, just like you explained, ORTF with the rear facing the drum, than we removed the two mics from the tricornes , etc etc...
    It sound much beter now! And we don't even have blankets jet!
    Also, previously the ride cymbal was only about 3 feet from the piano mics.....we just moved around a little.

    We have the gain on each M80 preamp at about +20 and everything look good...

    thank you so much ..

    We do have few questions:

    1) About our recording Equipment,
    What we should keep , what we should replace if there is better at similar cost? and what it's not really necessary?

    we have:

    behringer EURORACK MX3242X console.

    presonus M80 8 channel mic pre

    M-Audio audio Buddy two channel mic pe

    SM Pro Audio OC8 8 channel optical compressor

    Alesis 3630 dual channel compressor

    M-Audio Delta 1010 computer interface with protools M powered.

    Core one X2 mic cables
    (Dead Link Removed)

    Core one X2 instrument cable from the preamp to the interface..very short but unbalanced.
    (Dead Link Removed)

    and the following mics:

    ( 8 ) Oktava MK319 large condensers cardioid
    (2)MXL 2003 large condenser cardioid
    (1) MXL Mogami edition V69 Tube large condenser cardioid
    (2) Sterling audio ST31 small condenser hyper-cardioid
    (1) AKG C1000 S small condenser cardioid-hypercardioid
    (1) Audio Technica ATM 35 miniature condenser cardioid
    (3) Behringer ECM8000 measurement condenser omni
    (2) Behringer C-2 small condenser cardioid

    (1) Shure SM58 dynamic cardioid
    (1) Shure Beta 58 dynamic hyper-cardioid
    (1) Shure Beta 57 dynamic hyper-cardioid
    (4) Shure SM57 dynamic cardioid
    (1) Audio Technica ATM25 dynamic hyper-cardioid

    the M80 mic preamp output it is 0db,
    the input of delta1010 +4 or -10...

    2) Do we have the correct placement for the instruments in our rectangular room? How would you set up the trio in the room for recording?

    3) Do we really need the low cuts, -10 and -20, vintage warmth controls, phase, compressors etc. etc.. before reaching the interface?
    or perhaps an interface with build in mic pres and no cables or extra stuff will be a better approach today?

    4) How can we use this blankets? several layers attached to mic stands, any idea?

    5) Not sure if we understood correctly where in the room the room mics goes...near the ceiling? near one of the walls?

    thank you ... and sorry for all the questions.
    this forum really helps
    thanks again.
  13. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    Apr 4, 2006
    Blacksburg, VA
    As you've already seen, positioning of instruments and mics has more to do with the quality of recordings than equipment. I'd try putting the piano in the center of the room (actually, slightly away from the center - with all of its nodes), put the drums to the piano's left and the bassist to the right. Leave the top on the piano, but open. This will help shield the piano mics slightly from the drums.

    I'm don't think I have a clear enough idea about how you are arranging your system or enough experience with the models you are using to make specific recommendations on equipment, but I'll make two general comments. (1) While you are experimenting with positions and mic techniques strip away everything but what is absolutely necessary to get the material recorded. No outboard effects, no compression. Get your gain structure right with the minimal amount of equipment. Get the best clean, dry signal you can. When you feel you have done the best you can with the minimal setup, add the effects back one at a time and see if they really make an improvement. (2) It is usually a bad idea to make "lateral moves" on the type of semipro equipment you (and I) are using. Yes, there is stuff that is broken, defective, or just poorly made that can be replaced by stuff in the same price range to good effect, but its almost alway a waste of money to swap out one working piece of gear for another in the same quality group. In general it is best to work with what you have and save your pennies to move up in quality.
  14. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Mar 8, 2004
    Fredericksburg, VA
    I'll answer number by number -

    1 - I agree with Bob. Don't worry about replacing gear with gear. It just doesn't make sense. Unless something just isn't working. I'm in the process of retooling right now but it's to lighten my load, not make incremental improvements. Otherwise, I wouldn't sell gear to buy gear.

    The line outs on the M80 operate at +4, keep the input there on the receiving end.

    2 - As I understand it, your room is/was set up like this:
    (Dead Link Removed)

    I think this is okay, but you're likely to have a little excessive bleed into the piano mics from the drums as well as a slightly boomy piano.

    I would maybe suggest going this route:
    (Dead Link Removed)

    Don't worry too much about making the room look like a stage. Spread out and use the space in its entirety. Also, if it is a concrete floor, put some kind of damping material down under the kick drum - a blanket/rug or similar would be good. The thicker the better. Layers would be best.

    3 - I wouldn't do anything prior to the interface. Even when I'm using seriously good gear like Crane Song EQs or Comps or Manley Comps, etc., I don't usually insert it prior to the computer. I'll do it in post a lot of times if it needs to be done at all. For jazz, (especially what I call "parlor jazz" - small combos such as this playing music perhaps a little less progressive than the video you posted), I generally run without effects or minimal at best. For piano, I never touch an effect. For drums, maybe a tad bit of compression (light at most) and occassionally a little compression on bass. The caliber of the bass player usually dictates inversely how much compression is needed.

    4 - The blankets should be used to block line of sight between microphones if necessary/possible. I usually take a boom mic stand - orient the boom so that it's perpendicular to the stand (or parallel with the ground) and drape the blanket over it. It creates a 2 layer blanket that way and is pretty darn effective at blocking mid and high frequencies. (It doesn't do jack on low frequencies, but I don't generally find many phasing or bleeding issues from LF as I do with MF and HF).

    5 - The room mics go where the mix sounds best in the room. This is generally not near any walls. The rule of 3rds or 5ths is simply a guideline to get you started. In a room such as you're working with, I would suggest keeping the height of the mics at ear level. Walk around the room and find a spot where the whole group is coming in focus and sounds well balanced. If it sounds boomy to you, it will sound boomy to the mics. Don't fall into this trap. Sometimes (for some unknown reason) people fiind "boomy" to be similar to "euphoric" (Which, consequently, is why Bose sells so many acoustimass systems).

    You should be looking/listening for clear, articulate sound with little or no overhang (notes ringing out long after they're cut off...) Then place your mics there - roughly where your ears were. Ironically, your ear is a wonderful omnidirectional microphone. It hears sounds from all directions based on pressure within the room and is slightly more sensitive to the directivity of higher frequencies just as any good omni mic is. This is why I like to use them - omnis just sound more like real ears than most mics. (Figure 8s are the other "real" pattern which sound "right" to me. Since cardioid and other patterns are derived from these 2 patterns, I always find something lacking in their sounds. Of course, I'll still use other patterns as they're essential, but if possible, I almost always opt for a "pure" pattern.

    No need to apologize for asking questions.

    Cheers -

  15. JAZZZZ

    JAZZZZ Guest

    Thanks for stepping in Mr Bobrogers, and thanks for your suggestions.
    Great so for now will do our best we the stuff we already have unless something really doesn't work...

    About positioning of the instruments here how everything will looks in scale:
    thank you (right now ) (bobrogers) (Cucco) (minimalist)
  16. JAZZZZ

    JAZZZZ Guest

    Cucco this it is really unbelievable for us, you made a paint of the room with all the positioning for the mics and instruments!
    Thank you very very much, this is the best forum in the world!
    Thank you for helping and teaching and sharing.

    Before repositioning all the instrument we need to show you our room in scale, because the room unfortunately it's smaller than the one on your link.

    here: (right now) (bobrogers) (Cucco) (minimalist)

    thanks again.
  17. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Mar 8, 2004
    Fredericksburg, VA
    I would think that really any of these approaches could/should work. However, the proof is in the pudding...or at least in the listening.

    I would take a good hour or two to get things exactly where you want them and go from there.

    One other piece of advice...I'm assuming that the garage is not heavily acoustically treated. In addition to the blankets, you might want to add some mass in the corners. This can be spare tires, book shelves, dead bodies, unpacked boxes, etc. This will help to alleviate what I'm estimating to be some pretty badly reinforced low frequency modes.

    Cheers -

  18. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    Apr 4, 2006
    Blacksburg, VA
    Interesting. Basically Cucco's and my suggestions are very similar, and if you try either you should try both - plus any other slight variations you can think of. As a bassist, I'd love to play in the minimalist configuration, but it might have less separation for recording. As a matter of practicality, I'd assume you would stick to the present configuration when practicing - more room ot move around. If you are really going to move things around often - have a tech make sure the legs and wheels of the piano are in good shape.

    A couple of things that have not been mentioned - doing some acoustic treatment of your room will help your recordings a lot and make your practice experiences much more pleasant. Check our the acoustic forum here. If all you do is put bass traps in the four corners, it will make a noticeable difference.

    I hesitate to mention this - it is on the order of saying "have your tried 'crack'" - but for live performances (not recording), your bassist may want to check out for discussions of pickups and amps. There are reasonably priced options, but no options really work so you bassist will be on an eternal, frustrating, search for the ultimate URB pickup/amp system. At this moment I am risking divorce by looking longingly at a Acoustic Image Contra acoustic bass amp - "but hon' it works great on acoustic guitar and keyboard!" (I have actually said that!) Anyway, this has nothing to do with your recording situation. I just thought I'd spread my obsession.
  19. JAZZZZ

    JAZZZZ Guest

    Positioning of the instruments will be experimented tomorrow.
    Will experiment 4 different instrument positioning approaches.

    1) classic Live (piano on the left, bass in the center, drum, on the right ) 8 mics.
    2)Minimalist , 2 mics and 8 mics.
    3) Cucco, 8 mics
    4)Bobrogers, 8 mics.

    Will post again tomorrow night.
    thank you
  20. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    Jun 22, 2004
    Philadelphia, PA/ Greenville, DE
    Home Page:
    As usual, I'm late to the table on this discussion, :roll: but I'd probably go with the version suggested by Minimalist. I've done countless live gigs with the bass in the middle, piano on the left at full or half-stick, and drums on the right. You can't agrue with success. Plus, everyone can see and hear each other best this way.

    BUT, in terms of best isolation and keeping things a bit more isolated, consider the drums far left, bass in the center, and piano with the open side facing off to the RIGHT. (Best isolation this way from the other mics.) You can also put everyone on cans to hear each other, if it's needed.

    Again, it might yield better iso that way, but for a good live image that everyone can easily relate to, Minimalist is the best choice, IMHO.

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