I'll throw my 2c in if it helps:
Firstly, I'd say the kind of gear you were talking about using in your original post was just fine. Good old blues/R&B is often the sound of 57's and 58's anyway, so I don't think you'd need to rent anything too esoteric.
Originally Posted by ambo
1. Most multichannel computer interfaces have small or nonexistent gain pots, and i guess one is supposed to use software mixers. Is this practical for 12 or 14 channels? Or should I just set everything up to have lots of headroom and not twiddle knobs or mouse too much. Vocals are scratch only and not part of this session.
You mean input gains? Things like the MOTU896 has input gains for all the analog channels. Digital inputs obviously don't tend to get gain knobs. If you're adding a preamp with a digital output to handle extra channels, then of course, you have input gains on all those channels too.
Software mixers only come into it on the monitoring side, not the input "going to tape" side. But yes, DEFINITELY set things up with loads of headroom and try not to touch the gains once you're under way. It makes mixing far far easier. You don't need things to peak any higher than 6dB below clipping... even if your highest peak was at -12dB you'd still be absolutely fine.
2. I'm likely to use 4 mics on the drums and only need to rent a kik mic. Otherwise what would be good rentable horn mic suggestions?
Depends what sound you're going for, but for blues/R&B I'd probably go with dynamics and get in reasonably close with them. Any RE20's around? Although 57s and 58s will work too, maybe one of your LD condensers on sax... Most blues/R&B doesn't necessarily need a "hi-fi" horn sound, and on the whole there's more spill into LDCs than dynamics.
3. How much of a problem bleed-wise is the P.A. and bass amp going to be? I really don't want to get into headphone mixes etc... There are a number of office partitions in the space, as well as blankets etc...
Bleed between instruments is likely to be your main problem as with all live recordings. Get all the amplified instruments as quiet as you can get away with while making sure everyone's comfortable. Those office partitions could be really useful to try and keep drums out of everything else... but watch you don't isolate the drummer so much that sight lines are ruined. They need to feel like they're playing together. Check loads before you start going for takes to see which instruments the drums are bleeding into the most (almost certainly horns), and try to focus on reducing the amount of drums in those instruments especially... either by baffling mics, or moving the players further away, turning them around a bit, etc.
I would also at least *try* to mic the bass as well as use the pickup. Get something with a tight pattern in really close, possibly even attached to the bass in the tailpiece or something like that. Put baffles around the bass to try and keep cymbals and horns out of the mic. It may not work, but some combination of the mic and the DI usually sounds much nicer than the DI on its own... even if you have to put up with a bit of spill.
Consider setting up in more of a circle than a "stage" layout. If the horn players face the drums, the drums will be in the null of the horn mics. (not that a 57 has much of a null
). Plus everyone can see each other better... which can compensate for not being able to hear
each other perfectly.
Watch out that reflections off walls aren't getting into your mics too much. If it's a long room (didn't you say 60'?) it's preferable to have a big long space behind the horn players than a wall 6ft behind them, because that wall could reflect the general racket in the room straight back into the horn mics.
Same with drums - I'd suggest setting the drums up facing down the length of the room rather than across it, otherwise the drum sound will come straight back off the wall and into the drum mics again.
4. Normally I would record something like this using a stereo pair in ORTF, Blumlein or omni with Jecklin disc. I'll probably only have the omni option with my remaining mics to use as room mics. Should I reconsider this and get another card pair for room? As I mentioned before the room is fairly dry and controlled.
This is a total guess, but I'd imagine the sound of the room isn't going to add very much. Unless your room sounds fabulous, but I suspect it doesn't. You can always add some life with short reverb/ambience at mix time, and that's likely to sound nicer than the actual room ambience. So I wouldn't worry about it too much. There's no audience, is there?
5. I'm assuming that they're going to be loud. Any hints on gently getting them to balance themselves better. Other than letting them hear themselves recorded which can be a brutal, eye-opening experience.
Start with drums. Drums are loud, there's no getting away from it, and if the drummer holds back because he's afraid he's drowning everyone else out, it'll just sound bad.
But add everyone else slowly, and from the bottom up (i.e. starting very quiet, and only turning up enough for each player to be able to hear themselves comfortably). If the balance in the room isn't perfect, it doesn't matter as long as the players understand what you're trying to achieve and are adaptable. Talk with the band about what you're trying to achieve before the date. You need to keep volumes down as far as practical to minimise spill. Try not to let the band take over and just crank everything up like it's a rehearsal.
Plus, everyone's ears will appreciate it by the end of the day.
For those acoustic instruments that need amplification/monitoring, try to do it with things like wedge monitors/backline, so that you can position the monitors close to the people that need to hear them, and they can run fairly quiet. That's better than blasting the entire band with a loud PA, which will just increase the spill into all the mics.
Of course, try to put any monitors in the null of the nearest mics... to minimise both spill and feedback.
You can use the DSP mixer in many recording interface to create separate near-zero-latency monitor mixes and feed those to the PA.
That's how I see it anyhow, but I'm not doing the recording. Play most of it by ear on the day and you'll be good.
Hope this is helpful in some sort of way.