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stmiller
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6th November 2006
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Question Recording Brass Quintet

Hi, what mic setup is best for recording a brass quintet? Location will be in a university recital hall. I have access to 5-6 mics/stands, etc. And a pro tools setup to record. 2 mics are original Neumann U67.

I've read that a simple stereo pair spaced apart, or X-Y works well. Though I'm curious to try a more advanced mic setup. Final product will be a CD.

Thanks for your help!
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I find that in a good acoustic, blumlein is superior to any configuration.


Quote:
Originally Posted by stmiller View Post
Hi, what mic setup is best for recording a brass quintet? Location will be in a university recital hall. I have access to 5-6 mics/stands, etc. And a pro tools setup to record. 2 mics are original Neumann U67.

I've read that a simple stereo pair spaced apart, or X-Y works well. Though I'm curious to try a more advanced mic setup. Final product will be a CD.

Thanks for your help!
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One way to get a balance of presence and "bloom" in chamber music is to have some combination of distant/less distant miking. I haven't recorded brass quintet, so I can't address this specifically, but what I might try is:

Use a main pair of spaced omni (usually 18" apart) about 7' up and somewhere between 7 to 15 feet back from the center of the ensemble. Blumlein, ORTF, XY, will all work also and depends on your taste. The spaced omnis sound a bit more "exciting" to me, but they are also not "mono compatible", if that's important to you. Whichever main pair config. you choose, adjust the distance to balance the direct sound of the ensemble with reverberation. Note that over headphones it may seem there's less reverberation than there actually is. You should set up in a different space, if possible, to get some isolation in order to judge the sound properly. I usually set up in a storage closet in our backstage area and use both monitors and good headphones. (I run a line out from the mixer to a small powered monitor for talkback.) I find it very difficult to judge the sound from within the same space.

The single pair method often sounds less dramatic than I'd like, so I usually include some sort of cardioid spot mics on separate tracks for blend. (Omni or fig. 8 spot mics may also work, but I haven't used them as much.) Perhaps 2 or 3 feet above each instrument would work. Because the horn projects to the rear, I'd try angling the spot toward the rear a bit.

Even though mono compatibility has become a non-issue for some engineers, I find that getting each and every pair as in-phase as possible improves the sound in any case, so it's worth spending the time to check every combination of microphones (summed to mono so you can better hear the phase cancellations), and re-positioning them for the best possible phase coherence. Using the 3-to-1 rule for multiple spots helps accomplish this.

I'm not an expert at this, and I've responded for my own benefit as much as yours (opposing views are very welcome), but I'm sure this method isn't "wrong" as it's used also by much more professional classical engineers than I.
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you won't get much stereo spread with a coincident pair (ie xy) unless you get good and close. however, with brass, good and close=no space/air/bloom around the instruments.

i'd go with a spaced a/b; maybe 10 or 12 feet back (towards the audience) and up fm the stage. remember the 3 to 1 rule, and you'll be okay. if the room sounds good, go for omni.

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After thinking a little more about it during lunch, I think I would use a single spot mic for each pair of instruments, plus one dedicated to the horn (just in case, since I haven't done this before). This makes for fewer phase problems, and fewer adjustments. You don't have to use them, but it's better to be safe than sorry.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rwhitney View Post
After thinking a little more about it during lunch, I think I would use a single spot mic for each pair of instruments, plus one dedicated to the horn (just in case, since I haven't done this before). This makes for fewer phase problems, and fewer adjustments. You don't have to use them, but it's better to be safe than sorry.
Fewer adjustments? It seems to me that if you are spotting everyone, that maximizes the amount of adjustments you have to make!

Bleaach, not me. It's just a quintet, fer cryin' out loud! Brass instruments project and don't need spotted. Spotting the horn from the rear isn't needed either... the instrument isn't intended to be heard bell front, so don't record it that way.

If the room is decent (and if this is for a CD, it ought to be), a simple pair of spaced omnis in the right spot will be wonderful. If you want better imaging, use a Jecklin. At most, maybe add a pr of hall omnis to add bloom to taste.

Read Teddy's sig ... more good advice!

Cheers!
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7th November 2006
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Quote:
Originally Posted by T.RayBullard View Post
I find that in a good acoustic, blumlein is superior to any configuration.
How about Coles 4048 in Blumlein configuration. If you have a quiet set of pre's and a good hall, that should be a nice combination.
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I've recorded more than a few Empire Brass Quintet CDs using either Schoeps CMC-6/MK-2 omnis or (2) Sennheiser MKH-20 omnis, spaced 24 inches or more apart and 15 - 25 feet from the ensemble depending on the piece. Height was usually between 8 ft and 10 ft from the floor.

If more presence was needed on the horn he'd turn a bit to project better. Balancing and imaging was achieved by positioning the musicians. A wall of RPG Diffussors was built as a "shell" behind the ensemble, positioning sections for better focus where needed. You could use other materials for a "shell" as needed.

If you've got a decent space, let the musicians and the "air" do your mix for you. We had the benefit of our secret weapon of a recording space, i.e.: the Berkshire Performing Arts Center. Seven seconds of s-m-o-o-t-h reverb and rubber(!) floors.

Here's an example done with two Schoeps CMC-6/MK-2s:

ftp://telmedia.telarc.com/telarc/80303/80303-6-m.mp3
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didn't he say he had 67's?

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Mr. Bishop has pretty much covered it.

If you have time and a good hall I second the spaced pair.
This requires good monitoring on location and time set aside for finding the right sound.

The U67's sound very good on brass and should work fine. What other omni options do you have available?
I would consider setting up 2 or 3 main pairs and choose later. This can be helpful if you have not recorded this type of ensemble before.
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to add to a couple thoughts... you really shouldn't need more than a pair of mics, whether they be spaced omnis or ortf or whatever ends up sounding best. at most, consider a spot mic for the tuba for a little presence, but it probably won't be necessary. usually adjusting the positioning and directionality of the players can fix any balance or presence issues you might have better than adding in spot mics...
just my thoughts... (and, well, i am a trombone player)
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When doing brass ensembles I use an X/Y pair of cardioids in the middle flanked by a pair of omnis to the outside. This allows me to dial in just the right amount of room in the mix, as well as image width and soundstage depth. I use DPA 4012's and 4041's, but any decent mic will work. Try to use the same brand, as the "sound" will then be consistant. Your milage may vary...
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Does the quintet use a Tuba or a Bass Tbn? Either way I agree that you should be able to get a very nice sound with the spaced pair of 67s in omni and careful positioning of the players. A few times I've used a wooden table turned on its side placed 4-8 feet behind the bell of the horn to reflect a little more sound out into the hall. This is usually more needed when there isn't a shell or other reflective element near the back of the group (a very deep stage). You can angle the table so that the horn reflects more into the audience right mic of the main pair.


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stmiller
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Thanks for the help! The group has a tuba. They are playing extremely difficult contemporary music. So I will not be able to tell them to move or position around much from their desired locations, as this group uses visual contact and different cues constantly throughout pieces.

I am a brass player (trumpet) and have recorded many of this group's concerts, but this is going to be a 3 day session for the specific purpose of a CD. I'll think go with the spaced Neumann 67's in omni. It's not a big recital hall, but has good acoustics.

And I forgot to add: they do have percussion. A percussionist who uses a drum kit, and also a few solo percussion instruments for other pieces. Though I think they will only be using the kit on one piece for this CD.

http://www.meridianartsensemble.com/
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ajfarber View Post
How about Coles 4048 in Blumlein configuration. If you have a quiet set of pre's and a good hall, that should be a nice combination.
Indeed. I am admittedly a blumlein junkie, but I dont often see it recommended. Seems like everyone and their mother are using spaced pairs of some sort. I first thought the spaced pairs thing was a German inclination, but apparently it is international.
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just my thoughts... (and, well, i am a trombone player)
Doesn't that kinda negate your advice?
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I'm with the spaced omni camp. MKH-20's are great! Be very carefull that the tuba player is not aimed directly at the mics. They have an advantage of aiming up towards the mics. If the tuba player shifts the throat of that beast directly in line with the mics, believe me, you will notice. It's just like on those big band sessions, when trombonists stand up and suddenly aim right at the main pair and are capeable of being significantly the loudest thing along an hour and half long concert.

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Hey, Meridian is a great group! You'll be in for a good performance in any case. The Percussion aspect complicates things considerably but theres still no reason you can't do it with a single pair. You may need to go closer to the quintet and of course you are completely at the mercy of the drummer to be sensitive to balance. But with a group of this caliber I'd expect these issues to be well sorted out. Just as long as it is pre-approved by all 6 members of the group that you'll be recording in a minimalist style and expecting them to make all of the balance / dynamic adjustments. Since this is a session they may be expecting isolation / spot mic control so be sure to discuss it with them in advance so there are no surprises.

Have fun!

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My setups for brass quintets usually depend on the room. Sometimes spaced omnis (with B&K 4006 usually) or Blumlein (with my AKG 426). Both allow for flexibility in positioning so you can get up close (if needed) for a present sound with plenty of room.

If you have percussion, you may also consider throwing up a spot for clarity... Once again, it really depends on the room and how live and clear it may be.

Good luck- sounds like a fun project.

-Ben
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They're a great group. Do you know what material you're recording?
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Yes, it's a CD entirely of music of Britt Theurer (toy-yur), a trumpet player/composer.

He has written lots of good quintet music in the last few years. It's not a CD for the Meridians exactly; but rather one for Theurer, that will be under his name.
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Quote:
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Yes, it's a CD entirely of music of Britt Theurer (toy-yur), a trumpet player/composer.

He has written lots of good quintet music in the last few years. It's not a CD for the Meridians exactly; but rather one for Theurer, that will be under his name.
Hmm... Not familiar with his stuff. I know a few people who have recently written pieces for Meridian and had wondered if it was their stuff. Shame it's not but good for Theurer!
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Quote:
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Doesn't that kinda negate your advice?

damn you... i was about to be mildly offended, but it's you and i might expect as much.
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Haha...what's a thread without a little trombone player jab?!
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You haven't mentioned the presence and opinions of a producer. If you don't have one you are in for a very interesting ride. One that will likely be much longer than it needs to be.

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Quote:
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damn you... i was about to be mildly offended, but it's you and i might expect as much.
Please mind your language -- I am a bass trombone player and unless you know we can be pretty loud.

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Quote:
Originally Posted by rwhitney View Post
One way to get a balance of presence and "bloom" in chamber music is to have some combination of distant/less distant miking.
Absolutely! ORTF about 10 to 15 feet back adds a great room sound. Positioning is very important. I've had everything from circles to all the players standing in a row. It depends on the space and the mics. Don't be afraid to experiment. You might also need a spot mic or two on tuba or horn.
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If he needs a spot mic on the tuba or horn then they REALLY need new tuba or horn players! With sharp ears and patience (and possibly something wooden as a horn reflector) a brass quintet does not need spots. In fact, they will usuanlly be noticeable even with the usual tricks.

Simply plan on using the first hour for experimenting with mic and player placement. I am certainly not a "stereo pair only" purist, but with a brass quintet in even a decent room, it just isn't neccesary. Save yourself no small amount of mixing grief and just say NO to spot mics.

Rich
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sonare View Post
If he needs a spot mic on the tuba or horn then they REALLY need new tuba or horn players! With sharp ears and patience (and possibly something wooden as a horn reflector) a brass quintet does not need spots. In fact, they will usuanlly be noticeable even with the usual tricks.

Simply plan on using the first hour for experimenting with mic and player placement. I am certainly not a "stereo pair only" purist, but with a brass quintet in even a decent room, it just isn't neccesary. Save yourself no small amount of mixing grief and just say NO to spot mics.

Rich
Hi Rich!

Yes, for the most part you're right. There is no substitute for a good balance/positioning of the players in a stereo pair. But, so many "pro" recordings I hear don't have a balance of presence. The attack of the tuba (-20 db or so from a spot) is just as important as the volume in the mix. Same goes for horn. Being a professional horn player, my ears are very sensitive to things that wouldn't bother most engineers.
A fact in the brass playing world is that if an attack (of a note) isn't clean, the note will sound late. (to the conductor/audience)
I've found the same to be true in recording brass. If an attack isn't captured in the recording, it can seem to add performance problems were none existed.
Good to see ya Rich!
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