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Trumpet recording questions
Old 7th February 2019
  #1
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jazzmcazz's Avatar
Trumpet recording questions

Hello fellow Slutz!

I am a professional trumpet player who has for years played "wanna be recording engineer" in my home for my own projects. I try and do lots of research on various approaches and in general I have found that there is very little shared guidance on recording brass instruments. The only thing I do is record myself playing trumpet (trumpet ensemble pieces and arrangements written and played by all trumpets) and was hoping that some more seasoned people on here could explain some things to me.....


1. I often record trumpet ensemble arrangements (all trumpets) where I am playing each part and tracking each part on a separate mono audio track. I use a Royer R10 into an Apollo twin using Logic Pro X. My main issue is that overall I feel like I do not have any depth and there is a sense of sound stacking that is not pleasant to the ear. I record each track as a mono and I keep the microphone off center and about 2 feet away. I cannot seem to get the sound of the recording to have any clarity, depth, and spatialness to it. What might be the issue with this setup? Is it a phasing issue and why might the sound of the recording be lacking in depth and spatial clarity?


2. What plugins should I be using on the tracks? Do I use them on the individual track or as a bus or stereo out? I have the NEVE, API, Ocean Way, and some others from Universal Audio as well as the Logic Pro built in ones. To be honest I am still learning how to even use these amazing plugins and I would rather be more conservative than try and overpower the mix with plugins but still need to have some understanding of how to make my dry tracking mix have more depth, clarity, and resonance.


3. Speaking of stereo, since I am recording all parts mono what is the best way to create the stereo sound that I am looking for? I guess this ties into question #1 .


4. I realize this is a rather unique setup with me recording all trumpets exclusively so I do not expect a lot of responses but overall if anyone has any over arching suggestions for mixing trumpets like this I would love to get some advice.


Thanks so much in advance and I look forward to getting some responses!
Old 7th February 2019
  #2
I guess there are two main types of trumpet sounds that have different approaches. One is the harsh, gritty pop sound that comes from miking the bell in close proximity. The other is the classical sound which requires a few things to be convincing, I'm guessing this is what you are going for.

For one, the room needs to be large enough so you can place your mics at a proper distance. Churches and concert halls are ideal, but a large living room can work in a pinch. 2 feet is very close, even with a ribbon. I would try 4-5 feet to start, as long as the room will allow it without sounding boxy. Off axis of the bell, of course, either above or to the side of the player.

For plugins, a good reverb is required if you want to make 4 mono tracks sound like an ensemble. In an ensemble setting entire group would be recorded with a stereo pair, and if spots were used on each player, even they would have plenty of bleed from the other players. Pan the quartet evenly across the soundstage and use the reverb to create the sense of room.

Another trick could be using an eq to slightly reduce the fundamental range of the trumpet, which will add a sense of distance and reduce ear fatigue from the close miking.

An even better approach would be to get a second R10 and record each part as an MS, Blumlein, or AB stereo track and pan each into the stereo field. The extra sense of room will keep things from sounding plastered. Almost all classical recordings are done with stereo pairs. Though recording each part individually is rare. You might even want to set up a stereo pair with four chairs in a semi circle and record each par in the correct chair. Though you will need to be sure to have a quiet environment as four recordings together can nearly double the room noise.

Just a few thoughts
Old 7th February 2019
  #3
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Thank you for taking the time to respond. You are correct in what I am doing is mainly Classical and jazz in nature. Ideally recording all the parts at once with a stereo pair would be my first choice, but since I am doing it all myself the idea of recording by setting up like it would be in an ensemble and going down the line performing into a stereo pair sounds like a good idea. Room acoustics are not great but they are also not terrible, I will try to move microphone back but the room does make it boxy beyond 4 feet.

I do not have the money for another R10, I do have a small condenser mic pair from studio projects I could possibly use instead of the Royer?

Excuse my stupidity but what do you mean by reducing the fundamental range of the trumpet by EQ? This sounds interesting but I am unsure what I would need to change to get their?

Thanks again!
Old 7th February 2019
  #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jazzmcazz View Post
1. I often record trumpet ensemble arrangements (all trumpets) where I am playing each part and tracking each part on a separate mono audio track. I use a Royer R10 into an Apollo twin using Logic Pro X. My main issue is that overall I feel like I do not have any depth and there is a sense of sound stacking that is not pleasant to the ear. I record each track as a mono and I keep the microphone off center and about 2 feet away. I cannot seem to get the sound of the recording to have any clarity, depth, and spatialness to it. What might be the issue with this setup? Is it a phasing issue and why might the sound of the recording be lacking in depth and spatial clarity?


2. What plugins should I be using on the tracks? Do I use them on the individual track or as a bus or stereo out? I have the NEVE, API, Ocean Way, and some others from Universal Audio as well as the Logic Pro built in ones. To be honest I am still learning how to even use these amazing plugins and I would rather be more conservative than try and overpower the mix with plugins but still need to have some understanding of how to make my dry tracking mix have more depth, clarity, and resonance.


3. Speaking of stereo, since I am recording all parts mono what is the best way to create the stereo sound that I am looking for? I guess this ties into question #1 .
It's been a while since I recorded a lot of music (I'm in post now), but regarding points 1/3...:

I'd say that for clarity you'll need enough high-end information from your instrument because that helps with clarity and localization left/right. Your problem might be easily fixed by simply panning the different trumpets in a good way that makes it more easy to hear each part. I'm assuming also that you're playing them as you want them heard as far as loudness goes. But yeah, I'd look at panning for sure.

I'm not 100% convinced that recording stereo is the way to go. It probably will sound "nice" in one sense, but I doubt it enhances clarity.

When it comes to depth I'd say you'll have to consider the space and recording technique. If your room doesn't sound great then you can't really rely on it providing you with that depth, because any such depth will bring with it the sound of the room. I suppose that leads to possibly using plugins (point 2 above).

In my opinion the Neve class-A emulations (1073 EQ for example) has a tendency to really push instruments to the forefront, whereas API is a bit "smoother". So I would reach for the former for something that needs a bit more edge or presence, and the latter for a more gentle shaping of frequencies.

You can certainly use UAD's reverb plugins to get some space happening and thereby maybe a better sense of depth of field. UA has plugins that are more colored as well as ones that are arguably a bit more neutral. I think for classical you may need to look elsewhere for a really good neutral room emulation. My vote would go to Exponential Audio's Phoenixverb or similar.

Either way, I think your next best bet is to find some recordings you really think sound great and ask people here what they think is used on them, or just go Googling and try to find out where and how they were recorded and mixed. Perhaps you can also post some of what you've done within the context of a mix and people can take it from there.

Oh, one last thing before I forget:

In my experience it's a bit hard to play different parts oneself without getting a sound that is coherent and tight but in the wrong way. I think it's because there's just too much similarity between each pass of recording since it's the same person, room, mic, instrument etc. You could try to get a different microphone and/or mic each pass/part differently so that you get a bit of a different sound each time. Perhaps swap your mouthpiece to something similar but not exactly the same, or even pick a different trumpet if you have more than one. Angle the mic a wee bit differently. And so on. These tiny differences may add up to giving it more a feel of different players....

Anyway, more experienced people on this forum than me when it comes to recording, so expect to get some more replies that may be better or more specific.

Best of luck and please report back and share the results!
Old 8th February 2019
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BIG BUDDHA's Avatar
Hi. i have recorded lots of trumpets.

the starting place is a good condenser mic.

pencil condensers work well when you have a horn section and are close MIC-ing. at about a foot or less.

trumpets have a lot of top end so i prefer condensers to ribbons. ribbons will soften the sound, and have less snap.

if you multi track in mono and pan the tracks to different positions in the stereo spread you should be able to get a good sound happening.

short reverbs if the track is fast, and longer reverbs if the track is slow.

double track the low parts and pan them left and right, and leave the top trebble trumpet up the center.

there are some good SDC condensers like AKG 391 which are good on trumpet. also the AKG-451eb.
moving upmarket you can get Neumann KM84s and the newer KM184s.

large diaphram condensers are also an option, but are not as directional and will pick up a lot of the room, and if the room is not treated then that might not help.

so i suggest close MICing, with a Small Diaphram Condenser, in mono, double tracking the bass parts, and creating a stereo spread via panning, and dont kill it with reverb. Less is more theory on the Verb.

you will need a reasonable compressor as well to keep the levels tight.

hope that helps Buddha
Old 8th February 2019
  #6
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I've only had my first half cup of coffee, but that looks like a really good post to me Buddha.

UAD-2 has great compressors, so on that side you should be very well taken care of.

I'd add that if separation/definition is currently a bit of an issue adjusting pre-delay on reverbs can give enough separation between the effect and the attack/beginning of the notes to give them more clarity when mixing. Of course too much and you might imply a big room... Less is more as BB said...
Old 8th February 2019
  #7
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Some really great advice. I suspected going into this post that the over arching focus would be on proper panning, microphone placement, and room acoustics but did not feel like I had the skills or understanding to be convinced it was that.

Mattias, great advice with the slight changes to miking as well as the insight about using the Neve vs. API!

Buddha, really helpful advice on the panning and double tracking the lower parts, I really would never have thought to do that but it makes sense!

I have the Advanced Audio CM49 which is a really convincing take on the classic M49. I do not really have a high quality small diagram microphone (my studio projects small diagram pair is fine but not the quality that Advanced Audio and Royer has) so I guess I will try recording with both the ribbon and large diaphragm condenser and see which ones sound better.

Follow up questions:

1. Are there any effective panning plugins or are there any built into Logic Pro to assist me with panning ease or should I just use the panning control on each track?

2. When adding Reverb, is it best to add it to each track separately (I think this would be a big resource hog) or add it to the whole mix in the stereo out?

3. One challenge I have always faced is knowing how to set volume levels, in general should I be setting my mic level so it is peaking in yellow or should I be leaving more headroom? I often rely on what I hear in headphones to get level and I do not think this is correct. I realize this should be a basic procedure but it seems to always give me trouble. More often then not I feel like the sound seems distant and not as present when I set volume but whenever I turn up it does not seem to fix things.


Thanks!!!
Old 8th February 2019
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jazzmcazz View Post
1. Are there any effective panning plugins or are there any built into Logic Pro to assist me with panning ease or should I just use the panning control on each track?
I don't use Logic but I would imagine just using the standard panner should suffice.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jazzmcazz View Post
2. When adding Reverb, is it best to add it to each track separately (I think this would be a big resource hog) or add it to the whole mix in the stereo out?
I would route all Trumpet tracks to a group/bus (whatever it's called in "Logic language").

On that group I would use inserts for things that would logically be good to have on the section of instruments. This would probably include broad-stroke EQ as well as compression (if desired).

I would also send from that group/bus to a separate FX channel ("aux" or whatever it's called for Logic), and place the reverb on that channel. The input of the FX channel would correspond to the previous send, so you can send the signal of all summed together trumpets from the group/bus to that FX channel and put a suitable reverb on it. Set the reverb to be 100% wet, and then adjust how much reverb you want using the FX channel fader.

One thing to note of course is that if you do it this way then most likely you'll send to the reverb a signal that has been compressed. That can be absolutely fine. If it bothers you it's possible to send from each individual Trumpet track instead. Same deal really, just sending from a different location.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jazzmcazz View Post
3. One challenge I have always faced is knowing how to set volume levels, in general should I be setting my mic level so it is peaking in yellow or should I be leaving more headroom? I often rely on what I hear in headphones to get level and I do not think this is correct. I realize this should be a basic procedure but it seems to always give me trouble. More often then not I feel like the sound seems distant and not as present when I set volume but whenever I turn up it does not seem to fix things.


Thanks!!!
Don't clip your converters is the primary thing to ensure I would say. Plenty of threads on "gain staging" in this forum.
Old 8th February 2019
  #9
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Great advice Mattias, I am literally printing this out to have when I am recording and mixing! Cannot thank you and everyone else who responded enough with your help and taking the time to write out thoughtful, insightful, and most importantly helpful advice!


Cheers,
Ryan
Old 8th February 2019
  #10
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BIG BUDDHA's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by jazzmcazz View Post
2. When adding Reverb, is it best to add it to each track separately !
yes definately.

each sound (track) in a mix, gets its own individual Reverb level, and EQ settings.

when i mix ITB i set up 3 reverbs as a general starting position.

reverb 1 is short. maybe 0.8 to 1.2 seconds of decay time.
reverb 2 is longer. maybe 1.2 to 1.8 seconds.
reverb 3 is longer. maybe 1.8 to 2,4 seconds of decay time.

you adjust those 3 reverbs depending on track tempo.

a very short pre delay on reverbs, will seperate the reverb form the initial sound, and will give the initial sound more definition. my personal listening tests in the 90s taught me that less that 10 milliseconds of pre delay is too short. 15 to 20milli seconds is better i feel personally. not too short and not too long.

so after setting up the 3 reverbs you just have to set up 3 sends to control which reverb you want on the individual sound, and what blend or ratios of each work best.

if you want the sound to front, then more of the shorter and less of the longer.
if you want the sound to sit back, then more of the longer and less of the shorter.

same thing for backing vocals actually.

also a good technique when mixing multiple brass tracks is to vary the EQ on the individual tracks.

try this technique.

EQ the opersite direction to the sounds natural frequency position.

so a Barry sax is all lows and not much highs. EQ in a lot of Highs in the 7 to 10k range. that will give it definition and it will sound more present.

a Flugal trumpet is a mello thing that occupies a similar position to a Viola in a string section. so add highs to make it shine.

a soprano trumpet is playing hi and sounds toppy naturally, so add EQ to these things down low. Try adding at 250hz and up to 400hz. this will thicken up the soprano and it will sound fuller and have more weight.

a Trombone needs bottoms and tops, and i usually prefer a Large Diaphram Condenser on those, again from a foot or so. you will need a compressor as the dynamic range is high on a bone. shave off 3 to 5 db.

the Saxes if its a big band, Tennor, Alto and Soprano, all get dealt with in the same way.

im adding all this to give other readers things to think about as well as the original question. hope that helps.

Buddha
Old 8th February 2019
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jazzmcazz View Post
Buddha, really helpful advice on the panning and double tracking the lower parts, I really would never have thought to do that but it makes sense!

Thanks!!!
when i was a junior assistant in the midd 80s one of the first projects i worked on was a Big Band.

Drums, Double bass, Electric Guitar, Acoustic Grand Piano, Hammond organ, a lead singer, 2 backing singers, and 13 Brass all going down Live.

we had to put up those theatre Blacks (wall coverings) to absorb some of the sound, as it all went down in a single live room. those Jazzers like playing together.

we had a Neve console and a Studer A800mk3 and good mics.

when we mixed, i was lucky to be assisting a big shot from the UK, who was very good, so i learnt a lot from him.

later i did lots of brass work myself. i love a brass section. excellent things.

Buddha
Old 8th February 2019
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jazzmcazz View Post
Great advice Mattias, I am literally printing this out to have when I am recording and mixing! Cannot thank you and everyone else who responded enough with your help and taking the time to write out thoughtful, insightful, and most importantly helpful advice!
Cheers,
Ryan
i think its lovely when a post is helpfull, and leads you in the direction of thought and learning. thats the important part. some people appreciate it.

well done Mattias

Buddha
Old 8th February 2019
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mattiasnyc View Post
I'm not 100% convinced that recording stereo is the way to go. It probably will sound "nice" in one sense, but I doubt it enhances clarity.
i agree with Matti.

mono improves definition.

get your head around good mono recording, before you get complex with stereo and room mics.

Buddha
Old 8th February 2019
  #14
The reverb in this case, as mattiasnyc mentioned, should be sent to an FX bus, where you can set the reverb to !00% "wet" and control the amount via the fader. In general reverb should not be added directly on the track or master bus.

I would forgo the stereo pair idea, I doubt the SP and Royer would mix, maybe just get the mic 3-4 feet away rather than 2.

What I meant by reducing the fundamental frequencies is simply to cut some of the mid range in the EQ centered around 500Hz, just a wide shallow dip of a couple of dB should be fine. When you mic too close, this range tends to sound to forward and unnatural, especially with directional mics.

Also reinforcing the comment that panning does not need a special plugin and can be set by the track pot. You might want to start with something like Trp 1 90 degrees L, Trp 2 45 degrees L, Trp 3 45 R, Trp 4 90 R. You get the idea. See how that sounds and adjust if too wide or too narrow to your ears. I would avoid setting anything 100% left or right, as a bleed in the channels is crucial for it to sound natural as an ensemble.

When it comes to levels, there is a classical target "standard" of -20dB RMS. It is an arbitrary amount considering that classical rarely has a consistent dynamic marking. I would interpret that as a concert forte should hover around -20dB. I might just want to play a few long tones at your personal forte and see where you land. Do the level adjustment in post, as you want to leave plenty of room in recording for transients.
Old 8th February 2019
  #15
Quote:
i agree with Matti.

mono improves definition.
Mono improves isolation. Quite counter-productive if you are trying to sound like an ensemble with separate tracks.

However, in this case, mono is probably necessary for the best result.
Old 9th February 2019
  #16
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Yeah I was thinking that the reverb should not be added individually onto each track but rather send all tracks to a buss with a revert plugin to keep a dry and wet signal all while adding reverb to overall mix instead of over burdening cpu by adding multiple reverb instances for the individual tracks.
Old 9th February 2019
  #17
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the beyer 160 was made for a great trumpet sound lol...77 dx comes in second ..a ribbon catches the transients but isn't strident ..never used a condenser on trumpers before
Old 9th February 2019
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sigma View Post
the beyer 160 was made for a great trumpet sound lol...77 dx comes in second .
yes you are right, i have a DX-77 and they are good.

i would use a DX-77 ribbon for solo overdubs, and mic from a greater distance, in a good room. (softer tone)

for close mic work, especially if recording a horn section, good pencils works well. 84s if you have them. pencils have hyper cardoid response pattern, and to my ears improve off axis rejection.

in a section recording, that equates to more trumpet, and less sax and Bone, in the trumpet mic.

for sections,i often use pencils up close, and then add a couple of ribbons at a distance as room mics, and position the ribbons wide.

i think the OP is solo overdubing, in a home studio, so thats why i suggested pencils and close mic. he could try a LDC if the room is ok. also he said the Royer was not delivering, so i thought something brighter might help his situation.

surprised you have not used condensers on trumpets.

i have used U87s and 414s, for overdub solos, for Sax, Trumpet and Flugal many times. generally good results.

actually my old 451eb is also usefull with brass. sometimes i use that.

Buddha
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Old 9th February 2019
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jazzmcazz View Post
Yeah I was thinking that the reverb should not be added individually onto each track but rather send all tracks to a buss with a revert plugin to keep a dry and wet signal all while adding reverb to overall mix instead of over burdening cpu by adding multiple reverb instances for the individual tracks.
you could do that, but in 2019 i find the CPUs can handle it.

Buddha
Old 14th April 2019
  #20
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I'm a trumpet/brass player, I record a whole lot of trumpet and other brass, and multi-track myself all the time.

First thing is do whatever you can to make your room sound better - trumpet is a whole lot of room sound, probably as much as the actual instrument itself, so if your room doesn't sound good, your trumpet isn't going to sound good.

I often use two mics - something darker/rounder as a close mic (ie your ribbon) and then something brighter with more definition for a room mic. As long as you have a good distance between the two and you are close to the close mic, phasing shouldn't be an issue. I don't pan these tracks stereo, I usually end up leaving them mono. Sometimes I send all the brass tracks to a stereo bus which then is panned hard left and right, and then I'll send that bus to a reverb that's stereo and put the horn bus in mono so I get a strong center/middle sound and then the verb/effects stuff is on the sides.

Generally the close mic accounts for more of the sound than the room mic but the room mic does a lot to add some subtle depth and dimension to the sound. This can be really useful if your close mic is a ribbon, esp. a royer, as those tend to really roll off the high end a lot, and you lose a lot of the brightness/snap.

I like the TLM 170 or 193 if you are just going to use one mic - those do great to get all of the brightness and bite in the sound without sounding harsh at all. Less expensive options I really like the Beyerdynamic M88 on trumpet, as mentioned above the M160 is also really nice (and gets a nice edge on the sound without being harsh). I also like SAHE Audio (little blondies) - they seem to strike a nice balance between rolling off some of the harshness without getting too stuffy. Might be a good option for a room mic to complement your Royer as they have a nice top end and aren't too expensive.

I prefer Coles or RCA ribbons to Royers as in my experience they tend not to be quite as smooth/rolled off and thus less dull sounding. I think if you have a really bright loud sound (ie Wayne Bergeron) then a Royer is probably perfect, but if you tend to play with a darker sound as I do I feel like Royer is sometimes a struggle to get enough cut.

FWIW I generally avoid plug ins on horns for the most part - if your room sounds good and you get your levels balanced right, there isn't a lot of good that's going to come from compressing/eq'ing your trumpet, unless you are sculpting the sound trying to make it fit into a pre-existing track/mix, in which case it totally depends on the context. But generally speaking the horns by themselves in mono should be able to do what you want them to do without much help. Some reverb on the horn bus can be nice to add some depth and weight to the proceedings but as mentioned above, I wouldn't put it on individual tracks necessarily as I think you'll end up with a sound that's too washy and undefined. Better to have the whole horn ensemble clean in the middle, and then bring up the verb around the back and sides IMO.

Anyway that's my .02 hope it helps!
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