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Jazz band in one room - Recording approach
Old 2 weeks ago
  #1
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Jazz band in one room - Recording approach

As someone with little recording experience, I have been mulling over recording approaches for a Jazz-formation to be recorded live in someone's living room (voc., guit, bass, perc.). The room I would describe as decent, but not ideal, the usual living room scenario with some absorbent materials and some clutter for diffusion; medium size, low ceiling.

Approach 1:
Isolate the sound sources as much as possible: seperate sources / keep volume low / use hypercardioid patterns / think hard about microphone's nulls / improvise gobos

Approach 2:
Embrace the room and work with the bleed: bring sources in and balance to sound good together / use omni patterns, maybe a Bluemlein pair

Do you have any preferences or suggestions regarding either approach?

I have a limited budget and need to make my mic purchases count. Depending on the approach, I will look at omnidirectional or directional microphones.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #2
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I'd say approach 1 is likely to record less of the room's unflattering characteristics....which is the real Achilles Heel of your project. Try to get a better...or at least substantially bigger...room. Your local school, church, municipal council will likely have one to hire for a small fee. Band reaches into collective pocket, pulls out a few dollars...money well spent.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #3
The worse the room, the closer the mics. And vice-versa.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #4
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lukedamrosch's Avatar
 

Our moderator, Steve Remote (username Remoteness) has posted an enormous amount of information over the years describing various techniques he uses to achieve isolation and control bleed, etc.

Granted, he is typically working with world-class musicians in non-livingroom environments, but many of the general principles may help you mitigate problems at least a few percent if you are obliged to work in the space that you mentioned.

Here is one of many such posts:
Remoteness-"virtual gobos"
Old 2 weeks ago
  #5
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Thanks to all for pointing me in the right direction!
Old 2 weeks ago
  #6
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Brent Hahn's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Geoff Poulton View Post
Bleed is not a bad thing on live recording an event...
Same as classical. Take good notes, don't let any rough spots go unfixed, do lots of takes, assemble the performance in post.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #7
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elpillo's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by MaHei View Post
Approach 1:
Isolate the sound sources as much as possible: seperate sources / keep volume low / use hypercardioid patterns / think hard about microphone's nulls / improvise gobos

Approach 2:
Embrace the room and work with the bleed: bring sources in and balance to sound good together / use omni patterns, maybe a Bluemlein pair
To me, making the decision would depend on a few things, specially the performing quality of the jazz trio/quartet. If they aren't at their best moment, Approach #1 will give you more chances to "fix" stuff.
On the contrary, if they are at the top of their game, Approach #2 would probably be my choice, embracing bleeding to make it work on your favor (easier said than done, though.) It's trickier, but I believe it will lead you to a more natural sounding recording.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #8
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Brent Hahn's Avatar
Some food for thought, maybe. 4-piece with 3 singers in a living room, done just a few days ago (too soon, maybe).

Old 2 weeks ago
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by elpillo View Post
To me, making the decision would depend on a few things, specially the performing quality of the jazz trio/quartet. If they aren't at their best moment, Approach #1 will give you more chances to "fix" stuff.
On the contrary, if they are at the top of their game, Approach #2 would probably be my choice, embracing bleeding to make it work on your favor (easier said than done, though.) It's trickier, but I believe it will lead you to a more natural sounding recording.
Definitely no intention of doing any overdubbing. One advantage of the livingroom-setup is that we can do as many takes as we need until we get one everyone likes.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #10
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Brent Hahn's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by MaHei View Post
Definitely no intention of doing any overdubbing. One advantage of the livingroom-setup is that we can do as many takes as we need until we get one everyone likes.
You may not get full takes everyone likes, but you can comp them together. Again, make sure everything's covered. And you don't have to do a whole take to fix a clam in the third verse.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #11
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henryrobinett's Avatar
If it were me, I'd DI the guitar and wear headphones. Reamp the guitar later. Hypercard bass (upright or electric?). If the bass is electric no brainer. DI. Percussion? What does that mean? Drums? Bongos and shakers? Vocals maybe a ribbon if you have it or other ig 8 to advantage.

Suggestions.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #12
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I was thinking the same thing about using the figure 8 pattern for vocals and firing bass and guitar amps into the nulls of the vocal mic. Have never done this before and am curious to see how that would work.

Bass is electric and will be DI and mic; vocals unamplified.

We might actually go without percussion, but if, it will be cajon.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn View Post
You may not get full takes everyone likes, but you can comp them together. Again, make sure everything's covered. And you don't have to do a whole take to fix a clam in the third verse.
It's Jazz, who will notice?

On a more serious note, the band has decent musicianship and a good work ethic and they should easily get some good takes.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #14
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Brent Hahn's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by MaHei View Post
I was thinking the same thing about using the figure 8 pattern for vocals and firing bass and guitar amps into the nulls of the vocal mic. Have never done this before and am curious to see how that would work.
That kind of thing works better in dead rooms, where the amps aren't bouncing off the walls and ceiling so much.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn View Post
That kind of thing works better in dead rooms, where the amps aren't bouncing off the walls and ceiling so much.

That's a valuable tip, thank you. Precisely the kind of experience I lack.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MaHei View Post
I was thinking the same thing about using the figure 8 pattern for vocals and firing bass and guitar amps into the nulls of the vocal mic. Have never done this before and am curious to see how that would work.

Bass is electric and will be DI and mic; vocals unamplified.

We might actually go without percussion, but if, it will be cajon.
To me that'd be easy if you can get the guys to cooperate. As a jazz guitarist I'm used to playing DI and I always recordd an electric DI. That'd leave vocals and cajon in the room, nulled. That would be beautiful.

Guitar player wants his own amp, OK. Keep it low and turned around. Then DI it anyway. But if the musicians are really good it shouldn't matter too much. Unless the room is absolutely terrible.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn View Post
Some food for thought, maybe. 4-piece with 3 singers in a living room, done just a few days ago (too soon, maybe).

Nice work. Enjoyed it
Old 2 weeks ago
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by garysjo View Post
Nice work. Enjoyed it
I've worked with them, but I didn't do this.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn View Post
I've worked with them, but I didn't do this.
Very nice, but it's not a live recording as far as I can tell. But I love the vibe!
Old 2 weeks ago
  #20
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A question for the OP...how and where will you be monitoring this recording, as it's taking place ? Do you expect to be in the same room as the players, or isolated from them in an adjoining one (makeshift control room) ?

The latter is desirable, so you can identify trouble spots in terms of bleed, keeping a lid on individual instrument volumes etc. A pair of high grade monitor speakers or headphones will be your reference here. You could rig up a talkback Comms system between the 2 rooms with a small powered speaker (for them) and a handheld vocal mic for yourself.

If you have to be in the same room as the players while recording, the minimal requirement is a pair of good sealing headphones...and a commitment to frequent playbacks while the band is taking breaks, to identify those same potential trouble spots. It's too late to attend to these after the session is over and you're reviewing the takes at home.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by henryrobinett View Post
Very nice, but it's not a live recording as far as I can tell. But I love the vibe!
Near as I can tell, it's all live except for the horns (done from home) and the bgv's (replaced and stacked). I guess part of the reason I think this is because I know them pretty well.

Here's a live thing I did with them for an internet radio show. No horns. A room maybe half the size of the one in the video.

Old 2 weeks ago
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn View Post
Near as I can tell, it's all live except for the horns (done from home) and the bgv's (replaced and stacked). I guess part of the reason I think this is because I know them pretty well.

Here's a live thing I did with them for an internet radio show. No horns. A room maybe half the size of the one in the video.

Were there actually mics on the drums? I'll have to go back and look.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by studer58 View Post
A question for the OP...how and where will you be monitoring this recording, as it's taking place ? Do you expect to be in the same room as the players, or isolated from them in an adjoining one (makeshift control room) ?

The latter is desirable, so you can identify trouble spots in terms of bleed, keeping a lid on individual instrument volumes etc. A pair of high grade monitor speakers or headphones will be your reference here. You could rig up a talkback Comms system between the 2 rooms with a small powered speaker (for them) and a handheld vocal mic for yourself.

If you have to be in the same room as the players while recording, the minimal requirement is a pair of good sealing headphones...and a commitment to frequent playbacks while the band is taking breaks, to identify those same potential trouble spots. It's too late to attend to these after the session is over and you're reviewing the takes at home.
There will be a lot of listening on the monitors in the room (meant solely for playback, not for recording). Every three takes I will ask the musicians which one felt best and ear-mark that for later or immediate listening. And naturally, I will be running through the channels a lot to satisfy my curiosity and to check for issues.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn View Post
Some food for thought, maybe. 4-piece with 3 singers in a living room, done just a few days ago (too soon, maybe).

This was absolutely fantastic!

What a great band!

From a technical standpoint... it's always the drums in these kind of situations that are just hard to tame with all those reflections going on, but one just has to embrace it. I think for myself I would have built-up a slightly deader corner for the drummer - gobos, mattresses, sofas, whatever. And if there's a double-bass in the same room instead of electric I'd say it's mandatory. But overall there's nothing here that detracts from the sound of a terrific band who would clearly even sound good if they played in a car!

I'm guessing the horns were overdubbed?
Old 2 weeks ago
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MaHei View Post
There will be a lot of listening on the monitors in the room (meant solely for playback, not for recording). Every three takes I will ask the musicians which one felt best and ear-mark that for later or immediate listening. And naturally, I will be running through the channels a lot to satisfy my curiosity and to check for issues.
When you say you might go without percussion/cajon, is that because you might dub it on later...after the basic tracks are recorded ? In one way, that takes the pressure off having it leak into the other mics...but make sure the timing of the band is pretty solid ( or use a click into their cans) so the percussion player isn't chasing their rhythm all over the place later on ! That can really pull an ensemble sound about, if there's not a common denominator rhythm tempo for everyone to lock onto, when the basic tracks are being recorded. Then again, if it's 'just jazz'....
Old 2 weeks ago
  #26
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There will be no overdubbing of any kind. The band just hasn't decided yet if they want to record as a trio or not.

The concept is as simple and minimalist as it gets; to record a well-behaved Jazz ensemble live in the same space, warts and all.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #27
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I've done a lot of recording under conditions like these. One challenge is isolation: a bit of bleed between tracks can be good...but if there's too much, mixing becomes a nightmare. (Also, as Steve Remoteness has pointed out in this forum, there's good bleed and bad bleed...but that's an advanced topic.) The other challenge is minimizing the sound of the room: I think it's better for the tracks to sound like they were recorded "nowhere" (then, maybe given an artificial space during mixing), instead of making a bad-sounding room too obvious in the recording.

The easiest way to minimize these two issues is to use hyper-cardiod or super-cardiod mics. I use Beyerdynamic M160, M201, M88 and Sennheiser 441.

However, I've been experimenting with mounting a small omni condensor mic in the bridge of the upright bass. With the omni (Line Audio OM-1), I can get closer, without proximity effect. The trick is to think of this mic as having a second job as a drum room mic, and position the bassist appropriately.

In a small room, there is an upper limit for volume: if musicians play too loud (especially drummers and guitarists), it becomes very difficult to get a great recording.

In a small room, using as few mics as possible seems to help. Sometimes it's possible to get a nice, appropriate drum sound with only one well-placed mic.

Here's an example -- four musicians in a room so small, they could barely fit into it. Drums are one mic:

Last edited by Honkermann; 2 weeks ago at 02:31 PM..
Old 2 weeks ago
  #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Honkermann View Post

The easiest way to minimize these two issues is to use hyper-cardiod or super-cardiod mics. I use Beyerdynamic M160, M201, M88 and Sennheiser 441.

However, I've been experimenting with mounting a small omni condensor mic in the bridge of the upright bass. With the omni (Line Audio OM-1), I can get closer, without proximity effect. The trick is to think of this mic as having a second job as a drum room mic, and position the bassist appropriately.
Those two micing aproaches are pretty much what I was getting at in my OP. Would you use the omni in a semi-treated room, or only in a proper studio?
Old 2 weeks ago
  #29
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Brent, You have once again nailed the essential element of live recording: Session ready, groove, musicians and singers that listen well and never play over the top of leads. Wannabes need a rubber room but "session ready" ensembles can produce strong tracks in a tile shower!
Hugh
Old 2 weeks ago
  #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MaHei View Post
Those two micing aproaches are pretty much what I was getting at in my OP. Would you use the omni in a semi-treated room, or only in a proper studio?
Ah, that's a great question.

Using omnis would make me a little nervous, if I hadn't recorded in the room before. Hyper-cardiods would be safer.

But, the technique of mounting a small omni on the upright bass bridge has been working great for me. So, it might work, depending on the room, the mics, the style of the playing, your vision for the mix.

If the room sounded good, and I had access to good omni mics -- using omnis would be a fun experiment. The thing to remember with omnis is that to get a similar ratio of direct / reflected sound, you have to position them much closer. I think the ratio is 1.7 to 1 (omni to cardiod), meaning: to get the same balance of direct/reflected, the mic has to be a bit less than twice as close. I get infuriated by YouTube video demos of small diaphragm condensor mics: the dude plays acoustic guitar into the cardiod capsule, then says, "...and now we'll switch to the omni capsule!" but leaves the mic in the same position. Completely different sound, of course !

Omni mic on drums in "crotch position" can be a great single-mic sound.

The other advantage of omnis is that the bleed should sound nicer than the bleed from more directional mics. There's bleed, but it's not off-axis bleed.

Something different, but you might be inspired by these sessions recorded with a single figure-8 ribbon mic. It's a different strategy that what we're discussing, but simply by positioning good players in a good room, the results are impressive: http://austinsignal.com/single-mic-series
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