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  • Recording a LARGE group

    I have been attempting to record a public school concert band and would like some advice on how to achieve better results.

    The ensemble I am recording is a large concert band with brass and woodwind players and percussion. Currently, the only room we have available to record with is my band rehearsal room that is just big enough to leave a 15 foot space between the band and the microphones (if the Mics are in front of the band). The walls have sound dampers that go from about four feet above the floor to eight feet high. The ceiling is thirty feet.

    I have available a Marantz cdr300 recording unit, a matched pair of audio technica 4041, a Audio technica 825, and a pair of CAD Equitek E100 mics. I also have a couple PA mixers available.

    I have been recording by running the mic directly into the Marantz and setting the recording level as the band warms up.

    My question is for advice on mic placement. Which of the above mics might be the most appropriate? Should I look for a different recording method than the Marantz? I do have an HP laptop computer with Cool edit Pro. However, I wouldn't expect this would have a very high quality sound card. Should I be using the computer rather than going straight into a cd?

    My goal is to make a quality recording for this band to enter a statewide competition.

    Thanks so much for the help!
    Greg Allen

  • #2
    I've done quite a few recordings of large groups for audio and video, specifically high school chorus and band (my day job). I don't have the absolute best in equipment but not the worst and I know it's a little cliche' but a simple XY stereo mic placement right into your CD recorder will work good. I've tried some different mic technics, compression, etc etc. but I end up using condensors in XY, about 8 feet up in the air, right into a small Mackie mixer, into a hard disk recorder without compression, keeping an eye on the levels. That's gotten good results for me. I've played around with using more mics or doing the mid-side thing using a couple more tracks but end up just using the XY tracks. You mention going into an HP computer, I would think the CD recorder would have better converters but once it's on the CD you'd have to rip the CD audio files onto a computer if you need to edit or fix something. Refresh my memory on the CAD mics, large diaphram or small condenser? I can't remember what those are off the bat from the "Equitek E100".

    Comment


    • #3
      The best results I've gotten so far has been to use 3 mics - I use DPA 4011's - and set them at 1/4, center, and 3/4 of the width of the band. Use a small mixer like a Mackie and pan the 1/4 to 9 o'clock, center to center, and the 3/4 to 3 o'clock. Send the L/R of the mixer out to a CD recorder. I've found that it gives a really full, natural sound to the recording as when it is played back the instruments are basically in the mix the same place as they were on stage.
      <div class="signaturecontainer">Some days you're the dog, some days you're the hydrant.....</div>

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      • #4
        That's a good one too. It sounds more like you're hearing it live as opposed to hard left and right. I did that a couple years ago but didn't have three of the same mics that I thought were good enough. Ended up taking it down anyways and putting up two mics since the conductor at my school is ....how shall I say....sensitive?...... and thought all the mics and equipment was giving his students the wrong "message" that it wasn't about the peformance anymore. But that's a whole other talk show. He's better now after a few years and people will still say how much they like the CDs and hearing their music on the radio. We've even crossed to the dark side and have overdubbed some small ensemble stuff. I laugh when he feels like he's "cheating".

        Comment


        • #5
          Yea, what's with those "sensitive" conductors anyway?? Afterall, all we're trying to do is make their CD sound the best it can

          I really do like the LCR method with 3 mics - like you said it does sound more live than a stereo set-up. I just got done setting up for a choir concert tonight and I mic those the same way. Like you said though, having 3 of the same mics that are good enough is essential - I'm just lucky enough to have the DPA's. In Loud Brass's case, maybe he could try the 825 in the center with the 4041's on the sides. I know the 825 is a stereo mic, but maybe if it was in a little closer than the 4041's it might work real nice. If you have time and opportunity to experiment Loud Brass maybe give that a try.
          <div class="signaturecontainer">Some days you're the dog, some days you're the hydrant.....</div>

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          • #6
            DPA's........must stop drooling.........

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            • #7
              I tried your advice today and ran through a mixer with the Pan L+R and got significantly improved results. I'm not sure that I understand why....But I plan to continue recording and experimenting with this.

              I used the CAD Equitek Mics (large diaphragm) today and they seem to be much better suited for recording a large ensemble under these conditions. The sound was warmer and MUCH more clear.

              I also looked to check the availablity and price on the DPA 4011's. Holy Moly, I suspect those should produce some wonderful results. At least I would hope they do. Do you have any other recommendations for mics that would be useful for recording a large ensemble like this? Maybe a little more affordable mics?

              Thanks so much for the advice!
              LB

              Comment


              • #8
                On a tight budget, it might be hard to beat a couple of Behringer ECM8000. They are ridiculously cheap small diaphragm omni mics - ideal for the classic spaced or XY stereo positions. Although cheap, and although Behringer, these mic's get favorable comments from serious pro's.

                What mixer are you using? When you say you got better results with panning L & R - does that mean you where previously mixing the two mics in mono?

                If you are only using two mics, and if your mixer has insert points, you might be able to bypass the mixer bus by connecting to the output of the mic preamps. This might give an even clearer sound, because all you really need is two mic preamps straight into the recorder. Bypassing all the unnecessary circuitry in the mixer can clean up some noise - especially if it's a typica PA mixer.

                Your next improvement might be to get a standalone stereo mic preamp.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Here's a page on AKG's website for three different methods of micing and orchestra/ensemble. I've used the XY many times myself with good results when recording a band... I have not done any orchestral recordings, however.

                  akg
                  <div class="signaturecontainer">&quot;That's a matter of opinion. Like &quot;a supermodel is less attractive than a sore-infested, poo-covered morbidly obese bald chick&quot; is a matter of opinion.&quot; <br />
                  - Audacity Works<br />
                  <br />
                  &quot;Ain't nobody ever walked down the street humming the sound of a microphone... it's all about 'the music'.&quot;<br />
                  -Fletcher</div>

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                  • #10
                    OK, that link didn't work...

                    here's a cut/paste from AKG:

                    Orchestral recording basics

                    It is generally better to use a stereo main microphone rather than trying to use a multimicrophone setup, because you need to mix everything down while recording and you can only use headphones for monitoring. It takes a lot of experience to get a good mix using headphones.
                    If you are recording to two-track, using a good sounding main microphone pair or a main stereo microphone should be your first choice.
                    Try to get the soloists to play in front of the orchestra so their sounds will not be drowned out by the orchestra and you will get a well-balanced recording. This also improves the communication between the conductor and the soloists.

                    Recording locations may be anything from dry to extremely reverberant, so we would like to suggest three different microphone setups. Also, remember that you should select your microphones to match the acoustics of the recording room.

                    ORTF technique (for more reverberant rooms)

                    Mount two cardioid mics (AKG C 480 B + CK 61 or C 391 B) on a short stereo bar, angling each 55
                    <div class="signaturecontainer">&quot;That's a matter of opinion. Like &quot;a supermodel is less attractive than a sore-infested, poo-covered morbidly obese bald chick&quot; is a matter of opinion.&quot; <br />
                    - Audacity Works<br />
                    <br />
                    &quot;Ain't nobody ever walked down the street humming the sound of a microphone... it's all about 'the music'.&quot;<br />
                    -Fletcher</div>

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I am using a Peavey Rq200 mixer. I had previously been running two mics directly into the Marantz cdr300 in stereo. I was using the Marantz recording levels to adjust the input level.

                      Today I used the CDR300 with the input volume set very high and ran the Mics into the Rq200 with Pan L&R and with the AT825 centered. I used the Mic gain control to adjust the volume of output that was then being sent (by Main Out Left & Right) to the Marantz cdr300.

                      I must not understand the function of a Preamp. Wouldn't the electronics of the CDR300 take the place of a preamp? Here are the specs to this unit:
                      http://www.marantzpro.com/users/folder.asp?FolderID=1548&CatID=4&SubCatID=142

                      Thanks so much for your advice.
                      Greg


                      On a tight budget, it might be hard to beat a couple of Behringer ECM8000. They are ridiculously cheap small diaphragm omni mics - ideal for the classic spaced or XY stereo positions. Although cheap, and although Behringer, these mic's get favorable comments from serious pro's.

                      What mixer are you using? When you say you got better results with panning L & R - does that mean you where previously mixing the two mics in mono?

                      If you are only using two mics, and if your mixer has insert points, you might be able to bypass the mixer bus by connecting to the output of the mic preamps. This might give an even clearer sound, because all you really need is two mic preamps straight into the recorder. Bypassing all the unnecessary circuitry in the mixer can clean up some noise - especially if it's a typica PA mixer.

                      Your next improvement might be to get a standalone stereo mic preamp.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Just had a look at the specs for your CD recorder ... although it has balanced XLRs and mic preamps with phantom power, the signal to noise ratio of 60dB is fairly crap.

                        This would explain why you get better results with your Peavy mixer - even though they won't be brilliant, they will be better.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Some good ideas here. Another few hints:

                          Keep it simple: the ORTF setup is great because it's so specific. But occasionally it's awkward to try and get two SD mics the right distance and angle without the cable ends getting in each others' way. The NOS (Dutch Broadcasting) system is simlar but easier for some mics. Have the capsules 30cm apart with an angle of exactly 90 degrees. This is often easier to measure and it keeps the back of the mics further apart. The sound is not identical but it's close and I'd be hard pushed to choose one over the other.

                          The Decca tree is odd because most references say you can have the mics various distances from each other. However, some reckon the distances have to be exact (can't remember them exactly but it's something like 4'6" between the back mics with the front mic 2'6" in front at the centre. When I tried it with exact distances using three Oktava MK012s with omni capsules its worked a treat. And on that occasion I had a pair of DPAs (may have been 4011s) as outriggers. The Oktavas were pretty good. My colleagues and I changed the level of the three mics quite a bit but settled on having the front mic at the same level or slightly higher than the side ones. Possibly that was because we had the outriggers (covering the extreme left and right of a full orchestra) but they were pretty low in the mix. You'll want more than 6' height, though. Try the front mic over the conductor's head at about 10 - 12' up.

                          I often record a concert band with a pair of spaced omnis on a single stand 10 -12' up with the stand between the conductor and the front row. It has to be high enough for the back of the band to be fairly much the same distance as the front. Try the mics 2' apart. You get a warm, ambient sound that's not too clinical but does have a real stereo feel. It's good for live recordings as it doesn't come between the conductor and his or her adoring public (and I speak as a 'sensitive' conductor). If you use small mics you can use a slightly bigger boom stand instead of a huge, heavy tripod stand (K&M do one for drum overheads which is perfect)

                          But don't try using omnis for coincident or semi-coincident techniques like ORTF or NOS. You only get two mono tracks. 2' is pretty much the minimum distance to get stereo with omni mics.

                          And height is the key. I've never made a really good recording with mics only 6' up. (Tony Faulkner has but he's a lot cleverer than I am). I spent more on stands than mics at one point, but I can get mics over a band at 14 - 15' up. 10 -12' is usually the right area, but at 6' you'll lose the back of the band as the front will be disproportionately loud. Which you only want if all the worst players in your band sit at the back ...

                          On last thought. If you're recording swing/jazz/rock type arrangements with a concert band, you might want to mic the drum kit and possibly the string bass separately. Compared to commercial recordings they usually sound far too distant and mushy with a two-mic setup.

                          Good luck, and trust your ears.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Kiwiburger
                            Just had a look at the specs for your CD recorder ... although it has balanced XLRs and mic preamps with phantom power, the signal to noise ratio of 60dB is fairly crap.

                            This would explain why you get better results with your Peavy mixer - even though they won't be brilliant, they will be better.



                            Ouch.....60 db? I would have thought it would be better than that. Was that for both the mic and line inputs?

                            The line inputs on a computer sound card are at least between 70 and 85. Maybe he should go from the mixer into the HP computer he says he has.

                            I've actually recorded some songs by a folk guiarist/singer right into a Sound Blaster as some demo work, and they ended up on his CD he released.....yes I admit it! Okay, happy now?

                            As we were mixing and editing the "real" stuff we did on a Mackie hard disk recorder, he liked a few of the scratch performances better. I resisted at first but we listened to them and they weren't too bad. I was only worried about some of the noise I heard. It wasn't bad but when you listened to the old demo stuff and the newer stuff you could hear more of the noise floor and the compressors kicking in a few times. But after some tweaking I felt better. Especially after spending money on better recording gear only to use some stuff recorded on a sound blaster. But hey, it's about the "magic" the artist wants to capture, right?

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                            • #15
                              I've had good luck w/ORTF, and a pair of SDCs, either Oktava MC-012s or Neumann KM-184s.

                              MG
                              "Thank You, NASA!"

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