When working with Earth, Wind & Fire, they’re called horns. When I worked with the band Chicago, they’re called the brass – go figure. Regardless, recording horns in the studio can be a challenge. Like all good sounding recordings you start with the room the musicians are in. After all, the room will be part of the sound of the instrument as notes make there way from the trumpets, trombones or saxes to your microphone. Remember that horn players can really produce some serious volume depending on the track and arrangement type.
Some players will want to stand while playing while others will want to sit. Just make sure you arrange your recording space so that it’s nice and comfortable for the players. Usually I’ll put a few gobo’s around along with a nice big rug on the floor. Also, be aware that squeezing in the chairs, the microphones on their stands along with music stands can be quite a challenge. You have to get creative here, but it’s best to check with the players if the setup is comfortable for them. It’s also a good idea to give the conductor or arranger his own talkback mic as he will be positioned in front of the players. From my experience, if you’re working on a track where the players are really blowin’, your horn mic’s gain will be potted way down, so you won’t be able to hear your arranger through those horn mic’s that may be only a few feet away.
So, let’s talk microphones. Whatever you do, whatever you may think, if you are going to be recording horns in a studio I highly recommend using Royer microphones. At least on the trumpets. They are absolutely incredible. They are ribbon mic’s that are warm and fat and can handle very high SPL. Drop these on your trumpets, maybe a 414, 89 or TLM 170 on the rest of your section and you’re in business.
Remember to keep the mic’s back a good foot or two to get some air between the bell of the horns and the mic (this is where having a good room comes into play) as the farther back you pull the mic’s from the instrument the more room sound will be in your recording – which is not necessarily a bad thing. Depending on the production, you may want a tighter sound (mic’s a little closer) vs. a little wider sound with the mic’s further back. Whatever you do – don’t get them too close!
So if you’re calling them horns or brass, you can’t go wrong with a couple of Royer 121′s a good sounding room and of course a great arrangement.
Shot and edited this music video of the inaugural Veritas World Junior golf tournament this summer here in southern California. Original music by me also. Edited and color graded in Final Cut Pro X with music produced and mixed in Pro Tools 10.
- Shot this mostly handheld, with a CANON VIXIA HF G10 at 23.98p.
- A few shots with an iPhone using the FilMIC PRO app at 24p.
- Audio recorded with a Sennheiser MKE 400 to the camera and a TASCAM DR-100 MK2
- Edited in FCPX, 23.98p timeline, 1920 x 1080, ProRes 422
- Vimeo and YouTube upload transcoded to 720p, x264 encoder CODEC
- Post-production video and audio at RedNote, Santa Monica, California
Studio: Red Note, Santa Monica, California
Current Project: Network TV Show
DAW: Pro Tools 10.0.1
Task at Hand: Stereo mixing
It is fast, very fast. Pro Tools 10 is a significant upgrade from prior releases that introduces a completely new design architecture and disk engine. I recently swapped out my legacy Pro Tools 8 HD system running on an old G5 machine to a MacPro running Pro Tools 10 native. The speed difference alone is dramatic. I’ve been putting it through the paces and starting to use it on current projects. The project I’m working on this week is an on-going television series that I had been previously mixing in PT8. Once, I got the I/O remapped to a new 12 channel hardware interface and a few plugins updated or substituted, things have gone very smoothly.
Some of the great new features I’ve been using are Clip Gain, the new Audiosuite processing that creates handles and the new Channel Strip plugin. I’m not quite comfortable with the GUI on this new plug, but it seems to sound very good. Pro Tools 10 is not 64 bit because it still needs to support the older “blue” 32 bit AVID hardware interfaces, but evidently the next version will be a true 64 bit app. The advantage of 64 bits is it gives you the ability to address more memory for larger files. Although this version does support TDM and RTAS, the new AAX plugin format is clearly the path forward in design and standards. The new features are incredible, although some of the ones I use are not included in the initial upgrade price. In order to get all the advanced automation features, VCA mixing, 5.1 surround and some others, you’ll need to drop another $1,999.00 for the “Production Toolkit’. Nothing is EVER inexpensive in the AVID world!
I still have my HD system setup and can switch back to it at anytime, but at this point I’m pressing on with 10. My workflow here at my studio is all mixing, editing or composing so I don’t have a need to have the 48 channels of Digidesign and Apogee A/D interfaces. I’m still organizing and sorting out my plugin’s from my HD rig, but many of them still work in 10. I never dreamed I’d be seeing the performance of RTAS plugins in Pro Tools!
With this release of Pro Tools 10, it is not only a transition for me but for AVID also. I suspect there are quite a few mixers out there still using older G5 machines with legacy Pro Tools software. Download the 30 day trail and give it a try. I don’t think you’ll look back. It truly is an incredible professional tool.