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BIS recording technique for trombone

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BIS recording technique for trombone

Postby harrisonreed » Tue Sep 15, 2020 5:27 am

Hello! I am brand new to this forum, so I hope I'm in the right place. I am a classical trombonist and I'm trying to get better at recording myself for instructional videos, music recordings, and multi-track projects. I want to take BIS's material as an inspiration and try to do what they are able to do. Obviously, this is an impossible task for me right now, but I figure that trying will make me better. Again, I'm just a trombonist...

Here in the States, the common approach to "accoustic" trombone recording (not jazz / commercial / studio), is to put a large condenser or ribbon mic about 12 feet out in front of the player, maybe slightly off access, and put it either at shoulder height or slightly above the height of the player. Joseph Alessi (NY Phil) records this way and so does James Nova who records multi track versions of Star Wars tunes. They do not sound like BIS recordings of trombone, and while some of that has to do with the different players, I think a lot of it has to do with the mic technique I see in the following images which I have tried but failed to recreate on my own.

Here is a video (link below the pictures) with audio from the final product released as a CD, but with some images of the recording session itself.

Image
Image

https://youtu.be/e17tEwWORUs

This setup is very similar but is not BIS. I don't really like this word music, but the recording sound and quality is exactly what I would like to achieve. The video it was extracted from is below as well.

Image

https://youtu.be/-oN0GlTW_YE

Christian also gets a similar sound on his own using small diaphragm contenders on this time of setup, and some added reverb.

Image

My failed setup, using CM4 mics in an AB pair.

Image

So... First, why are they recording in stereo like this, for a single instrument? Would there be phasing and bleed issues with the mics arranged like this, especially the ensemble recordings? Or would these issues only become apparent in mono, and BIS just doesn't care about mono?

Second, what do you think of putting the mics like that, only a few feet in front of the bell but much higher than the player? Those are fancy Neumann LDCs -- would you have them on cardiod or figure 8?

Third, back to the stereo AB pair -- would they be doing math and figuring out exactly how to space a pair like that for a single instrument, or just a set distance between the mics and find the spot where it sounds best?

For comparison, all I have is a stereo audio interface and two CM4s, which I know CAN sound great, but probably won't ever sound like what I hear in BIS recordings. This is all I can achieve:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1CEO5gqPAXFH86EVq6Tqbz7pCCgYAnGrY/view?usp=drivesdk
harrisonreed
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Re: BIS recording technique for trombone

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Tue Sep 15, 2020 11:05 am

harrisonreed wrote:I want to take BIS's material as an inspiration and try to do what they are able to do.

As always, the overall sound quality is the sum of all the parts. It's not just a miking technique, it's about the acoustics of the venues, the sound of the individual instruments, and the performances themselves, too.

Here in the States, the common approach to "accoustic" trombone recording (not jazz / commercial / studio), is to put a large condenser or ribbon mic about 12 feet out in front of the player, maybe slightly off access, and put it either at shoulder height or slightly above the height of the player.

Given the acoustic radiation pattern of the typical trombone (simplified below), close placement directly in front tends to give a rather brighter sound than most would hear in in conventional concert setting. Of course, this works for some recording purposes, but not for others... And different instruments do sound different.

Image

Here is a video (link below the pictures) with audio from the final product released as a CD, but with some images of the recording session itself.

It's always difficult to second-guess how a commercial recording was actually produced just from some pictures as you rarely get a good overview and you don't know which mics were actually contributing to the mix or at what levels.

Nevertheless, it appears in these images that there's a main (very) widely-spaced stereo pair in front of the stage, and then a bunch of close accent mics on each instrument.

It is common practice to use a near-spaced pair of omnis for soloists these days, which is what you can see above the trombone.

So... First, why are they recording in stereo like this, for a single instrument? Would there be phasing and bleed issues with the mics arranged like this

Yes, of course... and that's part of the sound character. The trick is to place and balance the mics to get just the right amount of phase and bleed issues! :-) Using near-spaced mics for accents helps to avoid collapsing the stereo image.

Or would these issues only become apparent in mono, and BIS just doesn't care about mono?

Try listening to their recordings in mono and decide for yourself... There will always be some level of compromise between the summed mono and stereo versions of a recording. I think it's fair to say BIS prioritise the stereo... but the mono isn't a complete disaster.

Second, what do you think of putting the mics like that, only a few feet in front of the bell but much higher than the player?

It obviously works with that instrument and that player in that venue for that particular style of presentation....

Those are fancy Neumann LDCs -- would you have them on cardiod or figure 8?

Omni.

Third, back to the stereo AB pair -- would they be doing math and figuring out exactly how to space a pair like that for a single instrument, or just a set distance between the mics and find the spot where it sounds best?

The latter.

This is all I can achieve:

Nice recording! In comparison to the BIS stuff it is very wide with less focus on individual instruments.
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Re: BIS recording technique for trombone

Postby harrisonreed » Tue Sep 15, 2020 2:45 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:It's always difficult to second-guess how a commercial recording was actually produced just from some pictures as you rarely get a good overview and you don't know which mics were actually contributing to the mix or at what levels.

Nevertheless, it appears in these images that there's a main (very) widely-spaced stereo pair in front of the stage, and then a bunch of close accent mics on each instrument.

It is common practice to use a near-spaced pair of omnis for soloists these days, which is what you can see above the trombone.



Those are fancy Neumann LDCs -- would you have them on cardiod or figure 8?

Omni.


This is all I can achieve:

Nice recording! In comparison to the BIS stuff it is very wide with less focus on individual instruments.

Hugh, thanks for the response! It shows just how very little I understand about recording anything, as a musician. I really appreciate it!

Omni stereo AB pair on the soloist, and you call it an "accent pair". So the main image would come from the distant AB pair in front of the stage, and the soloist is dialed in using the accent pair? I would never have even thought of using omni, and clearly my CM4s can't do that. I have access to a pair of C414s, but they aren't mine. I think those can do omni, so I'll try that out. Maybe the CM4s would be more useful as a distant spaced pair, or would omnis be better for that too?
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Re: BIS recording technique for trombone

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Tue Sep 15, 2020 3:21 pm

harrisonreed wrote:Omni stereo AB pair on the soloist, and you call it an "accent pair".

Yes, because I imagine it's there as an accent or 'spot mic, to help with focus the trombone.

So the main image would come from the distant AB pair in front of the stage, and the soloist is dialed in using the accent pair?

There are lots of ways of recording an ensemble. One way is to rely on a main stereo array, and then use accent mics to add focus or fill in any missing detail.

Another way is to rely on the close mics for the core sound and then use a stereo array to add the required spaciousness and room sound.

the two techniques look very similar... but it's what you do with the contribution from each mic that matters...

So my take on the rig, as seen in the screen shot, is that there are accent mics and a slightly more distant stereo array. But, as I said, it can only ever be a guess as we don't know what contribution each visible mic is making, or what invisible mics there might also have been in the room.

I would never have even thought of using omni, and clearly my CM4s can't do that.

They can, kind-of, if you point them at the ceiling (or floor)! :D You'd still have slightly less room-ambience pickup than a true omni, but that might not be a bad thing. But even with the CM4s in a near-spaced accent pair you'd get a similar spatial effect as the BIS array, if not the same extended low-end and phase accuracy.

...would omnis be better for that too?

The main benefits of omni mics is that they don't suffer from the slightly 'phasy' quality of all (labyrinth) cardioid mics, and they also have a flatter and more extended low end response. That is often audible on acoustic instruments with complex tonalities... like the trombone.

Against that, omni mics obviously capture more room sound, so the quality of the recording venue acoustic is important.
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