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Session Notes | Media

The Practical Craft Of Recording Brass By Neil Rogers
Published September 2015

Audio files to accompany the article.

These files accompany the Session Notes article in the September 2015 issue of SOS

Download | 125 MB

Session Notes: Audio Examples

The audio files available on this page accompany the Session Notes article in SOS September 2015, in which Neil Rogers describes how he recorded a four–piece trombone section and solo trumpet on location at Angela Ruskin University’s recital hall. For the trombones, he used a large–diaphragm capacitor mic for each player, positioned about four feet back and slightly above the instruments’ soundhole — or ‘bell’, as it’s commonly known. As well as these close mics, he used a stereo room microphone, positioned a good 12–15 feet away from the group. The same room-mic setup was used for the trumpet recording, along with two closer mics, one a Neumann U87 and the other a Beyerdynamic M88 moving–coil dynamic microphone. Files are provided for all mics, as well as for Neil’s group mix, both with and without processing. There’s also an excerpt from the finished mixes so you can hear the brass in its final context. Details of the files are given below — they’re best downloaded and auditioned in your DAW in your studio or on high-quality headphones.

A. Trombone Examples:


A Royer SF–12, a stereo ribbon mic, acting as a room mic. This was positioned centrally, about 12–15 feet away from the musicians. To achieve a nice balance of the group Neil moved the player on the far left back a few feet. Notice the natural room ambience, and how you can still hear the musicians’ breaths, even from this distance.


From the ‘conductor’ perspective of looking at the trombonists, this was the far-left close mic, an AKG C214 capacitor microphone, which was positioned off axis, about four feet back from the instrument’s cone. As you can hear, there’s plenty of bleed, but just enough of the particular player to allow a little internal rebalancing of the trombones group when mixing.


Again looking at the trombonists and starting at the left, this was the second close mic, another AKG C214, again positioned off axis and about four feet away from the instrument’s cone.


Again looking at the trombonists, and again running from the left, this was the third instrument’s close mic, a Neumann U87 capacitor microphone, which was positioned off axis and about four feet back from the instrument’s cone. Notice how this particular mic captures the ‘raspy’ top end of brass instruments.


Looking at the trombonists from the same perspective, this was the far–right instrument’s close mic, a Blue Baby Bottle capacitor model, positioned off axis and about six feet back from the instrument’s cone. Neil felt it necessary to place this mic a bit further back than the others, to try and capture something to fill out the low end. It achieves this but at the cost of plenty of extra bleed from the other players.


Neil used an additional moving–coil mic, a Beyerdynamic M88, on the far–right trombonist as something of a wildcard option, but also as a reference point while tracking. This was positioned off axis to one side, and about two feet away from the instrument’s cone. It’s interesting to compare this with the other mics: it’s a drier sound and, being more directional, this mic resulted in noticeably less bleed. However, the sound is perhaps a bit muted, and might require a little more ‘help’ at the mix stage if used on it’s own.


The final balance of the room and close mics, without any mix processing. This mix is weighted about 60:40 in favour of the stereo room mic, with the close mics just used to manage the performance dynamic a little.


The final trombone mix balance including the processing Neil added, which included 4–5dB of gain reduction via compression, smoothing the dynamics a fair amount. This along with a shelving EQ boost at 10kHz results in a more solid and aggressive sound — the reason being that Neil wanted this sound to ‘cut through’ in this particular mix. Notice how the noise floor has been brought up due to the compression; the breaths and headphone spill are more audible when this is heard in isolation. Yet in the context of the track it’s not a problem.


A little snippet of how the trombones where used in the final mix of the track. There’s everything but the kitchen sink going on at this point, so the mix processing that had been applied was essential in getting the trombones to sit in their place within the wider mix.

B. Trumpet Examples:


For the trumpet recording, Neil used the same room mic, a Royer SF–12, positioned about 12 feet back from the player. A stereo ribbon mic like this excels in such a scenario, capturing an extremely life–like sound.


A Neumann U87 capacitor mic was positioned off axis and about three to four feet back from the bell of the trumpet. This mic has a nice balance of room and direct sound, and despite being ‘close’ is still far enough away from the instrument to capture a nice, full sound.


As another option for the trumpet, Neil close-miked it with the moving–coil Beyerdynamic M88, positioned off axis about two feet from the bell. This could be a very usable sound in many contexts, but you should be able to hear that it’s lacking in some of the fullness of the other options.


Neil’s final balance for the mix was a combination of the two close–mic options. Using some of the moving–coil mic helped the trumpet cut through, but at the expense of a little bottom end. It took some discipline to mute the room mic as it sounded so nice in isolation — but the part seemed to work better with some of the longer reverb that was being used on other elements in the busy mix, rendering that gorgeous room sound almost redundant here!


Apart from the shared mix reverb, all that was required by way of processing on the trumpet was about 3–4 dB of gain reduction, with a fairly fast attack and release, and a little low–frequency shelving lift centred around 150Hz.


A short clip of the trumpet in action in the final mixed version of ‘Ladyfingers’.