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Our band is currently recording some new songs which will end up becoming our 3rd album. We are lucky enough to have our own state of the art recording studio in which to record. The difference this time is that we have a new engineer who has zero experience recording horns.

Last week we recorded a song, and last night at practice I went into the control room to hear how it was coming along and the horns (tenor sax, trumpet, trombone) seriously sounded like they were produced by a synthesizer. Very compressed sounding, no resonance, etc.

We recorded the horns on a ribbon mic, he said he had done nothing to the audio other than mic to pre-amp to pro tools. We recorded the horns one at a time as opposed to all together.

Tonight we are going to try again, this time recording all together each with our own mic + a room mic to try to capture more of the ambient "room" sounds to create some depth/space.

Offhand, do any of you guys have any suggestions (other than "get a new engineer")? I'm going to Google the crap out of this today to see what the internet has to offer. We are also going to try a few different mic types (we have several of varying $ and type).
 

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Compression / Reverb / Delay

Use a bit of each
 

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Compression / Reverb / Delay

Use a bit of each
He put reverb on it and it didn't change the core of the sound, just made it sound like the synthesizer was in a bigger room ;)
I really think it's a mic issue of some kind... they didn't sound like horns.
 

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Tonight we are going to try again, this time recording all together each with our own mic + a room mic to try to capture more of the ambient "room" sounds to create some depth/space.
Much better way of recording a section in my experience...... use the room mic as much as possible, only bring up the individual mics for solos.
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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I really think it's a mic issue of some kind... they didn't sound like horns.
Most likely mic or mic placement issue. A good recording engineer does not need to have recorded the specific instruments or ensemble, any engineer can listen to what an instrument sounds like in the room, then recreate that sound as close as possible in the recording.

Reverb, delay and compression are all things to add after the fact, ie in the mix so unless he is recording those (I hope not) it's not part of the problem.

It's odd that they sounded compressed if he didn't use any compression as you say.

Also it need not be a problem recording one at a time, well not from a sound point of view, maybe from a performance point of view it can be an issue.

I'm not a big fan of distance miking on its own either (unless you are really really sure of the room sound as it becomes an embedded part of the recording) although it's a good idea to use some ambient mics in that way as well as the close mics.

The main thing is to talk to him about it.
 

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He put reverb on it and it didn't change the core of the sound, just made it sound like the synthesizer was in a bigger room ;)
I really think it's a mic issue of some kind... they didn't sound like horns.
Maybe he didn't have phantom power switched on, then boosted the crap out of the signal?
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Most likely mic or mic placement issue. A good recording engineer does not need to have recorded the specific instruments or ensemble, any engineer can listen to what an instrument sounds like in the room, then recreate that sound as close as possible in the recording.

Reverb, delay and compression are all things to add after the fact, ie in the mix so unless he is recording those (I hope not) it's not part of the problem.

It's odd that they sounded compressed if he didn't use any compression as you say.

Also it need not be a problem recording one at a time, well not from a sound point of view, maybe from a performance point of view it can be an issue.

I'm not a big fan of distance miking on its own either (unless you are really really sure of the room sound as it becomes an embedded part of the recording) although it's a good idea to use some ambient mics in that way as well as the close mics.

The main thing is to talk to him about it.
I did talk to him about it, that's why we're re-doing it in the first place. This may end up requiring a ton of trial and error work.
 

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What I learned in 30 years of recording horns: Always record horn sections together. Everybody with an individual mic. We horn players listen (at least we should :grouphug:) to each other and adjust our microtuning to the chords. So it sounds much better.
Just my 2 cents.
have fun recording.
 

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What I learned in 30 years of recording horns: Always record horn sections together. Everybody with an individual mic. We horn players listen (at least we should :grouphug:) to each other and adjust our microtuning to the chords. So it sounds much better.
Just my 2 cents.
have fun recording.
Yeah we're going to do this tonight, but not sure if that's why the horns didn't sound like "horns" the first go...
 

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O

(tenor sax, trumpet, trombone) seriously sounded like they were produced by a synthesizer. Very compressed sounding, no resonance, etc.

We recorded the horns on a ribbon mic,
I experienced that same problem too. The horns sounded like a flat synthesizer, on a expensive studio recording. But on an earlier recording we sounded big and bold, and much better. The difference was that the first recording was a 'lousy' rehearsal recording, with two sm58 mics for two horns in the rehearsal room. The second was in an accoustic dead studio with only one mic. I think that a major part of the problem is that when one mic is used, there are no runtime differences in the soundwaves, and no 'bleeding' between the mics. A lot of spacial dept is caused by the filtering effects and extinctions and enforcement of the soundwaves form different sources. That is also how one accoustically experiences more horns sounding togetter. A recording can be too 'perfect'
Therefore: use one (or even two!) mics for each horn, and allow some room effects.
 

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I experienced that same problem too. The horns sounded like a flat synthesizer, on a expensive studio recording. But on an earlier recording we sounded big and bold, and much better. The difference was that the first recording was a 'lousy' rehearsal recording, with two sm58 mics for two horns in the rehearsal room. The second was in an accoustic dead studio with only one mic. I think that a major part of the problem is that when one mic is used, there are no runtime differences in the soundwaves, and no 'bleeding' between the mics. A lot of spacial dept is caused by the filtering effects and extinctions and enforcement of the soundwaves form different sources. That is also how one accoustically experiences more horns sounding togetter. A recording can be too 'perfect'
Therefore: use one (or even two!) mics for each horn, and allow some room effects.
We have kind of an opposite experience, in that the rough demos we did in the same studio on SM58 we sound like real-live horns! Then when we go to do the "real" recordings we came out sounding like keyboard-generated horns. He did run two mics for the real recordings, one ribbon and the other I can't remember. He ended up using just one of them.
 

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I would definately be in the "all horns into one mic" camp. But with a spaced pair of overhead pencil condensors. That will give you tonnes of depth and ressonance.
 

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Maybe he didn't have phantom power switched on, then boosted the crap out of the signal?
You mustn't switch phantom power on on a passive ribbon mic, that might kill it!! Only active ribbons can be phantom powered. Ribbons need a good pre amp, at least 60db gain. You might want to boost the top end, ribbons just don't have much top end, so they will benefit from EQing. I would prefer to record the whole section, that way it will sound bigger..
 

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You mustn't switch phantom power on on a passive ribbon mic, that might kill it!! Only active ribbons can be phantom powered. Ribbons need a good pre amp, at least 60db gain. You might want to boost the top end, ribbons just don't have much top end, so they will benefit from EQing. I would prefer to record the whole section, that way it will sound bigger..
Yeah they are running through a helluva pre-amp (Avalon something or other) so that shouldn't be an issue. I don't think it's an EQ issue though. Lots of great ideas, keep them coming!
 

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They must make sure that they turn the gain control knob for that channel to 60+ db (you wouldn't do that with a non-ribbon mic)
 

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They must make sure that they turn the gain control knob for that channel to 60+ db (you wouldn't do that with a non-ribbon mic)
Interesting, I'll have him look into that thank you
 

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Maybe if there was an end goal in mind, it might help to share that with the forum and especially the engineer. Is there a recording you like and are trying to emulate sound wise?
 

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Maybe if there was an end goal in mind, it might help to share that with the forum and especially the engineer. Is there a recording you like and are trying to emulate sound wise?
Right now I'd just like it to sound "real", then we'll go from there. At this stage it's not about tweaking it, it's about making it sound like they're real instruments as opposed to synthesizer-created horns.

As a reference I told him to listen to anything from Streetlight Manifesto.

Edit- I'd love to be able to post a clip to illustrate what I'm talking about, but I can't unfortunately.
 

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Right now I'd just like it to sound "real", then we'll go from there.
OK, I'd go a bit safer. Forget ribbon mics for now, they can be great but they can also be a pain.

Try to get the engineer to put up a pair of AKG 414s at about 3 - 6 feet from the section, with the polar pattern set to omni. provided you don't need close mics for balance, this should at least be good if not great and I don't see how the engineer can go wrong..

If the studio doesn't have two 414s, use their equivalent. If they don't have that, then it's not a state of the art studio.
 
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