If we had to pick one instrument that benefits the most from ribbon microphones, it would be the trumpet. Complex, powerful, loud and on the higher-end side of the frequency spectrum, the trumpet is an emotional, moving and exciting instrument - there's nothing like a great trumpet solo or a powerful brass section letting it rip!
Brass has been one of the more difficult instrument groups to record, often sounding overly bright and thin on recordings and live performances. Brass benefits greatly from the right choice of microphone and ribbons are the best - the smooth high end response of a good ribbon mic makes a real difference, capturing all of the detail with none of the harshness or peakyness that is often associated with brass.
Capturing good brass recordings is fairly simple. Let's start with miking a single trumpet or trombone with an R-series mic.
- Before setting up the mic, have the player move around the room and play until you find the spot where the instrument sounds best.
- A good starting position is to place the mic 3 to 6 feet from the instrument and about 6 inches below the line of sight of the bell. While monitoring through headphones or taking direction from someone listening in the control room, move the mic or have the player adjust his position until you find the place where you think it sounds best. Royers are very forgiving and will sound good at various distances and angles, so anchoring the player to one position is not necessary. Many microphones will distort if the player moves too close to them, but Royers won't.
Miking a Horn Section
When miking a full horn section, engineers often use one Royer per player, at a distance of 1 to 2 feet. Grouping two players on one mic also works well - the off-axis response of a good ribbon mic is excellent, so having two musicians play into one ribbon mic simultaneously will yield excellent results.
For miking an entire section, you can achieve beautiful results with a Royer SF-12, SF-24 or a stereo pair of R-series microphones. Position the mic in front of the section and move the mic until you achieve an even blend. Consider how much room sound you want, since this will determine how close the mic will be.
Click on photos to enlarge and view comments.
Arturo Sandoval at Capitol Studios soloing on an R-122 during the recording of his brilliant record Trumpet Evolution (for more pictures of this session see Arturo Sandoval Session Photos).
Five R-122's on the trumpet section during the Alf Clausen sessions for his release Swing Can Really Hang You Up The Most. In addition to the spot trumpet mics, each of the three sections (trumpet, trombone, sax) were room miked with SF-12 stereo ribbon mics. The SF-12's were moved in closer to the sections after these pictures were taken.
Members of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band tracking What's Goin' On in 2006. They recorded together, with each player individually miked.
(for more pictures of this session see Dirty Dozen Session Photos)