With all the sound emanating from one spot, miking brass instruments may seem pretty simple and straightforward, but brass instruments are capable of both tremendous range and tremendous dynamics.
As part of our basic recording techniques video series, here are some tips to capture the full picture of any brass instrument.
Trumpet Mic Placement
The trumpet is both highly directional and capable of very high SPL. A large condenser like the AT4050, with the pad engaged, can capture the full range of tone and dynamics the instrument has to offer.
Placing the mic directly in front of the bell yields the brightest sound. Moving the mic off-axis will de-emphasize the upper harmonics for a warmer, rounder sound. The closer to the bell the mic is, the less room ambiance and bleed will be captured relative to the direct sound. If the part calls for especially dynamic playing, the mic may need to be pulled back to prevent the sound from being shrill.
Trombone Mic Placement
All the principles that apply to the trumpet also apply to the trombone. Here we’re using an AT4080 phantom-powered bidirectional ribbon mic for its smooth top end and rich bottom. Since the trombone isn’t as dynamic as the trumpet, keeping the mic 14 inches away from the bell can capture the full range of the instrument while providing plenty of isolation.
Tuba Mic Placement
An AT4047/SV large diaphragm condenser can capture the full warmth and roundness of the tuba. Since the bell is pointing upward, the AT4047 is mounted to a sturdy stand directly above, aimed straight down. With the pad engaged, it can handle the level if placed close to the bell. If isolation isn’t an issue, moving the mic a bit higher can open up the sound.
French Horn Mic Placement
Unlike other brass instruments, the French horn is designed to be heard indirectly. When possible, place the player in a spot where pleasing ambiance can be captured as well. Here we have an AT4050 set to cardioid; it’s placed 54 inches above the floor, 16 feet in front of the back wall with the player midway between. If more ambiance is desired, the mic can be moved even farther away.
With these techniques you’re on your way to getting your brass into focus.