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Recording Wind and Brass Musical Instruments

A Review by: Alphonso Soosay

Audio recording can be challenging as Wind Musical Instrumentscan be tricky to record because of the very nature of how the various instruments produce its sound. If you have not recorded Wind Musical Instruments before, then you will have to practice microphone placement a few times until you achieve in getting the original “Tone” you are searching for.

 Wind instrument contains sound that is produced by blowing through a reed, others require fluting into a metal mouthpiece, also some type of Resonator   (tube), in which a column of air is set into vibration by the player blowing into or over a mouthpiece  set at the end of the resonator. The pitch of the vibration is determined by the length of the tube and by manual modifications of the effective length of the vibrating column of air.

Brass instrument is a musical instrument  that produces sound by vibration  of air in a tubular Resonator    in support with the vibration of the player’s lips. There are several factors involved in producing different pitches on a Brass instrument.  One is alteration of the player’s lip tension and another is air flow. Also, Trombone (slides or valves ) are used to change the length of the tubing, thus changing the  harmonic.

When recording these musical instruments, point the microphone where the sound comes out. The difficulty with a lot of the wind instruments is that the sound actually comes out of the whole instrument, even in the finger holes leak sound region. So where do you place the microphone?  This might seem uncomplicated, but be cautious because certain wind instruments might deceive you. Your ears are the judge at these situations. To cut down on breath noise from a flute, try using a pop filter in front of the microphone. The filter will cut the air from reaching the microphone and sounding overly “breathy.”

Trumpet and the other brass instruments have a very clear bell where the sound shoots out. Simply place a condenser microphone slightly in front of the bell and you’re good to go. For loud brass players, place the microphone back slightly to ease possible distortion. Flute is a more difficult one. While it might seem as if the sound comes out of the end of the instrument, most of the sound actually comes out from the head joint, where the player blows. The problem with this is that’s also where all of the breath noise is, which can make it very difficult to get a clean flute sound. Place the microphone just slightly next to the flute’s head joint to pick up a good combination of somebody sound, head joint sound, and minimal breath noise. Use a large-diaphragm condenser microphone that uses either an omnidirection or cardioid pattern.

Instruments may sound good by themselves, but when you add them to the rest of the mix, they may not fit as well. This is a common problem and can usually be fixed with some creative EQ and effects processor used during the final mix stage.

The saxophones bell delivers most of the sound, but there is also sound coming out from the keys as well. Try to position the microphone in a way that you can clearly hear both sounds; then experiment with the movement of the microphone until you achieve the sound to your satisfaction.

Alphonso Soosay / Audio Recording Engineer / Musician

2006

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