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Recording a Jazz Quartet with a Zoom H4

Discussion in 'Amps, Mics & Pickups [DB]' started by bankerwithabass, Feb 22, 2008.


  1. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    This turns out to be very good advice. The problem the OP is encountering is that he is trying, understandably, to compromise between far-field, omni-directional recording and close-miking. With a fixed-mike recorder such as the H-2, H-4, or Edirol, that's a difficult balancing act (pun intended). I have been able to make some remarkable recordings with the "almost close-mike" technique if the room is small. In those cases, I've done the dance where one places the recorder near the less-intense instruments and then arranges the physical location of the instruments as best one can.

    In larger rooms with more reverberation and where the location of the instruments cannot be tweaked very much (performance situations), I find it best to go for the far-field omni approach where I try to capture what is heard at a typical listening position. This is a tried and true technique. There was a famous recording made back in the 50s by the engineers at Vanguard. IIRC, it was of the Franck D minor. It was made with a single microphone (the days of monophonic) at the back of the concert hall. The entire orchestra was captured spectacularly.

    By the way, I love my H-2. It was a fantastic buy!
     
  2. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

    Jun 14, 2004
    Chicago
    Point is that many bands need to examine their balance. Often drummers can get loud and bass players can refuse to turn up expecting the drummer will adjust. Not saying that is what happening here but I feel these situations deserve a compromise.

    I play with a few guys that came up playing gospel on the south side of Chicago. So much fun. If you aren't familiar gospel bands are incredible at keeping maximum intensity for a really long time. Billy Kilson or Nate Smith (Dave Holland) or Terreon Gully (Christian McBride) are good examples of that approach (though I'm not sure if they were gospel players). One band I play with often does 1 1/2 hour sets. Time flies though 'cause it is so hot and groovin'. Sometimes to compete with this approach you have to turn up a bit. Now I'm a big fan of not playing too loud and I have been very vocal about that here but if the music calls for it I turn up.

    Again, that may not be the case here. Just speaking from personal experience. Balance is key and the recorder can help with that.

    btw I love my H2 as well. One of the best tax deductions of 2007.
     
  3. jonas

    jonas

    Dec 9, 2003
    Frankfurt am Main/Germany
    Kontrabass-Atelier, Lando Music (Germany)
    Not exactly. When I stand where I've placed the H4 first, the balance is better. But maybe my ears can hear more selective than the H4 ;)
     
  4. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

    Jun 14, 2004
    Chicago
    Your brain definitely hears what it wants to hear. Also your ears can (hopefully) pick up sound better than the little mics on the recorder.
     
  5. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    +1. Something about recording bass and balancing an ensemble is strange when recording live. What my ears hear and what the mics hear is usually fairly different. Dunno why that is.
     
  6. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

    Jun 14, 2004
    Chicago
    I remember when Brian Glassman was in town (bribass) he borrowed my ply bass and WM12 amp. I came to one of his gigs a bit before. He was dialng in a sound for the room. He felt like his tone was big on full on stage. It sounded pretty thin in the house. We dialed in a tone that sounded great in the house but sounded muddy and thumpy on stage. He even had me play a bit and he went out in the house to listen.

    Point is, what we hear on stage rarely translates to what is heard in the house.

    All that said the mics on those recorders are fine but they are not 'audiophile' mics. They are great but you get what you pay for.
     
  7. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    Absolutely true. As for why the balance the H-4 records is different than the balance you hear at the same point, there are many, many reasons. In all fairness, when you said the H-4 is capturing what the listener is hearing, I didn't think you meant that that should be taken literally-- only that it will be much more like what the listener hears than what is the balance on stage.

    Now, what a listener hears at the point the H-4 is placed will differ from the balance recorded by the H-4. This is not because the brain hears what it wants to hear. After all, the same brain is listening to the H-4's recording. Rather, it is the result of a host of factors including:

    1) the differing directional/spectral shaping properties of the pinnae (out ear) and the microphones.

    2) acoustic effects contributed by the head and torso

    3) the differing spacing between the ears and the microphones

    4) the way 1 and 2 can affect the inherent ability of a human listener to "subtract out" the acoustic and reverberant properties of the room.

    I'll stop there. :)
     
  8. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

    Jun 14, 2004
    Chicago
    5. the quality of your ears vs mics on a couple hundred dollar recorder.


    ps and yes, I didn't mean it literally hears what a person hears.
     
  9. I just don't seem to get enough bass in this situation. But at the same time it seems that I am turned up loud enough, at least I hear it that way where I'm playing. I have done much better by lowering the physical height of the recorder/mics on the h4 and getting a much better balance with respect to the bass. But like you guys have been saying it's a balancing act and there sure doesn't seem to be an accounting for what our ears hear and the recorder.

    On a slightly different note in regards to what also was said earlier, when I played at a christmas concert in a large reverbirating hall a couple months ago I had my bass and amp set to where I thought it was at the right volume the leader went walking around the hall to listen and came back and said that I was muddled or muddy sounding. So what I ended up doing was shaving off some of the lows and favoring the high mids. I always have trouble in the big halls and not always with the same bass or amp either. Then we have a jazz club in Denver that has fantastic sound. What I hear at my playing position is what everyone in the room hears and is very easy to set up. I think they have some accoustic material on the walls that help.

    This is almost as fun as playing the bass and is all very intrigeing.[spelling?] I love my H4 the more I use it.
     
  10. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    Rooms can sure be nightmares. Of course, as pointed out, the tonal balance can be very different in different parts of the room. There are so many factors we can't really control. Just gotta do the best we can for the "average" listening position.
     
  11. jonas

    jonas

    Dec 9, 2003
    Frankfurt am Main/Germany
    Kontrabass-Atelier, Lando Music (Germany)
    After all, it never has been so easy for me to get a decent recording. And burning a CD is just drag'n'drop. Great tool.
     

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