Horns – Zen Recording

Horns

From Zen and the Art of Recording © All Rights Reserved:
Horn sections can be equally as frustrating to record as strings. Any time you put together a section, you’re hindered by your weakest link. The best protection is to seek out a section that plays together regularly, although there are no guarantees this will quell the issue. Horns are often served best by ribbons like Royer 121’s, Beyer Dynamic 160’s, Coles 4038’s, Sony 44’s, and RCA 77’s, all of which make for good choices, so long as they are well-maintained. Condensers like the Sony C37a or C38b, which have a rather mellow nature to them, are especially good for woodwinds, like saxophone or clarinet.
When setting up for a string or horn section, be sure to give each player a music stand, a pencil, some paper, a headphone box, and water.

As with strings, double-tracking four horns is not the same as recording an ensemble of eight. The most common issue with horns is tuning. Weak horn players are notoriously out of tune. Even decent players go out of tune, especially when monitoring through headphones. Unlike strings, a good horn section doesn’t necessarily need charts, but you better have a producer around who can work on the fly. You still must work within voice-leading rules, but horn parts are typically delivered in short phrases, which simplifies matters tremendously. I would much rather record a group of players that perform routinely as a section than to attempt to organize one piecemeal. When recording a horn section, you can line the players up in a row, and the players will have a preference to their order. The typical arrangement from left to right is bari sax, tenor sax, trombone, and trumpet. You can place a mic in front of each player, and then place a room mic (or two) to capture the whole ensemble. Strings are arranged similarly. Horns typically stand, strings usually sit. Rugs are optional for horns, and not recommended for strings. When setting up for a string or horn section, be sure to give each player a music stand, a pencil, some paper, a headphone box, and water. Enjoy, Mixerman

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