5 Tips To Record Horns Professionally In A Home Studio

Recording horns might sound like a tricky task at first, but with these five simple tips you'll be well on your way to recording professional sounding brass all from the comfort of your home studio.

Written by Triple H Horns

1. Producing Isn’t Easy

1. Book The Best Players You Can Afford And Have The Music Prepared

 

There’s often the preconception that just adding horns (or any “special” type of instrument or section) will always make things sounds better - wrong. Whilst adding a cool element like this to a track can be new and exciting, especially when it comes to playing around with it in the mix, there is no point in having a substandard performance added to the track. You’ll only kick yourself later that you didn’t potentially spend that little bit more to have a top section in the first place.

 

They’ll likely be quicker and save you time and more importantly money. We often get asked to correct the mistakes the cheaper section made! This goes for having an arrangement in mind too. It doesn’t necessarily always have to be completely scored out from start to finish with every minute detail, however the more detail the better!

 

 

So much time in the studio can be spent discussing note choices, note lengths, dynamics: The list is endless!! So as much clear information given initially is definitely a bonus.

2. Music Theory

2. You Don’t Need Expensive Microphones To Get A Good Result

We’re very fortunate that we have a pretty large selection of vintage and new microphones and preamps to choose from. However, you don’t always need that if you find what sound you like and defines what YOU sound like. If you want to be known for having that loose, edgy sounding studio horn section, you can get away with a lot. Equally, if you want a clinical recording you can get an excellent sound with many of the lower priced preamps and microphones out there today.

 

 

More expensive doesn’t always SOUND more expensive!

3. Creativity

3. You Don’t Need More Than One Microphone

 

There have been times when we’ve been asked to record things either on the road or not at our main studio and have been limited to the space and what equipment we may have available. A problem, one would think - wrong! If all three of us are together we have a few options;

 

A) record each instrument individually

 

B) record two instruments together. Usually saxophone and trombone and then add the trumpet on top.

 

C) record all three together. Set the microphone setting (if possible) to omni setting and all stand around the microphone. If someone is too loud, step back and vice verse. This is a bit more trial and error but once you have found a sound and balance you’re happy with, this technique can work quite well as we have found.

 

 

The more instruments that record together, the groovier it tends to feel rather than individually tracking instruments. Just something to bear in mind with whatever the track is you’re recording.

4. Always Be Learning and Connecting

4. Room Treatment Is A Necessity

 

This is applicable when recording any acoustic instrument really, but horns really need a treated room if you want a professional sounding horn section recording. Horns thrive on playing in a room with a little bit of liveliness about it, rather than a completely dead sounding one as it’s exhausting and uninspiring for a trumpet and trombone player to play in a dead acoustic.

 

 

However, in a home studio setting I would eek towards the more treated sounding room than a non treated hall. Sadly we can’t all have Abbey Road studios as our spare room!!

5. Set Your Goals and Prioritize

5. Keep It Simple!

 

This is a classic comment but so true! The strongest voicing or harmony you can have is unison or all playing the same note! This is the most straightforward way of writing something and it sounds so powerful and strong! It’s the same with regards to recording horns.

 

A capable musician, playing a good instrument, recording into a decent sounding microphone, through a quiet preamp (most are now) in a semi treated room will get you a fantastic recording of a horn section.

About the author:

The Triple H Horns are a London based horn section who have worked alongside some of the world’s biggest artists and producers. Credits include Dave Taylor (Switch), Sir Tom Jones, James Arthur, JP Cooper, John Newman and most recently, the legendary Chaka Khan.
As well as being a live horn section, they are also highly in demand for their recorded work at their very nicely kitted out home studio.
They regularly record for clients from all over the world for artists, advertisements, TV and film. You can found out more by visiting www.tripleHhorns.com and their instagram page @tripleHhorns (Note the two ‘h’s!).

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