Although rapid development of technology in past decades had made our life incomparably easier in all walks of life, some things still have to be done the old fashioned way.
The same goes for audio recording for live shows.
Computers have become an integral part of the process of making, for example, a live DVD in all stages of the production. However, the computer can only help in managing the raw recorded content, not so much in actually recording it.
Software will only help so much in the post-production if you have a bad recording.
You will still have to get dirty with the cables, setting up the PA, sound engineering, planning the look and feel you want to achieve with the artist and everything else that goes into such a production.
Of course, there is always an option of enlisting professional help of companies like RTR Productions of Audio Visual Events if you working in the Land of Plenty, but many performers would rather have their live concert recording produced in a more personal manner, so to speak.
By Joanne Miller
To that end, we give you five basic tips for recording live sound:
Study the Location Prior to Recording Live
Image Source: Dmitry P on Flickr
Every space is different and has its own quirks.
Don't let yourself be surprised by them when the show starts. Check everything in out and try out everything that can go wrong in terms of sound. For example, you need to know if and in what way the sound of the audience will affect your microphone setup.
Some venues can be perfect for certain frequencies, while other ones can be distorted, too quiet or easily suffocated with other sounds. You need to know what to expect in terms of acoustic qualities of a particular venue in order to prepare and adapt to it accordingly, so that you don't have an unpleasant surprise when it is too late to do anything about it.
Test-Listen to Audio Live on Location
If you arrive in some concert hall having never heard the artist you are about to record until the sound check starts, you wouldn't be the first one.
However, you can easily get into a lot of trouble this way. You certainly wouldn't be the first one to fail miserably after such an oversight, either. If you repeat this and somehow manage to come out on top, be sure that sooner or later you will have brought a knife to a gun fight.
This will most likely ruin your reputation, not to mention that you will look ridiculous and unprofessional every time you are surprised upon seeing what type of music you are about to record, or that the band features an instrument that is particularly tricky to record. Surprisingly great number of people relies on the software to polish out all the faults and imperfections of the raw recording.
Some manage to pull this off better than others do, but this simply isn't the way to go, especially if you are in it for the long haul.
Check and Recheck your Audio Gear
Image Source: Samuel M. Livingston on Flickr
Always bring more gear than you will need. This is a golden rule of life in music for everyone, including even street musicians.
You will always need another something – a cable, an adapter, a microphone, a mic stand, a longer power cable… When you do, you will be grateful and extremely pleased with yourself for having brought excess gear, as opposed to being shamefully defeated by a cable that started to lose contact when you least expect it, as they almost always do.
It would be to make a standard list of stuff you always carry and one list for every gig.
Never count that everything that worked perfectly the last time is still functioning.
There is a lot that can go wrong and the simple truth is that good preparation is your only defense against every eventuality.
Test and Ready Your Audio Apps
As said before, software is where it all comes together.
The same basic rules apply here, too – good preparation is the key.
Set up as much as possible in advance. In addition, never use the new version that you have just installed without trying it thoroughly. For example, some DAWs (Digital Audio Workstations) have a default recording time of 10 or twenty minutes.
A simple oversight like this one can ruin everything.
Also, always set conservative levels in the software. The general rule is that everyone plays and sings louder when the actual performance starts than they do at sound check. Be ready for it and make yourself enough headroom in order to avoid dealing with nasty clipping later on.
This will not affect the sound quality, it will just make your life much easier.
Prepare for Contingencies by Communicating!
Many believe that a true master of the trade doesn't need to ask anything and just sets up with a cool expression on his face.
This is simply ridiculous, which you will see the first time something goes wrong because of your failure to communicate.
When they are answered, ask another one.
Musicians, the producer, the sound engineer and the rest of the crew will be too busy with their own preparations to think about what you need to know in order to make as good recording as you can. Communication is an integral part of your job, as you simply need to know as much as possible, and the only way to obtain that knowledge is to ask.
- Will there be someone else playing or singing?
- Will there be any other instruments?
- Is there some part of the show that differs in terms of sound from the rest? Will they enlist participation of the audience and in what way?
All of these questions, among many others, can make a big difference. In the end, it is you who will pay the price in the post-production for not asking the right questions!
Joanne Miller is passionate about Public Relations and Branding. She believes that branding is successful when a company's WHY is more powerful than HOW. In other words, to make a brand trully visible, it is most important to make consumers aware WHY you do the thing you do. Proving that is in the essence of the project Joanne is working on right now.