Options for recording….

Want to hear how your band sounds?
Want to analyse the mix?
Re-live the gig?
Or even capture the audio and put it into a promo video?

In the modern age, there is a raft of ways in which you can do this!  Black Market have used a number over the years – indeed, sometimes a combination of techniques, mixed together.  This page looks at some of the ways in which we’ve captured audio in the past, details of some of the products we’ve used, and the details of what we’re planning on having a go at moving forwards!

Mobile phones: 

Believe it or not, the mobile phone is the most common way of your band being recorded.  Unfortunately, that’s not a matter in which you have a choice – your audience, whether you want them to or not, will, at some point be recording you on their phone – just like at the gigs of major performers!

If you’re looking to make a concerted effort to record yourself though – the mobile phone is also a tool you can use.

When the highest quality of recording is not important, I quite often record our rehearsals using just my iPhone 5, and a piece of software which allows me to pad the sensitivity on the built in microphone.

The results are here:  CLICK

Software used is called Rode Rec – It’s a relatively cheap piece of software for the Iphone 5 – they also do a free free “LE” version, although I believe recording time, and sharing options on it are limited.  Rode are a highly coveted microphone manufacturer, but they’ve managed to get this software spot on, allowing you to pad the microphone down to a much more useable level.  It even works at large scale gigs – have a listen to the relative quality of this sound recording from a gig at the O2 Arena – whilst, granted, the sound quality from the Front of House was excellent that evening, the recording using just the built in mic, is pretty impressive considering it took no special equipment.

Large scale gig – recording example:  CLICK

MIC W i436.

If you want to take it a step further, you could invest in the Mic W i436.  An Omni directional, class 2 standard measurement microphone (which means its pickup, is nominally flat) which plugs straight into the iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, and a host of other devices which use a three pole, 3.5mm arrangement on the Input/Output/Headphone jack.

This is a recording made using such a device, and also using the Rode Rec app at the same time.  Now there is an increase in quality here but consider for a moment, that the Mic W i436 costs £69 on its own, and £99 with all of the additional gubbins to make it more useful.  Whilst there is an increase in quality, if all you want the MicW for, is to enhance your recordings, I would say the cost vs reward ratio isn’t great.  Where the MicW does pay for itself though, is in the measurement stakes, where it lends itself to being a powerful tool for measuring, analysing and tweaking the performance of a professional PA system.

An example recording can be found here:  CLICK

Audio interface to recording software:

This is the option which is likely to yield the highest quality results – indeed Black Market have considered using this method for recording demos, such is the quality and the accuracy of the recordings we have gained.

There are a number of different types of audio interfaces – we’ve used two different types, and three different products.

  • Standalone recording studio:

The first option is the standalone, portable recording studio.  The one we’ve used most recently, is the Boss R16 .  This product can simultaneously record 8 tracks of audio (enough to mic the whole band, including a kick mic and two drum overheads) and does so with 24bit recording at up to 44khz recording quality.  It records to SD card, and will take cards up to 32gb – meaning whole gigs, rehearsals and takes can be recorded, even at full quality, across all 8 tracks.

We’ve previously used this method for a couple of things.  The main one being a multi-track rehearsal recording.An idea of the results we were able to achieve with about 20 minutes of setup, and 20 minutes of mixing, are here:   CLICK

  • Two channel audio interface, with a laptop.

A scaled down option in terms of channels and cost (and a scale up in terms of lugging kit!) is a USB sound interface, coupled with a laptop.  This of course, has additional uses – I use mine as a high quality sound card for my laptop/office system.  It can also act as an interface for products such as SMARRT (a system tweaking tool), and as a tool for overdubbing recordings that need tweaking from the studio.

The interface I use, is a SCARLETT 2i2.  It cost approximately £100 and contains two very high quality microphone pre-amps, as well as providing phantom power (essential for condenser mics).  It also offers a headphone amplifier, large monitoring level control, and gain controls for both Pre-Amps.

Using a couple of condenser microphones, and a simple, free piece of software called Audacity, this is the result.  Higher quality than the phone, not quite as good as the multi-track option above.   CLICK

Using your desk!

With the modern digital mixing desks, many of them offer the opportunity to record your gig or rehearsal as standard.  Some are restricted to just the main outputs, and more and more boards are offering the opportunity for multi-track recording.  These can be great quality, and allow you to identify issues with the mix – just remember that assuming your guitarists use amplifiers, your FOH mix will be vocal heavy, just to get above the stage noise!  This is the kind of quality you can expect – this was taken on my DL1608 – performance is a band who I engineered for my friends wedding:  CLICK

And finally…..

Of course the other thing you could do, is get your friendly local sound engineer and studio owner to record your rehearsals. These often turn into demo tracks….like this one!!   CLICK

Conclusion:

When it comes to basic recording for analysis and reference, all of these methods will work, and all have their merits and disadvantages.  To my mind, the PC interface, and the Zoom R16 give the best results out of the box – but the iPhone apps have their applications as well.  Realistically it depends on what you are after in terms of quality if you want to buy one of these options – The phone is OK for really basic recording – anything more, and you should definitely buy either a standalone, or a pro-sumer level interface.  The R16 was a great piece of kit, but is fiddly to use, and the Focusrite took a lot of lugging around.  Ultimately, for recording rehearsals, I just use my phone and my Mic i436 – when I want something to form the basis for a demo, I use the more elaborate kit.

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5 thoughts on “Options for recording….

  1. Pingback: Options for recording | Live Sound Blog

  2. I have invested in an Allen & Heath QU-24 digi desk which enables 2 track stereo or 16 ch multi track recording onto an external hard drive. This is done “pre” everything and the recording can be played back into the desk and further mixed/processed in the comfort of your own home. The quality is very impressive indeed and it is certainly more convenient than the old 24 track HD recorder I used to have to use 🙂

    • Yes I’m very jealous of said desk actually! I can record 2 channels from our little Mackie wireless desk, but it’s not “remix able” so it’s usually light on drums and very heavy on vocals (obviously because that’s the only “unamplified thing” on the stage!)

      • The new Mackie Master Fader app allows recording from any output so you could record a separate mix via an aux. It also adds VCAs and groups so a mix recorded from a group or pair of groups could be pre balanced to compensate for the drums and backline ‘stage sound’ effect.

      • Absolutely – the new Master Fader app is a big step forwards actually. We’re never going to get to the full multi-track capabilities of the Allen and Heath desks (the hardware just isn’t up to it) but the ability to bring a couple of auxes into the recorded mix and balance the whole thing out, is pretty awesome!….If we ever wanted to make a full on gig recording, we’d probably use a “proper” sound engineer like Doug anyway 🙂

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