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 Post subject: recording a band?
PostPosted: Wed Jun 03, 2009 3:46 pm 
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Joined: Mon Jan 10, 2005 3:26 pm
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Location: menlo park
this isn't really a dj skill, but it seemed out of place in tech talk, too. it does fit in with the "promoting live music" threads we have every so often.

any advice on recording a band at a lindy event?

we have a local new orleans style band (three horns, four rhythm) that we'd like to record at our weekly dance. the acoustics of the room seem fairly good and the band is very much up for it. now i just need to figure out how to go about it.

any websites? any pithy advice? i don't have particular questions yet, but i'm sure they'll come.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 03, 2009 8:09 pm 
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Location: Seattle, WA
I'm planning to record a big band playing at our exchange this year. I have a sound engineer that I normally work with, and he has recommended I also hire an engineer that deals with recording equipment specifically. I haven't yet talked to him, so I dont have details, but I have talked to the band leader about what he would find ideal.

It's mostly about microphone quantity and placement for multiple tracks. A mic for each musician can help you in the editing process to bump up or down a soloist if needed. A mic in front of the horns can get you the block sound and be the majority of what you hear in the recording. Depending on what the purpose of the recording is you might do more or less mixing of the tracks for balance.

anyway, I still need to figure out how many song i can afford to have mixed, and how many tracks i can afford to include, but ultimately I hope to get a nice archive of the band that night, and some demo tracks for the band to give to DJs. I'm not going to worry about selling CDs this time since that opens up more questions about royalties and what not.

i'll post back once i find out more info.

good luck!


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 04, 2009 6:54 am 
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Maybe Solomon or Jonathan or Paul or somebody of that ilk can jump in here, but...

If you're not looking to have a recording engineer do the work, which I doubt if you want to record this on a weekly basis as you mentioned, then you'll probably get the most satisfactory results by just setting up a freestanding mic out in front of the band.

I've tried to do direct board recordings, mixed on AUX channels so I could balance it different than the live audio. The recording was quite poor in the end. It could have been better if I could have recorded individual tracks rather than having to mix down on the spot, and admittedly this was my first (and only) attempt to record in this manner. I got the results Solomon expected, though he was gracious about humoring me and letting me give it a try. :)

A recording engineer who can do a recording completely independent of the live mix should obviously be able to get great results, but short of that you'll probably be happiest with just a freestanding mic in front of the band, and experimenting with its placement/aim week to week.

Brent


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 04, 2009 10:20 am 
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Location: menlo park
thanks for the replies!

i wasn't clear: i don't want to do this every week, just once for now.

i was thinking of an nos or ortf two mic setup, no individual instruments mic'ed. this band usually has a mic for occasional singing, so i may have to mix that in.

ideally, i'd just direct it all straight into a laptop. i have been told that $200 buys you a very good usb recording device thingy. alternatively, i'd borrow, rent, or buy a dat recorder and put it all on there, then edit later on the computer.

i am wondering: do you have to mess with equalizers and such on the spot, or can you fix pretty much anything afterward?


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 05, 2009 9:45 am 
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You shouldn't have to mess with EQs and such on the spot, in fact I'd surmise that you very much do not want those sort of things, because you can never undo what you did. You can adjust all of that stuff after the fact, assuming you have the right software (anything from Garage Band to Tracktion to ProTools, depending on what gets the job done for you).

The important part at the recording stage will be getting a high-quality signal and making sure that the signal is not overdriving/clipping.

To avoid the overdriving/clipping, you might want to consider putting a compressor/limiter on the line, and setting it up to only behave as a limiter (e.g. set the compression to a 1:1 ratio, and set the limiter to squash unexpected peaks). If your compressor doesn't have a limiter section, you can achieve the same thing by setting an agressive compression ratio (4:1 or greater) and setting the threshold high enough that it doesn't activate unless the source volume is higher than you expect the peaks should be. Effectively, you're doing limiting as a safety mechanism, in case something unexpected happens, to avoid the distortion of a clipped/overdriven signal. Ideally the limiter would never kick in during the entire recording session.

You'll want to set the recording gain to give you as much range as possible, with some margin for safety at the top end. I like to set the gain so that expected peaks are around 75-85% of full range.

Of course, it takes some time to dial in all of this. If you have time with the band before the show, you can get everything pretty close to correct before trying to do this all during the heat of battle.

And by all means do go with the DAT or a decent USB or Firewire recording interface. I've found that the line-in inputs on my MacBook Pro definitely distort the audio -- there's something funky going on electrically which causes the bottom portion of the waveform to not match the top portion -- probably something wrong in the preamp design. I've given up using that input for recording anything. I'm saving up for the day I can buy a high quality recording interface, probably a MOTU UltraLite or PreSonus Firebox.

All that said, I've never (successfully) done what you're attempting. But I've thought through at length most of what I'd need to get to that point -- now it's just a small matter of money. :D

Brent


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 10, 2009 12:38 am 
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What Cyrano de Maniac was saying are really great suggestions.

If you wanted to do a pair of mics or record straight into a flash recorder, I have used these in the past and they have worked really well for me, but I know that some of the Edirol recorders have worked well for some friends of mine too.
http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/H4
http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/H2

Higher end recorders like the H4 will have microphone inputs with preamps and phantom power so if you can get your hands on a nice stereo mic, or do a little array of a couple of mono mics, then you will get a better sound than if you're just relying on the internal mics. That being said, I have heard great results from the internal mics of the H4 and H2. I also heard that the H4 might be able to do a type of 4-track recording so you can record with internals and external mics at the same time. This could give you some nice mixing flexibility if you were looking to go so far.

You might want to think about placement of the mics too. I would think getting them as far away from the dance floor (maybe even mechanically isolated from the dance floor) might be a good idea. Also, are you going to try to record the PA playback of the band or are you going to try to record the band directly live? If you record the PA, then you need to consider what the PA sounds like and if you can keep the mics away from the dance floor to keep people's voices and feet off the recording. If you are recording the band directly, you need to think hard about placement so that the louder instruments aren't blowing out the quieter ones.

You might be able to do a little tweaking of the mix in the stereo recordings of these songs by using some multi-band compression, but you will really want to work to get a good balance on the initial recording.

A couple of different professional recording engineers have told me in the past that while you are placing the microphones and listening to your mix in the setup phase, try to listen to something you know is an excellent recording... something that you want your recording to sound like. Use that recording as a reference to compare yours to while you are configuring your setup. Even highly trained engineers constantly reference because they know that things like noisy environments, a single loud blast of sound in your ears, or just an extra-long day can change the way your ears perceive things for days at a time... plus our memories aren't that good at remembering how something sounds from qualitative prospective. This might be getting a little more detailed than you might want to get, but any time I record or mix something, I try to reference like crazy if I have the means to do so. If you have a DJ booth, you could probably just playback some music to your monitor out of your sound card, then move to listen to the output of what the player is hearing live. Then you could adjust the position of the microphones based on what you hear and repeat the process many times to you think you are getting what you want.

Hope this helps some.

-Nathan


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Jun 10, 2009 9:10 am 
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mellifluent wrote:
A couple of different professional recording engineers have told me in the past that while you are placing the microphones and listening to your mix in the setup phase, try to listen to something you know is an excellent recording... something that you want your recording to sound like. Use that recording as a reference to compare yours to while you are configuring your setup. Even highly trained engineers constantly reference because they know that things like noisy environments, a single loud blast of sound in your ears, or just an extra-long day can change the way your ears perceive things for days at a time... plus our memories aren't that good at remembering how something sounds from qualitative prospective. This might be getting a little more detailed than you might want to get, but any time I record or mix something, I try to reference like crazy if I have the means to do so. If you have a DJ booth, you could probably just playback some music to your monitor out of your sound card, then move to listen to the output of what the player is hearing live. Then you could adjust the position of the microphones based on what you hear and repeat the process many times to you think you are getting what you want.


That's an incredible idea! I wish I'd thought of it myself -- unfortunately I don't have access to any professional recording engineers like you do.

When I mix for a live band at dances I do try, if possible, to listen to some albums by the band in the hours beforehand, so that I can get a feel for how they would like to sound. This only backfired once when a singer told me that she was unhappy with how her recording engineer had made her sound on her album -- but she gave me some suggestions on how she actually wanted to sound. Which was too bad, really, as I thought she sounded incredible on the album.

However many of the bands I mix for do not have albums (at least not recent albums), and you've given me the idea to listen to similar bands before the show in the future. Great idea!

Brent


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