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Recording Live Bands

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Tyler Groom
Recording Live Bands
on Feb 18, 2008 at 4:52:50 am

Okay, well here is the situation I am in. I am filming live bands performances. I have a sony pd150, that has 2 xlr inputs and phantom power. So far, most of the local bands that I have filmed, have not run much through a mixer. One band ran their vocals only, through a mixer, but the rest have not used any mixer at all. What is the best way to get good audio in a live setting? The setting is usually a smaller size restaurant, but it varies. I have used an on camera mic, but it wasn't very good quality. These are low budget gigs and it is just a freelance thing, so I don't want to spend a ton of money on this. I was thinking of putting two mics, left and right, on booms at the back of the room. Would that be the best? What should I do? Thanks

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Ray Palmer
Re: Recording Live Bands
on Feb 18, 2008 at 1:51:35 pm

[Tyler Groom] "Would that be the best?"

I have done this a few times and it ALWAYS came back where the Band wanted to remix the music that I recorded.
In order to be able to re-mix the audio after the gig, you need to separate audio tracks for each "Voice" or musical instrument.

If you want to go down that road, there are many ways to do it correctly.

[Tyler Groom] "One band ran their vocals only, through a mixer,"
The mix for the "House" is not the mix that you would want for a recording. I have used a multi channel Y cable before their mixer and taken my own split to my mixer.

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Peter Groom
Re: Recording Live Bands
on Feb 18, 2008 at 4:59:42 pm

Thought id reply to this largely as we share the same surname! which is a rare thing.
I think its not really feasible to make a "good" recording of a band using acoustic pick ups front of house. And clearly your set up doesnt allow all instruments to be mixed properly for record rather than PA.
I think Id take an aux feed from the mixer where available, and place a mic outfront to get the ambient, but try not to let too much aire between mic and source as this venue acoustic will only muddy up the sound.
No winner really



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Steve Crimmel
Re: Recording Live Bands
on Feb 18, 2008 at 5:39:54 pm

Without purchasing a lot more gear, you are fairly limited in your options. I would set up two microphones close up on stands right in front of the band. Try to do a sound check before the performance, record a little bit into your camera, then check playback balance of vocals and instruments through your headphones. experiment with the mic distance to th PA speakers to get the vocal level right. good luck....Steve Crimmel, Painted Sky Recording

Check out our microphone site at

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Ray Palmer
Re: Recording Live Bands
on Feb 18, 2008 at 10:30:23 pm

A thought to consider.
If you were NOT recording Video, how would you mic the group?
With as many mics as you could and very close to the sound sources.

Ray Palmer, Engineer
Salt River Project
Phoenix, AZ
602-236-8224 office
There are three types of people in this world, those that can count and those that can't.

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Will Salley
Re: Recording Live Bands
on Feb 19, 2008 at 4:21:58 am

Since I do this for a living I guess I'll chime in here - All the responses (so far) are accurate and are worth consideration. Recording a band in a live setting is something that takes many factors to come together, either by pre-planning or in many cases, pure luck. The more pre-planning and experience of those involved, the less "luck" needed to obtain an acceptable recording. Even if you don't have a huge amount of gear you can get it done.

Your first, and probably most important decision is the VENUE. It's amazing how many people try and record a live recording in a room that sounds bad and expect the result to be good! The optimum venue is a sound stage, which obviously is out of the question here. Try to arrange a venue that comes close:

-a naturally good sounding space (low ceilings, large area in front of stage, curtain behind stage or similar absorption) Stay away from narrow or wide rooms with limited distance to FOH, tall ceilings, highly reflective surfaces such as glass and mirrors.

Fortunately, the best rooms for live sound are usually also good for visuals.

The next step is to determine which method of tracking you can afford to utilise.

-Direct to camera - cheapest, but hardly ever successful
-Direct to two-track recorder from house mics - cheap, but usually better results because mics are arranged in a fixed, optimum position.
-close miking to mixer and then to camera - requires more equipment, but can provide exceptional results when done correctly. The key here is to isolate the mixing position far away from the performance so an accurate mix goes to tape.
-close miking to multitrack - By far, the best chance of getting something acceptable, but as you can guess, it takes a good bit of gear and setup for even the smallest of groups. You've also got to remember the additional task of a mixdown.

My suggestion would be the third option, close miking to mixer and then to camera, or better still, to a two-track recorder and the cameras. Use a traditional clapper slate to start and don't let the cameras stop rolling. If they do, at least they will have the duplicated audio for reference (assuming you're not using timecode). If you do this, make sure the mix is done and tested well before the show; sound checks are best. Listen to playback and make adjustments at that time. I use a truck and a very long audio snake to put the mixer in the truck and send it back to the recorders, I'll often multi track and do a summed stereo mix to send to the cameras.

Here's a shot of the setup-

The second most important variable is the type of music being tracked. Acoustic jazz and bluegrass is easily recorded with just a single stereo mic placed in the sweet spot. Hard rock and pop is never easy. As a general rule of thumb, the louder the music is performed, the more difficult it is to capture correctly.

Good luck, I hope this helps.

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Tyler Groom
Re: Recording Live Bands
on Feb 19, 2008 at 5:41:01 am

Well, I have no control over venue, I just go and film wherever they are playing. So there is not much I can do about that. So what do you mean by close miking to mixer and then to camera. I dont quite understand. I do have a small behringer mixer and also a mackie 1402 mixer. What should I use and how? Also, what mics should I use and how many? Thanks

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Jeff Mack
Re: Recording Live Bands
on Feb 19, 2008 at 4:02:42 pm

I think what everyone is trying to say is that unless the bands setup is worthy of recording, you will NEVER get a worthy recording. The result you are trying to achieve is to capture every sound source or "mix" and match it with video. Unless you capture each source on a discreet track through a mixer, you will NEVER be able to get anything more than a low quality recording. The band should know this. You can't do a good job in this situation. Sorry.


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Will Salley
Re: Recording Live Bands
on Feb 20, 2008 at 7:39:25 am

Close miking refers to the practice of positioning mics close to the sound source. This reduces the ambience of the room and audience - but - if you mic one instrument close, you have mic the others close, which means you will end up with a lot of mics on stage.

An alternative is to mic at a longer distance on some positions (sometimes called "field miking"). For instance, if you are limited to only six mic inputs on your 1402 mixer you might try the following:

1-directly in front of kick drum
2-drum overhead
3-directly in front of bass amp
4-off-stage in front to left
5-off-stage in front to right
6-house mic - hang from ceiling about half way back in room and ride fader during performance (use only if the room sounds good, if it's too reflective or there's too much crowd chatter, use this input for another low volume instrument).

If the band has a PA with an aux out, try sending all the vocal mics to one (or two) of the line inputs on your mixer - just be aware of line noise. Obviously, you would use just a hint of the signal from the kick and bass, and just slightly more on the overhead while using more of the off-stage mics panned hard left and right. Then send the output of your 1401 to the PD150 camera (line level, XLR>XLR).

Mic selection is, assuming you are using the band's vocal and PA mics, a matter of what's left. If you have a condenser, use it on the overhead. The others can be SM57 or 58 or an equivalent basic hand-held vocal mic.

The bottom line is that you need a balanced mix between all the instruments and vocals, and you don't want all the room ambience that you would get if you simply stuck a pair of mics out in the audience. As someone mentioned earlier in the thread, think of the audio portion apart from the video first. Become friends with the band's soundman - if they have one. If they don't, hire one for the night, the live mix becomes your mix.

System Info - G5/Dual 2 - 10.4.8 - QT v7.1.3 - 8GB ram - Radeon 9800Pro - External SATA Raid - Decklink Extreme - Wacom 6x8

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Stuart Allman
Re: Recording Live Bands
on Feb 20, 2008 at 5:39:09 am

I guess I have a set of less grim suggestions.

1. Make friends with an audio junkie and get him/her excited about this project. Be prepared to buy a meal or two. Being able to use all their fancy, expensive gear makes audio junkies feel all warm and fuzzy inside. How do I know this? comment.

2. Talk to the FOH person. Sometimes these people have their own gear and like to make recordings of the live shows they mix. I know of at least one venue in the San Diego area that makes cheap recordings of live shows available to the amateur musicians as a way to make a few extra dollars. You can always re-mix it in post. Just make sure you capture a set of stereo placed room mic(s) so you can get the live venue sound in post as well as everyone on stage mic'd. The only thing you'll probably have to watch out for is drum mic'ing, but you'll see what I mean quickly. In fact, a couple cameras placed stage left and stage right with on-camera mic's would probably get *you* close enough to the room tone.

A good live mix isn't easy. Please don't try to do it in FCP. ;-( See solution #1 above.


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