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recording live music( without a soundboard )

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Carl Severson
recording live music( without a soundboard )
on May 20, 2009 at 7:19:36 pm

Hello All,
I have little to no experience with audio. Soon I'll be filming bands in a small club, there is no sound board. Bands just set up and play. What can I do to get a decent sound without it being distorted. Also my budget is little to none. Any help or ideas would be appreciated. I do have access to some audio equipment.


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Thax Clave
Re: recording live music( without a soundboard )
on May 21, 2009 at 3:57:42 am

Series of books have been written on the subject...
College fields of study are taught...
Lengthy internships have been undertaken...
Years of practical experience and experimentation have taken place...
Respected venerable professions have been built...
all on the pursuit of the simple question you have asked on a bulletin board.

How's this-

Get a really good microphone (or stereo pair.)
Position it/them in the "sweet spot" of the room in relation to the band.
Test everything for levels before you begin.
Wear great over-the-ear headphones throughout the shoot.
Stop and fix any problems as they arise.

Afterwards, wish that you'd had more gear and an experienced operator to control it.

I'm not kidding.

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John Fishback
Re: recording live music( without a soundboard )
on May 21, 2009 at 2:44:29 pm

I agree with Thax. Test, test & test. Record a couple of bands before the ones that count. One of your biggest challenges will be adjusting your record levels properly so the signal to the camera isn't clipped (distorted) when the band gets loud.


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Carl Severson
Re: recording live music( without a soundboard )
on May 21, 2009 at 3:35:53 pm

Just needed alittle nudge in the right direction.


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Peter Groom
Re: recording live music( without a soundboard )
on May 21, 2009 at 4:22:44 pm

I dont wish to be negative, but I think youre on a loser with this. I think that the BEST you can hope for is not awful.

If the bands dont have a mixing console, then how on earth will you hear the vocals. I understand that guitars etc have their own amps, but vocals. There must be a PA.
In which case take the easy way out and take a post fader aux feed from the sound desk or amp. A 40db pad will bring this line level down to a mic input sensitivity if thats what you need. Your mix will be as the pa mix (good bad or indifferent) but at least not purely acoustically captured.

If youve only 2 record tracks, take a mono desk feed AND set up a centre stage "sweetspot mic and blend a little of the liveness into the pa mix afterwards. yes itll be in mono but frankly i dont think therell be much stereo from bands with no touring support!

Let us know how you come on.



Dubbing mixer


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Sam Mallery
Re: recording live music( without a soundboard )
on May 21, 2009 at 5:28:26 pm

With little or no budget, there isn't much you can do. Do you have a friend who also has a video camera? If you can borrow one, set it up on a tripod in the "sweet spot" of the room (the sweet spot is the optimal listening position, i.e. where it sounds best in the room). Go into the menu of the cameras and turn on the automatic gain control. This setting can be good for loud music, it will help keep the audio from clipping. Also, if you use two cameras, one may sound better than the other in post, so you will at least have options.

If you have a little budget, you should upgrade the stereo microphone on the stationary "sweet spot" camera. A great way to go is with the R0DE Stereo Video Mic:

If you can't swing $200, then the Sony 908 is pretty decent:

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Jordan Wolf
Re: recording live music( without a soundboard )
on May 21, 2009 at 7:45:49 pm


First off, if there is no reinforcement, the sound will be lacking in the house - that is, after all, the point of reinforcing it: so that an even mix is attained. People aren't used to this imperfect sound that comes from a live recording without reinforcement and it doesn't usually sit well with them. I, on the other hand, enjoy it very much. :-)

The way I see it you have a couple of choices.

I. Somehow ( do the following to get the mix that people EXPECT (note that this is not necessarily an accurate mix):

Put microphones/DI boxes on everything that needs reinforcement (vocals, if any; guitars and/or amps; drums/percussion; keyboards). You will need a way to either mixdown these signals LIVE, to a stereo track OR record them separately/somewhat separately so that they can be mixed in post-production later.
Room mics are a great investment and will help bring that "live feeling" to the mix, since the audience will be included now.

II. On the rare occasion that you do get a band that can mix their own levels well (and they are few-and-far-between), go with a simple stereo mic setup. Place them where you feel an accurate representation of the band can be heard, check your levels, and start recording.

Frankly, I think that the sound you will get out of this will be sub-par - and that's not to discount your abilities/talents. In situations like this, it is often better to have a person who can be dedicated to monitoring the audio and nothing else. Without that person, I think you will work yourself too hard trying to balance filming and keeping the mix balanced.

Hope that helps and good luck in your ventures!


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Ty Ford
Re: recording live music( without a soundboard )
on May 21, 2009 at 7:50:06 pm

Hello Carl and welcome to the Cow Audio Forum,

What everyone has said is true. This has been discussed at great length on this forum. Please do a search and read the valuable info that has already been provided.


Ty Ford

Want better production audio?: Ty Ford's Audio Bootcamp Field Guide

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Greg Curda
Re: recording live music( without a soundboard )
on May 25, 2009 at 3:09:30 am

Hi Carl,

All views are correct, just depends on your point of view. There's no money in this, so it can't be a pro gig. There's no house PA system, so the bands must bring their own (for vocals at least). you could take a mono feed from the PA to one channel of the camera and camera mic (set to auto) for the other channel, and mix it later. This assumes you have a camera that accepts external audio inputs.

If not, find the sweet spot, put camera on tripod, set audio to internal cam mic, set to auto gain, and hit record. If you have a second camera, you can use that to get other interesting shots for cutaways, but the main sound camera must not be moved once in place.

If the client isnt happy with the sound, they need to throw a little money at the project.

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