Recording a rock band

Discussion in 'Location Recording' started by Tiago, Mar 25, 2014.

  1. Tiago

    Tiago Active Member

    Hi guys,

    I don't usually record live concerts, my field is moviemaking and my audio gear was bought to serve that purpose. Anyway, I also have a rock band and I wanted to make a good live recording without using the soundboard.

    So, I have a Audix SCX1, an AT8035 (both hypercardiods) and the usual Shures (wich are all dynamic, so probably not good for this kind of recording, but excelent for my guitar and vocals). I also have a MM1 that I use as my pre, but not sure if it will be of any use to this purpose in particular.

    Any advices that could help me record our next gig with some good and opened sound?

  2. apstrong

    apstrong Active Member

    Need more information:

    1. What equipment is available at the live venue? Are they all set up with mixer, PA, monitors, mics, etc? If so, what kind of mixer?

    2. What are you recording to? Computer? Tape machine? Other digital device? How many input channels does it support?

    3. If you are recording to a digital device, how are you converting the audio signal to digital currently? i.e. What's the audio interface?

    The Shure microphones are exactly what you should be using in a live recording situation, and most venues will already have a box full of 57s and 58s at least. But how you do all this (whether or not you can capture individual tracks for each instrument, or just a stereo mixdown, or a stereo recording of the room sound) depends on the gear available to do the mixing and the capturing, hence the questions above.
  3. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    Without the sound board asks for a split snake. The recorder and the mixer, get the same signal but you get to record clean mic signal without any mixing. This implies that you have a recording system with enough inputs to record all the mics seperatly. This is the best way to record live because when you get to the mixing phase, you will have all the control. (this is assuming the mic choice and placement was good tho)

    With time an motivation, you could refine the mic choice and placement, by listening to individual mic signal and make sure the other instruments spilling sound good or at least honest. Why do I say that ? because on live situation we always get spills from instruments. If you EQ too much the guitar, in may ruin the sound of the drums unless the drum sounds good in the guitar's mic or the guitar does'nt need any EQ since you choose the right mic and placement..

    I hope I'm making sens.. ;)
  4. Tiago

    Tiago Active Member

    1. We're going to be micing everything except the drums wich we'll probably just mic the bass drum (the pub has really good acoustics so the drums don't need any overheads). So all the mics will go through the pub's own mixer and from there to the PA. I don't like recording directly from the mixer because I have to settle with the mixer own EQ wich is not the same as what people are listening and it ends up sounding dull and not balanced at all.

    2. I'll be recording it to my Canon XH A1 video camera. It supports two XLR inputs, but if I use my MM1 pre (wich is mono), I'm down to one. But I can use the MM1 with one mic and another mic going directly to the camera.

    3. Not sure wich converters you're referring to, but I just plug the mic with a XLR to my camera wich probably has its own converters.

    I've recorded with dynamic mics like the SM57, but unless I'm close micing an instrument, it will just sound compressed and dull. Even an iphone will automatically sound wider, though more distorted of course. Probably a low cut filter would help, I don't know...

    What I really wanted was to capture that room ambience and the great acoustics of the pub.
  5. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    If the room really sounds that good, and you want to capture those acoustics, then maybe you are better off recording with a stereo array out front, perhaps supported by a sub-mix of direct mics on things like the kick, but that may not even be necessary.

    I've heard (and done) some great recordings using nothing more than an XY or ORTF pair at the FOH location. The only drawback there is dealing with the occasional drunk ass-hat who decides that it'll be hilarious to scream into one or both of your mics... and it's usually some ingenious prose like "Hi Mom!... BUUURRP."
    Ya. Funny, funny stuff.

    If you can get the mics away and out of reach from your local gentry, you could do it this way.
    Or... if your camera has audio in's - and adjustable input levels - you could connect the stereo mic pair directly to it.
    This would probably give you the best results. I wouldn't worry about using a pre for something like this. As long as your camera can accommodate two mics, and has adjustable input levels, you'll be fine. The added bonus to that is that the audio will already be in sync with the video, making editing a bit easier than having to drop pre-recorded audio into the video editing timeline and dealing with syncing it up.

    Just a thought... or two... or three...
    kmetal likes this.
  6. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    When I do this kind of thing I might do anything from, a full-on multi-track live recording to drop into the NLE video editing software later, a live on-the-fly stereo mix to the camera's inputs (independent of the house mix). If I'm really trying to keep it simple like you are, I'll try to get one mono Aux mix to my liking and add one mono room-mic. (hopefully out of reach of the "Hi Mom!… BUUURRP" guy) You'll have the drier more direct board mix, and be able to put in as much room-mic as it takes to make it sound like a live performance. Or if the room-mic sounds good, start with it, and add in just enough of the dry board mix to punch it up.

    Most mixes people take right from the Mains of the Front of House mixer result in "Upside Down" mixes. In other words, the loudest thing in the room requires the least help from the soundboard, so it ends up very quiet on the recording. Conversely, the quietest thing on-stage gets pushed hardest through the board and often ends up being too loud on the recording. So, if you can use headphones and Solo an available Aux mix to get a balance that works at a soundcheck - it goes to one input of the camera. The appropriate cardioid, or sometimes omni, room mic goes to the other input of my camera. The resulting mix is mono, but by favoring the room mic or the board you can get a really nice live room feel that still has some punch.

    It may take some practice to find an Aux mix that gives you exactly what you want & need. You may not get it on the first try, but experimenting is half the fun.
    kmetal likes this.
  7. Tiago

    Tiago Active Member

    Thanks for your help guys. Do you think I should use my Sound Devices MM-1 pre (wich is a really clean pre I usually use in dialogue recordings) or, given this context, it won't add any value? About the room mic that I'll use pointed at the stage, should I use a dynamic mic (sm57, sm58,...) or a cardioid (I have the Audix SCX-1 and the shotgun AT8035). I've used dynamic mics in the past but they always sound dull and compressed because (I guess) they're so far away of the sound source.

  8. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    Just to clarify cardioid is a mics pickup pattern, which is the area around the mic that picks up the most sound. Your dynamic mics 57/58s are cardioid mics so they pick up sound most from the front some from the side and very little from behind, basically if you we're facing the mic it would look like a heart shape, hence cardioid.

    Not sure if u meant condenser which is a type of mic, which requires 48v phantom power, is generally more sensitive than dynamics, and in very general tend to be brighter. They are a good choice for room/ambience mics. Some have multiple patterns you can experiment w to pick up more or less room/direct sound. If u know this already I don't mean to be insulting or anything, just wasn't sure.

    While I like the other guys suggestions, would personally most likely go w what DVD described, another possibility would be to do a M/S (mid-side) mic technique. This is when you point a cardioid mic directly at the source, and directly underneath the capsule you place anothe mic in figure 8, w the 8 facing the left and right. Then in a DAW you duplicate the figure 8 track, flip the polarity (generally found in a trim pluggin) and pan the tracks left and right. This allows you to control a stereo image, and have moderate control over the balance between the mic facing the stage and the mic picking up more of the room. The figure 8 patterned mic won't pick up nearly as much of the stage as the cardioid patterned mic, because it's null (area that it's not very sensitive to sound) is facing the stage. This gives you some separation during mic time.

    If the pub will let you, you might be able to hang the mics from the ceiling high enough to keep out of reach of said burp guy, while keeping them in the optimal area for sound.
  9. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    "While I like the other guys suggestions, would personally most likely go w what DVD described, another possibility would be to do a M/S (mid-side) mic technique."

    He doesn't have a mic with Fig 8, K.

    The mics he listed are the Audix SCX1, which is Cardioid, Hyper or Omni, and the AT Shotgun, which is Line/Gradient.

    And as far as using the pre, as I mentioned in my post, I don't think it's going to make a huge difference one way or the other in this situation.

    IMHO, of course.
  10. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    No no no here's what you want to do...

    You need one of those little, cigarette pack sized, solid-state, digital stereo recorder with built-in XY microphones. You put it at the back of the room. You fly it i.e. hang it from the ceiling and hit record. Walk away... just walk away.

    Next, and this is the important ingredient... you need another one of those recorders to record off of the PA board mix. This gives you the intimacy of the upfront microphones.

    You'll now have two separate recordings that are both stereo. You load them into your multitrack software. You sync them up. EQ, balance, time align to taste and voilà! Then you get what you are asking for. Otherwise you get background gaggle and mostly background gaggle. You just need some of the background gaggle to mix in with the upfront microphones, time aligned to the distance you want to hear. Too long and you get too much slap. Too close and it gets weird.

    So what you want does not come naturally even though it sounds natural. What makes you think anything about the recording process, electronically, is natural? This is why there are real engineers which are not fake engineers. The different types of BS microphones are actually secondary.

    Use your tape head man. LOL
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  11. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

    Recording a live amplified band, using a PA system for their vocals means in practically every case that the sound is pretty dreadful.

    The musical balance is always shaky. In a live show, with every drum having an individual mic, plus the guitars and bass added to the vocals the sound op has a hard time. In a venue that is small, then some faders might even be at off on the mixer. If so the desk feed (that you don't want to use) will be lacking the loud instruments, so any attempt at a live recording will have some sources recorded after they've been through the PA with other sources being heard live. Sound coming from loads of different directions, plus the distortion in the system means a very uncontrolled and unpredictable result. If the band play at loud volumes, then you may also discover bad tuning (hidden of the volume is high) and un-noticed distortion.

    Stereo recordings of amplified sound rarely sound good!
  12. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

    If I had only two tracks to record to I would use one to capture a mono send from the board and the other to record a room mic. If the live mix sounds good enough in the room a combination of the board mix and the room mic should be enough to largely reconstitute that sound, even improve on it.

    Be sure to put the mic absolutely dead center between the speaker stacks. A tall stand putting the mic over the mix position, if it's centered, works pretty well. You want the mic to pick up as much of the stage noise as possible since that's what the board mix will lack.

    The last thing you need when performing is to get all wrapped up in something technical. That will interfere with being a musician and you'll end up with a recording of a bad performance.
  13. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

    I wish it was this simple. For many years I was Principal Examiner for A Level Music Technology, and one task was a direct to stereo recording. The ones made with two budget mics in a nice sounding room, of a sound source that had a natural balance - choirs, string quartets, orchestra, big bands and even world music band could sound really good. I never heard a single one that recorded a PA system that came close in quality and balance terms - not one! Most people lost marks for noise and distortion (mostly coming from overstretched PA systems in rotten rooms) and almost universally featuring horrible sounding drums. At best - a live recording of a rock band will be weak and feeble. I remember somebody submitting a bootleg recording (equipment detailed in great depth - a portable recorder, X/Y condenser mics, in-ear headphones) of a Genesis Concert at a Rugby ground. I actually remembered going to see them on that tour and my memory of the event was very different to the recording.

    Proper commercial recordings of live music are always made using splits of the mics because the PA and recording needs - eq, balance, levels etc, are so different. The best mic, in a rotten room listening to some sounds direct and others through a PA, sounds pretty poor.

    You get a recording - but rarely do they stand up to scrutiny. Lo-fi rather than hi-fi!
  14. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

    I'm not talking about direct to stereo, I'm talking about multitrack, even if it's only two tracks. If it sounds good in the room a board feed mixed with a room mic can sound pretty darn good. The two sources are complementary, each filling in what the other lacks. It really is that simple.

    Given that the OP is in the band he wants to record there's a huge advantage to simplicity. Yes, multitrack is the"right" way to do it and I have a custom mic splitter for that exact purpose. But not all gigs warrant that level of complexity. Smaller venues, limited setup time and restricted budgets tend to favor simpler techniques.

    Here's a board+mic recording I did which sounds better than the actual show (which didn't sound all that great):

  15. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

    Love the video but the sound is exactly what you get recording room sound in an uncontrolled way.

    The drums sound very poor - boxy and the hi-hat is almost missing. The bass guitar has a boomy tone making most of what he's playing hidden - you hear the low notes, but he plays quite a lot up top and that is very indistinct. The guitar sounds rather dull and low in level, and the three voices are balanced very oddly - the keyboard player is singing but no idea what.

    I'm not criticising this video, it's exactly what happens when you try to record this kind of gig with the compromises two tracks of audio in any shape or description give you. A feed from the mixer and room sound don't give you much to play with. I suspect you've done the best you could with what you got.

    I don't mind sharing this one -
    Stereo out of the mixer, and drum light. Not a serious video of any kind, simply what happened when we gave wives and girlfriends video cameras. We discovered they can't hold them still of course. I did assume that the camera audio would be useful, but as the cameras moved around they collected such poor audio that it wasn't useful. The PA system is quite big - it was a 1400 seater venue, and on axis, the HF was really 'sizzle', off axis dull and thuddy. The cameras when central picked up lots of the guitar, and near the drums the sound was very disjointed as it moved. The picture wasn't really edited - I just cut out the really wobbly stuff and what you see is what was left.
  16. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

    The live sound was pretty rough. The point was to show what can be done given the restrictions the OP has already described, not to post my best live recording. In my case I used a stereo feed from the board and an AT822 in the room.

    The budget was pretty close to zero and the available setup time for me was very restricted. It was either this or nothing and they didn't want nothing. If I (like the OP) had to record and play a show this is about the amount of time and effort I would allow myself to spend on it.

    Honestly, the audio on your video is not that great either, just different. Aside from the overwhelming and thuddy sounding kick, the drums are barely there. The bass and keys are low. The lead vocal is clipping, though that could have been on the live mix board. The whole thing is definitely more clear, but kind of flat and dead without some room sound in the mix.
  17. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

    I guess another way to put is that mine sounds like an imperfect live show and yours sounds like a typical board tape. Choose your poison.
  18. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

    Totally agree 100% and that's why we couldn't use that clip! sound and picture is no good. I think that making a choice between our two examples is impossible. If you want good quality it really can't be done properly by simple techniques. Anything that uses a mix of live and amplified sources gives you this problem. We've considered the two techniques and neither of them really work, and I've never come across a simple technique that does. A bit like shooting a band and discovering the lighting is grim. No matter the equipment, pictures will be flawed.
  19. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    Hey guys, you either do a recording that will sound raw and live or go in a studio or bring the studio to the stage.
    I like the idea of 2 recordings, master bus and room mic.

    The master bus output of a live mixer will always be weird because, the mix is done for having a good sound in that room not for recording.
    You either accept that or use a split snake, a second mixer and mix for recording (either with near field studio monitor or headphones) Or you bring a multi-track recorded and mix in studio later.
  20. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

    I think you're putting your priorities in place of the OP's. Perhaps I am as well, so I think it would be useful to hear his response to the recordings we've posted and the ideas we've put forth.

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