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Live Recording Advice

13 Nov 02 - 09:26 AM (#825126)
Subject: Live Recording Advice
From: Barbara Shaw

I'm thinking about attempting to record a future live concert performance of our 5-piece band ShoreGrass through the sound system, with the intent of making it into a CD. We're scheduled to do a program of "Songs of the Civil War Era," and this would be an ideal thing for a next CD (and hopefully less expensive than the first).

We typically use a single mic for all 5 of us, with 5 instruments and 3 vocalists. However, for this, I think we would want to separate out as much as possible so it might be possible to improve the balance or remove huge mistakes in the mixing process.

Does this mean using something like an 8-track connected to the sound board? What kind of expertise do we need to look for in the engineer? Do we need two engineers, one for sound, one for recording? What kind of output would be possible, and can it be further processed for mixing and mastering?

Has anyone done anything like this? Any advice, warnings, suggestions, comments?

13 Nov 02 - 11:27 AM (#825257)
Subject: RE: Live Recording Advice
From: clansfolk


a SINGLE MIC??? FOR 5 INSTRUMENTS and 3 Vocals..... not a job for a sound engineer!!!!!!

what PA system? - inputs/outputs etc.........

handy to have......

mixer/amp or mixer - amp

3 vocal mics (presuming instruments aren't acoustic)

DI instruments

one sound engineer

simple system..........

plug mics & instruments into mixer, vocalist sing into mics, intruments play (DIed) through PA - sound person mixes sound so it sounds pretty then records it onto Mini disk (overall effects can be added either during or after recording) make CD sell Cds make fortune...............

Why not get a local studio to record it? PI Link
as metioned in an earlier thead have a "mobile Studio" and I'm sure other "cottage recordist" could do the same - Good equipment is essential for a good recording - and as you appear to have very little it would cost far more to buy it than hire it and a couple of sound engineers (who whould also do the sound for the concert?

Good luck


13 Nov 02 - 12:09 PM (#825313)
Subject: RE: Live Recording Advice
From: Barbara Shaw

Clansfolk, thanks for your reply and the link to your site, which was very impressive. I've never heard of any such "mobile studios" around Connecticut, USA, but I'll look into it.

I didn't explain myself very well. We usually use a single mic, but for this would use individual mics for instruments as well as vocals. We would get a sound engineer to do the sound, but then I thought we could record the whole thing through his system at the same time. None of us has pickups on our instruments, so we would not do direct input.

The reason for not getting a local studio is expense. We self-produced a CD - recorded, mixed and mastered at a local studio and then produced one at a time by myself, including burning the cds, designing and printing graphics for inserts, everything. The expense was still considerable, and that's not even counting the hours and hours I put into it (and still do when the inventory gets low).

So I'm trying to find a way to get another recording out of this special concert. We do have a PA system and all kinds of mics, enough to do the whole thing, but we can't do sound as well as perform on stage, so we're thinking of hiring someone who has done sound for us before - back when we used to use individual mics rather than a single mic.

I'd be interested to hear from someone who has tried this.

13 Nov 02 - 12:15 PM (#825316)
Subject: RE: Live Recording Advice
From: NicoleC

What sounds good live typically doesn't good on tape.    Best success in the past has been with two mixes -- one live, and the other a mix down to however many tape tracks you have, preferrably by an engineer in a different room but if not, headphones can work.

But it sounds like a little 8-track recording could do the trick for you. A live engineer could eyeball the levels to tape while mixing the house, and you could mix down later at your leisure. This will require a thorough sound check to achieve a decent degree of isolation, and get ya'll used to the different setup.

I agree with PJS -- hire a whole package. Trying to piece people and equipment together will be much harder, and likely more expensive anyway.

13 Nov 02 - 12:19 PM (#825319)
Subject: RE: Live Recording Advice
From: NicoleC

Oops, we cross-posted. If you want to avoid studio time, you'll have to mix to tape live. Two engineers is vastly preferable, but the live-to-tape engineer should ALSO have live experience -- someone who is used to the studio-only environment may comfortable enough with having one shot only at it.

13 Nov 02 - 01:44 PM (#825388)
Subject: RE: Live Recording Advice
From: clansfolk

If you take the stage box output to 8 track (hard or mini disc - tape dodgy!!) recorder with an sound engineer to balance it, the stereo output can then be fed to your in house system - that mix will be no problem (should be mono anyhow (can't stand inhouse stereo only the chap sat in the middle of the hall is happy with the mix!)) and once the overall volume in-house is ok you won't need a second man on this as the overall volume can be altered from the recorder.

Although there will be bleed over in the recording from one mike to another (especially those who are singing and playing - if the man on the desk does his job proper there should be enough room to rebalance any bad bits in the final mix.

Live recordings are never "that good" no ones perfect when live - we rely on multi takes in the studio to "try" and make it apear that way, and you'll notice many errors in the recording when played back but this maybe what you're looking for - that "live" feel.

I have made several recordings for "special events" this way and although the final copy was good for what it was it mainly appealed to those who were there or taking part - you cant record sight, feel, smell and atmosphere on a CD (yet)

It can be done but remember don't expect too much - and don't blame the sound engineer! he can only do so much.....


13 Nov 02 - 01:53 PM (#825396)
Subject: RE: Live Recording Advice
From: treewind

I wouldn't advise using all separate mics if that's not what you're used to.

If you are mixing to stereo and recording that, there's no guarantee the balance will be any better than the single mic unless you get someone else to monitor it though headphones.

If you record on to an 8 track device you should be OK as you can mix it later (and edit out the really bad screw-ups) but that's the expensive option.

I've had good band recordings off the desk to minidisc, in mono. You get a very dry sound (no reverb) and can add some reverb later which will give a nice stereo ambiance anyway.

Just a few thoughts.


13 Nov 02 - 02:24 PM (#825416)
Subject: RE: Live Recording Advice
From: breezy

go into a studio if your serious, itll be a mess if you dont, there is no way you can get a balanced sound
You are keen but you could do yourselves more harm than good.Unless its just for your own amusement to play back to your grand-children.You obviously enjoy and are enthusiastic so do it your way and decide for yourselves, then let me know, but ....

13 Nov 02 - 03:38 PM (#825482)
Subject: RE: Live Recording Advice
From: Barbara Shaw

Some interesting ideas here. I like the idea of recording to 8-track from individual mics (which we're also used to) and then being able to mix later, for the best possible chance of fixing problems, even overdubbing.

But then treewind's idea of recording in mono to minidisc and adding reverb later would allow us to use the single mic and skip the need for a sound engineer completely, by bringing our own PA setup and just letting it roll. That would be the lowest cost, but how good are the results from those minidiscs? I've never used or heard one. This might be the best alternative for something that will not come out spectacular anyway, given a live performance.

Thanks for everyone's responses.

13 Nov 02 - 03:41 PM (#825488)
Subject: RE: Live Recording Advice
From: Nigel Parsons

"Live Recording"

can we move this to the thread on 'Oxymorons' ?

13 Nov 02 - 05:05 PM (#825571)
Subject: RE: Live Recording Advice
From: NicoleC

Recording to a minidisc can sound fine; it would be perfectly acceptable to mix down to mini-disc and you'd end up with as good a product as went into it.

The problem is that what you hear in the house is never what the tape hears -- simply sticking a mic up and recording everything you are likely to end up with disappointing results. I've heard a lot of really bad live recordings, and the absolute worst are the ones where someone decided to stick a mic in the house and just record it. The loudest thing is the audience, and usually the loudest person onstage comes out the quietest on the recording. Plus delay and directional cues get wiped out in the recording process... you end up with mud.

There's a third option -- if you are seeking a relatively cheap way to get an album out, a live tracking session in a studio may be a good way. Practice your song list until you have them solid and tight, and then play "live" in a studio. You can go multi-track and mix later, or mix down straight to DAT and walk out with a finished product. You can track with one mic for each voice/instrument OR a stereo mic, OR both, and use the individual mics to fine-tune the mix.

Some vocal groups and orchestras do very well with this technique, because they are practiced at balancing themselves, and it's pretty cheap.

P.S. Wouldn't getting CDs pressed save money in the long run vs. burning them yourself?

14 Nov 02 - 08:59 AM (#825741)
Subject: RE: Live Recording Advice
From: Barbara Shaw

NicoleC, thanks. Some good points made. We actually did record our first (only) CD live in a studio on multiple tracks, and it worked out very well. It would be cheaper in the long run - and involve much less of my time - to get the CDs pressed commercially, but involved more up front money, rather than buying supplies as I went along. Next time, however, I'm out of the burning business!

Nigel, I guess my phrase "future live" would have to go to the oxymoron thread, too.

14 Nov 02 - 11:18 AM (#825890)
Subject: RE: Live Recording Advice
From: treewind

When you make a live recording to minidisc, rest assured that the minidisc will not be the weakest link in the chain!

If you're concerned to THAT level of audio finesse, you should definitely be going into a studio. For most people, minidisc is indistingushable from the original.

(another nice thing about MD in this context is that if you record in mono you can get 148 minutes non-stop onto one disc)


14 Nov 02 - 11:46 AM (#825921)
Subject: RE: Live Recording Advice
From: Pied Piper

You might try a stereo pair in the house along with what ever else you decide to do. I've had a lot of success using to PZMs (Pressure Zone Microphone) attached to a wall (using what in the UK we call "Blue Tak") a few feet apart. This produces a really atmospheric recording with a great stereo image.
It depends what you want to end up with. I like live recordings warts and all. for listening to on headphones the space that is created is wonderful.
I think the best thing to do is to use as many different techniques at the same time as you can and pick and choose later. Why not make the house stereo version available for people like things recorded that way?

All the best PP.

15 Nov 02 - 01:57 AM (#826605)
Subject: RE: Live Recording Advice
From: GUEST,Al

search here

15 Nov 02 - 03:13 AM (#826618)
Subject: RE: Live Recording Advice
From: Ralphie

Hi Barbara...
Just throwing my hat into the ring.
Why not hire some active mic splitters for the day..(BSS are particularly good in the UK).
Input all the sources to the splits, One output to the Front of House desk, and the other (totally isolated) to a multitrack recorder..Tascam DA 88 perhaps?...I'm sure this sort of kit is available in the US.
You then have the luxury of remixing at your leisure.
One days hire of the split racks...(They normally come in units of 4, so 3 racks should do...In the UK, probably about £30 a day.
Digi 8 track....Mmmm don't know, but 1 Day for the gig, and another for the Remix.

You'd need a body to make sure that the levels going to tape were OK, but it's entirely possible, and the results can be magnificent.

One thing to remember. Put out 2 Mics (One either side of stage) pointing at the audience.(Obviously FOH wouldn't use these!) Just to make sure that you capture the thunderous applause!!

I must agree with some of the comments above. If you want a decent recording, On no account take anything from the PA desk. You'll be so disapointed. Been there Done that!!
Good Luck with the project.Would love to hear the results

Best Wishes Ralphie...

15 Nov 02 - 08:33 AM (#826791)
Subject: RE: Live Recording Advice
From: Willie-O

Having a bunch of mikes onstage won't really give you that much flexibility. Aside from it being totally different than what you're used to--and therefore problematic both technically and performance-wise--you'll get lots of bleed-through from mike to mike. If there is a bad note or more in one mike, it will be in all of them.

I'm not sure what the technical setup would be, but I am sure that you sure perform in the manner in which you are all comfortable, and can hear each other. You do that the old-fashioned low-tech way, so keep it that way. Get someone else to manage the recording process.


15 Nov 02 - 09:08 AM (#826822)
Subject: RE: Live Recording Advice
From: Barbara Shaw

So many things to consider... We usually perform in this particular room with no mics, no sound system at all. I'm beginning to think that this experiment should probably keep it simple, and I'm leaning toward "hinting" for a minidisc recorder for Christmas. Then, get a sound engineer to record from our single mic setup directly through his board.

If it doesn't work as a CD, at least we'd get a good idea of what we sound like and the feedback (good kind) should be useful.

Another problem is that a program of Civil War music would probably be better presented with no electronics, no mics and wires and technical distractions! Hmmmm, artistic integrity or posterity? Arrrrrghhh!! (Subject for another thread).

15 Nov 02 - 11:39 AM (#826940)
Subject: RE: Live Recording Advice
From: NicoleC

Hi Ralphie,

Interesting idea on the mic splitters. Unfortunately, it would skip any pre-processing like EQ for silibants and popping frequencies, etc. Some of those things can't be "fixed in the mix." You're stuck, unless you use splitters to go a separate console. Two small consoles could be cheaper to rent than one bigger one; not a bad idea there.

I think it would be easier, though, to use just the console if your console can handle it. For example:

Mono recording, mix to tape: use one of the monitor sends to tape, the other for monitors, the two outputs for the house
Stereo recording - On a x4 console, use two outputs to mix to tape, and two for stereo house.
Multi-track recording: use the outputs (4, 8, etc.) to go to tape, and the sends for mono house and monitors.

Have fun experimenting, Barbara. Hope you get your new toy :)

From what you've been saying, I'm starting to think that the recording that would be most "you" would be the 5 of you in a nice, very quiet, slightly-reflective room, stereo miking, and just record straight to tape or minidisc. Finding the right room will be the hard part, but experimentation would be very cheap. Effects and fancy mixing are nice and done well can make you sound a lot better, but if you are trying to recreate something akin to traditional presentation, that'll be most like the "fly on the wall" experience of the CW Era.

15 Nov 02 - 12:37 PM (#826992)
Subject: RE: Live Recording Advice
From: GUEST,JohnB

Lots of good pointers above, mine for what they are worth. If your band are totally used to the one mike technique, don't suddenly change to individual mikes. You will find people are used to moving around, swinging from side to side, whatever, it won't work with individual microphones, you wil get significant changes in both volume and timbre due to the proximity effect. Minidiscs are great, PZM's should be too for your type of group. As would be a couple of good condenser microphones. I think if you mix the board sound with a couple of PZM's you may get something close to what you are looking for. Record as many tracks from as many ways as you can at the same time, it's easier than trying to fix something later. If you are used to performing with one mike, balance should not be an overall problem, as you will already be used to compensating to achieve the balance you are looking for. If you get the minidisc it'e really easy to hear alot of problems you can fix in practise before you get into the recording situation. Good Luck.

07 Jan 03 - 08:17 AM (#860579)
Subject: RE: Live Recording Advice
From: Barbara Shaw

Finally got a minidisc recorder, but I'm returning it! After fighting with the thing all day yesterday, I came to the conclusion that it will not do what I want from it.

I was looking for a way to do live recordings and then upload it from minidisc to the computer, where I could put it into cda format. Apparently this is impossible with my (soon to be their) Sony NetMD NZ-N707.

There was no one at the store with sufficient expertise to tell me the gadget had no digital output before I purchased it, only some sort of "check-in, check-out" procedure intended to provide copyright protection to the original recordings. It has lots of bells and whistles and ways to download from the internet and other sources, but the orientation is to put tracks onto the minidisc rather than the other way around. Also, it is necessary to purchase a self-powered mic separately. It connects via a USB port to the computer, and you can use the included software to edit the tracks, but you need to listen to it through headphones.

Or maybe I just never figured out the little beast. Bah humbug.

07 Jan 03 - 10:21 AM (#860647)
Subject: RE: Live Recording Advice
From: reggie miles

I have some friends who recorded a show with one of those minidiscs. They recorded the event in October but I've yet to see a copy due to the difficulty they're having in doing the same. I'm not sure if that problem is due to their lack of expertise with the item or their lack of gear.

It seems to me that if you can use the program to edit the recorded material that your computer should allow a transferance of the sound files to another program within your computer and ultimately to your cd burner.

Having seen folks recording with these at jams and workshops during weekend getaways I've been curious about their potential and thought about getting one myself but I would want clarification about this very issue as I would want to use it for the same purpose.

There must be a website with support for it online somewhere or an 800 number to call for help in the tech data that came with the unit in question. I'll take a quick look on the net and see.

07 Jan 03 - 10:44 AM (#860668)
Subject: RE: Live Recording Advice
From: Jeremiah McCaw

Most irritating thing about the wee Sony MD is just what you've mentioned. Take its neatest potential feature and cripple it - aargh! However, if you got a home MD player deck as well, it should have a digital out (more expense , natch!). I do have to say that doing an analog transfer from the MD to my computer still gives me a better result than any tape-based live recording setup I've heard.

Also, you can get Tascam-type recorders that record to MD; obviously they wouldn't have the portable convenience, but would have more features to use.

I've heard a lot about PZM mics for live recording, particularly to pick up the ambience of the room/hall. I've just gotten an "edge boundary mic" from Radio Shack which I believe is the same thing ($89 Canadian). One thing that's always disappointed me in most live albums is that the crowd reactions (especially singing along) are so muted without some consideration given to recording crowd reaction independent of the stage recording. I'll have a chance to try it out this evening in a session situation; I'll report my impressions.

Whatever route you folks go, best of luck with the project.

07 Jan 03 - 10:50 AM (#860676)
Subject: RE: Live Recording Advice
From: reggie miles

For a support site link click this

It looks like they may cover all your concerns there.

07 Jan 03 - 10:53 AM (#860677)
Subject: RE: Live Recording Advice
From: Amos

I've uploaded scores of tunes from my MDR to the computer. The problem you're having is not that the files aren't digital, it is that they're not file sin any recognizable format -- so youi can't just drag and drop or otherwise upload them. What I have done with happy results is to patch the MDR to Audio in and play the file into a recording application, in myu case Sound Studio. Then I can tweak it as needed before saving it as an AIFF or MP3.

I've had a lot of luck with a desktop device called an iMic. It is a USB device that has audio in and out jacks on the front and can be selected as the source or target of the system's sound.

But a patch cord from the MDR to your sound in will do as well.


07 Jan 03 - 11:01 AM (#860686)
Subject: RE: Live Recording Advice
From: George Seto -

BTW, I've put together 3 CDs of stuff like this from concerts I was a participant at. They go to the organizer, myself, and other members of the group I was in.

07 Jan 03 - 11:23 AM (#860717)
Subject: RE: Live Recording Advice
From: Kudzuman

I've had great luck with the minidisc and have made several CD's of live groups including my own. Usually I just patch into the soundboard and set the levels and away it goes. To edit, I usually patch into a dedicated mixer I have hooked into my computer and then record the files into Cool Edit Pro where I can add reverb and fade in, fade out,noise reduction if needed and push the amplitude with hard limiting to CD levels at 16 bit. I've gotten some excellent recordings this way.


07 Jan 03 - 11:48 AM (#860732)
Subject: RE: Live Recording Advice
From: Barbara Shaw

Hey guys, please explain what you mean by "patch to audio in" or "patch into the soundboard." Does this mean a cable from the mdr to the microphone input on the computer? And then what happens? Do I have to run it into something to record it onto a wav file? And then convert from wav to cda or mp3?

Does anyone know of software to convert from ATRAC to mp3? OK, I'll go look for myself.

I looked at the support link, but every question I asked came back with nearly a hundred hits to read. I was going to do other things today besides research how to use my new toy.

(Wouldn't it have been nice if my $200 had bought me a recorder that could go directly and easily? In theory I love this gadget, in practice I hate it. I'm still trying to keep my mind open, but it keeps slamming shut with a loud bah humbug).

07 Jan 03 - 02:03 PM (#860839)
Subject: RE: Live Recording Advice
From: Kudzuman


To patch into the soundboard means to run a cable from the outputs (aux. or headphones....Mackie mixer headphone signals are as clear as any other output on the board) to the input on the minidisc. Then to record it into the computer you run a cable from the headphone out jack of the mini-disc to the soundcard in your computer. Your computer likely has some sort of small WAV editor or some such or something like MusicMatch Jukebox which lets you convert files to MP3's or WAVS. If you want really good sound then stay away from MP3's as they are compressed files with much lower audio than CD quality. Hope this helps.


07 Jan 03 - 09:41 PM (#861242)
Subject: RE: Live Recording Advice
From: George Seto -

Yes, I do the same thing. I have a cord with a Mini-Stereo Plug (3.5mm) to a pair of RCA connectors. The mini-stereo plug goes into the Mini-Disc usually into the Line-In (White) jack. The other end can go into the jacks on just about any piece of audio gear. I also have adapters to fit this end to go into just about anything else. Most common is the 1/4" Stereo Phone Plug. With those two, I can plug into just about any audio soundboard and go directly into the mini-disc.

Now on the Mini-Disc recorder you can either set it as automatic recording level or manual. I usually use Manual level, and then adjust the level out of the soundboard to get a good record level.

07 Jan 03 - 09:50 PM (#861251)
Subject: RE: Live Recording Advice
From: Maryrrf

I wouldn't return the minidisc. It is perfectly capable of transferring music on to the computer and then you can do whatever you want with it if you have the proper software (Cool Edit will work). You can burn a CD, listen to it on your computer, etc. Don't let the fact that it isn't a digital output deter you - the sound quality is still good.

10 Jan 03 - 04:24 PM (#863833)
Subject: RE: Live Recording Advice
From: Barbara Shaw

Not as dumb as I look. I just succeeded in getting a minidisc recording into the computer! I attached one end of a male-to-male cable into the headphone jack of the mdr and the other end into the mic input of the computer. Then I started up Windows sound recorder on the pc, started playing the minidisc, and created a wav file on the pc, which I saved. Now it can be converted to mp3 or cda or whatever. With better sound recording software and editing software, this can do exactly what I was looking for.

Looks like I'm going to keep it. Thanks, everyone, for your help.

10 Jan 03 - 05:01 PM (#863853)
Subject: RE: Live Recording Advice
From: George Seto -

Yup. That's exactly the way.

Did your sound card come with any software? Which make of soundcard?

10 Jan 03 - 05:10 PM (#863859)
Subject: RE: Live Recording Advice
From: GUEST,Ed


For sound recording/editing software, I can strongly recommend Audacity.

It's an excellent program with a lot of functionality. Best of all, it's completely free.


10 Jan 03 - 05:31 PM (#863877)
Subject: RE: Live Recording Advice
From: Ron Olesko


It sounds like you found a perfectly acceptable solution that meets your needs. Some audiophiles would find issue, but as far as I'm concerned it is your ears that matter.

The way you set it up, you are getting an analog signal out of your headphone jack. You've added some noise into the signal, but again it is your ears that matter.   Most people would not notice a difference.

I record interviews for my radio show on MiniDisc and transfer in a similar fashion.   In addition to my portable, I have a Sony deck that is in a rack next to my computer. I've split the audio out from the deck and connected to my sound card. I'm able to get a very clean sound, for an interview, and edit with Cool Edit 2000.

The reason MD manufacturers do not have a digital line out from portable decks is two fold.   The electronics would add to the price as well as the physical size of the deck. 99% of consumers don't need that.    The second reason is digital copyright.   Having a digital out would enable potential "clones" of pre-recorded music and the record labels are trying to stop that.

There is one portable that I believe Sony sells as a "reporter" deck. This has a digital audio out, but I'm not very familiar with the unit.

Bottom line, if it works for you (as it does for me for interviews), then congratulations! I think Minidiscs are great devices and they should make audio cassette players into dinosaurs.   The sounds is a huge improvement.