Recording isn’t just for professionals anymore – educators, students, hobbyists, everyone is getting into the action these days. Recording your concert band isn’t really any different from recording any other type of music or ensemble. The right equipment will put you on the right path to getting an excellent quality audio recording of your concert band.
Unlike in the past when you needed a full recording-studio set up, now all you need is a mobile iOS device (like an iPad or iPhone) plus some additional accessories like a portable USB mic and a mixer to create a quality recording.
But, if you’re looking to make professional sounding recordings, the following sections will outline the equipment and accessories that will take you to the next level when recording your concert band or any other ensemble.
When it comes to laptop or desktop computers, many models will work for your needs, but recording does take a fair amount of computing power, so don’t use a machine that is too old or doesn’t have enough juice. And, while Windows PCs will do, many recording aficionados prefer Apple products. The cost of a Mac computer is typically a bit higher than a Windows PC with similar specifications, but Macs are more reliable and are easier to use. Woodwind & Brasswind carries a wide selection of Apple laptops and desktop computers to fit your budget and your portability needs.
Computers are great as the foundation of recording, but without audio software programs, you won’t be able to do much with your recording. To go along with the computer, you want to consider a digital audio workstation (DAW) program. There is a DAW program for every budget and every skill level, including basic programs like Ableton Live 10 Intro. For band directors looking for something with a bit more, like tools to help compose, edit, mix, and arrange music, you should consider something like Image Line’s FL Studio. This is a complete software music production environment and DAW that’s affordable and highly rated.
Depending on your budget and your comfort level with software, you might opt to use the basic software that comes with many of the digital audio interfaces that we’ll discuss later.
Microphones are a critical piece of equipment when recording your concert band, as they make a huge impact on how recorded instruments will sound.
There are two main types of microphones you’ll hear about: dynamic and condenser. Dynamic mics are great for live performances, but for your purposes, condenser mics will work best. Many condenser mics require “phantom power,” which is supplied by an external preamp or interface. USB microphones are a great plug and play option, because they get their power from your computer or interface. If you’re using a tablet or smartphone for audio capture, then an iOS-friendly mic is the best option. Again, be sure to check specs and ensure you understand what you’re combining and that you’ll have the necessary power sources.
Condenser microphones tend to be a bit more expensive, but you can certainly find good-quality, affordable models, such as the MXL 3000. This is a great, multi-purpose condenser microphone that includes a shockmount and a pop filter.
When recording your concert band, if your budget allows, invest in a pair of condenser microphones so that you’re able to set up your recording space to capture the most natural sound possible.
If you’re recording with an iOS device, the BLUE Raspberry Studio USB/iOS Microphone is a quality condenser mic. It also draws its power from that device, so it’s truly plug and play, and it can record a wide variety of instruments with excellent results. It comes bundled with some software from top brands like PreSonus and iZotope, making it a great deal.
Now you need to plug in the microphones and other equipment into your computer, and for that you need a digital audio interface. This element is also important because it processes the music you’re recording and converts it to data that your software understands. Luckily, most interfaces with USB connections are compatible with most DAW software. But, always check the specifications to be sure you’re purchasing compatible items.
If you’ve never shopped for an audio interface before, a great place to start is with the Focusrite Scarlet Solo package – it contains everything you need to start recording in a compact and portable package. It is connected and powered by a single USB cable and works with all major DAWs on Mac and PC (so that should take care of those compatibility issues we discussed above!). The package includes an exclusive version of Pro Tools, Ableton Live Lite, the Softube Time and Tone Bundle, Focusrite's Red Plug-In Suite, 2GB of Loopmasters samples and more.
If recording your concert band will require more inputs (especially if there are any vocals involved), the Tascam US-16x08 audio interface offers the convenience of USB connectivity and captures 16 mic and line inputs to your computer.
When you listen to your recordings, you need the sound to be accurate so you can hear everything clearly and be able to decide what you want to change in your mixes. A good pair of studio headphones is a must-have.
Studio headphones vary greatly in price but there is a great selection of models available within an affordable price range. The Audio-Technica ATH-M40x and Sennheiser HD 280 PRO Studio Headphones are both best sellers that are reliable and come in at a budget-friendly price.
We’ve talked a lot about digital audio workstations (DAWS) and software and computer-based recording, but a computer is by no means an absolute requirement to record your concert band. You can find excellent standalone recorder options that are portable, provide great features and are easy-to-use – and they won’t break the bank!
For example, the Tascam DP-24SD 24-Track Digital Portastudio is a stand-alone tabletop recording studio that records 24 tracks to its hard drive which is built right into the recorder.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed with selecting the right tools that will all work together, you could consider a recording package to get you started with recording your ensemble. There are great packages available that will take the guesswork out of your purchase and may also save money versus buying separate components.
Recording your concert band is an exciting undertaking and hopefully this buying guide will get you started with gathering all the equipment you need to make professional sounding recordings. You can start simple or go all-out, depending on your budget, comfort level and time constraints. If you need more assistance, call our dedicated experts at 800.346.4448 and they’ll assist you with everything you need to get started with recording your concert band or other ensemble.