There are many reasons you might want to record your concert band: for a competition submission, for your students and their parents to have something to keep for memories, for your program’s archives and many other purposes. If you’ve never recorded before, it can be intimidating to understand where to start. However, if you set yourself up with the right space, the right equipment and the right set-up, you’ll be well on your way to being a recording whiz.
The Right Space
Where you choose to record can make a huge difference in the sound.
- Use a large room or hall with a high ceiling to enhance the blending of the instruments and reduce the harsher sounds that can occur in smaller rooms when the musicians are too close together.
- Choose a room that has minimal background noise, including air vents. If you are in an area with unavoidable background noise, place foam wind screens on the microphones as a precaution.
- Beware of other events being held in the building at the same time you want to record. Try to plan your session at a time when outside disturbances will be minimal.
- Do some test recording in the room, because spaces can have background noises that you may not notice, but that are captured by the sensitive recording equipment. Listen for any hum from fluorescent lights, HVAC noise or disturbances from rooms next door.
The Right Equipment
Use the best music recording equipment you can afford, including condenser microphones designed for recording and high quality cables and headphones. If you don’t have the budget for everything, you could consider renting some equipment or perhaps borrowing from another ensemble. To get you started, here are some great pieces that will help you get the best sound possible.
Sterling Audio ST-169 Multi-Pattern Tube Condenser Microphone – these microphones provide a warm, articulate and detailed sound with excellent volume handling. Use one microphone for each channel, left and right, and be sure that the microphones are a matching pair.
Tascam 300X Studio Headphones – these headphones give you clear, uncolored sound with plenty of power handling and isolation for tracking and live use. Excellent headphones like these will help you hear any of that ambient background noise that we discussed above, so you can work to correct it before your final recording performance.
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Studio Pack – instead of making individual selections of microphones, headphones and inputs, you can purchase a recording package. This can save you time and money, especially if you’re not quite sure what you need.
The Right Set-up
You don’t have to get too fancy with the set-up to obtain a good recording. Here are the basics to get you started:
- Use two condenser microphones on a bar on one stand, or you can use two stands and place them about 4 feet apart.
- You want the microphones to be up above the musicians: about 15 feet high and 12-15 feet in front of the ensemble.
- Be sure to plug the left microphone (when facing the group) into the left of the recorder and the right microphone into the right of the recorder.
Once you have selected your room and set up your equipment, it’s time to experiment with recording some of your students playing music. You want to work all the kinks out before you bring everyone in for the final recording.
Using our tips from above, set your equipment up in the way you think will work best for your room, your ensemble and your musical selections. Have a small group of students make a brief recording while you carefully note the setup, adjust the equipment and seating, and have them play again. Do this several times. Then, listen to the recordings and note which set up gave you the best sound – you’ll use this setup for your final recording.
Recording and Post-production
Now you’re ready to record! Read over your notes and set up the equipment and the ensemble in the manner that gave you the best test recording. Set the recording levels carefully and check them using the loudest passage of the selection. Recording experts recommend you set the levels just under the loudest level on the meter. If you are using a mixer, set levels in this order: input level, mix, main and finally recorder levels.
Allow enough time to do a sound check and, if possible, give yourself time to do more than one recording – even if that means more than one recording session. This will ensure you get the best final product possible.
Our final tip is: resist the temptation to adjust levels during the recording! Once you have set things up, performed your testing and sound check, then just let the musicians play. Be patient and give yourself time to learn and adjust.
Congratulations! You’ve successful recorded your concert band and you should be proud of yourself and your students. If you need more advice on equipment for recording, Woodwind & Brasswind experts are available to help – simply call us at 800-346-4448 and we’d be happy to discuss your specific recording situation.