Buckley Recording Session

Recording Your Ensembles: Tools, Tips, and Techniques

Overview: This blog will provide basic information on how to record, produce, and promote your school ensemble(s). Topics to be covered include: the selection and purchase of appropriate recording equipment based on quality vs. budgetary needs; overview of recording software for PC and Mac; microphone placement options; environment (sound) concerns and suggestions; distribution formats (in addition to standard “old‐fashioned” compact discs), including social media; and, where to find these products/services. Through an overview of past recording projects, ideas, and personal experiences, this is one of the best ways to promote (and improve) your program.

Three Main Categories: Audio Acquisition; Editing/Mixing; Distribution (and copyright issues). There are many details within each of these main items. The level of complexity is in direct proportion to the intended end results of the effort.

What are your ultimate goals in making these projects?
1. Promote the school music program(s)? (musical business cards)
2. Fundraise by selling discs, other media with audio/video?
3. Provide quality recording of the literature for the marketplace?
4. Improve the intonation, tone quality, expectations for increased performance level?
5. Recruit?
6. Work with a particular composer and bring int he composer to work with and interact the student musicians?
7. Other…

Reasons number 4, 5, and 6 was the impetus for me to undertake recording projects. When I was a director at the university level, there were no ‘contest’ to prepare and compete, only so many conventions to go play (and then you play mostly for your peers). Plus, to record music that had yet to be recorded and present to the marketplace, now easily worldwide through CDBaby, iTunes, and many other outlets.

Tools for Audio Acquisition

There are so many options available today and they are (mostly) all affordable. This is the point where you must first decide how complicated you want things to become. Although there are many products available that have built in condenser mics, these are not suitable for much beyond “down and dirty” recordings for reference and study. To get an acceptable sound for reproduction (you know, to listen over and over ad infinitum), you really need an external microphone. These, fortunately, are cost effective (and work really well) for small projects.

Recording Devices w/built‐in Mics (stand alone)

All of these recording devices will use an SD of SDHC (very small) digital storage cards. These range from 512K up to 32‐64G these days. A 4 Gig card should suffice if you dump the files each day onto a computer. A 2 gig card is big enough if you only record in the MP3 format (as opposed to the large high‐quality WAV format).

1. Zoom Recorders: Begin at $99.00 with the H1, followed by the H2n at $199.00. The H1 is best used for close voice (speaking) and not for upper‐end music recording quality (although it will record both Mp3 and high‐quality WAV files). Mics are marginal.

2. The Zoom H4n is the base model for any good music recording. The built in stereo mics are fine, but there are low Z
(XLR) stereo inputs for a better quality stereo mic or matched pair. It also has a wired remote so it can be controlled from the podium (even if it is on top of a mic stand).

3. Tascam offers several recorders that are similar in style, features, and price. Most built in stereo condenser mics will not provide the quality sought out for a final recording, unless the goal is for internet social media reproduction only.

4. Tascam has an incredibly diverse device that resembles a boom box: the BB‐800.

TASCAM BB‐800 SD Card Stereo Audio Recorder Features:

• Records to SD/SDHC memory card
• Uncompressed PCM (WAV) recording
• MP3 Recording
• Four built‐in high quality condenser microphones for 360‐degree recording
• Two XLR mic inputs with +48V phantom power
• Built‐in 10W stereo sound system
• Simple operation with dedicated knobs and keys
• Variable Speed Audition with Key Control
• Loop Playback
• Metronome and chromatic tuner
• Over‐dub recording
• Powered through 8 x AA Batteries or AC power adapter
• Wireless remote control unit included

Recording Devices w/o built‐in Mics (stand alone)

Check out similar products by Tascam, Marantz, Sony. These devices should have XLR inputs with physical input controls and a variety of recording options. All of these devices hook to any laptop, which then reads the memory card like any other hard drive. Should you need to edit or adjust the audio, you will need to transfer your files into a sound editor on Mac or PC.


Vocal Mic: Shure SM58
Instrumental Mic (single‐close): SM57
Single Stereo Mic: RODE‐NT4
Inexpensive matched Condenser pair: RODE‐NT5
Getting into the higher end: Earthworks QT20 and other QTC series
(These are very sensitive mics that also require a great preamp system for best quality and control)

Software Options for Sound Editing/Recording/Mixing

For Windows:

Waveosaur – free audio editor that can also run on older computers running Win98, XP, or Vista.

Audacity – free open source audio editor (MAC/WIN/LINUS/UNIX).

n-Track Studio – Inexpensive. This is a complex, multi-track recording and editing software package that is very powerful (less than $100).

AVS4U: British software package that includes good, simple to use editors for audio, producing ring tones, photo editing, video in any format for web or to burn to disc. For less than $100, you receive a full subscription to all of their products. A fantastic set of tools at an amazing price.

Sony Sound Forge – a great 2-track sound editor. But for the price, you can buy Pro Tools.

Avid Pro Tools – the industry standard. Education price is less than $400.00.

For Mac:

Garage Band – intergrated into OS.

Audacity – free open source audio editor (MAC/WIN/LINUS/UNIX)

Handbrake – free software to copy (rip) DVD video/audio for editing in iMovie and elsewhere.

Pro Tools – the industry standard.

Places to Buy:
Your local Music Dealer!

There are many, many options to take advantage of here. With technology, there is always the “next big thing.”

Tech Mantra #1: If it works correctly and consistently, performs the functions needed in a clear manner, don’t replace, upgrade, tinker, adjust, etc. with it (We are, unfortunately, forced to upgrade from time to time so that programmers can give us a new set of problems and bugs to decipher).

*See below in “Recruiting, Promotion, and Sales” regarding legal issues, including reproducing video/audio online.

Creating a YouTube Channel*
1. Address your browser to: www.youtube.com.
2. Click “Create Account” in the upper right hand corner (next to “Sign In”).
3. Create a Google account by entering your working email (or create a new one).
4. Choose a password for the account and confirm.
5. You will be forwarded to the YouTube page with ‘My Account’ listed to the lefthand side.
6. Click on “Account Settings.” On this page you can create your channel name, set up the profile, plus many
other options.
7. Select ‘Create a Channel’ and you will be asked to determine the ‘username’ so that the channel address
will read as: www.youtube.com/yourchannelname. For example: www.youtube.com/ralphfordmuzik is
my personal channel to promote my music.
It is connectable to Facebook and all other social media for cross publicity availability.
NOTE: The process for creating ‘Fan Page’ on Facebook and other social media is very similar and uncomplicated. If you can peruse the internet, you can create these outlets for your media content.

Create a Facebook ‘Fan’ Page
1. Underneath the green ‘Sign Up’ is a link that states: ‘Create a Page’ for a celebrity, band, or business.
2. Select the category that best fits your intent. (School sports teams are listed under ‘entertainment’)
3. At this point, you either associate your fan page with your current Facebook account, or create a new one.
4. Follow the onscreen instructions: set profile pick, get fans!, and complete basic information.
5. Your final Facebook address should read: www.facebook.com/yourfanpagename. For example, anyone in the
general public may access my info at www.facebook.com/ralphfordmusic.

Recruiting, Promotion, and Sales of Recordings

The CD, while still somewhat viable, is dying faster each day. There are now many ways to get your music (and your program) out to the public (or at least the parents). To be able to do this legally, you will need to file the form(s) and pay the fee(s) through the Harry Fox Agency. There is a very fine website to assist you in this ordeal or you can hire a firm to take care of it for you. It is not overly complicated, just a bit time consuming. You may decide to hire a company, such as CopyCat Music Licensing, LLC to handle all of these details. It is important to be legal! For music supervisors, film, video, television and multi‐media producers, schools, universities, and the Armed Forces we will research and request the appropriate licenses for your projects whether you need licenses for film, television, DVD, internet, CD, publishing, performance or arrangement projects.

You can release your recordings as MP3 files on any standard jump drive, perhaps a custom made drive with the school/ensemble logo that can double as a key ring. A small memory amount of about 1 gig should be plenty of room to hold the files, plus leave room for any PDF materials, such as recruiting information, schedules, program notes about the recordings, or anything else. You could even place a video of one performance along with the other material.

One Comment

  1. I am in fact pleased to read this weblog posts which includes tons of valuable facts, thanks for providing
    these information.

Leave a Comment

Awesome! You've decided to leave a comment. Please keep in mind that comments are moderated.

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>