Live Recording at Edgewater Casino

On January 13th 2012 I was asked to do a live recording of a performance that will later be synchronized to video. We did this as a test to see how we could enhance the sound quality to video. I have done live performance recordings before but they were always at the mercy of whoever was running the sound. This led to its own set of problems.


Sound guys priorities


When someone is doing live sound, they have three priorities;


  1. Is the band satisfied with the sound from the monitors?
  2. Is the audience satisfied with the sound from the speakers?
  3. Don’t blow up the gear!


Whoever is doing sound that night typically has plenty to deal with and the last thing that he/she wants to do is figure out a way for you to record the band by jacking into his board further adding to his list of potential problems. What usually ends up happening is that you are faced with the following less than ideal options.


Using the insert send as a line out

The advantage with this option is that you are able to get an output from all of the channels that are being used allowing for multi-track recording.

The disadvantage to this is that your input levels are at the mercy of whatever the sound guy sets the preamp to. Some signals could end up being quite loud and others very quiet. Another disadvantage is that the inserts are typically located post EQ leaving you with a signal that has been EQed to fit the room and could require some creative mixing in order to get it to sound acceptable later.

This option is only possible if the inserts are not being used. If you were to try this with the inserts in use, you would have to daisy chain your recording I/O’s into the channel insert chain which leaves the sound tech to rely 100% on your computer to NOT CRASH!!!! No sound tech will ever agree to that.


Using the auxiliary outs

This option is pretty quick and easy provided that there are one or two aux outs that are not being used, but this option comes with some steep limitations. Most of the time you will get one aux made available to you giving you a mono mix. You will have to set the volume levels of that mix by adjusting the individual channel aux sends while trying to monitor the signal through a pair of headphones. Unfortunately with this option, whatever the levels are that you have recorded is pretty much all that you get. You will be able to EQ, compress and add reverb to the entire track later but you will not have the ability to adjust or treat any of the individual instruments later.


Using the buss system

Some consoles have a buss system and many live sound techs use them to group instruments together such as drums, guitars, vocals, etc… You can use the buss outs to record these groups. With this option you are recording the signal post EQ and inserts but unlike the auxiliary out option you will have the ability to EQ, compress and add reverb to the instrument groups instead of the whole track later.


Using the direct outs

This option is similar to using the channel insert sends the difference being that the direct outs are located at the end of the channel’ signal chain as opposed to the insert send which is located after the EQ. The difference is that the direct out signal is subject to changes in fader levels. Some live sound techs take a “set it and forget it” approach which is great for the recording but not necessarily the best for the audience and some get right into it and ride the faders which is great for the audience and can be a great benefit to you if he does it well. If it is not done well you will be left with a lot of volume corrections to make when you go to mix.


My solution

So after many situations of dealing with this issue in all it’ forms and challenges, when I was asked to record a performance at the Edgewater Casino I had an easy, common sense plan to get a great recording.


When you do this kind of recording there are two significant unknown factors;


What kind of console are they using?

How knowledgeable is the sound tech with that console?


In this case the sound tech was very knowledgeable but the casino just bought a digital console that he had never used and we literally took it out of the box while setting up for the sound check and this was his first experience with a digital console.


Because of these factor, I figure that the first and most important thing that I had to do was to make sure that I inconvenience the live sound tech as little as possible and what could be better than not having to connect to or rely on their system at all?! Therefore, the most important part of my set up was a pair of 8 channel microphone splitters. These splitters basically receive 8 microphone inputs each and output 8 transformer isolated mic outs (iso’s) and 8 direct outs. The 8 iso’s then go to the channel mic ins of the house console and the direct outs go to the inputs of my recording rig leaving me and the house engineer to handle our input signals independently and separately. From that point on I treat everything as if it were a multi-track studio recording leaving me the freedom to process everything however I please.


Whenever you are involved in a project you should strive to get the best quality that you can and if it involves or affects others then strive to make your involvement as unobtrusive or better yet, as beneficial to their performance as possible. I had a great time doing it and I look forward to working with those guys again in the future.


Have fun,



ART S8 – 8ch mic splitter

4 things that will create better instrument separation


There is nothing better than capturing a well rehearsed band banging out an awesome performance live off the floor. The energy, interaction and vibe just feels great but what can be a challenge is minimizing the bleed while capturing that performance and the smaller the space is that you are recording in, the more difficult it becomes.

Bleed is, for example, when the sound of the guitar is heard in the drum overheads. You would then say that the guitar is bleeding into the overheads.

Dealing with this problem is actually a lot easier than you would think as long as you keep these 4 things in mind.

1. Distance between instruments
2. Microphone polar pattern
3. Microphone proximity
4. Barriers

You already know that the further you are away from something the quieter it becomes. In the audio world this is described in the “inverse square law” ( It basically says that a sound will decrease by 6db every time you double the distance to the source. In other words, a mic that is 2m or 6′ away from a source will be 6db quieter than a mic that is 1m or 3′ away from the same source.
What it boils down to is that the further you put two instruments apart the less bleed you will get.
The thing to watch out for when increasing the distance between sound sources is that if they are too far apart, whatever little bit of bleed that ends up in the other microphones can be off time and can be off enough to give an unwanted delay effect.

Microphone polar pattern
A microphone’s polar pattern describes the directionality of the microphone. I generally like to keep it simple and say that there are three main polar patterns.

Cardioid, also called unidirectional picks up sounds coming from in front of it and rejects sounds from behind it.

Bidirectional, also called figure of 8 picks up sounds that come from the front and the rear but rejects sounds from the sides.

Omnidirectional picks up sounds from all directions.

You can improve the separation greatly just by taking the pickup and rejection areas of the microphone into consideration. For example, a very common set up for recording a singer playing an acoustic guitar is to use two bidirectional microphones where one is closer to and pointing at the singer’ mouth and the rejection point is pointing at the guitar. The second mic is closer to the guitar with the rejection point pointing at the singer’ mouth.

Microphone proximity
This one is pretty much a given but a valid rule non the less. The closer a microphone is to an instrument or a sound source the more prominent that instrument or sound will be in that microphone.

Placing a barrier between a mic and an instrument will obviously have an affect on the intensity level of that instrument in the mic. The question is, where to put the barrier? Answering this question becomes more difficult the more instruments you add to the recording. I tend to think of this in terms of how easy is it to box an instrument in. It is much easier to box a guitar cab in than a drum kit. I also think of it in terms of the spreading of high and low frequencies in a room. (That will be covered in a later blog)
Some instruments have characteristics that can serve as natural barriers that may not immediately come to mind. Trumpets, trombones and closed backed electric guitar amps are quite directional. I typically do not have any separation problems when close micing a horn section and I would often place two guitar cabs back to back and close mic them.

By keeping these 4 things in mind you will be well on your way to great instrument separation and if non of this works, you could always use an electric drum kit and DI everything.
Enjoy and have fun,