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Church Sound: Recording Live Music To Two-Track Recorders
Making great recorded mixes everyone will appreciate, especially the drummers and guitar players...
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Recording the music in your worship services on a two-track recorder, such as a CD recorder, seems like it would be simple. But if your mixes sound terrible, here’s how to do it the right way.

Most mixing consoles have a set of connectors labeled “tape out” or something similar. And while you may be tempted to simply plug your CD recorder into that output, there’s probably trouble on the way.

Here’s why. Let’s suppose you have an electric guitar or drum kit on stage. It’s probably so loud all by itself that you don’t have to add much, if any at all, of these instruments into the main PA loudspeakers. But you’ll probably also have a vocalist who will need to be fully amplified in the main speakers to be heard at all.

This may mix together nicely in the room, but if you record this PA loudspeaker mix directly to your CD recorder, it will sound all wrong. There will be overpowering vocals and almost no electric guitar or drums at all, save that which is picked up by any open mics on stage.

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That’s because a “console recording” doesn’t include anything that was loud on stage to begin with. Essentially this recording is the inverse what actually happened on stage and bled into room. What’s a sound tech to do?

Just use a spare auxiliary (aux) send to develop a separate recording mix. Using a post-fader send for this will automatically track any fader moves. Note that the aux send for each channel will be the opposite of the fader position. That is, if you have a fader pushed most of the way up to amplify a vocalist, you’ll probably need to turn that aux send down quite low.

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On the other hand, an electric guitar (or other loud instrument) will have its fader most of the way down, so you’ll need to turn up that particular aux send. Remember not to pull the fader down all the way, or its sound won’t go to the aux bus at all.

And you can always un-assign that instrument from the main loudspeaker by using the bus selector switches if need be. Note that adding even a small amount of e-guitar in the main PA speakers helps even out a room.

This, by the way, is also the mix that you want to send to your remote speakers in another room.

If your console has a stereo aux send bus, you can also do this recording in stereo. Many Mackie boards have stereo aux sends, as do several consoles in the Allen & Heath product line. But most of the time, a mono mix will be sufficient.

Monitor this mix with a good set of sealed headphones from the CD recorder’s headphone-out jack to get the proper balance between the vocals and drums or guitars. Then you’re on your way to making great recorded mixes everyone will appreciate, especially the drummers and guitar players.

Happy mixing!

Mike Sokol is the chief instructor of the HOW-TO Church Sound Workshops. He has 40 years of experience as a sound engineer, musician and author. Mike works with HOW-TO Sound Workshop Managing Partner Hector La Torre on the national, annual HOW-TO Church Sound Workshop tour. Find out more here.


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