What can I do to Prepare?
The old saying - 'Garbage in, Garbage out' is never more true than when doing live recording.
What this means is that preparing properly will save save you a lot of time, money and hassle.
Change your strings, your drum heads, have the piano tuned, singers get a good night's sleep. Take time to tune your instrument between numbers.
Make sure the venue knows you will be doing a recording, and that it's alright with them.
If you can whip up a good crowd, and get them on your side, the atmosphere on your record will be electric - on the other hand, nothing sounds worse than a bored, disinterested crowd, talking, drinking and belching - make sure your friends are near the front!
Should we set up any different?
Give some thought to the way you normally stand on stage, and how much you are willing to alter that arrangement to accommodate a better recording. We're talking 'spill' here.
The way a band normally sets up - for instance with the drummer directly behind the vocalist - makes for some severe problems on mixdown. If you can rearrange your stage set up to keep amps away from drum overheads, and cymbals out of vocal mics etc., - please do.
How Loud should we play?
There's a happy medium here - enough volume that you can hear yourself and play with feeling, not so much that everything is being recorded by everyone elses' mic. Drum monitors spilling into the drum overheads, and vocal monitors being too loud for the stage are both common problems.
Should we do our new material?
Before you think about recording a live set, you need to be tight, know how songs start and finish, and have the arrangements down. New material is fine, as long as you've thoroughly familiarized yourself with it before the recording.
What can I do with the recordings?
You can sell them, take them to another studio for mixing, copy them - they're yours
It is important to remember though, that copyright plays a large part of what you can do with the recording. If you plan to sell it, or make money in any way from it , you need to pay the composer of the songs a fee for your use of their composition.
The copyright issue does not apply to music that your or your band have composed (you own that copyright), but applies to any 'cover' songs you may play in your sets, where the composer of the song has not been deceased for 75 years or more.
Recording & Mechanical licence
Record from the PA console - Why not?
Here's why taking a feed off the PA board is a bad idea. Before you read any further, have a listen to these two samples (video - about 1.5 Mb each)
16 track mix
- Board mixes usually don't sound too good. When setting up the PA system, engineers equalize it to sound good in that particular room. They are using skills to match the band's sound to, and compensate for, the inherent flaws in the microphones, speakers, and how reverberant the room is. This equalized sound will sound good through the PA, but will sound dramatically different through good studio monitors, and vastly different on your hi-fi.
- If the mix that goes to tape is the same mix that feeds the PA speakers it's usually is strong on vocals and weak on instruments that are already loud (such as drums, bass, guit). It'll sound fine in the room because you can hear the drums and the bass/guitar amps acoustically, but the PA mix doesn't contain much of these sounds, and once this is recorded, it can't be undone as with multitrack.
- PA microphones can be inferior - tools specific to a particular job. What the sound guy chooses will be good for the job he has, PA companies rightly prefer robust, economical workhorse mics.
But. Microphones are the most important part of the signal chain. When recording is "added-on" to the PA system spec, it requires the engineer to do double-duty, and usually something gets compromised. The PA wins because it's what's important that night.