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Recording in a small basement venue, need mic suggestions / general tips
Old 27th September 2019
  #1
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Recording in a small basement venue, need mic suggestions / general tips

Hi everyone, I have a TL;DR at the end with the core question, but for anyone who has time to read the backstory, I deeply appreciate it.

I'm looking to get my foot in the door as an (aspiring) audio engineer in my area and start building a portfolio / gaining experience. I happen to be in a great position where I'm friends with a guy who just opened a venue he'll be using for local bands, and I've basically asserted myself as wanting to be their house recorder for all the bands that come through. However, I'm faced with these challenges:
The venue is the guy's basement, and,
I don't currently have much recording equipment.

What I do have though, is access to place mics where I'd like, a humble capital of $500ish, and my Tascam DP008. This being said, I'm looking to make a modest investment of equipment that I can use for on-location recording; specifically, two microphones (the DP008 only does two simultaneous line in recordings, and I'm not looking to buy a new mixer), and maybe one of those solid state portable stereo mics just for another 2 tracks to work with (I.E. Tascam DR-05)?
I have approximately two weeks to get myself together to record the first show at the venue, and I'm looking to have an end-result of a recording that's good enough to have these small local bands release it as a short live album/ep. The current genres I'm working with at the first show are emo-punk, so thankfully acoustics aren't quite as important as energy here, but I would like the mics / setup to reflect a well-rounded travel set I can use with the different genres that pass through. And any additional advice on location recording, especially mic placement, is really appreciated!

So the condensed question (TL;DR): I'll be recording bands at a basement venue in approx 2 weeks and I need gear, I have a rough budget of $500, I already have a 2 line-in recorder, I just need 2 mics that are good for live recording; and also, how should I position them? And should I grab a solid state recorder for the extra tracks / depth?

Thanks in advance everyone!
Old 27th September 2019
  #2
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Two-mic live recording is very difficult to pull off successfully, even in good rooms and by people with a lot of experience. Before you decide what to spend on mics, plot out where you and your recorder are going to be, and what cables (microphone and power), stands, and other stuff you may need. You don’t want to have your mic placement decided by your cable limitations.
The next thing is to buy a couple of mics. I wouldn’t go too fancy. Shure SM57s or Sennheiser 835 are $100 dynamics that are decent on almost anything, and will take some abuse in a live situation. They holds value if you want to trade up to a higher level or if this doesn’t work out.
The next thing is to get a band or bands in that room and do some tests. If the venue is going to be a disaster, don’t find that out at the first night with a crowd. Experiment with placement of mics. It is just about impossible to suggest best placement without seeing and hearing a group in the room.
Old 28th September 2019
  #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bushman View Post
Two-mic live recording is very difficult to pull off successfully, even in good rooms and by people with a lot of experience. Before you decide what to spend on mics, plot out where you and your recorder are going to be, and what cables (microphone and power), stands, and other stuff you may need. You don’t want to have your mic placement decided by your cable limitations.
The next thing is to buy a couple of mics. I wouldn’t go too fancy. Shure SM57s or Sennheiser 835 are $100 dynamics that are decent on almost anything, and will take some abuse in a live situation. They holds value if you want to trade up to a higher level or if this doesn’t work out.
The next thing is to get a band or bands in that room and do some tests. If the venue is going to be a disaster, don’t find that out at the first night with a crowd. Experiment with placement of mics. It is just about impossible to suggest best placement without seeing and hearing a group in the room.
Thanks for the advice upfront! Glad to hear you recommend SM57s because I had the same idea through my own research. I'm definitely going to be investing in very long cables and good, positionable mic stands (Any recommendations there would be helpful too). I'm not sure if I'll be able to get the the venue before the day of, but I have the whole day off and plan on setting up my equipment alongside the bands, so hopefully I'll be figuring out where the mics sound good long before a crowd shows.
Old 1st October 2019
  #4
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Crazy4Jazz's Avatar
 

Not sure if this helps but I believe that the height of the mics determines the balance between lows & highs.
Old 1st October 2019
  #5
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So, just to get this straight, you have two inputs in total, and you want to record live bands playing at a small basement venue in good enough quality to release online.

I don't like being the bearer of bad news, but I do need to tell you this straight: not gonna happen.

Here's why:
- You could take a stereo feed from the desk, but it might only have vocals, bass, kick, and whatever spill is picked up. Not useful.
- You could put up a pair of mics in the room, but you're entirely at the mercy of the live sound engineer, the PA system, and the acoustics of the room.



In your position, I'd aim at getting as many input channels as possible. A Behringer UMC1820 seems like a good way to do that if you have a laptop that will do the job. It's a fair chunk of your budget, but it does mean you've got 8x XLR inputs - a much more useful number. With a combination of splits, a small submixer and a couple of your own mics, you could get something useful:

Ch1 - lead vox
Ch2 - back vox (via submixer if there's more than one)
Ch3 - Drum mic
Ch4 - GTR
Ch5 - Bass
Ch6 - Room mic
Ch7/8 - Stereo feed from live desk

Doing that lot will give you more options at mix-down, whether it's mostly using the live desk feed and adding bits as you like, or starting a mix from scratch.

You won't need to buy many mics this way, and you'll have way more flexibility.

Chris
Old 1st October 2019
  #6
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I don’t disagree much with the post from chriss661, but I don’t think the OP has the resources or the skills to pull off your suggestion. He has no obvious affordable method to monitor his inputs in a very loud environment, so the recording and subsequent mix has a good chance of being different from the two-mic live mix without being much better.
In his two-mic scenario, he at least has the resources. I think it will be very educational for him to do it his way and hear what the mics hear. If he can do this enough times to get a placement which can balance PA, band and room, he might get something useable.
Old 4th October 2019
  #7
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Thanks for the blunt response Chris, I do appreciate it. Unfortunately the UMC1820 is not only a good chunk of the budget, but I don't have any mics currently, which would push me to a max of 3 mics and that's without considering equipment. This might even be okay, but the only laptop I have chugs pretty hard (5ish year old Windows laptop that I'd have to keep plugged in at the venue). I do my mixing on my more powerful desktop, so the recording hardware is my main concern in this scenario.

For better or worse, they only have the vox going through a PA - the rest is amp'ed individually, and the drums aren't mic'ed.

The good news though is, because there's really no "desk", there's no sound engineer other than the band themselves, and since I'm the only one recording, I may be able to have them play / change volume accordingly.

Thanks everyone so far for your advice
Old 4th October 2019
  #8
Lives for gear
If the vocals are already in place, all you'd need is a feed from the PA for those. In that case, you'd need 3x mics:

- Drums
- E-GTR
- Room

With a bit of shopping around on the 2nd-hand market, I think you could do it. You'd have a couple of channels left over to expand, too. Stereo room mics, more mics on the kit, etc.

The laptop you have might well do the job, too. There might be a way of testing, but I haven't looked into it.


In your position, I think it'd be best to spend money on flexibility and close-micing, rather than using a pair of high-end mics to get a wonderful stereo recording of a basement venue with a vocal-only PA system.

Chris
Old 4th October 2019
  #9
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Thanks again Chris, great recommendations, I might factory reset the laptop today and throw some DAWs on there to see what sticks without slowing it down too much, and if it works I might end up grabbing the UMC1820. My only concern is bass, which in my mind would've been a fourth mic, but you don't list it as needing to be mic'ed? Do you recommend just going line-in with bass and then run the output to the player's amp? Or just hope it picks up in room sound?
Old 4th October 2019
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kaszimir View Post
Do you recommend just going line-in with bass and then run the output to the player's amp?
I think I said it earlier, but most bass amps have an XLR output you can use to DI straight to a desk or, in this case, a soundcard.

Chris
Old 4th October 2019
  #11
You can't buy your way in. Now what?

In the "good old days", you could show up with a splitter snake, an ATI 8MX2, and an eight-track recorder and get paid to capture audio. Now most live mixing consoles (even very cheap ones) have audio capture built in. Location recordists are now in competition with every FOH mix engineer in the industry. Those people are already getting paid by the venue and it's a pretty hard sell to convince anyone that they should pay you to provide what they can already get for the cost of a SD card.

Broadcast and classical recording engineers have a (slightly) easier time, because we have tools that the FOH guy or gal doesn't: codecs, uplinks, microphone lockers worth many thousands of dollars. It's still a tough sell. Your chances if you can't offer the upgraded capabilities and equipment? Zilch.

You (kazimer) don't have the capital budget to compete. (Read some of Steve Remote's pinned threads. This is a "must not fail" business, and those who do it successfully have spent more than your entire gear budget on just their backup recorder.) So if you can't beat 'em, join 'em: Speak with the venue's owner and FOH engineer about what you can do to help that's actually useful. Can you coil cables correctly? Can you manage digital media so it doesn't go missing? Can you be the guy who rationalizes what's on the band's rider with what's actually available and gets everybody involved to nod their heads? Can you figure out what needs to be done to keep this new venue from being shut down by the fire marshal? Can you see a dozen other potential snafus before they occur and prevent them from happening? These skills are your entry ticket to the audio industry. Work hard, and make yourself indispensable. Polish your mixing skills on free projects done for friends. Some night a monitor mixer won't show up and you'll be the guy they trust to step in.

David L. Rick
Seventh String Recording
Old 5th October 2019
  #12
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Thank you for the industry tips David, I appreciate them. However, I am in a unique situation where, for this venue at least, none of that really applies here. As I said there is no "desk" because their PA only does vox out, meaning there's no FOH engineer; in addition, I'm good friends with the venue owner already, and I may actually be considered their only engineer. It's a very raw setup, and it is literally in a basement. I'm sure your tips will be great when moving to bigger and better, but my humble recordings are just as humble as the venue right now, so I won't have to start from just busywork in this unestablished venue.
Old 5th October 2019
  #13
OK, I get it: you're it. Grab the ring. With the right equipment you can take responsibility for the (rather simple) FOH balance as well as the archival recording. Take another look at that tiny little Zoom console I linked above. Look at the Behringer and Mackie tablet-controlled mixers in the same price range. They are all close to your proposed budget. Do the live mix on your new rig and capture the audio at the same time. Use whatever PA rig the house owns just to amplify the mix you are providing so that you're getting all the available channels of audio. Borrow a few mics and DI boxes from friends (or from the bands) until you can afford your own. Offer to do the audio capture in exchange for loaned equipment. If you can't mic or DI everything on stage, put up a stereo pair of mics near the stage and build your recording on top of those with the channels you do have. Be proactive in your advance work, communicate with the performers about what you need and you'll be able to plug a lot of holes in your gear list. Learn to build your own cables. Learn from your mistakes and do better each time. Work your a$$ off and keep reminding yourself how lucky you are to have this gig. Grab hold of it like it's the key to your future, because it is.

David
Old 6th October 2019
  #14
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Remoteness's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Crazy4Jazz View Post
Not sure if this helps but I believe that the height of the mics determines the balance between lows & highs.
???

Please explain.
Old 6th October 2019
  #15
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Really great recommendations on that last one David, thanks so much! I'll be taking all of these into account, the gig is getting closer and I've got a second one at the same place lined up already fortunately, so I'm really hoping for it to be very educational if not a good portfolio starter. Thanks everyone who's given advice so far.
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