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Recording Tips: Making a Digital Recording of your concerts

I'm interested in recording my concerts through my mixer using a MiniDisc or
other digital recorder. How can I do this simply and affordably?

I decided to borrow a portable Sony MiniDisc Recorder/Player from the band
director. He says the recorder/player was $179 at Best Buy. Discs cost
approximately $2/each and can hold up to 80 minutes (74 is standard).
I am going to run it through my mixer and have an adult assigned to control
the MiniDisc recorder so that we don't record the in-between stuff (you only
get 80 minutes!).
Now to get it on to CD, a friend of mine has a CD burner and says he can
transfer it on to CD. Now I just have to see if I can make this happen!
December 12th, I'll find out... For more answers, look below.

Thanks to everyone for your answers! You got me on the right track...

My favorite recording equipment is a portable Sony Dat recorder (about the
size of a Walkman), and an Audio-technica At-822 Stereo Microphone. The
setup will run a little over $900. This is what I used to record
concerts in Orlando. Hope this helps.

I have just gone through this whole learning
process! I hope that I can help! Over the summer our
department purchased a DAT recorder, CD burner, and
mastering software. Let me see if I can walk you
through this.

At the concert:
1)Setup for mixer, DAT recorder, microphones:
Plug microphones into mixer "in" channels
Wire mixer "outs" to DAT analog "ins"
**You talked about getting a digital signal; the only
way to do this is to actually have digital
microphones, which are very expensive; our mics are
high quality analogs, which means that the incoming
signal is analog(remember analog doesn't always mean
Depending upon the type of microphones you have, you
may need to flip a little switch on your mixer called
"phantom power". I'm not exactly sure what this
means. All I know is that without it on, I could get
no signal to my mixer and DAT recorder. It was almost
as if the signal needed some kind of amplification.
OK, once you have everything set up you are ready to
record the concert.

2)Once your concert has been recorded onto DAT you
must transform it to a .wav file on your computer.
**When recording audio onto CD, you may only record
.wav files. The audio you have just recorded onto the
DAT is not in the format of a .wav file. You have to
transform the information on the DAT to a .wav file.
Here is how:
You must record the whole concert from the DAT to your
computer's hard drive. You can do this through your
mastering software. This requires a new setup. Now
you must wire your DAT outs to your soundcard "line
in". Your mastering software will then take you
through recording from DAT to your hard drive. It
will record it as a .wav file. This will be several
hundred megabytes large, so make sure you have the
hard drive room!
**It is at this point where you may manipulate the
recording by doing things like editing out applause,
setting up tracks, adding reverb, graphic EQ, etc.

3)Once you have the .wav file of your concert you are
ready to burn your CD.
**What you do from here is pretty much dependent upon
what type of CD burning software that you have. This
is really the easiest part. I have two types of
software that can do this and each is as easy as
clicking on a button with a picture of a "record
button"(red dot) or a CD. I use either Adaptec EZ CD
Creator or Red Roaster.

I hope that all of this makes sense. I know that in
the beginning it is all a little intimidating, but
with a little time you will find it isn't too bad.
Please write me with any questions you may have about
things that perhaps I wasn't very clear on or about
some vocabulary that I have used that doesn't make

First, get the copyright permissions out of the way.
Recordings, for profit or not, require special permissions.

For the "nitty-gritty" of digital recording in an
easy-to-understand format, see

It's a tough question to answer, and takes a bit of time and space, since
there are several ways to approach the subject of recording live concerts.

If you just want to commit your concert to a CD as it is, with no mixing,
editing or sonic "tweaking", or track cueing, then you can start your MD or
DAT at the start of your program and turn it off at the end, hook it up to a
CD recorder and copy it as is, provided you don't perform more than 74
minutes (there are 80 minute CD's available, but I know of no 80 min. MD's,
so stick with 74 min CD's). This will give you applause, audience noise,
announcements, whatever, and all.

A properly edited and cued CD is a totally different proposition, and takes
more equipment and time (both of which mean money) to accomplish. You need
mixer, DATand/or MD players, the CD recorder and some expertise.

One technique is to record you performance (in stereo) onto the DAT format,
mix it down and cue it onto the MD recorder, then digitally dub it into the
CD recorder. Using TASCAM gear usually guarantees that you will be able to
pass on the index codes from the MD or DAT to the CD. As you can see, this
can get technical. Not all equipment (Sony, for instance) will do this.
need proper cables and connectors, for both TGIF and optical outputs. I
suggest you check the library for more detailed info on home recording
setups, particularly digital. Electronic Musician magazine and other such
periodicals aimed at the amateur engineering market can be of some help, but
you're going to have to spend some time at this if you want to do it right.

On the other hand, if you just want what used to be known as an "aircheck",
you can record your concert on a 120 DAT cassette and transfer it to a CD
just as it is, with no editing. During the concert, someone should run the
DAT machine for you so they can properly monitor the levels, but if you make
the transfer digitally, it's a simple one to one realtime transfer, and you
have your CD recording, warts and all, as it were.

When I retired from the choral classroom in 1982, I invested in some
equipment and started a recording business, specializing in school/community
music programs. I can attest that getting into digital recording is a
fascinating subject, and not for those who have limited time, expertise and
resources. Perhaps there is someone in your community who runs a similar
recording business (these guys are everywhere) and can help you out. Look
for an adult - beware of kids with CD recorders in their bedrooms, or rock
band roadies who want to play with their gear.

(edited b/c personal content)

Now, to be more specific in answering your questions.

1. Mini-Disc is a good medium to record on because it is easy and
inexpensive. The main drawbacks include the audio compression intrinsic to
the technology. Unless you are recording for the "golden ears" set, this is
a moot point since there is usually more noise in the ambient surroundings
which you perform than would be revealed by comparing Mini-disc to other,
more sophisticated media.

The small JVC and Sony portable Mini-Disc recorders are easy to operate and
compatible with the more "pro" models which can then be used to produce
The best way to get a Mini-Disc recording onto a CD is to digitally connect
the Mini-Disc player to a stand-alone CD recorder to produce a master CD to
duplicate from. The Mini-Disc recorders run about $ 200- $ 300 and a stand
alone "pro quality" CD recorder can be purchased for less than $ 800. Blank
CD's can be bought for less than a dollar. ("Audio only" CD's cost more and
the less expensive CD recorders (under $ 600) cannot use the cheaper

As important as a good recorder is, a more important consideration is the
choice of a good microphone. Select a condenser type. Good choices include
the CAD CM17 or the Rode NT3. Both are excellent sounding mics and can be
powered from battery or "phantom power". This is an important consideration
for portable applications.

Also, get a good pair of 50' XLR mic cables, an XLR-to-stereo mini-plug
adapter, a good boom-style, tripod mic stand and a steroe adapter for
mounting both mics on the one stand.

All this equipment is available at discount audio suppliers and will produce
great recordings.

FEEDBACK: I removed all personal information to protect their privacy.
However, I can put you into contact with the individuals who wrote these
answers if you e-mail me privately.

I hope the Moderators will accept this on ChoraList; it is a clarification
rather than discussion.

>Depending upon the type of microphones you have, you
>may need to flip a little switch on your mixer called
>"phantom power". I'm not exactly sure what this
>means. All I know is that without it on, I could get
>no signal to my mixer and DAT recorder. It was almost
>as if the signal needed some kind of amplification.

Not amplification, but power that's needed to make the mic work. A
condenser mic has as its pickup a small condenser, which is an electronic
gizmo made up of two plates or membranes, one charged positive and the
other negative, very close together but not touching. When sound waves
cause the membranes to vibrate it changes the electrical potential between
them, producing the electrical signal that is then sent to the mixer,
amplifier, etc. Because condensers can be very lightweight and tiny, they
can be very sensitive and extremely accurate with high frequencies. Some
such mics (including all wireless condenser mics) work off internal
batteries. Others need to get their power from the mixing board. (Before
phantom power became common on mixing boards, the earliest condenser mics
had to have a separate power supply box that they plugged into.)

This, by the way, is why you MUST turn down all the faders before plugging
or unplugging the mic cables. That action makes or breaks a circuit, and
if the power is on there will be a short pop as the electricity arcs from
one terminal in the mic plug to another. Very bad for sensitive equipment,
and can actually blow out speakers if you're running very high volume


John & Susie Howell
Virginia Tech Department of Music
Blacksburg, Virginia, U.S.A. 24061-0240
Vox (540) 231-8411 Fax (540) 231-5034