5 Indispensable Tips for Recording Live Music Shows

Posted on March 27th, 2015 - Written by: Trebas Toronto

Audio engineering diplomaLive concert recordings have an unmatched uniqueness about them. That being said, recording at any live venue can also pose a number of challenges.

One of the biggest problems is that you only have one shot to get it right. You can’t ask a vocalist to repeat the lyrics while they are on stage performing in front of a live audience, just because you didn’t capture them well enough. The key is good preparation. Audio engineering courses give you the know-how that guarantees your live recording session is a success, and here are some tips to help get you started.

Know the Venue

Long before setting up to record the gig, know as much as you possibly can about the venue and the band you’ll be recording. If you aren’t familiar with the particular venue, you’ll want to know a list of things in advance:

  • How big is the stage and where in the room is it located?
  • Are there pillars or partial walls that will disrupt the clean flow of sound?
  • How good is the PA system in the place (if there even is one)?
  • How big is the crowd capacity and how will that affect noise levels?

In addition, you’ll want to know details about the band, such as the number of members. For example, a classical concerto performance means that the members generally remain stationary, whereas an energetic rock performance could mean multiple vocalists moving around on stage, which increases the risk of everyone’s sound leaking into everyone else’s mic.

Know Your Equipment

The old adage “Better to have, and not need, than to need, and not have” applies well here. When it comes to mics, cables and adapters, if you know you need them, bring them – if you’re not too sure whether you’ll need them or not, bring them anyways.

Making a list that you can visually check-off before leaving to record can ensure you aren’t forgetting anything important. Also, having a list handy helps when you’re packing up at the end of the show so that nothing gets left behind. Audio engineering training prepares you so that you’ll know exactly what to bring for any sized performance!

Record During Sound Check

Be at the venue as early as possible. Early enough that you’ll be set-up while the band performs their sound-check. This gives you ample time to adjust the positions of your mics if your recording seems a little off, so that your final product will sound as clean as possible.

Set Your Levels Conservatively

It’s important to set very conservative levels for your recording software, because during a performance, you can’t always predict what will happen. A vocalist may sing louder or softer than they did during sound check, or the guitarist may decide to break into an unanticipated heartfelt solo using their distortion pedal. Earning an audio engineering diploma prepares you for the entire process – from setting levels before recording to the editing session you’d be doing later on.

Set Up a Room Mic

One of the best things about listening to a live recording is the sound of the audience roaring at the end of their favorite song. This gives the listener an authentic experience that can send chills up their spine. Whether the venue is small or large, it’s a good idea to set up a room mic to pick up the audience. In intimate venues, artists may also take a break from playing and answer questions from the audience, and setting up a room mic can make sure you capture this interaction.

Are there any other considerations for recording live music?

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Tips for DJs: Managing Audience Requests

Posted on February 6th, 2015 - Written by: Trebas Toronto

Club party djIt’s bound to happen. The club has been packed beyond imagine since midnight. From your vantage point, the floor is a multi-coloured mosaic of pink and red plastic cups and twirling neon glow sticks. Stage lights are free roaming over the crowd. The day workers are finally unwinding after a long week’s work. You, the DJ, have magic fingers, scratching LPs and making the crowd go wild. Then, you see them as the spotlight flashes past. They are smiling and having a great time as they approach the DJ booth. They hand you a slip of paper.

“Hey,” it reads in red ink, “it’s my friend’s birthday and she really loves Shania Twain. Can you play some?”

After graduating from DJ school, this scenario will likely play out night after night. While you, the DJ, wants to please the crowd, you also don’t want to play music that will ruin the vibe of the venue or lose the audience’s excitement. After all, students studying in sound school are training to be entertainers who can take charge of a party and keep an audience excited. So how can a DJ best manage audience music requests? This blog will give you a few pointers.

To Accept or Not To Accept Requests

Most DJs are willing to play a request for a birthday or other special event. The worst thing a DJ can do is refuse to take any requests the whole night– after all, part of the fun of going out to dance is being able to hear your favourite song in a club setting. What if the DJ at a wedding never took requests? They wouldn’t have a very satisfied audience, and therefore wouldn’t get very many referrals from that gig. The same goes for a club DJ.

Have a Dialog with the Dancefloor

Many DJs make the mistake of thinking that the audience is there to dance for their music – when in reality DJing is about communication between the audience and the DJ. A DJ should combine what the audience wants to hear with their own take on what the audience doesn’t yet know they want to hear. A good DJ should always be one step ahead of the audience – playing the newest music, or mixing the popular dance music of the month in a new and unique way.

Add Your Own Flavour

In the end, every DJ must recognize that taking requests is a part of the job. Most DJs are hired to play at a club – and that makes them an extension of that club’s persona. To continue getting paid as a DJ, they must keep the audience happy and coming back weekend after weekend.

When a DJ welcomes requests, it doesn’t have to mean sacrificing their own style. If a birthday request for a relatively common dance song comes on, why not play it up by mixing it with some of your own music? Audiences love new takes on an old classic, so this can be your opportunity to shine as a fun and creative DJ!

To graduates of music production colleges looking to become DJs, how do you handle music requests?

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How to Land Your First DJ Gig

Posted on November 28th, 2014 - Written by: Trebas Toronto

trebas

DJing only became a truly legit career path in the 1990s, with the rise of raves and house music. Today, the DJ scene has become bonafide pop culture in its own right, and it’s practically mandatory for clubs to host the latest pros on any given night of the week. But with more DJs out there than ever before, it can be difficult to score the right job. Attending DJ school will teach you all the technical skills you need to know, but the other half of the job is marketing yourself as the next great thing. So if you’d rather be mixing music in the hottest clubs in town than daydreaming in your basement with a turntable, check out these tips for landing your first DJ gig!

Network! Network! Network!

The nightlife industry is all about who you know. In the entertainment business, it’s hard to get anywhere on talent alone. This applies to actors, singers and especially to DJs. Connections are how you get jobs, and the only way to get connections is to actually attend DJ events. If you want to be a DJ at a certain event, don’t even consider asking the promoter until you’ve checked out a few shows for yourself. This will tell you if the venue is right for your sound, and also lets promoters know you are interested and dedicated. Once you do attend a few shows and have spoken to the promoter, only then is it reasonable to give them your business card, and follow through with an email.

If you really want to make an impression, bring a few of your buddies from sound school to the events you want to play at. Get them to bring some of their friends too, and voila—you’ve shown that you not only have great networking skills, but you’re also able to bring in a crowd. And this is a language all promoters will understand.

Make Good Music

It goes without saying that if you want to make it in the DJ biz, you’ve got to be good enough to compete with the top contenders for gigs. While audio courses will give you a step up on any wannabe DJs with patchy technical skills, its most important that you are always innovating and bringing something new to the table. While Top 40 music is a staple of many clubs, a lot of venues want to market themselves as a little more forward-thinking and edgy. If you’re really going to get into the DJ game, you’ll need to use samples that nobody else is using and stay on top of the latest trends. With music sharing websites like Beatport and SoundCloud, we have more access to music than ever before—so dig through, and find something nobody else is using!

Practice

We probably don’t have to tell you again, but 99% of the time success isn’t from luck. Anyone who has gotten anywhere has done so because they spend their free time practicing their craft. Writers are often told that the only way to succeed is to write every single day. Although most of us are working full-time at a job that sucks up most of our time, it’s still essential to make time for practice and improvement. If you’re not sure how to go about “practicing” as a DJ, here are some tips:

  • Search for new music
  • Reach out to other DJs in your area
  • Research new music trends
  • Create a new digital music collection
  • Try out new ways of mixing music

What are some ways you’ve gotten DJ gigs? Share your story with up-and-comers. 

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Want to Make Soundtracks? 4 Ways to Break into the Biz

Posted on November 21st, 2014 - Written by: Trebas Toronto

Recording schoolFor any aspiring musician at audio production college, creating the soundtrack for a feature film sounds like a dream. But unless you’re Jay-Z being invited to work on The Great Gatsby, you don’t just waltz into the film industry and score a soundtrack gig. Even Jay-Z had to become a prominent and sought-after artist before he got the chance to make music for films – at that’s why we’ll highlight some roles associated with soundtrack composition, which might just help you work your way up to a position as a composer, orchestrator or film songwriter.

Soundtrack Supervisor & Consultant

Although you may not be composing the music, a soundtrack supervisor has the very elusive and challenging job of choosing songs that fit with the film under production. Picking a unique soundtrack has a lot to do with being ahead of the game, and ensuring that no other films, TV shows or advertisements are using that same song. You are also responsible for signing on artists to help compose music or write lyrics for a particular project.

Lyricist

You may not start right out of sound school as a film songwriter, but it’s never too early to begin writing your own compositions. If you think of yourself as more of a poet than a musician, then perhaps being a lyricist is your path to working in soundtracks. Oscar-winning original songs like “Under the Sea” and “Colours of the Wind” rely on the power of their lyrics to communicate meaning and inspire emotion. Your best shot at getting your lyrics heard in the film industry is by developing good networking skills and building connections with music supervisors.

Videogame Soundtracks

As video games become more refined and geared towards an older audience, well-tailored soundtracks are becoming increasingly important to producers and consumers. The makers of games like Portal 2, Halo and Max Payne 3 have all hired artists among the likes of The National, Beck and even Deadmau5 to record original music for their soundtracks. Game developers, now more than ever, are offering opportunities for musicians to invent music for their virtual worlds. And with video games growing into a billion dollar industry, there is no better opportunity than now for a graduate of recording school to get their foot in the door.

Sound Effects

A gunshot, creeping footsteps, a bowl of Jell-O falling to the ground—somebody behind the scenes is making all of these sounds happen in film – and that person is a Foley artist. Foley is the reproduction of sound effects which are to be added to a film during post-production. The Foley artist accurately recreates sounds by watching the actions on film and mimicking those sounds in a recording room. Being a Foley artist means being inventive: using cellophane to create the sound of a crackling fire, and a phone book to make punching sounds. If you have an ear and an imagination for sound effects, being a Foley artist could be your break into the soundtrack industry.

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Capturing Outdoor Sound in Film

Posted on June 27th, 2014 - Written by: Trebas Toronto

audio courses teach outdoor sound recording

One of the most important aspects of sound design in film is the proper capturing of outdoor and background sounds. Filmmakers usually want to limit the bleed of outside noises in audio as much as possible, but sometimes it may be necessary to have lush, dense background sounds and even soundscapes to help push the film along. Recording and capturing outdoor sound has its challenges, but your audio courses will teach you tricks like these so you’ll be a pro at capturing outdoor sound for films in no time.

Boom Microphones

There are few things in the audio world that are more important than the right microphone for the job, and while sound engineering school has probably taught you this already, it warrants repetition – it’s that important. If you’re going to be capturing sound outside, you’ll want one of two recording devices. First, you’ll want a mobile recording unit with a high quality boom microphone or two – they are exceptionally useful if you want to capture ambience and outdoor sound while you’re shooting footage at the same time. Having two means you can capture dialogue, while using the other one for capturing ambience, chatter, and street sounds.

Handheld Recorders

However, you’ll also want to bring along a handheld stereo recorder with you to capture what’s referred to as “b-roll.” Similar to using a second camera when shooting film, b-roll is footage that’s recorded separately from the main footage that you splice in with the main footage during post-production. While in film this can refer to scenery shots and things of that nature, in sound it’s mostly used to refer to the same sounds you’d record while shooting, but separately from the filming. Not only is this useful for achieving a fuller, more realistic result, but many people tend to think that recording ambient and natural sounds and dialogue at the same time is a bad practice – it can muddy the dialogue and the natural sounds get lost.

If you’re looking for a great handheld recorder, Zoom makes a four track handheld stereo recorder with binaural condenser microphones that also has two XLR inputs. This means that you can record with the on-board microphones and use two external microphones as well – choosing to use perhaps lapel mics or boom mics if you so choose. These retail for around $300-$400 new, but many music production programs may have some on hand.

Buy a Windsock

If you are doing any kind of recording outside, it’s absolutely necessary to purchase a high quality windsock for every microphone you own. There is nothing more unprofessional than the grating sound of howling wind on your audio tracks. It’s the mark of a true amateur.

Mixing

Proper mixing when it comes to integrating captured outside sounds is essential to a great sounding audio track. You should ensure that the ambient noise and outside sounds are at a level that makes sense with the footage, this being the most important thing. If you have a quiet field scene with extremely loud nature sounds, it’ll look and sound wrong.

Spend a lot of time on your mix, and try to shy away from using too many plug-ins unless you’re going for otherworldly or ethereal sounds. Heavily reverbed crickets in a romantic night-time scene are going to feel awkwardly out of place.

Above all, always be monitoring your levels and paying close attention to everything you record and mix. Vigilance is key!

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