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Music 379 Introduction to Recording Arts
Recording Procedures
Coulter Building Music Recital Hall

We will record ALL of the music department sponsored recitals and concerts. These include faculty concerts, ensemble programs, and student recitals at 2:00 PM on Friday. These will be assigned to recording teams on a rotating basis throughout the semester. Dates and times for these assigned recitals will be listed on the Class Schedule. These should be done in teams of two--one serving as the recordist and the other as the editor or CD mastering engineer for the session. Setup will begin as needed prior to the session and participation will continue through the recording, editing and CD mastering concluding the session. This includes labeling and bookkeeping. A typical student recital in the Recital Hall is usually a two-hour commitment: 20 minute setup (using preset mics), 1 hour recording, 35 minutes of editing and mastering, and 5 minutes for resetting and shutting down. Logs of recital participation and a copy of the annotated recital program (or tracking sheet) is required for credit for this activity.

* Preparation and Setup

Determine the instruments and stage setup needed for the recital ahead of time. The microphones suspended in the hall (Neumann 184s) are usually all that is needed for these programs but some concerts may have special needs. Some faculty may desire other microphones. (AKG 414s or Neuman U87s are wonderful options though they will need to he setup ahead of time.)

Get to the session early. If you have a problem of any kind, you may have the chance to correct it prior to the recital start. Groups performing often warm up on stage prior to the performance. This is an excellent opportunity to test levels.

Get four copies of the printed program.

- One is annotated and is kept with the CD master of the recording. We will keep a library of the master CDs for all recordings in the booth, and they are loaned to NO ONE!

- A clean program is included with the CD copy given to the client--the performer or director.

- One is annotated and is included in your Logbook to be turned in for credit.

- A clean program goes into the recital folder in the recording booth (in case we need to dupe it later on).

Power up the booth. Flip on the master power switch (on the left under the desk). The amp, mixer, MiniDisc, and DAT will be powered. Boot the computer. Check the space on the hard drive and set the scratch disks as needed. A typical recital is about 60 minutes, that's 600 MBs of data space on the hard drive.

Create a folder on the hard drive in the Student Folder with your initals, a short name of the program, and the date. (e.g.: BHF Choir 10-31). All the sound files for this recital will be saved to this folder. Choose this folder for your scratch files.

Put a blank MiniDisc (or DAT) in the recorder. Make certain you have enough blank media in case the program runs longer than the disc length (74-80 minutes). During recording, if you are running low on remaining time on the disc, it is better to change the disc early than to run out of tape! These discs are inexpensive and we don't want to lose any of the music. Don't risk it!

Test out the equipment. Set all console and amp volumes to appropriate (unity) gain. Check signal level on all recorders and the audio in the control booth. Adjust as needed. As an added precaution, record a few seconds of audio on the computer and play it back. Make certain the system is working.

* Recording

We record direct to disk on the computer using Peak audio recording software and simultaneously make a back-up recording on MiniDisc (or DAT). This is "live" recording and anything can happen. Be very attentive to your tasks.

Allow for pre-roll. Watch the performer! Don't wait until the last second to go into record. Remember it can take a little time for recording to begin after you hit the "rec" button. You can always trim off extra pre-roll; you cannot ADD to the first note if you clip it off.

Watch your levels! Set appropriate levels, ahead of time if possible. It is better to be a little soft than to overload the system and clip. The recorded gain can always be raised (normalized) in the mastering process. Try not make adjustments to the levels going into the recorder while you are receiving signal. If it appears that you are clipping, then very gradually reduce the input level a few dB. Do not make sudden moves. If adjustments need to be made, use the time between songs to change the gain. Under no circumstances are you to "ride" the gain. Most of these concerts are in classical style and have a wide dynamic range. Riding the gain will cause a noticeable change in the background ambience. Set the level of the loudest sound to a suitable level without clipping--then leave it alone!

After the MiniDisc is recording and the levels are working, DO NOT STOP IT (except during an intermission). This is a backup of the hard disk, if you have a problem recording on the computer, you can always re-record the music into the computer from the MiniDisk.

Write the name and location of the computer sound files on the two annotated programs.

Note the IDs on the MiniDisc recorder as the songs progress and annotate these as well.

Allow for post-roll, then stop the hard disk recording (but not the MiniDisk). If there is applause, record a few seconds of it. It can be deleted or faded during the editing portion of the process. If a song is in multiple movements (such as a sonata), it may be best to let the file continue recording during the pauses between movements. You may not have time to save the recording and open a new file. If you wait to stop during applause, you will likely be safe.

Save the file to your folder already created in the Student Folder on the computer hard drive. Keep the name simple, such "Choir01" (the first cut in the choir concert). You may close this file if you wish. Quickly open a new file, and get ready to record. Repeat the recording process for all the songs on the program.

* Editing

After the recording of all the material is complete, each song or movement must be edited and saved as a separate file on the hard disk.

Trim the pre-roll. Allow a moment of silence before the sound begins. The length of this depends on the ambient sound on the tape. Some instruments, especially strings, can start imperceptively. Take care not to judge by the graphic of the sound file only. Use your ears.

Trim the post-roll. Allow for the complete fade out and reverberation of the sound--including the sustain pedal on the piano. Get all of it you can, then fade out on the hall ambience. If possible, eliminate the applause. Sometimes including applause in the file is unavoidable, especially when applause begins while the music is still sustaining. In that case, allow a few seconds of applause to crest, then fade it out. If you are undecided about applause, ask the client if they want it included. It can be a nice touch on the last last piece on the program.

If a multi-movement work was recorded as a single file, it will be necessary to split the movements into separate files. Using the selection tool, select the desired movement of the larger file and choose "Save selected as a new file" from the software file menu. Each movement should be a

separate file with an individual ID on the CD.

Do not do anything to change or "fix" the performance. "It is what it is," and must represent the accurate performance of the student or ensemble.

Save the file with these changes.

* Mastering

Mastering, in this sense, is altering the gain if needed, arranging the files in order on the hard drive, and using toast or iTunes to burn a CD.

Normalize the file or change gain ONLY if needed. If your overall record level was too low, then you can make an adjustment to all the files by the same amount using the change gain function. In some cases, you can use the "find peak gain" function of the software to see what the overhead may be, then change the overall gain by an appropriate amount. Leaving a little headroom (a dB or 2) is sometimes advisable.

Not all files should be normalized. The level of the ENTIRE recital (or a performer's section of a joint recital) should be considered before normalizing. In a multi-movement work, the relationship among movements must be maintained. If you raise one movement, chances are all of them will be raised by a similar percentage. Softer movements of a sonata are part of the aesthetic whole and should not be raised to match levels in the louder movements. Some instruments should not be normalized at all, especially those with a narrow dynamic range, such as a harpsichord.

The result can be brutal!

When normalizing or changing gain, be careful of the applause. Sometimes this is the loudest sound in the file. Consider separating and excluding the applause before you normalize the file.

Save the file with these changes. Repeat as needed until all the files have been edited.

Exit or quit the recording program.

Launch Toast or iTunes. Arrange the files in the proper order in the program.

Burn TWO CDs: one for the performer or director, the other will be the master for our files. If multiple copies are needed, the StartRec duplicator can burn four at a time.

Put each CD in a protective sleeve or case.

* The paperwork!

No job is complete without the paperwork! In this case it involves labeling the CD and the MiniDisc (DAT), putting the 4 printed programs in the right places, and filling out your logbook (timecard).

Include the name of the program, performer or ensemble, the date, and the location of the concert on the CD label. Using a CD label program to print a label is a nice professional touch and only takes a moment to complete... but there's always the "sharpie" method. In any event, all discs and CDs should be properly identified and clearly legible. Include the word "Master" on the CD for our files.

Keep the MiniDisc and computer files until the CD has been delivered and approved by the client (performer or ensemble director). After that time, erase the MiniDisc and add it to the "blank" box, and delete the sound files from the hard drive.

Additional copies of the CD can be made for a nominal fee to cover the cost of the WCU materials ($2 for a CD, sleeve, and label) and your time ($?).

Deliver the completed CD to the client. Faculty and ensemble CDs can be placed in the faculty mail boxes. Delivery should be made in a timely manner. The client is often anxious to hear the program recording and share it with others. Faculty often evaluate a student recital in a subsequent applied lesson. Make every effort to complete the CD mastering and the paperwork immediately after the recital.

Power down the booth. Set all console and amp volumes to zero, shut down the computer, flip off the master power switch (on the left under the desk).

Help keep the recording booth clean. Put the paperwork in its proper place and please throw away any trash. Remember, no food or beverage in the booth!

* A final Note

These performers have worked hard preparing for their recital performances, which often represents the culmination of their study at the university. These recordings are important to them. This is often their ONE chance of getting a recording of their best work in front of an audience. Technical mistakes on our part are not acceptable. We must take the necessary measures to make the recording a success.

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