When you record your worship services, you want every word to be clear—free of distortion, feedback, uneven levels, or muddy frequency response. Fortunately, you can take several proactive steps to help promote better recordings.
1. Position Anyone With a Mic Behind the PA Speakers
Few problems ruin a recording faster than feedback—and stepping in front of a speaker with a live mic is fraught with problems. Wireless mics are particularly vulnerable because they give the freedom to roam. So, try one of these options:
- Use a podium mic (e.g., Shure MX418D/C; see Fig. 1) for the most important vocal sources, like the pastor. That anchors them to a predictable, known position where once you’ve set levels, you likely won’t have to worry about feedback.
- If your system has two speakers, run gaffer’s tape across the floor in a line between the speakers, and tell people not to cross the line. Some probably will anyway, but at least you tried! Gaffer’s tape comes in various widths. The 3” width is easy to see, but not too obtrusive.
- If the mic connects with a cable, make it short enough so that whoever is holding the mic can’t walk in front of the speakers. People might object at first, but they’ll get used to it.
2. Don’t Forget an Audience Mic
Audience and room ambiance can add “life” to a recording. However, placing a mic toward the back of the room isn’t the answer, because it will pick up some delayed sound from the main sound system—which will make the sermon less intelligible. A better solution is to use a very directional mic, like a shotgun mic or hypercardioid mic, set up toward the front of the room. Point this away from the stage to minimize sound system pickup, while maximizing audience pickup. Note that you don’t need a high-priced mic for this application, because any sound will be mixed in subtly; a little bit goes a long way. Even though it’s a vocal mic, the Audix OM2 (Fig. 2) is a solid, cost-effective choice for a dynamic, hypercardioid mic.
3. Direct Recording Makes Recording (and Live Sound Mixing) Easier
Leakage from musical instruments into vocal mics can be a problem because you can’t remove the instrument sound from the voices. Using electronic drums can be a big help, as well as deploying guitar and bass floor effects like the Line 6 Helix LT Multi-effects (Fig. 3), because you can feed their direct sounds into the mixer instead of amplifiers.
Because the mixer will feed a PA whose speakers will usually be in front of the performers, have them use in-ear monitors so they can hear themselves properly.
4. Consider Recording Without a Computer or Laptop
For more on this subject, see Record Your Event—Without a Laptop! on the Full Compass blog. In a nutshell, many of these devices can record to solid-state media like USB thumb drives and SD cards, which eliminates hard drive noise and usually, fan noise as well. They can also be more reliable because they’re dedicated solely to recording, so you won’t experience operating system hiccups that can happen sometimes with computers—there’s nothing more discouraging than having a computer crash in the middle of a recording. For subsequent editing, you can transfer the files you record to a computer.
5. Isolate Your Mic Stands
Use pads on the bottom legs of your mic stands, like the Primacoustic TriPad (Fig. 4). Otherwise, people moving around the floor, kick drums, and other vibrations from the floor can travel up the mic stands, and be picked up by the mic. Often a mic’s low cut filter (if present) can make this problem less severe, but eliminating the problem at the source is best.
6. It’s Better to Record at Too Low a Level Than Too High a Level
Recording at too high a level creates the potential for distortion; recording at too low a level can lead to audible hiss. However, it’s very hard to fix a distorted recording, whereas there are several ways to make hiss and other noises less problematic (see next). Set your levels as high as possible, while still being sure they won’t distort—then drop the levels by another -6 dB.
7. Restoration Software Is a Beautiful Thing
When you’re doing a final mix or mastering of the recording, restoration software like iZotope’s RX7 (Fig. 5) can perform sonic miracles (reduce hiss, rebalance the sound by bringing up the voices while leaving the rest of the audio pretty much the same, delete “mouth clicks,” and even let you remove a cough without affecting the rest of the audio). While not inexpensive, this type of software can sometimes salvage a recording that you couldn’t use otherwise.