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Boot Camp: Just for the Record (Part II)

In the last issue (you do keep all of your back issues, don’t you?) we began this series by identifying two distinct methods of audio recording the typical church service or special event. As we continue on our journey, let’s take a look at the first (and perhaps the least desirable) of the two general configurations that we identified: recording from a signal at the main “house” console, with a few options offered at that location as well.

In one arrangement at the house console, you would simply take a mono output of a “monitor” or “auxiliary” send. “Wye” the output if necessary, then feed both channels of your stereo recording device equally. Note that in this configuration it is absolutely essential that you have a “pre-fader” signal coming to you! If you have a “post-fader” send, then each time the house engineer adjusts her fader for the house mix, your recording mix —even though it’s coming off an auxiliary bus— it becomes mashed potatoes.

With a pre-fader/pre-equalized send, you are basically unaffected (other than by the console gain/pad/trim controls) when house changes are made. A considerable “down-side” to this approach is that you and the house engineer are competing for elbow space; when you need to make an adjustment, you must reach over his or her mix to change your settings. This is generally not the best arrangement, unless you are in the process of hitting on the house engineer for lunch after church.

A variation of the house console auxiliary bus recording approach that some often overlook is to use a “matrix” approach. Matrix??? In this case, don’t think of some of the latest in science-fiction movies. Consider that matrix in this application is simply defined as “a mix of a mix.” If you have a larger, professional-level main desk, it may include a section of tons of knobs appropriately known as the “matrix” section. (If your console does not have a matrix section, do NOT toss this magazine aside, we’re going to make you one…read on!)

Each sub master of the console (in addition to sending a sub-mix to the main output faders) is available at each of several matrices (there you go: another bonus term, simply included in your subscription to this incredible magazine!) by way of a “level” control, or knob. Each of several possible matrix mixes on, say, an 8-bus console includes a level control from each sub master, and a “master” level control for that matrix. Now, if you have not yet become lost in the matrix of matrix discussion, let’s continue.

Assume that your house engineer sets up that console similar to this:
speaker (podium and/or lav): sub No.1
vocal mikes/praise team: sub No.2
choir: sub No.3
keyboards: sub No.4
guitars: sub No.5
drums: sub No.6
strings/winds: sub No.7
brass: sub No.8

Now, let’s assume that you have your recording device connected to the “Matrix 1 Output” of the console. The service is progressing, you are recording, the choir starts singing, and you hear plenty of them, and very little brass. Assuming the brass is playing, you find the reason is that the house engineer needed very little brass in the house mix because of the natural acoustics of the room. Assuming that your house engineer has the brass sub-master up some, you can believe that it is available at YOUR matrix mix. Simply reach up to matrix mix #1, turn UP “sub 8” at “your” matrix, and voila! You add brass to your recording mix without affecting anything in the house mix!

Once you master this approach, you can even produce a stereo mix from the same console: use “matrix 1” out to your left channel of recording, and “matrix 2” out to your right channel. Adjust the 8 different sources to each matrix in each channel to your liking: vocals: add to both equally, and they sound “center”; more strings in #1 than in #2, and they appear more to the “left” of your mix, and so on. You’re now recording stereo from a mono house mix…and you are good! Go tell somebody.

For our last option at the house console recording approach, let’s assume that your main desk has anywhere from four- to eight busses (or sub masters) but no “matrix” section.

For discussion, let’s assume, say, a console that is 24-4, 32-4, includes no such thing as a matrix mix. As promised earlier, you build your own matrix by simply setting a four to eight channel along side the house console and doing your very own mix! This is by far the most practical method if you must use the house console at all; it gives you control over groups of inputs, and you are not climbing across someone else’s mix to fix yours.

Check the rear of the house console and locate the outputs marked, “group 1 out”, “sub 4 out” or similar nomenclature; every manufacturer uses different terminology. Patch this output jack to any channel “line in” on your console. Pan to your heart’s desire, add any effects you might want to attach to your mixer, and you are in business. Even the simplest four or eight channel mixer will work for this application.

There are some great little four and eight channel “compact” mixers that will do the job nicely, and can be had for anywhere between $400 and $800.

Next issue, we will travel to a new location: the dedicated recording “studio,” room, or facility, and look at all the great things that could happen in such a place. Stay tuned!

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