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Recording great audio is an art form as well as a technical ability. From the engineers at the famous Abby Road Studios to the songwriter recording his compositions on a four-track in his bedroom: they all require an essential tool... good ears. This article is not designed to teach you every aspect of the recording process. After all, there are people that go to college for years to learn that stuff. However, if you have just been volunteered by your church board to be the new sound man, or you want to record that great song you have just written but don’t have a clue where to start. Have no fear; with a little practice and a lot of patience, you will be on your way to audio stardom.

There are many techniques you will encounter during your audio odyssey, but microphone placement is arguably the most important. Microphones work like a speaker, but in reverse. The cone inside the microphone vibrates when it picks up audio. The vibration is translated to wires, then goes through the amplifier and out the speakers. So, knowing this, you can see how the placement of the microphone is important. Placing the microphone too close to the stage monitors will cause the microphone to pick up their audio output and cause feedback. Needless to say, this can ruin a great performance.

When recording acoustic instruments such as acoustic guitars don’t place the microphone too close to the sound hole. This creates a loud and booming effect. Try placing the microphone approximately one foot away and slightly above the instrument. This should create a more natural effect. Try experimenting with different placements. In time you will know which ones work best for you.

Recording vocals requires a similar approach. Try placing the vocalist approximately one foot away from the microphone. If the vocalist prefers to hold the microphone the same principal applies. However, if you’re recording a live performance it will be up to you to keep the appropriate levels. You can accomplish this by turning the levels up and down as needed, or with a device called a compressor. Don’t worry, most churches or bands you will be working with will have one.

The next step is setting the volume. Most cassette decks, microphones, CD players and other audio devices have level meters. These meters tell you how hot the signal is running. Set your audio input so that the meters stay between the zero and three range. If you keep the levels too low, your recording will be too soft. If they peak, your recording will be distorted. Believe me, there is nothing worse than recording a great performance and then realizing later that you forgot to do a level check.

So there you have it, the basics of sound recording. I recommend you go to your local library and check out a book on the subject. There is simply not enough time and space to go into such detail in this article. I hope however, that you have a basic understanding that will give you the springboard you need to get started.