Manufacturers put RCA main outputs on their consoles for a reason. Whenever you need a quick reference recording, pull a mix from the main outputs. Take a stereo RCA to 1/8th inch stereo mini cable and connect to your favorite portable recorder. Or, some consoles have recording capability directly to a USB memory stick.
While convenient, this limits you to what comes out of the main output. In a smaller venue or low volume situation, you may choose to leave the drums or guitars at a lower mix level. While this may make your live mix sound best, these mix elements will be low or completely out of your recording. You may also enact equalization to make the input sound good in the room or to combat feedback. These inputs will sound wrong in your recording.
To fix the common board mix, you can use one of the following three suggestions:
1 – Hop-up your board mix
This method requires that your mixer have matrix capability. In a digital mixer, a matrix bus pulls its audio from the output busses and main busses.
In analog consoles, a matrix pulls its audio from the subgroups and main busses.
So, your board mix lacks guitar or drums because of your choices in the house mix. No problem. You can use a matrix bus to add them back into your recording. Simply take an open mix bus or subgroup and add what the main output mix is lacking. On your matrix, send both left/right main output and your mix bus/subgroup. You have just hopped-up your board mix.
Using a single mix bus and matrix gives you a mono recording. You can setup two matrix busses to record in stereo. You can pan a mix element left by decreasing the right matrix send and pan right by decreasing the left matrix send.
2 – Use auxiliary sends or output busses
If you want to take the hopped-up board mix to the next level, you can create a completely separate mix from the house mix using an extra mix bus or auxiliary send. On an analog mixer, use an open auxiliary send to create the mix. On a digital mixer, take an open mix bus and create the mix. I use post-fader auxiliary sends or mix busses. If I have to make an adjustment to a mix element, I can just make them in the house and the recording mix will follow. If you use a pre-fader send, you will have to make adjustments to both the house and the record sends.
Using either method, you need two sends or busses to create a stereo mix. You can pan left and right the same way you would in the matrix stereo mix.
Using auxiliary sends or output busses works great for mixers that have no matrix capability. It also takes a bit more time to setup than using your matrix. You may also have to pay more attention to the mix during the show than you would using a matrix.
3 – Multitrack record every input channel
Most digital mixers offer some form of multitrack recording option. My Behringer mixers have full bidirectional audio transfer and console control with my MacBook Pro and ProTools setup through a USB connection. In the past, I used a splitter snake and Presonus Firepod interface setup, which used a Firewire connection.
This method allows you to capture every input before it is processed in the console. You can take your time after the gig and make a great recording from your laptop or home studio setup, as you have as many passes through the song as you have time. Using the other recording methods, you are one and done – you cannot get a second chance to make it right.
Which method should you use?
Multitrack record your show when you need the best recording possible and have the time to do it right. Use the auxiliary send method when you need the recording immediately, have the open auxiliary sends, and need a better recording quality. Take a hopped-up feed of the main bus when you need a quick reference recording for your band.
When the band gives you their recorder with 30 seconds to show time and says, “Hey man, we need an awesome recording! We are sending it to the record company right after the show,” go old school and give them a straight-up board mix.
How will you make your live recordings better? Write your thoughts and comments below.