Saturday, September 23, 2017

5 tips on how to record a band rehearsal with a smartphone or a tablet

Hello everyone and welcome to this week's article! 
Have you ever needed to record your own band's rehearsals but you did not have a recording device ready for the task? 
The solution is probably in your pocket.
A smartphone, if used with some criteria, is capable of recording a decent take that can be used later to analyze that riff you were jamming together, or to not forget an idea.

This small guide is for those of you who want to record their jam and doesn't have any periphereal, obviously keeping in mind that the quality of the phone makes a lot of difference, and that the final file will be a single track, usually mono, that will leave us little room for adjustments (although we will surely be able to use an eq to tame some resonance or apply some hi pass or low pass filter).

The main thing, that will make the difference between a muffled, clipping fart and an audible, usable audio take is to get the gain and the positioning right, and this varies on the loudness of the instruments (eg. if there is a drumset or not), and the size and shape of the room.

For the gain staging we will have to do some trial and error: record a take and see if it's clipping, or if it's too low. According to the case we can adjust the input gain or move the phone in another point of the room. For the balance instead is trickier, because we need to find a position that is farther from the louder instruments in order to attenuate them, and closer to the quieter ones, to make them audible. 
Don't rush and take your time, you'll probably need to adjust the position of the phone several times before finding the optimal placement.

Here are 5 tips that can be useful when recording with a smartphone: 

1) The band must have a balanced mix, as much as possible. this means that the vocals, the guitar and the bass must not cover each other, and none of these must cover the drums or be covered by them. Place yourself somewhere in the room that is at the same distance from all instruments and find out whether any of them needs to be a bit louder or quieter. 

2) Put your phone in airplane mode! Any incoming call, vibration, game notification, will ruin the recording.

3) Set the phone on the ground or on a chair, not too high because the higher it is, the more is the chance it will only get the cymbals. We need to attenuate the cymbals, that are usually very loud. Usually the lower we put it, the more emphasis will be on bass and kick drum.

4) If possible, try to find an app in which the input gain is adjustable, so you will be sure the sound will never clip (if it does, just turn the input gain down). Another good feature for a recording app would be to record in Wav, instead of Mp3.

5) If it is impossible to turn down the input volume and the sound is clipping and distorting all the time try to put the phone further away from the sound sources or apply styrofoam/duct tape or other sound obstructing materials in front of the phone's mike, or try to place the phone behind a layer of cloth/a pillow. 

Hope this was helpful!

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