Concert Recording

In many ways, faithfully recording a live concert presents the ultimate challenge to a sound engineer – capturing the excitement of a live event but at the same time maintaining the high sound quality demanded by a listening public used to carefully controlled studio recordings.

Recording companies offer live recording services at widely differing costs.  Often, at the cheaper end, you will simply get someone with a single pair of microphones and a recording machine who may well sit in the auditorium with a pair of headphones.  The results can be very disappointing and often bear little or no relation to the live event.  This is in part to do with the human brain’s remarkable ability to simultaneously process the sound we hear together with what we see and know, to produce the desired result – thus it is possible to sit anywhere in a concert hall from the front row of the stalls to the back of the gallery and still enjoy the performance.  Just imagine the sound captured by a microphone at the back of the gallery – distant, indistinct and unfocussed.

The live recording services offered by Classical Media provide a more sophisticated solution, using carefully considered multiple miking techniques similar to that used by the BBC, and we often describe the results we achieve as being of “broadcast standard”.  It is for this reason that venues such as St. John’s, Smith Square and Wigmore Hall recommend our services.  Of course this comes at a price but we are confident that our live recording packages represent excellent value for money.

Most live recording is done on an archival basis – that is to say that the recording is being made on behalf of, and with the explicit consent of both the performers on stage and the concert venue.  Such recordings are not for commercial release but are intended for the sole use of the performers and the concert promoters.  The microphones we use will not be invisible but we aim to be discreet and their presence should in no way spoil the audience’s enjoyment of the event.  We always use the rehearsal on the day as a balance test and to finalise microphone positions and stage layout, though as part of an archive recording the rehearsal is never recorded.  As part of our fixed price archival recording packages we also edit the concert to remove excessive pauses etc to produce a finished stereo recording on CD-R within a few of days of the concert.

Commercial live recording differs from archival recording in several ways.  Both performers and concert venues will normally charge a recording fee by way of releasing the rights to the commercial use of the recording.  We may well record to multitrack in surround as well as stereo, and would normally record as much of the rehearsal as possible to give us extra material at the editing stage.  It is also not uncommon to record more than one concert where the same repertoire is performed in the same venue, and to arrange patching sessions after the concert to tidy up certain sections.

We also offer a selection of archival video packages for live concerts ranging from a single locked off camera to multi-camera high definition set-ups.  These can be used to produce promotional or commercial DVDs and to create high quality web clips for use on sites such as YouTube.  All our video productions come with the same high quality audio recording that we are bring to our audio only productions.

Key things to remember are:

  • Artists, promoters and venues must be informed in advance that the concert is to be recorded
  • We are familiar with the majority of London venues
  • If going to a new venue we will preview it at no cost to you
  • We aim to capture faithfully the live event
  • We will attend the rehearsal as a balance test
  • Where possible main microphones will be slung to be visually discrete
  • We are well known for our efficient rigs and de-rigs
  • Optional surround recording as well as conventional stereo
  • Archive recordings are edited to remove unwanted gaps etc
  • Master provided on CD-R – further copies can be ordered
  • We also offer audio and video packages for DVDs and YouTube clips
  • We observe Health and Safety procedures, fire regulations, and have public liability insurance

Prices for London venues are based on the number of staff required as follows:

  • Small venues such as St. John’s, Smith Square & Wigmore Hall – £495 + vat per concert
  • Medium venues such as Cadogan Hall & the Queen Elizabeth Hall – £650 + vat per concert
  • Large venues such as the Royal Festival Hall & Barbican – £800 + vat per concert

Case Study: Mahler Symphony No.8 “Symphony of a Thousand”
Saloman Orchestra, Huddersfield Choral Society, Crouch End Festival Chorus and the Finchley Children’s Music Group conducted by David Temple at the Royal Festival Hall.

Mahler’s symphony of a thousand – so called because he requires the services of over one thousand performers on stage – is probably the most complex symphonic work to record. As well as orchestra, soloists, and chorus the score includes semi-chorus, children’s chorus, piano, celeste, organ and off-stage soloist.  The recording rig required four staff and included 10 slung microphones and a further 12 spot microphones on stage.

This was Conductor David Temple’s reaction on hearing the recording:
“Just listening (second time through!) to the Mahler and wanted to get in touch immediately to wish you all a heartfelt ‘congratulations’. It must be the most difficult piece of all to record and you have done a super job.
I am so fortunate to have as a profession what would otherwise be my hobby and therefore to have a performance and a recording of the Mahler to have with me for the rest of my days is indeed more than anyone deserves!!!!  Thanks for capturing this for all of us…”