Live Recording Setup at Church

I have been wanting to do decent quality live recording for a long time at church. I’ve done some recording of our worship before using a hand-held recorder, but nothing like a full-fledged multi-track setup. That’s all going to change now. I’ve got us set so we can get a full mix, each track recorded individually. I’ll break down the equipment I’m using and exactly how we’re doing it.

First of all, here is what we’ve got on a typical Sunday morning, and what we need to track

  • Vocals – usually 3. One lead and two backup.
  • Acoustic guitar. This is mine – I run my Martin D-35 through an Ultrasound DI Plus pre-amp and then straight into the board.
  • Electric guitar. Usually Justin (our main electric player) runs through a footpedal and into a Vox AC15. We mic that with an SM57.
  • Keys. Yamaha MM8 (this is a new keyboard for us – we’re excited!)
  • Bass. We get a direct signal to the board. Sometimes the bass player goes through an amp with a direct out.
  • Drums. We use a Roland TD9 V-drum kit. Just one out that goes straight into the board. It also has a midi out that I’m running into my recording interface so I can put a drum plugin on it like Superior Drummer.
  • The speaker (Pastor). The pastors use a wireless mic, which goes into the board.

So – we’ve got 9 to 10 different inputs going in – all of them eventually go into the board either direct or mic’d. We run a regular snake to the back of the stage where everything plugs in.

Recording needs

  • We needed at least a 10 channel recording interface. I run two firepods daisy-chained together, so that’s 16. Plenty of inputs. Any multi-channel interface will work with this setup as long as you have enough inputs.
  • We need a way to get each signal both to the mixing board (front of house) and to the recording interface. This is where we were stuck. We figured we had a couple options. 1.) You can buy a recording snake. These split every signal, so one set of signals goes to a recording setup and the other goes to the FOH board. 2.) You can guy XLR splitters – as many as you have channels. This is the route we took.

Hardware used

Two Firepods, daisy-chained together. Looks like this:

10 XLR splitters. These are cheap little splitters with one female and two male ends.

And finally you’ll need some cables – we went with an 8-channel XLR snake – you can see the ends of it going into the firepods above.

The setup

We are splitting our signal at the snake. Let’s take the lead vocal for example. We use a Shure beta58a. The XLR cable for that microphone goes back to the snake, but instead of plugging it straight into the snake, we plug it into the female end of the XLR splitter. At this point, the vocal is split – so we plug one of the male ends into the snake, sending the signal to the board, and we connect the other male end to the recording interface using the 8-channel XLR snake.

If you do this for every channel, you are able to send each channel to both the FOH board and the recording interface. The result is this ugly mess at the snake, where every single channel is going through a splitter:

That’s a mess! But, a small price to pay to get full recordings, I suppose.

I did a quick recording of a song at rehearsal last night. It sounded great to me, and after just a few minutes of mixing I came up with this:

A few notes

Drums: I’m going to run the midi out of the drums to the recording interface. This way I can use a plugin (Superior Drummer) to get a MUCH better drum sound.

Cost: It might be more cost-effective (and easier) for you to just buy a mixing board that will do recording. Something like the Mackie boards that does recording or maybe maybe of those fancy new Presonus recording boards. But, if you’ve already got some recording equipment, this might just be the way to go. Assuming you have an interface, all you really need to do is buy some XLR splitters and XLR cables and you’re set.

How do you record live?

  • Sam

    Great to hear you also recorded the MIDI data from the drums! I recorded live a few months ago and did the same thing. Added some punch to the overall drum sound.
    My board is the Yamaha 01v96VCM, so we mainly used ADAT to pipe direct signals to Ableton Live.
    The XLR splitters look brilliant. Gotta get a few of those…

    • Brian

      Cool – thanks Sam! Yeah – I typically use the MIDI and then I use EZDrummer for the sounds. Way more natural sounding than the built in kit sounds. I usually take it a step further and bounce out the individual drum sounds to audio files – so I’ll get a kick track, snare track, overheads track, etc. That way I can mix like I’ve mic’d up the kit the way you would typically do it.

      The XLR splitters are pretty handy. And cheap!

  • andrew

    hi brian im thinking of having a similar setup, and i saw you used an xlr splitter than a rack splitter? does it matter?

    do u do virtual soundcheck?

  • andrew

    can you show more pictures of the recording setup with the computer?
    thanks brian