Live Streaming: Setting Up the Laptop and PA System


This is an ongoing experiment with live streaming. Please read part 1 and part 2 on why I’m going on this silly journey.

Though I haven’t got to live streaming, yet, I am extremely excited by the simple results of setting up a PA with two overheads. I took the PA’s output to my laptop, and we actually got a decent recording! I’m thrilled that, with only two overhead mics, we might actually be able to do a decent live stream. This is without vocals, of course, but I celebrate small victories.

And my band had a blast recording and playing back our music! To any else, the recordings sound crap, but we were dancing on the clouds.

Cubicle hell by Shiplosion

Kick ass drums

Though it’s far from perfect, the overheads picked up the sound really well. Surprisingly, the kick and snare really stuck out. Recording from a distance seems to work better on drums than recording close up. Seriously, I tried to get that “nail in the head” kick sound using close up kick drum mics, and I could never dial in that sound. However, by simply moving the mics way further back in the room, the full range of the kick came through remarkably.

I will never record drums the same again. Distance is key. Even Kai, our drummer, was surprised. He even asked me if I was micing the kick.

Every Rehearsal Recorded

The best side-effect of my experimeint: we can record our entire rehearsals. Before, we were recording ideas and songs on our cell phones. It was a pain and sounded like crap. Now, everything, even our dreadful jokes, our preserved forever.

The benefits were immediate. Kai accidentally messed up a part, but I thought it sounded awesome! He didn’t know what I was talking about. I just rewinded the recording and played it back to him. No explaining in my non-drummer-ese “boom pap, ba-boom boom pap”. Now we have a new, awesome part to our song.

Something To Take Home

One of our problems has been figuring out vocal melodies and alternative ways to play our songs. Now, using Audacity, I simply export our rehearsal to an MP3 for us to listen to anytime. I can take this recording and start adding vocal lines. Experiment.

We can use the recordings to come up with different parts, or we can listen to them on repeat and figure out better ways of doing things. More importantly, we can hear if something just doesn’t work.

The Setup

 

For those of you who want to know the specifics, here’s a basic rundown of our “first draft” live recording system.

I have a Yamaha powered PA system with 8 XLR channels (and a few more channels that I have no clue about). Two overhead mics that I originally bought to record the cymbals. I’m forgetting the brand and model at the moment, so I’ll have to update this post later.

I plugged those into two channels, the first I panned far left, the second panned far right.

Here’s where things got funky. Those two damn mics would cause a massive amount of feedback when they ran out of the PA’s speakers. So, I just wanted to mute the stereo output. But muting that, you get zero output. So I saw a couple of outputs that said “Stereo Sub Out”. I’m assuming these were for subwoofers, but I used these two outputs to have a left and right channel to my audio interface.

Now, whenever we record, we just mute the stereo output, but we still get the stereo sub output.

Honestly, all of this crap is unnecessary. Simply plugging these two mics directly into the audio interface would have done the trick. However, my audio interface has only two channels, and I plan on using more mics in the future. So, I’m going the more difficult route of using the PA system.

Additionally, there’s a component out solution on a different channel, but I didn’t have the proper cables for it. As soon as I get those cables, this setup will be simplified.

On my laptop, I used Audacity, free audio editing software, to record the two channels from my audio interface.

Finally, I used the headphone output on the audio interface to lead back to the PA system so we could hear our recordings. However, you need to mute the channel you have this on so you don’t also record your output. That would be feedback horrible hell.

A couple of tweeks

The cymbals were too loud in the recordings, so I had to turn down the high end on the board. Also, the recordings sounded very “roomy boomy”, so I took down the mids around the 250Hz frequency.

I’m going to have to go through this process again to really get things right for a live recording. The great thing, though, is I can record the raw sound without any EQ, and play it back through the PA. Then I can start adjusting the PA’s settings until it sounds perfect…ish.

Now for the suck…

We need more mic stands. Those run about $50 to $60 a pop. Money. It’s always money.

Then, I found out my digital camcorder will not record directly to my laptop. So, I can’t use this awesome quality camera to stream our rehearsals. This, I’m really pissed about. I tried everything I could to get this Samsung Camcorder to work, but it simply refused. So, I need to get an HD webcam. Luckily, I get a discount on those. Stilll…more money. Grrr…

And, I need to replace Kai’s wireless router. Luckily, I have an extra. I’m surprised this didn’t cost me more money. Heh-heh!

Overall…

I’m really excited! We can take these basic stereo recordings to use for demos to get shows. We can also share them with people to give them an idea how we’re going to sound. Wet the appetites!

The important thing I learned today: just start! Don’t worry about high quality, that will come with time and patience. But start! Do it today! The results will amaze you. It’s more important to have something, to get something done, to make progress.

Of course, if you’re pitching your music to the press, film, or what not, you don’t want to give them crap overhead recordings. But if you’re broke and need something to start with, just start simple!

I am completely ecstatic to start mucking with these recordings and also get live streaming rehearsals going. I’m going to have so much fun with this!! I can’t wait for the next installment…

 

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