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Recording Music On Location

Book Review By Hugh Robjohns
Published October 2014

Recording on location presents many challenges: this book will help you meet them.

It’s usually fairly easy to record soloists or a vocalist in a typical home studio, but trying to capture a whole band or larger ensemble playing together can often be quite impractical, and finding an external location to serve as a makeshift studio is often a better idea. However, choosing and rigging the appropriate equipment, and optimising the location for recording can be confusing and daunting, but Bruce and Jenny Bartlett’s Recording On Location book addresses this specific subject area in exhaustively comprehensive detail.

Bruce Bartlett has written many highly regarded books on microphone technology and techniques as well as recording practices in general, and this latest edition (Second Edition, Focal Press, ISBN 978-1-138-02237-9) is a very readable guide to making the best of the challenges faced when recording on location. The content is aimed primarily towards those with little experience of working outside a self-contained studio, but there are also quite advanced techniques and ideas for the more proficient too — even I found several useful nuggets of information!

Recording Music On LocationRecording On Location was first published in 2007 and this new edition has been thoroughly revised to include information about the latest portable digital recorders and consoles, as well as formatting material for the web and live streaming. The section on classical recording (orchestral, chamber, quartets, organ, choir, for example) has been greatly expanded, and there’s a separate section on recording popular music (rock, country, jazz, R&B, gospel). Each section discusses the different equipment and techniques appropriate to each genre, highlighting the importance of careful planning, and contingencies to cope with the unexpected.

Topics covered include the pros and cons of stereo or multitrack recordings in different situations and the stand-alone and computer equipment appropriate for each, equipment setup, power and mic cabling, dealing with hums, setting recording levels, and monitoring options. There’s also a section on editing, problem fixing and mixing. On the classic side of things, the Bartletts go into considerable detail discussing different stereo, surround and spot microphone techniques before discussing mic placement and distance, and optimising the spatial perspectives, acoustics and stereo imaging. To pull all the theory and advice together, two in-depth real-world examples are also included of recording a blues band and an orchestra. These sections illustrate the complete process from concept and planning, to setup and troubleshooting, the actual recording, and through to mixing, mastering and delivery.

I found Recording On Location a very readable and interesting book, crammed full of down-to-earth advice and practical information which will prove invaluable to anyone contemplating a recording away from the familiarity of their own studio. Hugh Robjohns.



Published October 2014