Recording Church Services
by Robert Stephens
- Recording Church Services
- A Music Mix
- Recording Sermons
- Editing and Distributing
- Streaming Audio or Video
- Checklist for Recording and Editing Sermons
This article discusses the basics of using your computer to
capture the audio of your weekly service and making sermon MP3's or
audio CD's using the Audacity recording program.
you record a worship service, make sure you have the rights to record
the music. Old hymns and songs that you have written are OK to use as
you wish, but most modern music carries copyrights, and there are
certain restrictions on how the music can be used. A CCLI license gives
you right to perform the a lot of modern music in your church. Check with Christian Copyright Licensing International (CCLI)
for more information on how to legally record and distribute music. The
preacher's sermon is OK to use, because he/she is the copyright
recording only one or two tracks at a time, any computer should be fine. Be aware that the "mic input" on a cheap
soundcard should not be connected directly to the console, as the input level is about
-40dBu. If you do, it will likely give poor results,
becuase the analog/digital conversion is taking place inside the
computer, which is noisy. Apple computers seem to work better, but an external interface is still prefered.
M-Audio's basic USB or Firewire interfaces start at under $200, and are
very popular two channel interfaces. The
entry-level Behringer UCA222 is about $35, and it fine if you're just
starting out. I use the Shure X2U, or a handheld recorder.
Handheld recorders are small devices for recording They are usually
from $200 dollars and up. The least expensive that I've found is the
Zoom H1, which costs about $100. But be aware that the "line input" on
the Zoom and Edirol products aren't the best quality, and the volume level must be kept low to prevent distortion.
Remember that if you record directly to MP3,
you're not going to be able to edit it later. To get the best results,
you should record in an uncompressed format, such as WAV. Export to MP3 only after you've finished editing.
O/S Issues and Audacity: The
type of computer you use is a personal preference. All of the hardware
I've mentioned is compatible with Windows, Mac, and Linux. I use Linux
because of the improved speed, stability, and ease of use. Windows doesn't support many modern file systems.
If it is necessary to record from only one channel, you may use the
direct out from the channel, or an aux send.
Make sure you get the recording levels set correctly during the sound check, to not have to change these in the middle of your
recording. Not too high, to avoid clipping. Having proper gain structure is absolutely critical for getting good sound! Make sure you save your recording as a project when
A Music Mix
It is theoretically possible to record simply using the "Main Out" of the
console, but this often gives poor results when recording music,
because any instruments that are not miked are not going to be in the
recording. For best results, the EQ for recording needs to be done separately from the house mix. Instead, use direct-out, or
pre-fade aux or group sends, with the outputs going to
the recording interface. This allows you to have a separate mix for the
recording. If you have a stereo aux send, you can pan stuff around, and
be as creative as you like.
There will also be much less reverberation in the recording; this
is great for speech intelligibility, but your music won't sound as
good. Audience mics are a great way to make the recording mix sound
more natural, especially if you are not able to mic all of the
instruments. Your audience mic should not be sent to the main mix, only
to the recording interface (and in-ear monitors). Remember there will be
a slight delay on the audience mic. The audience mic can be sent to a separate channel, so that
you can later use the Time Shift Tool to fix the slight delay from the audience
mic. Note: Time delay = distance/1130. (In feet. For meters, use 343).
Compression on speech: It's usually best to use the Compressor effect to reduce the "dynamic range"
between loud and soft. Most churches use audio compressors, at least on
vocals, but it's even more important for a recording mix in a large
The default compressor in Audacity has very limited controls, but others can be installed. Keep in mind that a compressor can:
but can also:
voice, I usually put the threshold slightly above the soft
parts, the ratio should be high enough to function properly, but not so
high as to take away the character of the audio. Attack and decay can
be set to your preference. A good place to start is 15ms for attack and
250ms for decay. If the attack is too fast, it could be triggered
by T's, S's, P's, and so on. If it's too low, you'll hear the first
part of the syllable stronger than the rest. Play with the controls and try to hear the difference.
make the audio sound unnatural (if overused)
make background noise more significant
move the system closer to feedback (live environment)
Editing and Distributing
NOTE: If you use a Windows operating system, you will be
limited in the file formats that are available and install
codecs. If you find an easy way to make Windows compatibale with FLAC,
OGG, etc., email me.
The size-compressed MP3 format is ubiquitous for audio players and website plugins. But keep your Audacity project (or export
your recording as FLAC) so as to save an original, uncompressed copy. This lets you
fix any problems that you find later without audio losses. When you
save as MP3, some quality is lost in the process. MP3 files cannot be
edited and then re-encoded as another MP3 without significant loss in
If you plan to burn an Audio CD's with your recording, export to WAV or FLAC, not to MP3.
Streaming Audio or Video
These days there are a lot of options
available for getting your
message out. Podcasts, websites, internet radio, and so on. If you want
to broadcast live or pre-recorded audio (embedded player on your site,
or to another location), you'll need a program for encoding your audio
to send to your streaming server. There are many DJ programs available
which can both stream and record. Be aware that it's very important to
have a good level of compression on the signal before it's sent.
If you want a simple video stream, begin with something like
Livestream.com. If you have a budget and you're looking for a better
solution for creating an online presence, check out streamingchurch.tv
Our Checklist for Recording and Editing Sermons
- Before the sermon, verify that:
- Gain levels are correct to the recording device
- Signal sounds good, mic placement is good
- For sermons: Aux Send goes to one channel. Other channels could be used if needed.
Save your work
- Make sure your power-saving features are turned off
- Name the track with the sermon title
Edit your work
- ...as an Audacity project file.
- Append the day's date.
- Save in a second location for safety. Trust me,
this is important and will allow you to get your work back if something
Use the Metadata Editor to create the ID
- Trim so that it begins/ends at the appropriate location
- Listen to your work, and fix any problems as needed
- Use the compressor to make levels more consistent.
Did you record a track with effects? Are you adding
a jingle or any other audio? Set the levels to get a good sounding
Listen to the final product
Use the FTP program to copy the .MP3 to the web directory.
- If it is for the website or ipods, use MP3 with variable bitrate, and lowest quality (smaller file)
- For archival and burning CD's, use .FLAC. (In Windows, use .WAV)
You may delete the Audacity project only after
you're absolutely sure the recording sounds good, and you've saved it
in at least 2 formats. For now, just move it to a temporary directory
just in case it's needed.
note: I copied a simpler version of this tutoral to Audacity's wiki at http://wiki.audacityteam.org/wiki/Recording_Church_Services
and in Spanish at http://wiki.audacityteam.org/wiki/Es/Grabar_Servicios_Cristianos