When it comes to recording a band, the question is whether to record the whole band at once, or whether to record one part at a time. There are pros and cons for both, so hopefully the following information can help you to make the decision.
All at once
Before seriously considering recording a live performance of a full band, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I have enough inputs?
- Do I have a suitable space in which to record the band?
- Is the band rehearsed enough to pull off a great performance?
- Is a live sound the sound I/they want?
A live band recording has tons of energy, huge dynamics, and can sound amazing if you and the band can pull it off. The job of mixing a live recording isn’t any easier, but it’s much less time consuming as you’re not trying to tidy everything up pristinely, and you’re not spending a lot of time on each individual component. All in all, it’s a lot quicker, it can sound alive, raw, and energetic, and continuity in sound throughout the tracks is a lot easier to attain. Led Zeppelin tracks were recorded live and retain all the rawness and energy of the band, but then Led Zeppelin were a hell of a band.
Although it is a lot quicker overall, you need to spend most of the time allotted to making sure the instruments all sound great at source as there’s not a lot you can do to them later on. The band needs to be solid and extremely well rehearsed, otherwise there will be timing issues, poor playing, mistakes, you name it. There’s nothing you can do about this but re-record the song, and if the band aren’t great, it’s going to be a nightmare. It is also very, very difficult to make changes to the parts later on, and overdubbing can present a huge problem. The issue is that the guitar part you need to edit or change was picked up in the drum mics, and the drum hits that need correcting were picked up in ALL the mics. See what I mean?
Once for all
This is the standard way to record a band for many reasons, and probably the way you will be recording if you are just getting started.
This method of recording gives you complete control over every element of the recording. You can edit mistakes, overdub, add parts, replace parts, you name it – and all without upsetting any other elements in the mix. Should the band decide on a different sound after the recording, it can still be attained fairly well in post production rather than having to record again.
There aren’t many cons to recording in this way, other than the resulting song sounding fairly tame and in some cases (when performance and mixing are poor) it can even sound lifeless and boring. In some cases, as this is a rather disjointed way for the band to perform their music, the song can sound pieced together rather than a complete body of sound, but the method is not to blame in this instance, only the mixing.
To summarise, there are pros and cons for both. However, don’t be fooled into thinking that recording a live band is easier and more straightforward. In fact, to do it properly takes not only a great, tight band, but also an experienced and dedicated engineer.