Dave Greenspan: Field Recording

The University of Michigan’s own Audio Resource Coordinator David Greenspan was the guest lecturer at this month’s student section meeting. Dave’s focus was on the recording of live sound in different acoustical environments. Sound reinforcement was not covered, the focus being strictly on the recording process for live sound performances. Much of the discussion was on pre-production: site surveying, interfacing with the locations equipment, setting equipment lists (mics, cables, various connectors), and other necessary on-location gear that is needed. Dave could not stress enough the importance of compiling a complete equipment list and testing everything before leaving for a gig.

One of the highlights of the Dave’s lecturer was the comparison between different recordings. He used two different recordings to A and B good and bad mikings of each and to demonstrate different room acoustics with the same group. Some recordings were of the same group 20 years apart. Others were of the same session, only with proper time to set a mix and adjust the players within the acoustic. In many cases the recordings had 25 or more microphones.

Although sound reinforcement was not covered, Dave’s live sound work at the Interlochen Center for the Arts over the past few decades led to an interesting discussion of PA techniques. In one instance PA’s were used to enhance the sound of an orchestral recording. Given the isolated and poor acoustic, PA’s were necessary in order to pump sound outward from the vacuum space and excite the room. Another important concept Dave discussed in relation to this procedure was miking the room ambience and audience (many times hypercardioid pointed away from the sound source). As he mentioned, half of the performance is the interaction with the audience and any good live recording will need to capture this to use in the mix. Dave’s final comment was to stress that not every technique is guaranteed in every situation and an engineer should take each live recordings as its own event, open to all ideas and miking techniques, not just those that are familiar.

Notes by: Gavin Bidelman
Secretary, U of M AES Student Section