Band Festival – Using “The Cloud”, an iPad, iPhone and Zoom H4n to record. (Updated)

Today I worked at our District Band Festival. They got smart and assigned me to do the recordings for the day. It was an enjoyable day of listening to great bands from our district showing their stuff!

Our District got smart this year.  For a few years now our district has been doing our own recording, and saving a bundle of money by doing so! We bought a great stereo, x/y mic right away and for the first couple of years we were using a CD recorder. There was nothing wrong with the recorder except most people could not figure out how to use it correctly! In fact last year several bands ended up without recordings because of this issue, actually I think the entire friday night! So this year the District bought four Zoom H4n’s.

Today I was charge of the recording so here is what I did – played around! Ha – Ha. So I had one Zoom hooked up to the external mic that was set up on stage, this is a stereo mic. I plugged both mic cables from the mic direct into the Zoom, turned on the phantom power and was set to go. No mixing board, no computer, nothing else. With this Zoom I simply left it on for all three songs – I did not want any errors on my part and this eliminated one potential issue of forgetting to hit the correct button in between songs (which I almost did once on the other recorder)

Then I took a second Zoom and simply sat it on the edge of the stage while the band was playing. Using the built in mics, which again are stereo mics,I recorded each song individually. This gave me 27 individual files at the end of the day. I then dumped those into iTunes, edited the artist name, track names, year and titled the album. These files are all wav formatted so after uploading the wav files to DropBox I converted them all to AAC files for keeping in my own iTunes library.

THE CLOUD –

I uploaded all the files onto DropBox where I share them with the other directors in the district. They will then download them to their own computers and burn a CD if they would like.

At the same time as running two Zoom recorders to compare the quality of the two recordings, one using an expensive external mic and the other using the Zoom mics, I also used my iPhone and iPad to create a few other  recordings. On my phone I used the AudioBoo app to upload some of the pieces to that service. One drawback to using AudioBoo is the length they allow me is not long enough for some pieces – so that cuts out using AudioBoo for anything final and as the only recording. I absolutely love AudioBoo though because it is so drop dead simple to use! Load the app, hit the record
button – wait for the recording to finish then you hit the publish button, fill in a few details and you are done! It does take a bit too long to be able to catch all three pieces in a row though. On my iPad I used SoundCloud to record some of the bands as well. SoundCloud worked well… I love the way the app is set up. You hit the record button once, it starts running a wave form across the screen and then once you tap the BIG Rec button on the recording screen that waveform starts turning orange indicating it is actually recording. When done you have the option to trim the file, came in very handy when the director took longer than I thought getting the song started. Then you save the file. After saving you can then start recording a new file or upload then one you just recorded. This app is fast enough to type in a name to the song quickly between pieces and get to recording the next one on time! Later when I got home I uploaded the SoundCloud files, when I had wi-fi.

SUMMARY and COMPARISON – Take a listen to each of the recordings below and do a comparison of each.

Zoom hooked to external mic which was our main recording (stereo recording) – Uploaded later to DropBox

Zoom recording sitting on edge of stage using the builtin mic’s (stereo recording) – Uploaded later to DropBox

iPhone recording to AudioBoo was held in my hand sitting directly in front of the stage (mono recording) – Uploaded directly to AudioBoo.fm

iPad recording to SoundCloud sitting on the front edge of the stage (mono recording) – Uploaded to SoundCloud

UPDATE – By the way I tried using the Zoom H4n as an audio interface for the iPad. No such luck any more! If you Google the subject I guess there was some success with this BEFORE iOS6. The Zoom does work well as a two channel interface for your computer though. The capabilities of this Zoom H4n are outstanding! Builtin stereo mic’s, two inputs for external sources and the capability to work as an audio interface for your computer!

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