Concert Band Recording

Hello All,

I am going to be recording a Concert Band Festival. Just wondering if any have used Audacity for this purpose before?
My questions:

  1. Compression - with such a wide dynamic range in a concert band, did anyone use compression or just set gains as low as needed?
  2. Exporting files - with 10 groups I think I will need to export each song - is there time between songs to do this?
    2a. If not - can I insert track markings for future exporting to CD?
  3. How much free space will I need on my drive? 10 bands - 20 minutes each. Stereo and good quality. I have a 1 TB drive mostly empty. Is that enough for the day?
    3a. If not - can I set Audacity to save to external drive connected via USB?

Looking forward to your responses. Thank you in advance.

Compression in Audacity doesn’t matter for recording, as it can only be applied after the recording. If you want to compress the input, you need to have a hardware compressor before the mic’s input.

  1. Exporting files - with 10 groups I think I will need to export each song - is there time between songs to do this?

Personally, I’d never do that. Save a project file after the first group, close it and start a new.

2a. If not - can I insert track markings for future exporting to CD?

Once the recording is made, you can use labels. AFAIK not while recording. Only, I’ve never even considered it, let alone tried it.

  1. How much free space will I need on my drive? 10 bands - 20 minutes each. Stereo and good quality. I have a 1 TB drive mostly empty. Is that enough for the day?

Rule of thumb: 1 hour equals 1 GB.

3a. If not - can I set Audacity to save to external drive connected via USB?

Yes, but test it first, recording silence. Some USB drives might have a hickup after an hour, or after five minutes. Most drives are good.

Also, take care of setting optimal latency compensation while testing. If not set correctly, you might end up with crackling in your recording.

I’m of the persuasion that you don’t touch anything on the computer while recording.

I’m not a big fan of making live recordings on a computer - there’s a lot of things that can go wrong, and as the saying goes, if it can go wrong, it probably will. My preference would be to use a stand-alone recorder, or better still, two stand-alone recorders (one as a backup). However, if the computer is the only option …

Generally, no compression. Just set the recording level low enough to handle the loudest parts. Audacity does not do real-time processing while recording anyway, so you would need to either use a different recording program, or a hardware compressor. If you have a good hardware compressor, then it can be worth setting it for a high compression ratio with the threshold set higher than you intend the signal to go. It the works as a safety net - if all goes to plan, it does nothing - if the recording level goes higher than expected, it saves you from disaster.

How long between groups?
If there’s time, I’d suggest saving the Audacity projects rather than exporting the songs. I’d also prepare for the event by creating 10 folders with the names of the groups, and put an empty project into each folder (also with the name of the group). Before the first band starts, open the first project (it has their name), then start recording. When they finish, save the project and close Audacity. Find the next empty project and double click on the AUP file to open it. …

You will need approximately 1.5 GB per hour of recording. That is ONLY for recording. Projects get bigger when you edit them because of the “Undo” files. 1TB should be plenty.

Don’t record onto an external USB drive. The access time for USB drives is not guaranteed, and if the drive is not ready when needed, there will be a “drop out” (a bit of audio missing) from the recording. Not likely but not impossible, the data can get “out of synch” causing either Audacity to freeze, or a scrambled recording. Because writing to disk needs to be done as fast as possible, Audacity does little verification of the written data.

If you have access to a standalone portable recorder, I’d recommend trying that out, at least as a back-up. Some portable recorders support 24-bit WAV recording, which is preferable as long as the recorder can handle 24-bit WAV reliably. If they record onto flash memory cards, 24-bit WAV will require good quality flash cards. Test the device before you need it. If it can’t handle 24-bit WAV, try it with 16-bit WAV. You may need more than one memory card for the day. If you use a portable recorder, ensure that “automatic gain control” (“AGC”) is turned off, and set the record level manually.

Recording a band has nothing to do with Audacity or post production although there are hints.

Microphones and capturing a live band performance is extraordinarily difficult. It’s best if you have access to the audience mix. Do you? Zero people walk away from a band performance recorded in the audience with a good show. People arrive on the forum all the time wanting to know how to turn their audience interrupted overload distortion into a show. Sorry, can’t do that. Overload is one of the reliable ways to kill a show.

How are you planning to record the performances? Almost all microphones will overload. The microphone or the microphone preamplifier—the part you can’t turn down. This is the place for dynamic microphones with attenuator packages or shotguns with special attenuators or settings.

Have you shot bands before?

The rest of it is easy after you get the microphones to work. Record so the highest volume doesn’t overload. It helps if you’re there for the equipment setup. That will give you all the settings without the audience which may will quiet things down slightly.

You can use Audacity to set a label at the major event points. Control-B, I think.

There’s a trick with Projects. Save a Project First and then every time you Save, Audacity will quickly add to it instead of having to start from zero.

The computer has to be in top condition, lots of drive space and not be running anything else. If you’re worrying about one and two Gigs of drivespace, you’re dead. A quarter of the drive is good. Manually Defragmented if you’re on Windows. Internal or FireWire external drives if needed, not USB.

Kill the network and WiFi connections. You don’t want the machine deciding to do something or update in the middle of a song.

Firefox has an important update and needs to do it right now!

Oh, and while you’re in there, make sure none of the Windows Enhancements are running if you’re on Windows.

Do a dry run, “costume rehearsal” before the real thing.

If it’s important enough, double record it.


It may take you longer to read through the advice than you have between now and the show.

Good luck.


Hey Tim. I use a Tascam DR-40 External Recorder. “Thanks to the TASCAM DR-40 handheld 4-track recorder, you don’t have to break the bank to break free from the studio. The DR-40 gives you flexible stereo recording options, so you can capture live performances, make great-sounding demos, and more. And all you need is three AA batteries for up to 15 hours of recording with your TASCAM DR-40”.

It comes with a 4 gig high speed card. 10 bands x 20 min = 3.3 hours at 24 bit, 44.1K wav format. The feature I like the best is it also has a “Safe Mode”. If you select it, it will also record a separate track 12dbs lower then what you have your inputs set at. You will need to buy another SD card if you choose to use it for your project. You can order it off of my site and I will give you 20% off. I make no money off of this whatsoever. We support our Education Facilities World Wide 100% and never make a dime doing so. It is simply our way of giving back. (Order: Copy and paste this into our search engine. " Tascam DR-40 2015 Version 2 Linear PCM Recorder with 4GB SD Card " (Giving Back:

I will understand if this post gets deleted or moderated. I only ask that you check out the links to see that my offer is truly sincere.

It’s a lovely recorder and it has XLR connections on the bottom as well as 48 volt phantom power for microphones that need it. Now all you have to worry about is which microphones and microphone placement. Keeping in mind if you need stereo, you’ll need two of everything.

Several people make attenuators. One example.

We’re assuming loud guitar, head-banging music. If you’re recording string quartets, just the DR40 (for example) on a stand will work nicely.

Recording the house feed is not a bad option if you can get it—and if there is one.


That is what I love about this recorder. I never record live events, via the mic inputs unless it is just spur of the moment. I always try to get a live feed. If not, I go straight to the internal mics. If I interview inside a restaurant, I mic up myself and the person I am interviewing. I set the level and then switch to the internal mics and set a lower level. Now we have the abeyance of the restaurant background chatter, as our voices come out crystal clear. For the money, it really does do a great job, for several recording environments. 10 years ago, it took a crew of 5! :smiley:

Back to the rock bands. What’s good for them?

My personal preference is the large, economy size of get somebody else to do it.


I guess we might need some clarification about what tmgallagh means by a concert band.

what tmgallagh means by a concert band.

Drums only. We have those. Venice Beach Drum Circle.

It wouldn’t be that hard to mic either. If you do it exactly right, you can get the crashing surf behind you. If that fails, record some crashing surf and put it behind you in post. Post production is a wonderful thing.


I agree. “Concert Band” to me is a troop of High-School kids with trumpet, clarinets, saxes,… all the way down to sousaphones and kettle drums.

Very difficult to record without using a whole array of microphones.

I agree with you both, but the question the OP asked, dealt with using Audacity, as well as storage requirements. I assumed that they are a School Group as well and have a A/V group to set things up. I gave my 12 year old Granddaughter my HD Handy Cam 2 months ago, because my iPhone 6+ has better video as well as audio, to record with. Go figure. If they are going to mic up all the different instruments / singers, they are going to need a boat load of recording gear and should have no problem shelling out less then $200 for a digital recorder.

Personally, I think they maybe have 5 to 10 mics running into a 10 or 12 channel mixer. But without having all the needed information on what it is, they are trying to do, this is just my opinion as well as a, not so very close, “educated guess”.