Recording Church Services

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Audacity is an excellent way to capture the audio of your weekly service and make sermon MP3's or audio CD's. With a simple USB interface, and some knowledge about mixing consoles, your laptop computer can be a recording station.

Before you record a worship service, make sure you have the rights to record the music. 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 record, because he/she is the copyright owner.

A Music Mix

You could record simply using the "Main Out" of the console. If recording a mix, this may give bad results, because any instruments that are not miked are not going to be in the recording. Instead, use a pre-fade aux send, or a group send, with the output 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. Many USB interfaces have a monitor output, so that you can hear exactly what's going to be recorded.

A reverb effect can make speech sound more natural. An audience mic is another solution. 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. If your USB Interface has 2 channels, 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.

There will also be much less reverberation in the recording; this is great for speech intelligibility, but your music won't sound as good. This is another reason to use audience mics to capture the ambiance of the room and environment.

Recording Sermons

If it is necessary to record from only one channel, you may use the direct out from the board, or an aux send. Connecting the console Main Out to your recording interface will give fair results, but will have all the noise from the other channels, as well as EQ, which may be undesirable for your recording.

Make sure you get the recording levels set right in Audacity during sound check, so as not to change these in the middle of your recording. Having proper gain structure is absolutely critical for getting good sound! Make sure you save your recording as a project when finished.

Editing and distributing

Use Audacity's Compressor effect to reduce the dynamic range between loud and soft. Most churches use audio compressors on vocals, if not, use the compressor to get a natural sounding level that's audible in the soft parts, but not hurting your ears in the louder sections.

Keep in mind that a compressor can:

   *      Improve intelligibility
   *      Improve ease of listening

but can also:

   *      make the audio sound unnatural (if overused)
   *      make background noise more significant
   *      move the system closer to feedback (live environment)

You may want to export your recording to the size-compressed MP3 format for upload to a website or for use on a portable audio player. If so, retain your Audacity project (or export your recording as WAV using File > Export > Export as WAV) so as to save an original, uncompressed copy. This lets you fix any problems that you find later without audio losses. MP3 files can't be edited and then re-encoded as another MP3 without significant loss in quality.

If burning to an Audio CD, so the service can be listened to in the car or the home stereo, export to WAV, not to MP3.

Checklist for Recording and Editing Sermons

  1. Make sure the levels are proper, and not so loud that it could clip. Verify that the signal sounds good. Make sure your power-saving features are disabled.
  2. Begin Recording.
  3. Save your work in multiple locations for safety. Save in an uncompressed/lossless format so that you can edit later
  4. Listen to the recording, trim to begin/end at the right place, compress the audio, and fix any other problems
  5. When finished, use the Audacity Metadata Editor to create the MP3 ID3 Tags|ID tags (you can add tags for other formats too, but they may not necessarily be supported by all player software or hardware)
  6. Export, or Export Multiple
  7. If exporting to MP3, set the appropriate bitrate. A lower bitrate will produce smaller files, but with lower quality.