When I Ruined a Wedding, & Why I Believe in Live Recording

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This post isn’t directly about vocal health, but I’m assuming that many of you perform at least occasionally. Whether that is in church once a month, or as a professional with a career, this is something worth thinking about.

For most people, recording an event is kind of an afterthought. For me, it is the best possible thing that can happen.

A Little Background

I’ve always been interested in recording. I remember being five-years-old with a reel-to-reel tape recorder on my lap, recording one of my dad’s concerts. I have hundreds of cassette tapes of everything from high school concerts to fake radio programs I’d create with a couple of my friends. I have a few videos, but when I was young videos weren’t that easy to make. The camcorders cost hundreds more than a cassette recorder. I treated the cassette recorder like most of us treat video on our smartphones now.

3 Reasons Audio Recordings of Live Events Matter to Me

1. Preservation of the moment.

Larry Macklin of my home church in Midland, MI, would record the Christmas cantata every year back in the 1980’s. Since my dad directed them and my mom sang in them in those days, I was always at the afterglow when Larry would play the recording back. I was fascinated that the moment we had just created a few hours earlier could be experienced again later.

I love making audio recordings of live events because it is a way to preserve that moment in time. When you have worked so hard to create an end result, it seems a little disappointing not to have a way to save the work that you’ve done. Why write a book if you aren’t going to publish it? Sure, sometimes it can be about the process it took to create. And there are certainly benefits to a live production that meets needs of the people who can be physically present. But what about people who can’t physically be there?

When I was in high school, I would occasionally run sound for a video production unit that did weddings. I’ll never forget one wedding I recorded without visible audio level meters. I heard the whole thing on headphones, but I had no way to see what kind of audio information was actually being recorded.

The audio turned out HORRIBLE. Fearing distortion from too loud a signal, I had recorded it at nearly 0. They couldn’t boost the sound enough to hear anything. Always and forever, I will feel like I ruined that family’s memory. As a young high schooler, I wasn’t in a position to repay my mistake with a refund on the project. But even if I could have, no amount of money would have made up for my failure.

That was the last wedding I ever recorded.

But now, when I record a live event, I give myself TRIPLE redundancies all because of that experience.

2. Immersion in the music.

We have two ears. Those two ears and their placement on our heads makes it possible for us to tell directionality. We know if something is to the side of us, in front of us, even behind us. This is STEREO.

Audio recording in stereo allows us to capture the moments for immersion in them later. I can record something and pass the headphones to someone else knowing that they will experience the exact same thing that I did. They might have their own emotions about the experience, but we both can come away having experienced the same event. That’s a pretty incredible thought!

Why not video? Hey, video is great. We are visual people and have become increasingly more so in this generation. But unlike stereo audio, which can completely recreate the audio landscape identically to what we heard at the time, video keeps things in a little box on your computer or phone. You cannot experience immersive video the same way you can experience immersive audio.

You observe video, but you can experience audio.

Now, that’s changing somewhat with the commercialization of virtual reality goggles and things like that, but attempts to record 3-D of live events hasn’t really taken off yet. The technology is there, but the interest really isn’t. With audio, its ALL ABOUT IMMERSION. Close your eyes, and YOU’RE THERE!

3. Multiplication of ministry.

In the end, it is all about people. I’m not a recording purist whose prime goal is to catalog every event so that it sits on a shelf, perfectly organized. I remember seeing an episode of the TV show Frasier where he gets supremely annoyed that he is missing one cassette tape from his complete radio broadcast collection. He keeps the collection in a huge cabinet. He wanted to have the complete collection for himself.

That’s not what motivates me. If the recordings don’t end up being used for people somehow, than what’s the purpose? Sure, I record some things for the sake of my own memory down the road. But most of what I record I do so that others can benefit somehow from it. Whether it is the recording of a beautiful choir that will encourage others for generations to come, or a sermon that can be heard again and again, I love the ministry aspect of recording.

These three reasons keep me in the live audio recording mode. I’ve learned not to be disappointed if a great presentation is made but no audio (or poor audio) is recorded. That’s been a part of my spiritual growth! But I’ll always love recording live audio for myself and others. Consider it the next time you have an event!

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Ben Everson is a Christian recording & performing artist with a lyrical voice and a talent for a cappella music. He is also sought-after as a vocal coach and clinician on a cappella group techniques and vocal health. His recording vocal range is 3 octaves, which he uses to overdub up to 50-man choruses of his own voice. Ben has performed over 6100 times since 1995, singing up to 5 times per week. He has recorded 15 albums, three of which are entirely a cappella. He has written over 75 songs, and is a prolific arranger. Several of his songs have appeared in the iTunes Christian top 10. He has worked with a cappella groups as diverse as Pensacola Christian College and Duke University, and he has guest-lectured on vocal and recording techniques at Michigan State University. He has completed 60 hours of study with the McClosky Institute of Voice. He is an ordained Baptist minister, and a favorite Bible speaker among young people and adults alike.
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