July 23, 2024

So, I’ve been working on this CD for a big band I play in. I have no idea how much it cost to get the person to record it, multitrack, and a couple of sessions. I’m thinking at least $6,000….if not more. So, say you have ProTools (or something similar) that can handle 30 tracks of audio. How much would it cost to get the equipment to do it yourself…..let’s figure it out……

First, you need the thing to record on to. I would get an Alesis HD24 for $1600. This box will handle 24 tracks at 48Khz. That should be enough for a band with 15 horns (5 saxes, 5 bones, 5 trumpets), stereo piano (2), Bass (1), Vocal (1) and drum over heads (2), kick (1), snare (1) and toms (1). Most big bands I’ve been playing in only have 4 bones and 4 trumpets. So, you’d have 2 extra inputs for drums (to add the hihat to the mix) and/or guitar.

Next up, you need preamps for powering the microphones. You don’t want to skimp here, as spending money here will help the overall sound of the recording. I’d go with PreSonus’s DigiMax D8. $450. You’ll need three of these, so, $1350. The added advantage of these is that you can connect them via one cable to the Alesis (via ADAT). Less cables is a good thing.

Ok, so, we have plunked down about $3000 right now for four boxes. A case to protect and transport this stuff would be a good idea. Something with about 6 spaces. So, add in another $200 or so for protection of your gear.

Running total now is about $3200. Next up, a snake. A Snake is a box which serves as a junction box for your mic cables. I’d get three 8 XLR connector snakes. So, then I can have one on the rhythm section, one for the brass, and one for the saxes. These are about $200 each.

Running total now is $3800. Now we are to the last part, mics and stands. The standard go to mic is the Shure SM57. There usually are deals where you can get the mic, stand, and cable. The current price for this bundle is $124. Assuming the band has 5-4-4 in each section, you’ll need 13 of these. That is $1612. There are other models to consider for micing the horns. At CSUH we used to use Shure Beta 57s. A similar package with stand and cable is $164. That would be $2132 for 13 of them. Or, my favorite live horn mic is a Sennheiser 421. They are about $380 each, without cable or stand. Lets stick with the Shure 57s for now.

Running total is now $5412. Things add up right? Now, lets assume the bass is going line in to the recorder, and the guitar as well. We are now left with the acoustic piano and drums. If the band uses an electric piano, you could go right into the recorder as well. If it is acoustic, then we need to get two mics for the piano. The Shure 57 would work, but…..lets get something with a better sound. There are a ton of mics you can pick from, but I think for Acoustic Piano and Drum Overheads it would be a safe bet to get two Rode NT4’s to handle it. About $1060 for two of them.

Running total is now $6472. We still have 3 more mics to get. Another sure bet is to get a Shure Drum Mic pack, which has the “stands” to hold the mics on the drum set. Basically, it is 3 SM57s and a Beta 52 for the kick drum. $400 for the drum mics.

So, the total is $6872. Wow. Not as cheap as I thought it would be. I did leave out a mic case though. Two of these SKB ones will do. $300, And a vocal mic, a Shure 58. $105. So, $7277 is the price to get the recording gear to record a big band.

After the shell-shock of the initial purchase price, each time you use the gear, it will pay for itself. So, after 5 sessions or so. But you also have to set up the gear, and that could take at least an hour to do. And all this is assuming you have something that you can mix/edit the recordings on. You’ll need lots of disk space, a beefy computer and lots of time.

So……..anyone want to lend me $8K……..

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