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A live album – commonly contrasted with a studio album – is a recording consisting of material (usually music) recorded during stage performances. Live albums may be recorded at a single concert, or combine recordings made at multiple concerts. They usually have a less "finished" character than a studio album, and are intended to reproduce some of the experience of attending a concert performance. As such, they may include applause and other noise from the audience, comments by the performers between pieces, etc. They often employ multitrack recording direct from the stage sound system (rather than microphones placed among the audience), and can employ additional manipulation and effects during post-production to enhance the quality of the recording. Live albums also sometimes contain a new studio track.


Live recordings of classical music can be similar to non-classical albums in the sense that they can record an event (e.g. The Proms, Vienna New Year's Concert). However, many artists prefer to record live rather than in the studio , with post-performance edits to correct any mistakes. Hence many 'live recordings' can be virtually indistinguishable from studio counterparts. Depending on the closeness of the miking, such recordings may have a stronger ambient effect than studio performances. The conductor Leonard Bernstein made virtually all of his later recordings from live performances rather than studio sessions.

Additionally, several classical artists and ensembles use empty venues to record what would otherwise be termed studio recordings. An example of this is Walthamstowmarker Town Hall in Londonmarker.


In jazz, live albums often stand beside studio efforts in terms of importance, as improvisation is such a major part of the genre. It is quite common for newly unearthed live recordings to be seen as vital, revelatory additions to a legendary artist's catalog, as with the release of Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall in 2005.


Studio and live albums in the electronic genre can be nearly indistinguishable if the recording is made directly from the soundboard. For this reason, some electronic groups have more live material than studio recordings in production. For example, electronic pioneer Tangerine Dream had nearly 300 hours of live bootlegged recordings loosely legitimized by the artist themselves, called the Tangerine Tree project.

Rock and pop

Many successful recording artists have released a live album, however these albums are generally seen as expendable parts of an artists’ catalogue, often failing to sell as well as studio albums . However, some pop and rock artists are known for live albums that rival or exceed the sales of their studio albums, such as Kiss's Alive!. The best selling live album worldwide is Garth Brooks' Double Live, having sold in excess of 21 million copies as of November 2006.

How To

Concert sound recording can be the most challenging environment for a sound engineer, if done correctly the listener will feel that they are an audience member of an exciting musical performance. For a good sounding concert recording a careful combination of microphone placement, equipment selection and timing are crucial. In some instances it is possible to obtain a better recording from a live show than from hours of work in a recording studio. The energy of the performers and the sound of the crowd combine to make an amazing recording, making it a great alternative to an expensive and lengthy process of making an album.

Typical concert recordings are approached one of three ways:The “Stereo Pair” approach where two microphones are set up usually in or near the audience giving a result that is somewhat similar to what you would hear if you were in the crowd at that performance. This is a minimalist approach that sounds very authentic and will include the sounds of the environment and audience, for better or worse.

The “Board Feed” approach where the mix generated by the sound mixer is sent to a recorder. This is another quick and easy way to obtain a recording with minimal effort other than a portable recorder and the permission of the band and venue of course. However, this recording wouldn’t include any instrumentation that didn’t require amplification (like a drum set in a small room) and probably wouldn’t include any natural nuance or audience reactions .

Then there is the “Multitrack Recording” approach that captures each microphone and instrument separately to be mixed later in a studio environment. Additional microphones are placed throughout the venue to capture not only the audience reactions but also to blend in the sound of the band in the space. This results in a cleaner sounding recording of the performance than either of the previous methods, but requires far more equipment and expertise.

Each approach has benefits and disadvantages. Multitrack Recording requires a lot more equipment and technical expertise but yields a much higher quality product. The stereo pair approach has a much smaller footprint and less impact on the band and venue but can be compromised by environmental conditions such as a rowdy crowd or a venue with acoustical anomalies.

See also



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