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How do you record a band jamming live?


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I'll be shooting a scene in which there will be a band jamming, and there'll also be dialogue happening between other characters in the shot.


How would you go about doing this? Would you just have the band mime, and then record and add their music in post? What about drums and singing? That might be harder to mime than guitars. 

I'm not sure if the scene will be a one-shot or have cuts yet. I suppose if it has cuts, then playing/recording live music is out of the question.

If I have to record the band live there, then how would I mic the instruments without the mics being seen?

Whiplash is a film that had a lot of this. How did they do it?


Thanks so much!

Faiz Z


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Definitely have the song pre-produced and ready to be played back on set.

If the scene has cuts, probably there will be shots of the dialog "without the band" - ie. with the band out of focus in the background. If useable dialog is required they'll have to mime for at least these shots. Maybe have low-profile earbuds for them to listen and mime in sync with playback. In the "band" shots they may want to play live or not, but I guess you need to hit a cymbal if you want it to swing and look like it's being hit.

Band miking is a beast of its own. That question begs for an "It Depends" type of reply. Maybe use a few shotguns overhead just out of frame (might sound bad), maybe hide lavs somewhere (might sound bad), maybe visible stage mics are ok or even desired so you can set them up properly, maybe all instruments/amps have DI output (might sound bad) and you just need to have a mic for a singer. Strongly depends on what kind of band it is.

If it's a one shot approach *and* the band needs to play live, well, lots of lavs for halfway useable dialog, but probably they'll loop it for performance "corrections" anyway.

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Firstly visit the band in rehearsal or performing and find out the instrument line-up

Talk with your director about how he/she wants to shoot the scene

Hopefully record the band performing in a master shot maybe a 2nd camera doing detail closeups.

If only one camera shoot the close-ups to playback of your master shot sound recording.

Then record the dialogue shots with the band playing with discrete headphone feeds of your master music track,

laying down a guide track of the music on your recorder against the recorded dialogue.


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Is this a doc or a dramatic film, where retakes are possible?  In a doc you'll have to wing it, wires on people, micing the instruments however you can (ie have time for).  I did a similar kind of scene with the band Metallica in their rehearsal space--it was quite a balancing act between their dialog when not playing and the sonic onslaught when they were--two sets of mics/inputs etc and there wasn't going to be any telling them they couldn't play live if they wanted to.  In a more controlled setup keep in mind that a drummer has to really hit the drums and a singer has to really sing out or it doesn't LOOK like they are doing that, it looks fake.   A workable method for this kind of scene is to mic the band up the best you can and have them play the tune a few times while the camera shoots around the mics, then pick a take, call it the hero, pull the mics back and start working to playback of that hero take.  If dialog is required during music then ear-bugs +thumper might be your best bet.  The indie musical "Colma: The Musical" solved the audio issues of a 5+ minute running scene at a party with the camera moving all over a house while characters sang, talked etc by prerecording the dialog along with the music, so all the audio during the shot was mimed.


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Lots if good advice here. I recorded a scene recently involving a band playing, too. They were performing at a venue which had its own PA system and a guy to handle it. I collaborated with him as to how to mic the band and all. Since they wanted an actual rock band experience for the audience as well, I relied on this guy's experience to create a good house mix - without feedback. I got feeds from his board and I could create my own mix from that and record the ISOs. The actors (the band) were wired and they got picked up well by their singing mics. For this, visible mics were allowed. 

Micing a band invisibly is difficult. The one mic I would stay away from, though, is shotgun, except perhaps on the singer. Other than the one's mentioned already, consider boundary layer mics and contact mics

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Pre-record the band.One with vocals the other without vocals.If they want a "live" feel--have them do live vocals.Use phonaks for P.B.

       When recording,put a separate dynamic mic. on the kick drum.



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Is this a doc or a dramatic film, where retakes are possible?

Yeah, it's a dramatic film. 


Also, production has changed a lot of things now... It won't be a jam, it'll be a live concert. And it's not a band in the Western sense, it's these guys:





This is good though. If the whole scene is a one-shot, and their instrument mics can be shown, and I'll probably set up another mixer for that, and record instrument ISOs onto that.


But if there are any cuts in the scene, they'll still have to mime. So for that, I'll probably have them mime to a prerecorded version (they'll have earphones in). 

And then I'll get them to play the song live, with a click, and the camera won't roll, and I'll record that. Post will still get that 'live' sound to use, and it should sync fine.


Actually, I can even have them mime if it's a one-shot, and then use the above method for that.


Does that sound like a good plan?




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Does that sound like a good plan?

yes. Just be aware, as you probably are, that these usually always improvise. So a pre-recorded version may be tricky. And they don't tend to follow one tempo, so a click-track would be useless. In any case, you should consult with the musicians themselves

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With that setup the overall sound of the band won't be extremely loud. Harmoniums are pretty quiet instruments. That would make it easier for you to record dialogue while they are really playing – that's in case you can't have them mime in a given take. I'm not sure how exactly they will be able to reproduce an exact song, as I believe there is always a certain amount of improvisation included in this type of music. YMMV.

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Harmoniums are pretty quiet instruments.

Those two SM57s suggest to me that those harmoniums in questions may be very very loud!

Which brings one question: is the 'dialogue' to be recorded supposed to be natural-sounding, normal level (as if heard by the other members of the group) or amplified and somewhat distorted as through the PA (as might be heard by an audience in a concert situation)?

If (either way) you're dealing with a concert scene but its not an actual concert with an audience you might consider filming/recording WITHOUT the actual PA outputting anything (but mic'd up for music, recorded sync to picture, then 'processed' in post ... possibly replayed through suitable PA in same or suitable space and re-recorded rater than messing about with post tools for 'distortion/reverb')

As Christian rightly pointed out unamplified harmoniums, tabla and voices are not particularly outside the range of speech.

Maybe lavs on musicians (for dialogue) if need to keep distant frame (and not have 'unrealistic' dialogue mics in shot alongside the Shures)? What mics can be in shot (seen for the story being told) is a main question for production.

Of course I may have completely misinterpreted and there may (need) to be a full PA blaring? If not, though, it could be a case of working with production on the setup then getting musicians to understand that a (genuine heartfelt) performance could be recorded without the live PA output but played back in sync afterward for the full 'concert' effect. They'll be used to practicing and jamming together 'unplugged' so its a case of getting them to understand the process and try to give an unrestrained performance.


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Oh sorry, I should've been more clear - The dialogue won't be between the band members. The scene is that there's a concert happening in the background, and there're important conversations happening between other characters at the same time. The band is just music for the concert, though the band will be in frame at times.

I guess it sort of comes done to how much of the band they want shown in the frame, and I'll choose from one of the above methods accordingly.

Thanks so much for all the ideas folks!



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