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Recording the Message

I’ve helped several churches start recording the audio from their sermons to include on their website. The goal in each case is to get a quality recording that can easily be listened to online or downloaded through a podcast. Way back in 2007, I wrote a tutorial on how to setup a podcast. Although some of the info is a little dated, the basic procedure remains the same. I wanted to go back and share a few more details about how you get a quality recording that you can use for your website. This isn’t a detailed step-by-step tutorial, but it should get you pointed in the right direction. Here are a few options.

Option 1: Record audio on a CD

Our church has a rack-mounted CD burner (Click here for a comparable version of the Tascam recorder we have). We run one of our auxiliary sends from the soundboard to the CD-burner so we can mix it differently from the main speaker mix (we also record the music each week). Since we have a digital sound board (a Presonus StudioLive) we actually connect the soundboard to the recorder using a digital S/PDIF cable. This gives us great sound quality with no audio interference or hum.

Option 2: Record directly to a computer

Another option is to run a cable from your soundboard directly to a microphone or line-in jack on a desktop or laptop computer to record. Then using recording software such as the free program Audacity, you can record the message directly to a .wav file. After you finish recording, you can export the song as a mp3 file.

Option 3: Record using a handheld recorder

A final option is to use a handheld recorder like the Zoom H1 to record the message. You can record in several different ways. You can just start recording before the service and set it on the preacher’s podium and it will pick up great. The sound quality is amazing on this thing, and it is very small and inconspicuous. A second way is to hook a lapel mic to the handheld recorder and use the microphone to pick up the sound. The final way to record is directly from the sound board. It features a line-in jack so that you can run a cable straight from the sound board and record directly to the handheld recorder.

Importing/Exporting the Audio mp3 File

Once you have a recording, you will need to get it into a format for use on your website. I still recommend using mp3 files, so they are most compatible and work across the biggest range of devices.

Getting a mp3 file from a CD

I typically use iTunes to do this. I insert the CD into my computer and load up the iTunes program. If the CD contains multiple tracks, I use the Join Tracks command.

  • Select the CD in iTunes
  • Sort on Track #
  • Select the consecutive songs you want to join
  • From the CD menu, select Join CD tracks
  • Enter in the artist name and album name

You can also set your beginning and end points of each track to trim your sermon from the CD.  Once I do this, I click on the tracks I want to import and then I choose import CD. From the menu, I then choose custom settings for importing the file as a mp3.  Click on the mp3 encoder, then custom. I choose 64 kbps and mono (which means the resulting audio mp3 file will actually be a 32 kbps file)  After I import the file, you skip straight to uploading it to your website, or you can touch up the audio using the instructions below.

 

Importing a mp3 file from a handheld recorder or computer 

This is the easy part. You should already have a .wav file or a .mp3 file. So you will just need to export it into a format that can be uploaded to your website. I recommend using the free program Audacity which is available on both Windows and Mac. Import your audio file into Audacity, and then you can touch up the audio a little before you upload to your website.

  • trim the beginning and ending of the message
  • If you have a stereo recording, go ahead and convert it to mono. For speech, stereo is not needed and will just add to the file size. In Audacity, go to Tracks —-> “Stereo Track to Mono” to do this
  • Normalize the Volume – go to effects/Normalize to raise the sound where it needs to be. If you have a lot of hum in your recording this can make it worse. In that case, you can play around with the Noise Removal effect in Audacity
  • Compress the audio using the Effects/Compressor option. Compression makes the soft parts louder, and the loud parts softer so that the volume level is more constant. If you are not familiar with compression, then you may want to read up on it, because this can really make a sermon easier to listen to.
  • Export the audio as a mp3 file. Go to file/export and then choose mp3. You may have to do some setup work to get this to work, but Audacity will show you how to add the mp3 encoder.  I have experimented and I like exporting sermon audio at 32 kbps in mono. This gives a small file size, and it still sounds good. If you go higher, the audio will sound better, but it will be at the expense of a larger file size which will take longer to upload and download.

Again, this is definitely not a comprehensive tutorial, but I wanted to get you pointed in the right direction. If you have any suggestions to add, feel free to leave a comment.

 

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19 Comments

  1. October 16, 2015 at 3:23 pm — Reply

    what if I don’t have an apple computer? how do I upload our messages using a windows?

    • October 21, 2015 at 10:37 am — Reply

      You can use this same method using iTunes on a Windows computer. iTunes is available for both Windows and Mac. There are also other programs that allow you to rip the audio from a CD. Any program should work.

  2. June 7, 2016 at 3:43 pm — Reply

    We have a macbook pro with audacity software. We used to record directly into the computer from sound board. Someone suggested we use a zoom. Why would we want to do that instead of our current set up?

    • June 7, 2016 at 3:46 pm — Reply

      Recording directly is always best. It sounds like you already have a good setup. The only benefit of recording with a zoom directly would be that it would free up your computer to do something else. I have seen some churches run into trouble when they try to use the same computer for projection and recording.

      • June 7, 2016 at 3:51 pm — Reply

        Thanks, that makes sense.

      • June 7, 2016 at 4:08 pm — Reply

        Really appreciate your articles and feedback here. as wondering if you could give me a lithe insight. We bought a Zoom h4n multitrack recorder to record sermons. I assume this was to free up our computer as you stated. But our guys can’t get it to record properly and he is suggesting we get an even more expensive recorder to make it work. We are a small church and really could use the money elsewhere. We upgraded our Mac to handle both projection and recording… but alas our guy is a huge techie. Why wouldn’t the zoom h4n work?

        • June 7, 2016 at 5:27 pm — Reply

          The h4n should work fine. With the inputs it has, I would run either an aux feed from the sound board into one of the 1/4″ or XLR inputs on the recorder, or a stereo out from the sound board directly into the 1/8″ line-in on the recorder. The only problems you may have is getting the input levels correct so you have enough volume. I really like using an aux feed, since you may need to mix the recorded output differently from the live feed, especially if you are doing music. For instance, our live feed has very little drums in the mix because they are already loud, but it’s boosted way up in the recorded aux feed. If you are having a specific problem connecting the zoom to the sound board, it may require a little manual reading and research.

  3. lauren
    June 9, 2016 at 11:42 pm — Reply

    What type of cord would need to be used with a mac mini and a sound board? There’s an audio in port but there’s also a couple thunderbolts that might have adapters for something. I don’t know a lot about macs.

    • June 10, 2016 at 9:02 am — Reply

      It all depends on the outputs that your sound board has available. If your sound board has RCA tape out outputs, then you would need a RCA to 1/8″ stereo cable. For some boards, you may have to use a y cable with two 1/4″ mono connections on one end to an 1/8″ stereo connection. Some digital boards will even hookup through the USB port.

      While you can use a USB or thunderbolt audio interface, you typically don’t need to, especially if the computer is close to the sound board. If they are a long distance apart, it gets a little more complicated.

  4. jafred
    July 22, 2016 at 2:49 pm — Reply

    Hey Mike. Thanks for the great article. Very helpful. Went with your suggestion of a Zoom H1. Will try recording the first time this Sunday and could use a little clarification. Would you set the Zoom H1 to record in MP3 at 32kbps? Or do something different and apply those settings as you export in Audacity? Thanks again!

    • July 22, 2016 at 2:53 pm — Reply

      Starting out, I would record at a higher setting on the Zoom. You can always export it with the lower bitrate from Audacity. My biggest suggestion is to just experiment and see how it works. Depending on your setup, you may need to go higher than 32 kbps for the clarity you need.

      • jafred
        July 22, 2016 at 3:17 pm — Reply

        Thanks for the quick reply Mike!

  5. August 20, 2016 at 12:25 pm — Reply

    Mike, I realize this thread has been around for a while, but I hope you are still checking it. Do you have any suggestions for encoding to MP3 other than getting the Audacity plug-in to work. Getting the LAME library installed and working correctly seems to be a bit much for some of my churches. Have you had any success with stand-alone converters? Even though it is an extra step, it seems like it might be easier for some to export from Audacity as a .wav and then convert it. Any thoughts?

    • August 22, 2016 at 2:21 pm — Reply

      There are a couple of other options I thought of. Many people don’t realize that iTunes can be used to convert files to mp3. The directions can be found at https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT204310 That may be easier since you don’t have to setup LAME, but you will need to set the import preferences to mp3 for iTunes.

      There are also online file converters. A quick google search brought me to http://media.io

      Hope these ideas help. Let me know if you find something easier.

  6. January 13, 2017 at 7:53 am — Reply

    Hey Guys,

    nice that there are blogs like this!

    I want to show a slightly different solution, that automizes some tasks:

    Once in a while, I started writing a small windows tool optimized for recording sermons, check it out and give me a rating:

    https://sermonrecorder.sourceforge.io/

    • January 13, 2017 at 10:35 am — Reply

      Matthias, this is awesome. Thanks so much. I was just talking with a pastor this week about how to record through his laptop. This is much simpler than Audacity. Thanks for sharing. This will help those wanting to record through their Windows based computers.

  7. January 21, 2017 at 2:14 pm — Reply

    Hello everybody,

    First, I want to thank Mike for creating this post – great stuff!

    I just wanted to throw another automated solution in the mix for those who are interested: https://www.closersharing.com It’s not free but it is very reasonably priced.

    It’s a cloud based platform that handles everything for you (recording, uploading, hosting, podcast feed, notifying subscribers via email, etc). After placing a snippet of code on your site, newly published sermons will automatically appear there too. You can even see detailed listener statistics to see how many hits your sermons are getting.

    We currently have a custom Windows based recording tool and have a Mac version almost ready for beta testing. Of course you can always use your own recorder and just upload your audio file (in any format) through our web form and it will automatically convert it to mp3 for you.

    If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. We’re happy to help get you set up and rolling.

    • January 28, 2017 at 3:11 pm — Reply

      Thanks for sharing. lt looks like a great solution for sermon sharing. I really appreciate tiered pricing based on church size.

  8. May 2, 2017 at 6:08 am — Reply

    My church just started its website and would love to have our sermons uploaded. This is a great resource. Thank you.

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