Because beginner recordists need all the help they can get. With tongue firmly in cheek, here’s my list of unmissable items for the enthusiastic first-timer.
- Headphone adaptor | your monitor headphones will more than likely need a quarter inch to 3.5mm adaptor to fit into your recorder. Screw/ clip this on before leaving the house. If you get to your location of choice and it turns out you forgot / lost the adaptor, f*ckin hell, and now can’t monitor a f*ckin thing, blinded by rage you will dramatically attempt to stab yourself with the 3.5mm. A sight no farmer or dog walker nearby wants to see.
- Batteries | your choice between stocking up on alkalines or going with rechargeable nickel-metal hybrids (NiMH). In this case – do I really need to say it? probably so, after the 3.5mm incident – ensure they are fully charged AND bring your charger along with you (AND don’t forget the travel adaptor if you’re abroad. I am starting to regret doing this.) Always check the settings of your recorder and ensure that the mode matches the type of battery you are using.
- Memory Card(s)| feel free to throw out with gleeful abandon the 1GB card that came free with your recorder, or give it to your little brother who just bought his first camera (he won’t have much use for it either, but he’s younger than you). Now go and get yourself at least a 32GB, and more than one if you can afford it. This will be invaluable for space, peace of mind, and to avoid frantic deleting of material when something great finally comes along, after three miserable hours of recording ‘atmosphere’ and pigeons. Do check out this page for a handy online Audio Recording Calculator, estimating the amount of data storage required for a session based on track count, sampling rate and bit depth. Because you do know what sampling rate and bit depth are, don’t you? Don’t you? Oh, God. Let’s just move on.
- Velcro ties | NOT for rescuing the bottom of your trousers from mud, although this may turn out to be the case (if you often record in Ireland, at any rate). If you are planning to use contact mics these are invaluable, and will double up as ties for your cables (which one hopes by now you will have learnt to coil without strangling into submission.) I do know some recordists who prefer electrical tape or blu tack, but Velcro is my choice – if the surface itself and surrounds are really a no go. Velcro won’t leave a messy-sticky residue on the mics, it’s reusable, looks reasonably cool, and will not let you down in very hot weather conditions – unlike the glue on the tape, which may very well limp out and produce a sound of its own. The sound of giving up.
- A pen | Ideally with a notebook to go with it, but Murphy’s law dictates that you will always find a surfaces to write on (tissues/ toilet paper/ scraps of magazines) but not a pen, so be prepared. Although it’s not essential to take notes during your recording session and some people view it as overkill, it will save you a lot of sorting and archiving time afterwards. Whatever you do, don’t even consider attempting the Chris Watson-style audio diary intro thing. A) You will think you look cool talking to yourself in a pensive pose, staring longingly in the distance (possibly at the dog walker from earlier, now a dot on the horizon making a hasty retreat home). The harsh reality is you will look like an eejit who thinks he’s Chris Watson. B) Once at home you will have to spend valuable time editing all of those ridiculous intros out, while thinking ‘Wow. And all I needed was a pen’. Just don’t say you weren’t warned.