In an effort to learn from the mistakes and misfortunes of others, I was wondering if anybody out there had any great "big fish" stories about field recording. What were you out to capture in the first place, what was the fantastic sound you missed or lost, and what went wrong?

If it's too painful a tale to re-tell, I understand...


rolled on some crickets out in the middle of the night and the middle of the desert last week. In about a 10 minute clip I think I have 5 seconds without traffic or airplanes overhead.

It was worse on the insects I tried to record during the daytime.

Managed to not record the implosion of Texas Stadium on all of my recorders when that went down (was busted by the cops and had to move and re-set quickly)

Got cell phone interference on some tracks I was recording at a gun shoot a couple of years ago. Now I put the iphone in airplane mode before taking pix of the setup.

I've messed up my own recordings in countless ways with things like -wind noise -not hitting record -preamp too hot -preamp too soft -hi pass in -hi pass out -talking or otherwise making noise -etc

somehow I still get lots of good stuff, but man do I make it hard on myself some days. :)

  • Yeah, I asked about air traffic last week. Eventually got to the NATCA's real-time air traffic map, talk about dashing hopes... Jul 14 '10 at 20:35

I will relive my pain for you. 2 weeks ago I just happened to be awake before dawn and set my rig to record a beautiful 60 minutes worth of pristine nature with no urban noise whatsoever. The "holy grail" of nature recording. Later that day I reviewed the file and found:

FILE 1: 0 kbytes


So my lesson learned is: It's best not to leave your recorder running unattended for hours on end because if the batteries fail before you can stop the take then it may not save the file. Depends on your make/model of recorder, of course.

  • Ow. Well, I guess that's one argument for the old DAT recorder...Boy that stinks. Jul 13 '10 at 5:34
  • Tell me about it! Jul 13 '10 at 6:04
  • Don't suppose you want to name names, in terms oh that recorder brand that failed you..? Jul 13 '10 at 15:40
  • Tascam DR-680. For the money it's quite a capable 6-track recorder, but I'll be returning mine due to too many unexpected problems (some fatal). Jul 13 '10 at 21:09
  • What do you expect when Scam is in their name =)
    – Utopia
    Jul 14 '10 at 6:17

Oh, I've had this classic many a time: Monitoring instead of recording. Worse when one recorder you use is always in monitoring mode, and the other you need to hit record twice to actually, uh, record something.

You can read one such embarrassing, yet possibly familiar, story here (see the epilogue below the sound clip). :-D

  • sounds familiar... :P
    – Kurt Human
    Jul 13 '10 at 14:47

I was spending some time in Italy on a coastal town near Genoa. My hotel was perched at the top of a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean. That night the worst thunder storm I've ever heard in my life rolled in. Our hotel room shook like an earthquake...the closest I've ever felt to being bombed. The time between lightening and thunder strikes was super tight. Thunder booms went on for nearly two hours without any rain...if only I had my 722 and Rycote. Of course, I probably would've been to scared to hold any type of metal object in that storm. I would've had a CD worth of material.

I also blew a great super close up freight train by once because I wasn't looking at my levels and clipped it...bummer.

  • I've only had my M-10 for a couple months, but I've already taken it on every weekend away since I got it. You never know what you'll hear and the recorder you have with you is always better than the one you left at home. Jul 14 '10 at 20:43

Not something i went out to record, but a sound i missed, and kick myself every time i remember it.

Was recording with a hydrophone into a 722 in a lake, had an h4 in my back pocket; i was standing on a bridge. The lake had many ducks, all sleeping. All the ducks woke up at the same time, i instantly grabbed the h4 and turned it on, all the ducks flew right by my head, but the recorder wasn't ready to roll... ARGHHH Sounded really cool....

Also had corrupt files on a recorder, of a gun shoot session.


This one actually happened to me TODAY, so it just shows how randomly these things can happen.

I was out recording the boat passbys as they came into the harbour. Whilst listening back to a recording I could hear a helicopter engine. I thought "I don't remember a helicopter going past during that take".

At which point I look up and see a Chinook Helicopter coming out from behind some nearby trees and flying right in front of me! I was quick press record and adjust the volume of the recording. However, it all happened so quickly that it's all over the place.

They need to start giving a warning in advance for when these things fly over!

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