Our business is to record all sorts of choirs on location. This is something we have been doing since 2004 with our mobile recording rig. We travel all over the UK and we record many different types of choirs in a variety of different venues and locations. We have even recorded outside on a couple of occasions – although this is not something we would recommend!
Choirs on Location vs a Studio?
When you are making the decision to record your choir, one of the key decisions you will need to make is whether to go to a studio based recording company or use a mobile recording company such as Recordings 4 Choirs. This is something we have discussed before but it is worth considering the options again.
In many ways, there is very little difference between studio recordings or our mobile recordings. We use the same kit as you will find in most top end studios, it’s just we set it up in different places! The only thing we cannot easily do on location is record large choirs where everyone needs to have the backing track played to them on headphones.
Of course the text book method for recording with backing tracks is to pipe it through headphones to all your singers. This way you can record the singers as a ‘clean’ track – i.e without any of the backing track. At that point you can blend the backing track and the voices in post production. If you take your choir to a studio this is how it should be recorded.
However, there are a few problems with most studio recordings for choirs:
- Most do not have enough space to record choirs
- A lot of studios will suggest you should record your choir part by part – this doesn’t work well!
- Unless it’s quite a small choir or unless you are going to Abbey Road, in general most studios will not be able to handle a choir needing 100+ pairs of headphones.
Recording on Location
Of course the biggest advantage of recording on location is space. For the majority of choirs, space is extremely important when it comes to recording. Aside of the obvious requirement that the space must be big enough to fit in all your choir members, there are several other considerations:
When you are trying to decide on a venue for your choir recording it is worth keeping the following points in mind:
- The venue needs to accommodate all your choir members plus accompanist if you have one.
- We need space to set up microphones in front of, above and beyond your choir.
- There needs to be sufficient space for the sound to ‘develop’ when you sing. If you are singing into a brick wall it will sound very confined on the final output.
- Somewhere the choir have performed in concert often works well and they will find it easier to sing in such a space.
- In terms of post production, we can add acoustic (reverb) but we cannot take it away. Make sure you are happy with the sound of your choir in the venue you have chosen.
The Headphone Issue
The question of using headphones to record choirs singing to backing tracks is the same regardless of whether you are recording on location or in a studio. Generally as we’ve seen above, most studios will not be set up to record choirs with 100 or more voices. Probably most would struggle with 40!
As a mobile recording company, we have not gone down the route of using multiple sets of headphones despite this being technically the ‘correct’ way to record such an ensemble. The reasons for this are as follows:
- How many sets of headphones do we need? At a cost of £100 or more each, we could spend £10,000 on 100 headphones and then still not be able to record a choir of 103 members.
- We still need to connect all the headphones Into the audio source. This would require another £10,000 investment at the very least.
- What about all the cables? – ok Bluetooth is possibly an option but it is not a standard feature on most studio grade headphones and could be prone to reliability issues on location.
- How often would we actually need to use such a system and in reality what difference would it make to the recording quality?
With all of this in mind, we have found a workable solution to record choirs who sing to backing tracks without resorting to multiple pairs of headphones. It is a compromise in some ways but it is a good one. We are confident that with 15 years experience of working in this way and hundreds of happy choirs as customers our solution is a good one.
By doing things the way we do, we are able to keep our recordings as cost effective as possible for our clients. If you would like to discuss this or any other aspect of recording your choir then please give us a call on 01225 302143. Alternatively you can click here to send us an email.