There are many considerations to take into account when you start thinking about the venue where you are going to record your choir. Some of the most obvious are of course ensuring the space is big enough to accommodate all your choristers plus space for microphones. Depending on the type of choir you run, the availability of a piano may also be key to the decision process.
However the focus of today’s post is going to be all about noise pollution and how you can try to find a venue which is suitably quiet for the purposes of recording your choir.
Often the first thoughts people have with regards to whether a venue is quiet, is how far it is sited from a main road and the potential hazard of traffic noise. More on that later, but first let’s deal with the multitude of noises you might find inside a venue. In no particular order, based on our experience, particularly within community halls and similar spaces some of the culprits for noise inside a venue are:
Particularly in older halls you sometimes find lights which emit a low hum when in use. When you go and visit a venue do make sure the lights are on. Something else to be careful about is that some lights have a habit of only buzzing when they have been on for 10 minutes or so.
For the most part, incandescent light bulbs are very quiet. The only time they typically make noise is when you have a dimmer installed on the fixture in question. The way that a dimmer works is that it removes some of the voltage from the line so that the amount of energy reaching the incandescent light bulb decreases, thereby dimming the light output.
Fluorescent lights are known for two things when it comes to common problems – flickering and buzzing. Beware if the hall you are using contains fluorescent lights and do make sure you turn on the lights you need for your recording and check there is no audible noise
Unlike incandescent and fluorescent bulbs, LED bulbs do not have filament or firing arcs, which means that they have no moving parts that can cause a buzzing sound.
As with lights, heating systems can be a potential source of unwanted noise within a venue. Depending on the time of year you are recording the simple solution might just be to turn off the heating. The biggest hazard is warm air systems – essentially wall mounted fan heaters which you often find in church halls. On the plus side, however, these can at least be turned off – although it is worth checking the heating is not on a timer if this is the case.
Similarly radiators can be a source of unwanted noise. Noises to be aware of are:
Banging – As water passes through your pipes, they expand and contract due to heat. This noise may be particularly prominent if the heating pipes are close to the floorboards.
Gurgling – This is usually caused by a buildup of air in the radiator and can often be fixed by bleeding. We are not plumbers but we have seen clients bleed radiators prior to a recording session to try and stop unwanted noise.
Our advice would be to check with the venue and if you will be using the heating during your recording try to visit when the heating is on and verify that it doesn’t make too much noise.
As briefly referred to earlier, the main source of external noise will be traffic. Nowadays it’s almost impossible to be too far from a road – indeed you need to make sure the venue is accessible enough for choir members to get there. Nevertheless if there is a choice of venue it is worth considering its location in relation to a main road. Also under the heading of traffic do consider aircraft – is there an airport nearby or is the venue under a known flightpath. These are usually things the caretaker for the venue will be able to advise on.
One of the reason the British are known for a tendency to talk about the weather is the variety of different weather we can get. Ideally for recording you need an overcast but dry day with outside temperatures around 20 – 22 degrees. This will avoid the venue becoming too hot and will not cause any unwanted noise.
Hazards to be aware of:
Rain – If it’s raining this could hit the windows or roof and will disrupt the recording. Often this isnt an issue but we did once find ourselves recording in a school hall which had a corrugated tin roof. That was fine until it started raining at which point we could barely hear people speak let alone sing!
Wind – Similar to rain, wind can cause havoc in the same way as electric fan heating systems particularly if it rattles against the windows or is blowing a gale outside.
Sun – The sun is at least quiet, which is fine unless the venue gets too hot and people want to open windows!
All in all it looks like finding a recording venue is a veritable minefield of hazards. However, these are just a few tips to help you consider your choice of venue. For the most part Church Halls, Community Centres and Churches are all ideal for recording a choir and generally do not suffer overly from the above issues.