Choosing the right venue to Record your Choir on location is just as important as finding the right company to help you with your Choir Recording
Finding enough Space for your choir
The first consideration, when looking for a venue to record your choir on location, is one of space. It goes without saying that unless your choir fits in the proposed venue then it’s a bit of a non starter! You need enough space to ensure your choir is comfortable in their usual ‘performance’ positions along with space for your accompanist and any other performers who are involved.
To easily answer the question of available space, the vast majority of choirs who record with us will typically pick a venue they have used before. This might be their rehearsal location or somewhere they have given concerts. As well as knowing they will fit in the space there is a lot to be said for recording somewhere your singers are familiar with.
Depending on what sort of choir you are and the repertoire you are singing, the acoustics or sound of the building may be important to you. For example a small A Capella group singing sixteenth century madrigals would most likely benefit from the acoustics of a church or small chapel. If you are a more contemporary choir and particularly if you sing to backing tracks, a ‘dead’ space is likely to be much better for you.
Space for the Microphones & Sound Engineers
For the majority of choir recordings we will be placing microphones in front of, above and potentially even behind your singers. We don’t need a huge amount of space for this but height is just as important and floor space. You should allow for at least six feet of space in front of your singers to be taken up with microphone stands as well as the possibility of microphones being suspended above your choir from behind.
Therefore as well as space around the choir we also need some ‘headroom’. As a minimum the microphones should be at least a couple of feet above the choir, ideally more. As far as possible therefore it’s worth trying to find a venue with a high ceiling.
There are two potential types of noise which could interfere with your recording. Sounds from within the building, heating and lighting etc and then external sound such as passing traffic. Even if you are proposing to use a venue you are familiar with, it is worth checking for unwanted noise as it may be that you ‘filter’ noises out which you are used to during a rehearsal for example.
Internal Noises – Heating and Lighting
From experience we have found the main culprits of noise within a building to be heating and lighting systems. With heating one potential for noise comes from old radiators filling with water / oil and all the associated creaks which go with that. The biggest issue for a recording is usually warm air heating systems or similarly air conditioning systems in the summer. The steady flow of warm air from a heater, even if it is in the far corner, will be picked up by the microphones.
Windows and Skylights
Air coming through a partially opened window might be perceived as silent to the human ear. However, if the microphones are in direct line with the air flow, either from an air-conditioning unit or open window, this can cause mayhem and it will often sound like a howling gale is blowing! Obviously we realise that in the summer if you are in a non air conditioned space then you will need some fresh air. However, just be aware we will need the windows and doors closed at the points we are recording.
External Noises – outside
Aside from the potential for noise to come through an open window, you should consider the ‘soundproofing’ capabilities of your venue. Churches are often fairly soundproofed from the outside world – this is useful given that a lot of them are near to busy towns and roads. But it is worth checking. If there is a steady ‘rumble’ of traffic noise this will be picked up and amplified on the microphones. Other external noises to consider and listen out for are aircraft flying overhead, local wildlife (birds tweeting etc) and any other users of the building.
External Noises – Other people
If you are using a church or community centre, do check if anyone else will be using an adjacent space during the time scheduled for your recording. Activities going on in nearby rooms or space above / below where you are recording could have a serious detrimental effect on your album. We have been in situations where a room above where we were recording was being used for a fitness class and all we could hear was the thud thud thud of the music blaring out along with many feet stamping up and down!
If you are using instruments as part of your recording and you are bringing them with you, all you need to consider is space for them to be located near to the choir. Again it’s usually best to arrange instruments as you normally would for a concert performance. However, our sound engineers will advise you of the best location on the day.
If your choir needs a piano or organ for part of the recording and this is something which comes with the venue, do make sure you are happy with the instruments. Again in most cases where a choir needs a piano, they will use a venue they are familiar with. However, even so, do make sure any instruments being provided are in tune, not only themselves but with each other if more than one is used. It’s also worth ensuring the instruments work properly – we were recently involved in a recording using a church organ. The instrument had been tuned only days before the recording session, however, there was a fault which meant one note kept ‘cyphering’ (i.e the note kept sounding after the key was released) which meant it was impossible to use the instrument for the recording.
It’s worth considering that when you record your choir you will be spending all day at the venue. In fact a lot of choirs will record over a couple of days. Therefore as well as being suitable for making a recording you need to consider practical matters such as keeping your choristers fed and watered. Somewhere with a kitchen or at least space to make cups of tea is usually welcomed by choir members! It’s also worth ensuring the venue has suitable toilet facilities. Not all churches have a loo, so if you are recording in a church, is there a hall which comes as part of the package? If so does this have a kitchen with running water and facilities?
Summary of venue facilities to consider
- Space to relax away from the recording stage
- Kitchen facilities to make tea (Kettle, Urn etc)
Venue Access & Parking
As well as all the points mentioned about regarding the suitability of your venue for recording you also need to consider access and parking availability. Our recording engineers will need space to park as near as possible to make it easier to unload into the venue. We will usually make several trips from the vehicle to the venue whilst we unload or reload our recording gear.
Additionally you should consider how your choristers are going to access the recording venue. If they are travelling by car is there sufficient space for parking or will people need to car share / use public transport?
The information on this page is intended as a guide to help you choose the right venue for making a recording on location. The points raised are by no means exhaustive and there may well be other factors you need to consider. We hope, however, this at least helps you to make a more informed choice if you are looking to find a suitable venue to make a recording.
If you need more assistance or would like to discuss the suitability of your proposed venue then please get in touch with us on 01225 302143. Alternatively you can contact us by email.