Location Recording - Choirs

in Recording

Since the invention of recording software it has never been easier to record on location, many studios are limited by size when it comes to recording choirs, brass bands etc. So my newly founded company are aiming to take the recording studio to the customers.

Having a background in guitar based music, mainly metal and rock music, it comes as a surprise that I record choirs and brass bands. Especially to myself. Last week came the first big recording for my company.

The difficult faced with location recording initially I guess, is the venue. You don't really want something so big that the reverb becomes uncontrollable, and on the flip side, you need enough of a room to capture the power of all those voices together. I know that the famous choirs go into a studio and record each section separate from the other parts of the choir. Such as the bass's will go in together and then the tenors. But in my opinion this defeats the object of the whole performance, and you miss out on the between take banter of the choir members.

The choir I recorded last week were relatively small compared to some you see on TV and others that I have recorded in the past. However, this doesn't harm them in any way. Once they had positioned their staging they stood back to allow our equipment to be put in place.

The placing of the microphones is really the key in all this. Because of the size of the choir I elected to go with 8 microphones, a Rode NT5 at either end (each was part of a matched pair), in from there at either side I had 2 matched pairs of SE1A's and a Rode NT1000 as a centre microphone, then about 6ft further back I had an SE2200A. I would have like to put more microphones further back in the room but I would have had to compete with road noise and the pub next door.

From there, all the microphones went through my Yamaha 01V96 mixing desk, ADAT into my Digidesign 002 rack and on into Pro Tools. Simple.

Sadly I was a little stumped by the piano situation. The choir has brought along a Yamaha electric piano, which had no outputs on it. I looked over the desk several times but nope, no outputs. I had no real option but to mic this keyboard up, so I warmed up a valve condenser and put it over the speaker. To combat the bleed from the choir I made a box from acoustic foam to put round it.

The balance and panning of the mics was key, I had to move the 3 mics close to the bass end back around 3ft because the power from them was overwhelming. Once this was done we just hit record and let the choir do their thing. They had a listen to each take as we went along, and re-did any bits they needed to.

The balance of sound is the main thing to start with, if you can get all the choirs parts to cut through then when it comes to mixing it will make it all the more easy. Each mic adds its own character, the room brings its 2 cents into the sound too.

The worrying thing really is what to do with the piano. How do you go about recording an electric piano when it has no outputs? The microphone can't be the best option surely? In this case it was. The other option was to have a 20m midi cable in my box and record a midi output from the piano, but this wasn't something I had foreseen. So I'll chalk it down to experience.

Recording on location is the way forward for choirs etc, but it does pay to be prepared for the client not to be fully equipped for your service. Have a good look at all the instruments involved before packing your gear in the van.

I will be back with the mixing article as I go along.

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Chris Eckford has 1 articles online

Chris - Start Something Ltd

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Location Recording - Choirs

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This article was published on 2010/03/30