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Choosing places to record choirs

Discussion in 'Vocals' started by audiokid, Mar 12, 2011.

  1. audiokid

    audiokid Chris Staff Resource Member

    Mar 20, 2000
    Prince George, BC
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    From your experience, what type of rooms produce the best sounding recordings for choirs?
    Right now the city choirs love the reverby church but I think this is one older leaders influence. I would love to entice them otherwise and was wondering what others think.

    I'm assuming we look at this from two POV. Choir and engineer.
  2. hp1xbg

    hp1xbg Active Member

    Feb 11, 2011
    I feel like you could get a hundred responses to this, but if given the choice, I usually don't use churches. I guess it really depends on what the clients want though. I've had good success using halls that the symphonies perform in. They usually sound really nice, aren't overly stuffed with reverb, and are pretty quiet as far as ambient noise.

    Just my 2 cents. That and $4.20 will buy you some really burnt coffee at Starbucks.
  3. datiko

    datiko Active Member

    Jun 23, 2008
    Georgia, Tbilisi
    Home Page:
    I guess, it depends also what kind of music has to be recorded and amount of choir members.
  4. Boswell

    Boswell Distinguished Moderator Resource Member

    Apr 19, 2006
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    Having in the past pushed whole choirs around to different venues to achieve what were undoubtedly better recording acoustics, I gradually realised I was not being sufficiently sensitive to the quality of the performance they gave in that venue as well as shrugging off resulting grumbles from the performers.

    In recent years, I usually let the choirs choose where they feel they will perform best, and it's me who has to put the work in to make them sound as good as I can in that acoustic. It's meant I have had to revise the set of mics and configurations I use, going for more controlled capture angles, experimenting with different mic configurations and always recording redundant tracks taken from different sets of mics to give me greater flexibility at mixdown.

    Choirs look for different things in a recording from pure audience members. It took me a while to work out that finished recordings could respresent an "audience sound" or a "choir sound", and the knack was to get both categories of listener to be happy with the mix.
  5. JoeH

    JoeH Distinguished Member

    Jun 22, 2004
    Philadelphia, PA/ Greenville, DE
    Home Page:
    I rarely have ANY chance to call the shots when it comes to venues. I can make suggestions if the client is working with me ahead of time, but 99% of the time, I get called in to record in a space they've already selected. And even THEN, those choices are often based on rental rates, available parking (for the choirs & their public), hall availability, nearness to the choir's targeted audience area, and so on. (One choir in particular never has an intermission in their program, because the downtown/center-city church they use - as good as it is for their concerts - has only 1 bathroom, no easy access to the fellowship hall (for food & drinks, etc.) Their view of it all is: "Why bother? There's nowhere to go anyway...."

    Acoustics are important, of course, but there's often a dozen other factors that have equal sway over the choice of the venue.

    All that said, I've always taken a can-do, positive approach to getting the best sound possible, regardless of the hall, etc. My approach was/is always: You guys/gals do YOUR thing, get it sounding as best as you can, and then I'll come in and do my thing around you. I also try to be as minimally invasive as possible, at least in terms of mics, cables, tripping hazards, sightlines, etc. Rarely is a hall so bad (ie: Overly reverberant, harsh, etc.) that I can't create SOMETHING beautiful afterwards in post.)

    Just when I think I've heard it all, and start to get bored with all of the halls & venues I've been in, there's always room for a new surprise here and there. This past Sunday for example, I went back to a hall I'd not recorded in, in probably over 25 years. (And back then, it was all analog, mostly to 2-track tape, very little options on the back end.) Actually, the hall was/is a church, and the results thrilled me, both in person when I was listening to the final dress rehearsal, and then again when I set the mix back up at my studio here. I was concerned with some of the trickier mic placement and juggling we had to do (It was a partially staged Messiah; with actors (and a "mob"), singers/soloists, a few props, and a fairly wide aisle going up between the choir; Altos & Sopranos all on the left, with basses & tenors all on the right.

    It's also a bit of a new client choir for me (although I know the conductor fairly well), so I'm eager to really create something special in the final mix. So far, so good; but I'd be lying if I didn't give 60-70% of the credit to the gorgeous acoustics in the church. It was built in the 1800's, in a traditional "H" or cross-shape, with choir lofts on either side and again above the narthex/choir loft area. It has high vaulted ceilings, and great blend of stone, wood and metal fixtures, etc. It's always a nice surprise for me to run into something so "new" (to me) and refreshing. Keeps it fun, and makes me humble; it's still all about the sound in FRONT of the mics (and ok, the hall too. ;-)

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