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Choir Monitoring

The college I now work for is recording a choir of 20-25 people in its studio. The choir will be singing along to a backing track however, the studio does not have the monitoring outputs to provide separate headphone feeds for each person.

Can anyone suggest any monitoring techniques or give any tips for reducing to as greater extent as possible the spill from speakers in the recording room playing the backing track to the choir?



JoeH Sun, 11/26/2006 - 17:48
I'm sure this has been covered in previous posts; it's still a good topic to kick around, of course.

I'm from the camp that says: If $ is tight and equipment is limited, go with every-other person wearing a headphone, get cues from the conductor (who's also wearing HPs), same with pitch. Use the playback speakers only for starting cues, and other stuff that you can mute once they're singing away.

You could try a low power FM transmitter and let folks bring their own FM earbud receivers (they're as common as eye-pods now for folks who work out, etc.) or you could get some of those Sansom powered headset distro amps. They run about $90 for a 4-pair system with splits. (That's 8 right there). With so many eye-pod earbud systems in use by the public in general, it's arguable you could build a couple of your own distro boxes and give everyone that wants one a split.

Lots of folks swear by the speaker phase system that Remy's explained here in good detail, you should try that as well. I'd love to hear how it works out for you, regardless.

pmolsonmus Mon, 11/27/2006 - 07:28
The only thing I would change on Remy's advice would be to record the backing track with the group in the room. 1 singer doesn't make a huge difference in wave forms. 50 bodies change a lot! At least in my room it does.

What has been working for me is:

1. Get proper mic set up in the room.
2. Record the "silent" track w/ singers in the room and have them "think through" the performance. I use the visualization as an added rehearsal.
3. Record the ensemble as many times as needed so you don't run out of time for your "silent" track at the end.
4. Mix the first 2 tracks with the useable vocal track and you're golden


zemlin Mon, 11/27/2006 - 08:48
pmolsonmus wrote: ... record the backing track with the group in the room. 1 singer doesn't make a huge difference in wave forms. 50 bodies change a lot!
8-) 8-)
In my session I was not able to do this, as the singers were typical 5th graders and could not be quiet for that long - as a result the cancellation was not as good as it could have been.

Member Thu, 11/23/2006 - 12:47
I'm sure Phil will probably have a beter solution from his experience, but I would make sure the director had a set of phones and spread the remaining sets (if any...) out to at least one member of each part (soprano, alto, tennor, bass...). To my experience, the choir will take timing cues from the conductor and you may not even need cans for the chorus... If you must use speakers, there's a phase inversion trick that kind of works, but I would save that as a last resort...

RemyRAD Thu, 11/23/2006 - 16:36
This has worked for me many times throughout the years.

In numerous situations our studio did not have enough headphones for string and brass tracks.

Make sure you have a decent pair of studio monitors in the studio.

Arranger microphones for recording.

Now bring the people in to record. You'll be feeding the instrumental tracks out to the studio speakers minus the singers.

When you have completed cutting tracks of the singers, make sure that nobody touches or move any microphones or speakers at all! This is extremely important!

Now that everybody has left, prepared to record the singers again the same way as you did before without adjusting any volume levels. You may record them on the same number of tracks as you initially did? Now here is the great secret..... You must invert the phase of each and every microphone that was utilized during the recording session. Make sure they have not been moved or touch. Make sure you're playing back the same track without any variation as you did the first time when they recorded. Record the empty room with the speakers on with the same microphones in the same positions going to the same tracks. Once you complete that process, you may now combined the tracks with the singers and the tracks without the singers. You should find that the studio speakers will virtually disappear! That is provided that all things are left as they were, not modified in any way except for the removal of the people from the studio. This can be accomplished either digitally or analog and works so well, you wonder why anybody wanted to ever use headphones again?

a+b=c a-b=c-a+b simple math
Ms. Remy Ann David

Member Fri, 11/24/2006 - 05:07
Thanks for the reply!
I will try that and see how things go.
I have heard of the phase technique but only for single vocalists who dont like headphones. I didn't know how you could use the technique on a larger scale!

I'll post how things go next week seen as the recording's not taking place till then.