If you are recording a Choir on location, whether thats a Community Choir or a School Choir, the venue you choose will have some impact on the final sound of your album.
All our recordings are carried out on location. As a result, we often don’t know much about the recording space until we arrive to set up. One of the questions we are asked in the lead up to the recording session is what sort of space works best for recording a choir. As with most things there is no one answer which suits everyone so, with a few generalisations we will attempt to provide some sort of answer below.
A Capella Choirs
In the main, choirs which are unaccompanied benefit from a nice acoustic. A chapel or small church is usually ideal although it will also depend on the repertoire being sung. A Capella Jazz Choirs may prefer a more studio / club sound whereas 16th century renaissance polyphony might benefit from a Church or even Cathedral. As to which option is best will depend on your choir and also where you are used to performing or indeed rehearsing.
Community Choirs (including Choral Societies and similar groups)
The term community choir covers a huge range of choirs nowadays. In fact you can almost argue that every choir is in some way a community choir if it brings together people from a given area. Nevertheless for the purpose of this article I am thinking of typical choirs around 30 – 60 strong which are either mixed voice or single sex groups.
There are other factors to consider such as the accompaniment. If you prefer to record with a piano (as opposed to a digital keyboard) then part of the choice of venue will be determined by somewhere which has a suitable instrument. If you are intending to record with a more elaborate accompaniment then again you need space for them as well as your choir.
The majority of Community Choirs we have recorded tend to sing either to Piano / Keyboard accompaniment or occasionally to backing tracks. Often the best venue for both these options will be either the space where the choir practices. After all, there is an assumption that if you practice there it contains a suitable instrument, if needed. It could also be assumed that your MD, and indeed the choir, like and are familiar with the sound of the space.
This may not always be the case and sometimes Choirs use their favourite performance venue. We have recorded a lot of community choirs in Churches and Community Halls which also benefit from having plenty of space for us to set up and are generally speaking quiet.
For school choir recordings the choice of venue is normally a lot easier. Certainly if we are recording Primary Schools where all the pupils are involved then 99% of the time we will record in the school hall. Primarily this is because it is the only space the entire school will fit into.
I say 99% because we have on at least 2 occasions recorded Primary Schools in a nearby local church. Sometimes the hall either isn’t available or in some cases the school might not have a hall or space suitable to get the entire school in.
If we are recording a School choir as opposed to the entire school, then we are more often either in a dedicated performance space, if such a thing exists at the school or off site in a local church. Depending on where the ‘local’ church is, this might entail some sort of logistics to get the choir to the right place. Some schools have employed minibuses or even a coach company for this purpose. We are also quite happy to record at a weekend if this is easier for you. We do not charge any extra to record on a weekend if that suits your school better.
All other factors being equal, the best venue is generally one which is known to your group. This article has not covered some of the other considerations of venue, such as soundproofing, noise internal and external, size, toilet facilities and parking as we have discussed that elsewhere. If you are considering recording your choir and unsure what venue might be best, then please give us a call for some impartial advice. You can reach us by phone on 01225 302143 or if you prefer click here to email us.
There is more information about finding the ideal venue for your choir recording here