In the majority of cases, we find ourselves recording in School Halls, Community Centres or Churches. As the name implies these are all fundamentally places which are used for things other than mobile recording studios. As a consequence, we have to think carefully about how we are going to occupy the space for the brief time the recording is going on. In addition, we have to consider carefully the impact of any other use to which the space might be put either before, after or indeed during the recording session.
Let’s look at each type of space in turn:
Our school recording business encompasses Primary School Recordings, where the whole school will generally be involved, through to School Chamber choirs and other groups, more typically at Secondary or Independent Schools. In the majority of cases, certainly with our Primary School Recordings, we will find ourselves setting up in the school hall.
When we arrive (usually around 07.30), Breakfast club is usually in operation and so we are putting up microphones around children eating toast. Generally this isn’t really an issue as we usually set up all our kit at one end of the hall. At this point we usually do a quick assessment of the routes in and out of the hall to ensure we lay cables in a sensible manner. By fixing the cables down and usually putting a barrier of benches between our microphones and the rest of the hall, we can help to ensure the safety of the space for the duration of the recording session.
In most Primary Schools, the school hall is generally used as a dining room come lunch time. This isn’t usually too much of an issue. In the majority of cases we can move all our equipment to one side so it is not in the way during lunch and there is still plenty of room for the kitchen staff to set up as normal.
If we are recording adult choirs, brass bands or a similar group, then community centres and village halls are a popular venue choice. In the majority of cases we tend to record adult choirs over a full day or sometimes over 2 consecutive days at a weekend. For the most part choirs will have booked the space for their exclusive use during the course of the recording session. Obviously if we are recording over a couple of days and there is a different event in the same space in the evening, we would clear all our kit out and then set up again the next day. This isn’t a problem particularly but it does mean we need additional time at the start of the second day to put everything back.
The main concern with community centres, is whether or not they have other adjacent rooms which are being used during the course of the recording session. In an ideal world it’s always best to try and avoid such spaces. If there is a group doing some sort of keep fit routine with loud music and lots of movement in an adjacent room (or particularly one which is above your space) this has the potential to ruin your recording. There isn’t a lot we can do about ‘noise pollution’ and we can’t remove it from your tracks either.
In a lot of cases churches can be the ideal venue for your recording. Particularly a nice country church which is quite far removed from busy roads and other outside noises. Churches are also well insulated from outside noises (although often cold!).
Most of the recordings we have done in churches are with choirs. Again, usually an arrangement will have been made with the clergy or PCC to ensure the church is not being used by any other group during the ‘hire period’. However, it is worth finding out if the church is usually open during the day and therefore whether or not we need to put signs on the door asking people either not to come in or to do so quietly.
It’s often best to make sure that you discuss this with the church officials when you hire the building as it is not really our place to stop people coming into a church which would usually be open. We carry notices which can be put on the exterior doors to advise people there is a recording. But ultimately, we cannot tell people they are not allowed in a church!
The key to making sure your recording space works well for the session is clear communication when arranging it. In schools generally this is quite easy as it will be known whether or not the space is used for lunch. Of course if you have two halls in your school, then it’s often easier for us if we can set up somewhere which is not used for lunch.
If you are booking a church or community hall for your recording session it’s worth asking about other users of the space. Also from a noise perspective it’s always worth visiting the venue at a similar time to your proposed recording session to check for random noises either internally or externally which could affect the recording.