Recording Gospel Choirs and Rock Bands

Never let it be said we are not adventurous.   As most people know, and hopefully as is obvious from our website, our core business is recording choirs and schools on location.  We are also now recording an increasing number of brass, silver and concert bands.   Alongside this we have done lots of recordings with singers, instrumentalists and orchestral / chamber groups.  Basically, about the only thing we don’t record are ‘rock’ bands.    I add the word ‘rock’ but in a very general sense.   For us a band recording is one involving instruments which people blow into or hit – a typical brass band with percussion.  However, for most people a band is defined as lead vocals, keys, drums, guitar and bass.

In some ways there is arguably no reason why we shouldn’t record a ‘band’.  The majority of the recording gear we use is common to recording studios all over the world.  However, the only thing we don’t have is a recording studio.   Bands, on the whole, tend not to record on location in part because it is ideal to get a degree of separation between the instruments and vocals.  And mostly, we don’t know a lot about ‘band / rock’ music.   We record choirs because that’s our background and experience.   Stick to what you know and what you’re good at.

About 3 Times 7

The initial enquiry for this recording came from David Holdstock who is the Guitarist for a London based Band called 3 Times 7.   The band is made up of Jenny Lawrence – Vocals, David Holdstock – Guitar, Bruce Wright – Harmonica & Robin Thornton – Bass and Cajon.  The requirement for us, however, was to record a gospel choir.   The band had already recorded a track in the studio but wanted to add a Gospel Choir singing a backing track throughout.  This was something new for the band but they wanted to make one particular track stand out and sound a little different to the others.

The Brief

Our task, therefore, was to record a gospel choir on location in London.  The band track had already been recorded and partially mastered so we could use that as a guide track for the choir to sing to.  All we had to do then was to send the choir track to the band’s producer who would do the rest and create the final track for the album.

The Venue

The customer had chosen a pub in South London as the proposed recording venue.  I had reminded him of the need for the venue to be as quiet as possible for the purpose of recording.   I imagined a function room above or perhaps slightly separate from the main pub.

When we arrived we were greeted with a small room which was between the main pub and the pub garden separated only by a door which didn’t quite shut.  The pub had at least moved the televisions showing sporting fixtures to the other side of the main pub area…  However, that wasn’t the main issue.  We had been told the choir was 25 in number.   The picture below shows the ‘room’ we were allocated….

London recording
The Recording Venue

Fortunately we like a challenge and so undeterred by the size and location of the room and the task ahead, we set about putting up some microphones.    On the basis that 24 singers were going to take up around half the room, and there wasn’t much space anyway we opted to record with our Soundfield microphone and put in a stereo pair just for an alternative option.   The great thing about the Soundfield mic is it works pretty much anywhere and you can get amazing results from just one microphone, albeit that it has 4 capsules on it to record both stereo and surround.

Setting up to record
Setting up

Recording the Choir

Before too long we had everything up and ready and the choir had started to arrive.  We suggested getting them in for a warm up so we could tweak mic positions and get some levels.

Recording a Gospel Choir
The Choir

Immediately there was a problem.  The choir started to warm up but it soon became apparent that they weren’t used to singing together.   Our recommendation to the client was to record all the choir parts together (it was a 4 part harmony arrangement).  We were of course happy to record a number of takes and maybe small sections to get as much option for the producer as possible.

However, unfortunately the choir weren’t able to sing all the 4 parts together so it was decided to record the 4 choir parts separately.   This goes against everything we would advise for a decent choir recording but apparently was the preference of the producer and also seemed to be the only way the choir were able to do this.

On the basis we weren’t getting the job of stitching all the takes back together we agreed to record in this way.  Technically there is nothing to say this won’t work, but with choirs if you want a properly balanced sound and all parts totally together then they need to record together.   And also recording each track individually using a Soundfield mic could create blending issues with the final mix unless the parts were carefully spaced.  Fortunately the stereo pair of mics we had also used, would give some options.

Summary

David and Jenny were extremely hospitable to us throughout the session and clearly are both very talented musicians.   Naturally we did our very best under quite tricky circumstances to give them the best ‘choral’ recording we could.  The files have now been sent to their producer to recompile into something to go on the album.   We hope he is able to put together something from the various different takes supplied.   It certainly won’t be the easiest job he’s ever done but we hope it works out well for the band.

We thoroughly enjoyed the recording session with 3 Times 7 and we wish them all the very best with their forthcoming album.  If you want to know more about the band you can visit their website.


To find out more about our recording services for Choirs in London and throughout the UK you can give us a call on 01225 302143 or click here to email us

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