Over the last 13 years, Komodo has had the pleasure of recording many amazing choral projects.


These have ranged from multi-part harmony choirs to small ensembles singing acapella, or accompanied by church organs, pianos or keyboards.


There are several questions to consider when embarking on a choral project:


-Does the repertoire suit the identity of the project and the choir?


-Do the acoustics of the venue suit the chosen repertoire?


-Is the venue suitable? If we are not familiar with the venue, we will endeavour to either visit it, or to get pictures and ask a series of questions refined from past experience to ascertain its suitability


-Is it possible to get the venue on two consecutive days?


-Has the choir rehearsed in the venue before? Different acoustics will affect a choir’s performance, so it’s essential for a choir to have sung in the venue prior to recording in it.


-Is the balance of the choir correct?


We’re often asked to change a balance in the recording, and while this might be technically possible, it’s rarely desirable.

The best recordings are those where the recording captures the balance heard in the room by the conductor.


Over time, we’ve developed some great innovative techniques for getting the best out of choirs.

These include techniques for recording acapella while avoiding or minimising pitch drop, avoiding page turns, matching tempi on subsequent takes, getting the best out of soloists and avoiding extraneous noises.


So, what’s the cost?

For a project such as this, there are far too many variables to just be able to quote a figure without a chat first. We can offer either an hourly rate or our unique and very popular Profit Share Scheme.


So you want to record. What now?

Well before the booked date, we visit your suggested location for the recording to ensure that it is appropriate (preferably during a rehearsal) This also enables us to check that any instruments intended to accompany the choir are in a fit state to feature on the CD. (The noises generated by old pianos that have never been noticed before become surprisingly obvious during a recording!) Although not ideal in most cases, if necessary we can provide a weighted keyboard and amplifier for the recording sessions.


We generally like to like to have a Friday evening and a full Saturday available. On the day of the recording, we arrive before the choir to set up so that the choir can turn up, warm up, and get straight into the recording. Our engineers are very conscious of a choirs' need for regular breaks, as a choirs' pitch and enthusiasm can suffer progressively over long recording sessions. We stay until the choir members either leave, disband or collapse on the floor, and although some choirs manage to get the recording finished in one day, we are prepared to split the recording into several sessions. It’s frequently preferable to complete each piece on the same day to try to ensure consistency, especially if the issues encountered are of a technical nature in the singing. However, in some cases, it’s simply best to start afresh the following day. This is most likely to be the best approach when tiredness has crept in to a performance. There’s little point editing an enthusiastic end on to a tired beginning of a piece.


The following day or session, we normally start by assessing the previous day’s recording and working out if anything could be redone better.
Following the completion of the recording, the best takes will need to be selected. This can either be done with the conductor, or frequently, the engineer will have gained the choir’s trust enough to be able to edit the best performance together, and either have him or her sit in to check things, or send it to the conductor for approval. At this stage, the balance should be fairly close to what the choir want, but can still be tweaked. The changes will be made and approval sought, along with a sequence for the pieces. Once approved, the tracks will be mastered and put in the given sequence. There are no rules for how much interaction is necessary, but over the last 13 years of full-time recording, this has been reduced considerably as we’ve gained the experience to usually get things right first time.



-How long does a recording take?

This depends on how-well rehearsed the choir is, how many breaks are required, as well as how well the choir perform on the day. The truth is that it’s not about how many takes get recorded but rather how many DECENT takes are recorded. It’s usually advisable to take frequent breaks rather than “soldiering on”. A good recording involves more than avoiding mistakes – it’s more about capturing a great, inspiring performance.


-Do you use autotune for choral recordings?

Heresy! Firstly, choirs are polyphonic – even melody ones, so this would make tuning far more difficult. Secondly, even where it’s technically possible, tuning introduces undesirable artefacts. The truth of the matter is that if the best results will be obtained from good performances. No shortcuts. However, it is possible to edit the best performances together, and depending on circumstances, soloists may avail of some tuning help.


-Can you change the tempo after the recording?

Yes, it can be done. However, it’s rarely a good idea as again, it can introduce artefacts. If you’re willing to accept a change in pitch, then the sonics will be unaffected. The truth of the matter is that you should start each piece at the correct tempo. If you need to, measure what this is and click it before each take. If this is done, generally takes will be fairly consistent throughout – close enough to enable the engineer to edit.


-Can the recordings be split into several sessions?

It makes the whole process more difficult and introduces the possibility of different pieces sounding different and having a different feel. However, sometimes it’s necessary.


-Can you record a live show?

Yes. We’ll be happy to let you hear a sample. These recordings can turn out very well indeed. You can have a listen to live choirs at our Live Recording tab. We’d need to have a chat well in advance of the show. If you're concerned about audience noises, we have the ability to remove or mask most of them.


-We have a soloist. How does that affect things?

In some cases, it’s desirable to record the soloist along with the choir, whereas in other cases, it’s better to overdub. This enables us to get the best takes overall and then focus on the soloist, without the risk that a small mistake renders the whole take unusable.


-Our soloist is ill on the day. Should be abandon the recording?

We understand the difficulty in coordinating a recording for a choir. Don’t worry; we’ll probably just reschedule the soloist. As long as the key and tempo suits the soloist, we shouldn’t have an issue.


-Can you suggest a venue?

We’ve recorded all over Ireland and further afield, so we might well be able to. Either way, we’d recommend a practise or two to get the choir used to it.


-Can you suggest an accompanist for our choir?

Yes, we’ve worked with many talented, encouraging and diplomatic accompanists in the past and will be happy to put you in touch with one. We strongly suggest getting to know each other prior to the recording and rehearsing together. Availability and rates are matters between you. However, we wouldn’t put you in touch with someone who we don’t think highly of.


-Can you remove breathing from a recording?

It can be attenuated if necessary for a soloist, but if it’s just regular breathing, it shouldn’t be an issue at all.


-Can you remove page turns?

Remove is a very strong word. It can certainly normally be severely reduced, but many things come into play here. The best option is to use a music stand which is big enough to hold the whole piece visibly.


-How do you see your role in a choral project? More of an engineer or a producer?

This depends very much on the nature of the choir itself. An established choir with a dedicated conductor will function very differently from a new choir. The engineer will have enough experience and tact to figure out what role to play.


-Do you need a score?

It’s very rare for one of our engineers to follow a score. That’s the conductor’s job. In some rare cases, it can be useful for editing, but by and large, we’d encourage a whole first take to get the choir warmed up. Any edits and structure can be deduced from that. Furthermore, scores have mistakes. Our engineers are blessed with great hearing and fresh perspective. A score tends to colour this. On many occasions, engineers will pick out mistakes in the scores or clashes that might have until then gone unnoticed. Some conductors see their job as conveying accuracy. We’re more about conveying a satisfying performance, even if it deviates slightly from the score.


-"Can you perform this edit"?

We’ll tell you at the time. Our engineers have a good understanding as to what is possible and what is not. If you can tell us WHY an edit needs done, we can make suggestions that will fix the issue.


-What software do you use for recording?

If there’s a chance of overdubbing, ProTools HD will in all likely be used. Its unnoticeable latency makes it an excellent choice. Furthermore, it integrates excellently with the Apogee AD-16 we currently favour for recording choirs. If there’s no chance of overdubbing, the engineer might choose to use Samplitude for its absolutely incredible spectral editing features. Either way, projects can be recorded in one and edited or mixed in the other.


-My basses / tenors are too quiet. Can’t you fix that?

To some extent yes, but it’ll never be as satisfactory as capturing it with the correct balance to start off with.  It’s not the engineer’s primary job to change the balance. It’s his or her job to capture what’s there accurately, and then to present it in the best light possible through editing etc. That said, soloists frequently require a bit of help. These are things that need to be discussed on a case per case basis. If it’s right at source, you’ll end up with a great product.


-Can we get MP3 files of the songs?

Heresy! MP3 files are fine for samples on your website, but that’s about it. The MP3 format was developed at a time when internet connections were appallingly slow and hard drives cost-prohibitive. Things have moved on and people are entitled to expect their music to sound good. You’re putting effort into rehearsing; significant effort will go into capturing it, so why compromise at the last stage? If you do want MP3's for your website, we would prefer to supply them than to let client "mp3 the files" themselves. Please ask.


-What about higher quality files than CD?

Now you’re talking. Let’s have a chat.

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