There are several questions to consider when embarking on a choral project:
-Does the repertoire suit the identity of the project and the group?
-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 ensemble rehearsed in the venue before? Different acoustics will affect the performance, so it’s essential for an ensembleto have sung in the venue prior to recording in it.
-Is the balance 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.
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 Profit Share Scheme.
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 are in a fit state to feature on the CD. (The noises generated by keys, chairs, old pianos and heating systems 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 session(s).
On the day of the recording, we arrive before the group to set up. Macs can only be placed once everyone is in place and playing. We aim to get this done as quickly as possible as our engineers are very conscious the fact that pitch and enthusiasm can suffer progressively over long recording sessions.
We stay until the group either leave, disband or collapse on the floor, and although some projects may be completed within a 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. 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, 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 the conductor’s trust enough to be able to edit the best performance together and send it to the conductor for approval. At this stage, the balance should be fairly close to ideal, but can still be tweaked. The changes will be made and approval sought, along with a sequence for the pieces. Once, granted, 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 11 years of full-time recording, this has been reduced considerably as we’ve become better at getting things right first time.
-Do you use autotune for ensemble recordings?
Heresy! Firstly, all groups are polyphonic, so tuning, even where possible is extremely 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.
-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?
Yes, but 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. These recordings can turn out very well indeed. We’d need to have a chat well in advance of the show. Have a look at the Live Recording page for more information.
-We have a soloist. How does that affect things?
In some cases, it’s desirable to record the soloist along with the ensemble, 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 we abandon the recording?
We understand the difficulty in coordinating a recording for a large group. 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 ensemble used to it.
-Can you suggest additional musicians or arrangers?
Yes, we’ve worked with many talented, encouraging and diplomatic people in the past and will be happy to put you in touch. We strongly suggest getting to know each other prior to the recording and rehearsing together. Availability and rates are matters between yourselves. However, we wouldn’t put you in touch with someone who we don’t think highly of.
-Can you remove breathing or noises from a recording?
These can be attenuated if necessary.
-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 project? More of an engineer or a producer?
This depends very much on the nature of the ensemble itself. An established group with a dedicated conductor will function very differently from a new group. 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 warmed up. Any edits and structure can be deduced from that. Furthermore, scores have mistakes. Your engineer will be 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 when I get there!
-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. 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.
-Some of my players are too quiet. Can’t you fix that?
To some extent, but it’ll never be as satisfactory as capturing it with the balance correct 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?
-What about higher quality files than CD?
Now you’re talking. Let’s have a chat.