Recording your choir - Part 1: Planning a recording

Recording your choir has many benefits. It's great fun, it offers an alternative to a performance, it gives singers the opportunity to own a keepsake of the choir with a CD or download, and it inspires team spirit as people work together to create the best sound possible for the recording.

If you would like to record your choir, here are some considerations:

Where and when

The main decision to make when planning a recording is where it will take place. There are two options for this. Either you go to a professional recording studio or you can hire a sound engineer to come to you at your venue and record the choir. Part of this decision may be determined by the size of your choir. A smaller choir might fit easily into a studio, whereas it can be much harder to find a local studio that can accommodate a large choir. If you have a larger choir, it may be easier and more cost effective to stay put and have an engineer come to you. Perhaps there are other local choirs who have done a recording and could suggest a sound engineer or crew.

If you decide to go to a studio make sure you visit it first, have a look at the space and facilities and check it's suitable for your choir. Recording can be a lengthy process so you will need to think about aspects such as seating and refreshments.

Discuss your venue choice with your sound engineer. Is it a good space for recording? Does the room have a good acoustic and will it accommodate the choir and all the recording equipment? You may like to invite your engineer for a look around beforehand.

Once you've decided on a location you will need to think about when you will record. A studio may be cheaper on a weekday, but will this mean some of your singers can't attend? Try to choose a time which will give everyone the opportunity to take part. If many of your singers work, you may have to schedule the recording for an evening or weekend.

Cost

There are several costs attached to recording. Firstly, you have the venue hire or studio hire. A studio hire will probably include a crew. If you hire an engineer to come to you, you'll obviously have to find that cost on top of the venue hire. Depending on the location of any studio you visit, you may need to consider hiring a coach or mini bus which you will need to factor into the price.

Other costings to consider include music and accompaniment. Unless you'll be in a studio where headphones are provided for each singer, using backing tracks may not be ideal. They have to be played very softly so as not to be picked up in the vocal mics, which can mean singers struggle to hear and stay in tune. Having an accompanist or band behind you is a much easier when you're capturing a 'live' recording. You could, of course, also sing a capella.

Finally, you'll need to factor in the cost of producing the final recording, whether on CD or for download, and getting the appropriate licence in your jurisdiction if you're recording music that's under copyright.

Repertoire

It's important to plan repertoire for a recording very carefully. The first consideration is time. How long do you want the recording to last? If you are happy to record all day then you can attempt a longer set. If you only want singers to be recording for a couple of hours then something more like an EP with four songs might be better. As an approximation allow 30-40 minutes to record a standard length pop song.

When choosing repertoire, think about creating a balance between upbeat and slower numbers. What will your choir members enjoy learning, singing and listening to afterwards? You don't necessarily need to pick the most technically difficult pieces. Your singers may already feel a little out of their comfort zone with the recording experience so music that they can sing confidently may yield better results.

Depending on rehearsal time for the recording, you could choose a mix of new and existing repertoire. Perhaps get your singers to vote for their two favourite existing songs so they have a say. Remember, if you purchase new repertoire, that needs to be factored into costings.

In my next article, I'll look at issues surrounding the recording session.
How to manage sign-ups to paid choir events
Recording your choir - Part 2: The recording session

3 comments

Victoria Hopkins Staff

Hi Annette. In the UK, you need a licence to record and distribute works that are under copyright. You can get the licence from PRS for Music. It's a pretty simple procedure from what I remember. With the recording we've just done with our choir, the sound engineer is doing a whole package for us that includes the licence.
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Victoria Hopkins Staff

Hi David. I'm no copyright expert, but as far as I know, copyright applies in the UK to any composition or arrangement created in the composer's lifetime plus 70 years. Other jurisdictions vary. PRS for Music are very helpful if you give them a ring. Just google the name and you'll find them easily. From memory, yes it does depend on the number of copies you intend to make. I assume that there are similar organisations in most countries.
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Victoria Hopkins Staff

That's a good tip Daniel, although from experience, the audio quality you get from a camera can be pretty ropey.
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