It’s a fantastic idea to record your choir. A recording is something tangible that your singers can treasure as a memento of their time in the choir. It’s also a useful marketing tool. However, stepping into a studio for the first time can be incredibly daunting and, if you’re not careful, nerves and worries can derail the project.
Both Victoria and I have been through this process a few times with our choirs now and have developed some ways of making sure evreything goes to plan and, above all, that the experience is enjoyable for all.
Meet the team
Take the time to view the studio facilities before booking to make sure that you know there is enough space for your choir without being too squashed in. As well as the actual studio, look at the other facilities. Is there somewhere singers can relax during takes? Are there adequate toilet and kitchen facilities (or cafes and restaurants nearby), particularly if it’s going to be a lengthy day? Think about the studio from your singer’s point of view as part of the attraction of a recording experience.
When you’re hiring a studio, the sound engineer you will work with is as important as the facilities. Are you able to strike up a good rapport? Do they undertand what you’re trying to achieve with the recording? Have they worked with choirs before? Do they put you at ease? A sound engineer who is dedicated to creating a great recording, but also has a sense of humour, is worth their weight in gold!
Prepare your choir
If your singers are new to recording, give them plenty of information beforehand so that they know exactly what to expect. Explain that the recording will take a while and that they may have to sing multiple takes of a piece. Let them know they will need to be adaptable on the day depending how things go. Ask them to wear quiet and comfortable shoes which will not make a sound on the floor as there will be periods of standing. If any of your singers are not able to stand, speak with your sound engineer about how best to organise some seating in the studio.
From a comfort point of view, make sure you build time in the day’s plan for comfort breaks and lunch if the recording is all day. You will get more from your singers if they don’t feel exhausted from constantly singing. They will need to stay hydrated throughout the session. It’s also a good idea to ask prople to bring books or other (quiet!) amusements in case they have to wait around for protracted periods.
Have a stretch
When you arrive at the studio take time to show your choir around and then do some stretches and warm-ups. People are likely to feel a little tense so this is a great way to help them and you relax. Make sure you include some gentle range-building and breathing exercises. Think about the ranges your singers will need for the material and cover these in the warm-up.
When you have everyone together after the warm-up be positive, tell them how great they are and also not to worry. The beauty of recording is that if things go wrong you can do another take. It’s very easy to hang on every note, analysing if it was perfect but what we really want to achieve is a relaxed recording that will capture the essense of your choir.