Tears well up when a young child sings that beautiful solo. The world seems to stop and there is nothing but that perfect voice.
Of course we would like every child to be the soloist, but as we all have different talents not all of us can be solo singers. Now, we are not saying that they shouldn’t all sing; as we know singing, whatever sound we make, is a very healthy thing to do with many other benefits besides the music. However every school, or indeed every demographic has a range of talent. Often we are asked “Will everyone be heard on the CD? It’s just that we have a few pupils who perhaps aren’t quite in tune with the rest of us…” or otherwise put, “We have some lovely singers and some very enthusiastic ones”.
What can we hear?
Our recording equipment is extremely high quality. If we can hear something with our own ears, then the microphones will definitely capture the sound. Each one is many times more sensitive than the human ear, and we will have anything from six to twenty four microphones in place depending on the size of your choir. After the recording session, the raw sound data tracks are processed in the studio before the mastered CD is produced.
Basically what we are saying is yes, we hear EVERYTHING. From the ticking of the school clock on the wall at the back of the hall, the telephone in reception, rustling from the sheets of lyrics used to the child who is loudly and enthusiastically harmonising randomly with the intended melody… What we don’t want, is for these extraneous sounds to detract from your music.
It is demoralising to say, “Shush, please don’t sing”, and so we may sometimes adjust the position of our students to get the best possible sound. Some choirs all sing the same, some are split into parts and sometimes there are a few soloists singing an introduction or a counter melody above the others. We all record soloists using a microphone positioned close to the singer, just as you have seen in videos of studio recording. This is done to capture every nuance of their voice and so we have a separate feed so we can adjust and balance this against the rest. Conversely, the further you are form the microphone the ‘quieter’ the sound. Every sound will be recorded, so yes, every voice singing will be on the CD. Every child matters and should be part of the school singing. However to avoid their embarrassment when someone comments “You’ve ruined our CD”, we will try to arrange your pupils to balance the sound.
The right Setup
Sometimes we can set up and record and get a first perfect take. But usually something needs adjusting… There are many things which can require attention. It might be the preamps for the microphones, the mic positions in the room, the door which opens onto the corridor, the children whispering in their excitement between verses, a foot tapping along with the music… so please do not be alarmed if we suggest alternative standing arrangements.
The best sound is often obtained if your pupils are grouped together rather than in long lines. If a child stands out of the group the sound of their voice will also stand out; standing in a close group blends the voices together. Think of the recoded sound much like a photograph. One at the front in focus, compared to the group behind. Children lost in the crowd near the back. A solitary child away from the group also stands out. A few, spaced across the room will be heard in their stereo position, just as in the modern class photos with each child individually portrayed, rather than the shoulder to shoulder rows of the traditional old school photograph.
Whole school singing
The voices grow in maturity from reception to when they leave Primary School. Often our best singers are in year 3 or 4 before the dreaded hormones start to play havoc with the vocal chords of year 6. With this in mind we often ask the school to let the middle years sit at the front nearest the microphones, reception further back and the older years standing at the back. Any amazing voices can then be positioned carefully at your discretion. This will almost certainly be different from your ordered whole school assembly position, but it is a good way to achieve sound balance.
We want to record the true blended sound of your school. Most importantly, we want you to be proud of your CD. Let us guide you to the best result possible. Record a CD with us now for Christmas, and bring tears to the eyes of your parents for all the right reasons!
About the author: Shelly Richman often assists with our School CD Recordings. She’s the nice one who makes the kids smile!