Optimize Your Recording Experience

Suggestions & Recommendations for obtaining a good recording.

Whether your performance/production is a live performance or a ‘recording session’, the following measures if enacted can enhance the recording of your performance.  We realize that none, or only some, of the suggestions offered here are able to be acted upon – so do not despair.  We frequently encounter such situations and have experience at ‘work-arounds’ and improvisation to overcome and mitigate some of the issues described in the paragraphs below.  It just makes our job easier, and your performance better, if potential issues can be addressed before hand rather than trying to fix them on-the-fly or after the fact (postproduction).  A common example is to have  a soloist come forward out of the group for individual miking, which will produce a much better result than remaining within the group or using a wireless microphone.  

Prior to recording:

  • The specific room in which the recording is made is usually not of prime importance as long as it is large enough to comfortably accommodate your group.  Isolation of vocalist from instrumentalist and percussion by spacing and positioning in the room can help a lot in producing a good result, as the mix of the individual groups can be more easily controlled during the recording process.  A common problem is having the piano (or orchestra) directly in front of a choir within a cramped space, causing the choir to be drowned out.   
  • Isolation as much as possible from extraneous and unwanted noise is important. The further the performance is way from such sources of noise, the better the recording will be.
  • Noise from HVAC (air-conditioning, furnace), water coolers, ventilation fans, buzzing fluorescent lights, street noise (automobiles, motorcycles, emergency vehicles, barking dogs, and yes ocassional trains) can ruin an otherwise great performance.
  • If you have a large group, a higher ceiling is preferred. A room with less or no reverberation is preferable than a highly reverberant room.

During the recording process:

–  In a live recording before an audience you only have one chance to get it right.  There will often be some adverse event over which you have no control.  Sometimes these adverse events can be edited out but more often it is not possible to do so. 

–  Heating and air-conditioning is less likely to be operating in the spring or autumn, and you may consider this in deciding the time of year to record your project.  Alternatively, if you have control of the HVAC system, turning it off  during the actual recording process should be considered. 

–  Allow a second or two of silence prior to starting and at least 5 seconds after the end of the piece or ‘take’. This is to ensure no extraneous sounds are present at the beginning and to allow for any reverberation at the end to die away.

–  Also, avoid coughs, sneezes, candy wrappers, clapping, etc. during the recording process. This applies to the performers as well as any audience or onlookers who may be present.

–  Counting measures with audible foot tapping should be avoided.

–  If this is a ‘recording session’, recording 2 or 3 complete takes of the piece will allow choosing the best take as the foundation of the piece.  Do not stop the performance for a mistake, extraneous noise (dropped mute, baby cry, etc.).  The unwanted measures can be recorded again (‘takes’) and spliced into the main body of the piece later in ‘post production’.

–  If you are repeating measures for additional ‘takes’, start each ‘take’ a few measures before and end a few measures after the mistake or interruption occurred.