The Classical Ensemble
The Recording Environment
I usually recommend coming to your rehearsal facility for the recording. This ensures that the participants are familiar and comfortable. Even professionals find the recording process nerve-racking, so it's important to make everyone as comfortable as possible.
The acoustics of the room will have a significant effect on the finished recording, so it's worth taking time to consider them before we start. This will include the overall position of the ensemble within the room and the position of the musicians relative to each other. If there is a stage, where you normally rehearse, this may not be the best place within the room acoustically.
Then there are technical considerations. I have a variety of microphones, stands and microphone techniques to offer. Aside from the performance itself, the choice and, importantly, positioning of microphones is the most significant factor in obtaining a good recording. Typically, I would deploy two or more pairs of microphones concurrently, allowing you to choose the preferred option.
A quiet environment is vital. If your rehearsal facility is next to a football ground, it might be sensible not to record on a winter Saturday afternoon! Traffic noise can also be a problem, so, again, pick a time which is not too busy. There are some technical solutions to remove unwanted noise, but it is always best to not have any in the first place.
I would normally expect to discuss and agree most of these arrangements with the musical director prior to the recording session(s), taking his instructions. At the same time, I would expect to be advised of the material to be recorded. I recommend identifying more pieces than actually required for the finished product, allowing you to select the best after recording is complete.
The Recording Session
I will arrive before the session to set up the necessary equipment. I place great emphasis on safety, so expect a briefing before the process starts.
I will wish to try different techniques before settling on the optimum setup. Therefore, expect to be asked to run through the same short piece several times at the start of the session. Equipment includes a play-back 'monitoring' system, so that both musicians and the musical director can hear the results of the recording at each stage. Headphones are also available for a more detailed appraisal.
Then, it's over to you! Have as many 'takes' as you need to get the best possible result. I'ill record everything, allowing the best to be selected for the finished product. With your permission, I will also take some digital photographs of the session, which will be available to musicians and possibly used on the CD sleeve.
Performance with an audience
I'm happy to record you 'in concert'. Often the presence of an audience, while nerve-racking, can produce the best performance. I will take care to ensure the recording process has the minimum possible intrusion on the concert. Microphones and other equipment will be positioned discretely and I will present myself smartly. Alongside the recording, we can also provide a PA facility with microphones, interval music, etc, if required. If you are considering hiring PA equipment for the concert, this can be a significant cost saving.
For relatively small ensembles, we can actually record each musician individually. This allows us to sharpen up individual performances, perhaps using technology to correct minor pitching or timing problems, and re-recording the individual as many times as necessary to obtain the best possible result. We can also remedy any imbalance in the makeup of the band. Perhaps the trombone section comprises fewer than the ideal number of members? Available members can be recorded more than once to 'make the numbers up'. Similarly, it is possible for proficient individuals to contribute parts to more than one section. A musician might contribute both trumpet and trombone, for example. Musicians often find this stimulating. Using headphones, subsequent performers can listen to the previously-recorded performances to aid them.
Using this technique, a 10-member ensemble can overnight become a 20, 30 or more member band! Each individual performance will be perfectly pitched and in time and can be precisely located in the stereo image. The musical director will have to conduct the piece many times, but the result can be quite breath-taking.
After the Session
Having captured your performances, the subsequent process takes place at my studio. Prior to your arrival, I will take a digital security copy of your work, to guard against disasters later in the process. Under controlled conditions, all the recorded material is appraised and the best performances selected for inclusion on the finished CD. Various studio effects are available to enhance the recording and I always suggest you allow time to try them all, even if you do not use any of them.
The studio isn't huge, so it's unlikely that we could accomodate the entire band for this process! However, along with the musical director, a few members are welcome. For anyone interested, we're delighted to provide an overview of our facility.
At the end of this process, which may well take more than one visit, an initial CD will be delivered. I suggest that this is reviewed in detail by all concerned, so that any changes can be made before it is copied. Listen out for any defects in the recording process as well as elements of the performance which could be improved.