Recording the Universidad de Zamboanga Grand Chorale, rearranging their alma mater’s hymn and the regional song Zamboanga Hermosa are one of the highlights of the year. I’ve recorded plenty of choirs (including those that tour the globe) and I could say that UZGC is a world-class choir in the making. It is rare to see a mix of students who are not only enthusiastic about music but endowed with great talent too. I won’t be surprised if one day soon, this choir begins winning competitions and earns a tour of their own. And do note: They’re all scholars! Which means they’re all smart and studiously balance their academic life with extra-curricular responsibilities.
As you can see, we transformed the auditorium into a recording studio. We aligned the wooden panels behind them with some space in-between to let some air pass through and avoid sound reflections. Across those panels, the auditorium had a stage but it was more in the space between the chairs and the entrance doors.
We had access to Shure SM81s and some Samson condensers (forgot which model) but ended up using mainly the classic Shure SM58s for tracking—sure they’re dynamic stage mics with a limited pick-up pattern, but the choir simply sounded better in it! Since the 58s weren’t as sensitive, it also helped in noise reduction, though the auditorium was already pretty quiet and dry, except for the ceiling which gave off a nice reflection.
I brought a customized headphone amp made by a friend that allows up to four people listening simultaneously through their headsets. We recorded three at a time, five being the most, so they had to share headphones, a couple of AKGs and a NuMark. I think deejay headphones (the ones you can rotate the ear pieces 180 degrees) are best for choirs because they always keep one ear off anyway so they can listen to each other.
My software of choice for tracking/recording? Plain ol’ Garageband! It’s simple and gets the job done. I used Cakewalk Sonar for composing the score and mixing the voices. After several noise reduction passes (the auditorium’s airconditioner had a low hum), Sony Vegas was used for additional voice editing. Mastering was done using Sony Sound Forge.
Featured post photo by Rhem John Miranda.