16

During these times of the pandemic, our senior school orchestra missed out on the traditional final performance before graduating on with the rest of our lives.

Due to the stay-at-home order, we aren't allowed to leave our homes often. However, I wanted to make it special and try something as a final memory of the senior year. It's hard for everyone to get together, but it's easy for us to record at our homes.

I carry a condenser microphone I use often for stringed instrument recording and I was wondering if I can pass it around to my fellow string members (with proper sanitation) and give them specific directions on how to record their instruments.

The entire ensemble consists of 13 members with instruments: specifically the violin, viola, cello, and stringed bass. I was wondering if I can have them record their parts individually and in the end, I can put them together and make it into one track.

Is that possible?

4
  • Have you seen "What The World Needs Now"?
    – Barmar
    Apr 21 '20 at 16:17
  • The New York Philharmonic did a live performance like this recently, and they have a lot more than 13 people. (I assume they have access to a lot of good recording equipment, and pretty low network latency for all of their performers.) It wasn't their best performance, but it was certainly passable. Apr 22 '20 at 18:38
  • @DarrelHoffman if you're referring to this, then this isn't live. It is proof of what can be achieved with trained musicians in this times, though.
    – 89f3a1c
    Apr 22 '20 at 20:47
  • @89f3a1c Ah, I guess I was misinformed about that aspect. I meant "live" as in they were all playing at once, not as in broadcast live, but I guess it might not even be that. Granted Ravel's Bolero is probably one of the easier pieces to do that way, since the tempo is pretty much constant for the whole thing. Impressive either way. Apr 22 '20 at 21:50
12

This is a great idea and as long as you record to some type of reference like a click and make sure everyone records their individual tracks at the same sample and bit rate you can mix all the individual tracks together and end up with a very nice recording.

A couple of suggestions, I would start with an instrument or section that provides a good foundation for the piece. Have your section leaders record first and make rough mixes of what you have then send an audio file to the other musicians to record their parts to. As long as everyone knows the exact tempo and the amount of count off you can send everyone a .wav file with a rough mix of what is already recorded. Everyone can then set the correct click, sample and bit rate in their own DAW’s and record their individual files at home. Then they can send you their individual files and you can continue to build the piece until you have everyone recorded.

I have recorded dozens of songs this way. I have done recordings as large as a Latin jazz big band which is about 18 individual musicians that way with excellent results. Granted these were all professional musicians but the process will work for anyone.

There are some very good suggestions in the comments below my answer by the comments by @SteveMansfield and @PiedPiper. Using headphones when recording is a must and adding the click to the guide track is also a good thing to do. Adding video can be useful but not necessary if it is too difficult to do or if the song is a steady tempo throughout. good Luck!

8
  • 11
    Just to add to this - make sure that each individual player listens to the guide track on earphones / headphones so that none of the guide track comes back recorded on the individual part. This will give you ‘clean’ recordings of each part which will be much easier to mix together into the finished article. Apr 21 '20 at 6:41
  • 7
    You should add that the click should be on the guide track you send. There's no need to have everybody use their own click.
    – PiedPiper
    Apr 21 '20 at 8:10
  • 6
    It's a good idea to send the guide track as a video with the conductor.
    – PiedPiper
    Apr 21 '20 at 8:16
  • You should integrate the helpful comments into your answer.
    – Nobody
    Apr 21 '20 at 22:43
  • 1
    My 2 cents about the click: for some persons, at least non-pro ones, it can have a little negative impact on the musicality, as some will concentrate more on a regular rythm, the recorded part can sound a bit duller or colder because accentuations that are not on the click beat are inconsciently attenuated, and some will overfocus on the rytmh over the global musicality. Ideally the click volume should be adjustable, and maybe @PiedPiper advice is good, as IMO it's the very role of the conductor to add feeling to the rythm
    – Kaddath
    Apr 22 '20 at 9:31
9

Eric Whitacre did exactly this for his virtual choir series.

He published a recording of him conducting, along with piano rehearsal tracks for all the parts. Hundreds (if not thousands) of people recorded themselves, and the result was merged into a single choral sound with quite a bit of success. I believe there were four different songs this was done for.

The big key was that everyone was working off a common source of time and pitch (the conductor video and the rehearsal tracks). From there, it's a matter of synchronizing the audio and video tracks using whatever software suits you.

I'm writing this answer from a work computer that currently has YouTube blocked, so I can't pull up any links, but if you search Eric Whitacre Virtual Choir on YouTube, you can find everything. (If someone wants to edit this post and add in links, that'd be great)

Per @AndrewT.'s comment below, here's the first one: Lux Aurumque

And one more edit: Eric Whitacre is doing it again -- they'll soon release the materials to prepare for submissions for the sixth virtual choir. Info at virtualchoir6.com. (Right now -- April 23 -- it's just a teaser and an email signup)

1
  • Eric Whitacre's Virtual Choir, Lux Aurumque. Perhaps the oldest one and the first time I heard about it back then in 2010.
    – Andrew T.
    Apr 22 '20 at 9:11
4

If you want to merge videos, set up the software acappella (PicPlayPost) and have everyone contribute their part that way. Unfortunately, the Android version is unreliable at present, which limits work primarily to Apple users. My teacher (private lessons) is working to see if she can integrate videos generated externally into acappella at least for chamber groups.

Certainly having a click track or indicating the exact tempo to play is needed. I know it's easy to adjust the speed (not pitch!) of audio tracks, but I suspect trying to do so with video will lead to glitching.

Which is to say, unless you want to merge all the individual videos, processing a stack of audio tracks takes some time and patience but is very much doable.

2
  • 3
    Make sure they all tune to A440, not to their parents' pianos! Apr 21 '20 at 13:56
  • 1
    @OldBrixtonian good point! Tho' if necessary, it's easy to pitch-shift without changing the tempo. Apr 21 '20 at 14:01

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.