How to Create and Record a Virtual Choir or Virtual Ensemble

During this stay-at-home period, life looks a lot different for many of us. Not least of which, members of choirs and other musical ensembles.

As we have seen on social media over the last several months, choirs and ensembles around the globe have been singing and recording virtually. And why not? It's a great way to stay in touch with your fellow musicians, keep your musical brain active, and have something to work towards together. Even if you can't perform in the same room, you can still make music together.

While issues with latency on video calling software make it challenging to perform and record your choir or ensemble live, a popular solution is for the singers or instrumentalists to record their parts separately and then edit them together. At the end of it, you will have something which sounds as if you are all performing together in one place.

Examples of virtual choir performances

One of the most impressive examples of this to-date is Eric Whitacre's virtual choir project which, incredibly, has been around for 10 years now (well ahead of the curve!)

Whitacre's latest project, Virtual Choir 6 - Sing Gently was recently completed:

Other great examples include the Great British Home Chorus, fronted by Gareth Malone, and the Stay At Home Choir, whose debut virtual performance of Vivaldi's "Gloria" featured 243 singers and instrumentalists.

This can also be done on a smaller scale, as our London colleagues did with their 4-part rendition of "Angels."

How to make your own virtual performance

There are several software solutions and ways to go about doing this. However, the one thing all of the solutions have in common is that you will need to find someone willing to take the role of audio/video editor and processor – to mix/edit the sound and video.

Additionally, each of the singers/instrumentalists will need three things:

  • A device (smartphone, tablet, laptop, computer) to record/video themselves.
  • Headphones to listen to the accompaniment or guide track while recording.
  • A quiet room to record themselves.

  • Preparation stage

    Whether you are recording an a cappella piece, an accompanied piece, or singing to an existing backing track, you will need something for the singers to sing-along to (or instrumentalists to play-along to) in order to keep everything in time. This article gives some useful details on creating a good guide track.

    Recording stage

    Once your singers are armed with a smartphone (or tablet/ laptop/ computer) and a pair of headphones in which to play your guide track, they should be ready to go. This article provides some useful pointers for instructing musicians on how to record their parts.

    Audio editing stage

    If your project has just a few singers (up to six), and their parts don’t require any auto-tune or cleaning up, you may be able to skip directly to the video editing stage. Most likely, though, you will need to edit/mix the audio separately in a DAW (digital audio workstation) before you proceed to the video editing stage. This article suggests some suitable software, and goes through the various stages of audio editing to enhance the sound of your virtual choir or ensemble.

    Video editing stage

    Once you have a good quality audio mix, you can head to the final stage of the process which is the video editing stage. Adobe Premiere and Final Cut Pro are two of the most popular and comprehensive solutions, but there are some free or more affordable options out there such as Apple iMovie, Lightworks, HitFilm Express and Da Vinci Resolve.

    If you choose Adobe Premiere as your solution, there is a useful series of tutorials on YouTube which take you through the various stages of video editing – setting up the project, syncing your videos, arranging them in a grid, and exporting your final project.

    Have fun and be sure to share your videos by tagging us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

    Further resources for choirs, bands and orchestras

    Sheet Music Direct is proud to have expanded our PASS subscription service to include over 12,000 choral titles and 75,000 band/orchestra titles. You can get started with 30 days free!

    Hal Leonard's choir, band and orchestra YouTube channels are also an invaluable resource for viewing full scores and listening to professional recordings of thousands of best-selling titles:

    Hal Leonard Choral YouTube channel

    Hal Leonard and Shawnee Press Church Choral YouTube channel

    Hal Leonard Concert Band YouTube channel

    Hal Leonard Jazz Ensemble YouTube channel

    Hal Leonard Marching Band YouTube channel

    Hal Leonard Orchestra YouTube channel

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