The Creole Choir of Cuba recorded their new album, Santiman, at Real World Studios. Production engineer Patrick Philips explains why they decided to have the choir individually miked and set out in a circle.
After an initial talk with John Metcalfe, the producer of the record, we both felt that a different approach to the way the previous Creole Choir of Cuba album was recorded could yield a more interesting result.
This was to have the choir set out in a large circle all facing inwards towards each other with a single microphone for each vocalist. This would provide us with enough separation to produce a very dynamic mix with a large degree of control. It would also afford the choir a visual link with each other and also the ability to rearrange position according to who was providing the solo or backing.
We carpeted the floor of the studio, hanging drapes along the metal mezzanine to deaden the effect of the room in order to provide a tighter sound. Effectively we borrowed from more of a pop recording mentality to give us isolated vocal tracks, which we could manipulate later placing them in the sound field and depth that we desired. This was as opposed to the more classical mentality of capturing the natural layout (ie had we placed them naturally as they perform live) as they were in the room but with less control in the mix down.
The Choir accompanies a number of their songs with percussion (congas, trian, guiro, shakers) and to avoid spill onto the other microphone we chose to overdub these parts. However the congas play a vital role in providing the rhythm and feel of the song and so these were tracked live whilst placed in an isolation booth.
We wanted to avoid using headphones at all cost as this is not natural to the choir and they rely on movement and dancing during recorded takes as much as singing! This meant opening the isolation booth slightly so the congas could be heard in the room, which meant a minor amount of spill but it proved to be a necessary decision.
I had the choice of using both Neve pre-amps and the SSL 9000 K Series pre-amps. We chose the SSL in the end due to their slightly cleaner tonal characteristics and also the gains on the Neves are stepped at 5dB intervals and with the choir moving between the different microphones for each song this would have meant a less sensitive control over the gains. The choir were asked to perform an initial test on their loudest section of each piece in order to set the gains as most of the time their first take of a song was the one that we ended up using for the final album.
We tracked the recording at 48kHz 24bit running all lines into the SSL 9000 K Series desk.
On mix down we used some slight compression for taming the dynamics of the percussion and we used the Bricasti M7 to provide space to the mix.
Patrick Phillips, recording engineer at Real World Studios.