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  • Writer's pictureKelsey Le Roux

Recording in a Hall: Pros, Cons & Strategies.

Recording music in a live orchestra hall is a phenomenal experience that brings a unique energy and depth to compositions. The blend of instruments, the resonance of the hall, and the performance of talented musicians create an immersive tapestry of sound. Capturing this essence requires careful preparation and understanding of the intricacies of recording music with the entire orchestra performing together.

Cinemagic Scorings' John Walton conducting a recording session at the Fismer Hall
Cinemagic Scorings' John Walton conducting a recording session at the Fismer Hall

In this article, we will look at the pros and cons of recording in a hall and discuss how composers can prepare to maximise the impact of their compositions during the recording process.


Which do you prefer?

  • Striping

  • Recording in a Hall

  • Depends!


 

Both Striping and Hall recordings have their advantages and challenges. Understanding these aspects can help composers better prepare for the unique challenges and opportunities when recording in a hall. Let's dive into the pros and cons.


Pros:

  • Richness of sound

With everyone in the same room, there will naturally be an enhanced depth and richness to your recordings, with a fuller and more immersive sound.


  • Performance

Musicians naturally blend and “play off” each other when performing together, creating a more dynamic and immersive recording with nuance that is more difficult to replicate when striping.


  • Tuning and balance

Musicians will naturally tune to each other as well as balance themselves. It is also easier for a skilled conductor to adjust on the fly to improve performance.


  • Natural reverb

Any space large enough to host a full orchestra will also naturally have its own reverb. This helps to create a cohesive sound and enhance that big orchestral sound we all know and love. This could be positive or negative depending on your wants, as there is less mixing flexibility.


  • Authenticity

This could be a point of contention for some of our readers. Some in the musical community feel that the truest form of a musical work is that which is performed live. This is debatable and possibly irrelevant when referring to anything other than classical orchestral music. Film music, by its nature, is not created for the stage, but regardless a live recorded performance will still have a different energy in the final product.



 


Cons:

  • Mixing flexibility

As opposed to striping, mixing a hall recording is much more difficult. There will be a need to be far more selective with takes – for instance, take four might be the best for the Brass, but take three was the best for the strings. Selecting the takes with the best performances is more complex, and working around mistakes is far more challenging.


  • Microphone bleed

If you have the entire orchestra in one room, you will rarely have an absolutely perfect take. There are bound to be minor mistakes here and there. Editing out these mistakes becomes tricky as there will be microphone bleed. Fortunately, with technology improving, programs such as RX (from Izotope) can help you remove those specific frequencies from every track.


  • Cost

It is far easier to be economical with recording time when you are striping. You might have to book more days when recording in a hall, resulting in overtime costs for the entire orchestra instead of just one section. This leads to higher expenses

as booking the studio for more days is more expensive, even with the same total amount of musicians.


  • More recording time

This can be a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, the orchestra will learn a composer's music, mood, atmosphere and goals. On the other hand, your recording time will start stacking up, and so will the cost. As many composers don’t have the luxury of recording for days on end, they are likelier to end up with an imperfect take. If, however, you have a large recording budget – you are almost guaranteed to get an astounding recording.


  • Space

More players = larger space. You can use a much smaller studio when striping, saving on venue costs. When recording a full orchestra, you need a much bigger space to accommodate everybody, so the prices of this increase.

Big spaces also influence mixing flexibility, as any space big enough to host an entire orchestra naturally comes with its own reverb. This could be a pro or a con, depending on what you want.



With these factors in mind, let us look at what a composer can do to prepare for a session in a recording hall and other things to consider to help the session run smoothly.




 

Tips for recording in an Orchestral Hall


The Importance of Orchestral Balance in Orchestration:


When recording in a hall instead of striping, much more consideration is needed towards creating orchestral balance.

Achieving orchestral balance is a fundamental aspect of orchestration that significantly influences the final recorded result.


As a composer, it is crucial to consider each instrument's tonal qualities and dynamic characteristics within the ensemble. By carefully orchestrating and balancing the various instrumental sections, composers can ensure that the intended musical ideas are effectively conveyed in the recording.


Understanding each instrument's timbre and expressive capabilities allows composers to create balanced and harmonious textures.


Balancing the orchestration involves distributing melodic lines, accompaniment figures, and dynamic contrasts among the orchestra's sections. This attention to detail ensures that no instrument or section overpowers the others, resulting in a cohesive and well-blended performance.

Musicians at a recording session
Recording session at the Fismer hall

To help streamline your recording session, composers can focus on the following:


  • Score Study

Studying past composers' scores and familiarising oneself with each instrument's characteristics helps make informed orchestration decisions. Understanding each instrument's range, articulation possibilities, and expressive potential helps achieve a well-balanced and possible orchestration and performance.

Read more about some basic orchestration practices here.


  • Instrument Pairing

Pairing instruments with complementary timbres and pitch ranges can enhance the overall balance and colour of the orchestration. By strategically selecting instruments that blend well together, composers can create a sound that highlights the unique qualities of each instrument.


  • Dynamics and Expression:

The score's dynamic markings and expression indications allow composers to shape the music effectively during the recording. Balancing the dynamics within the orchestration ensures that the intended musical gestures and emotional nuances are accurately captured.


  • Balance:

This is arguably the most critical part of orchestrating a composition that will be recorded in a hall. You need to pay attention to how many musicians you have in each section and how each instrument will behave in the orchestra. For instance, brass playing fff chords will completely drown out a solo flute melody line. Composers need to be strategic in their orchestrations.


  • Consider putting soloists and percussion in a booth:

There is no doubt in my mind that most composers are fully capable of orchestrating “correctly” so that a soloist can shine against a full orchestra. However, film and game music are not made primarily for the stage. Additional isolation over instruments with a lot of bleed (such as percussion and mallets) and further mixing control over your solo performances might be ideal for your project needs.


By paying meticulous attention to orchestral balance in the orchestration process, composers can prepare their compositions for a successful recording in a live orchestra hall. Consider hiring an orchestrator to help.



 


Creating Immersive and Captivating Recordings


To truly capture the essence of music in a live orchestra hall, composers must consider various factors contributing to immersive and captivating recordings. Here are some key considerations:


  • Artistic Direction:

Communicate your artistic vision to the conductor, musicians, and recording engineers. Discuss the composition's desired mood, dynamics, and expressiveness to ensure a cohesive interpretation during the recording session. This information should all be extremely clear on the sheet music.


  • Communication and Collaboration:

Maintain open lines of communication with the conductor, musicians, and recording team. Foster a collaborative environment where everyone works to bring out the best in the composition and performances. Encourage feedback and be receptive to suggestions that enhance the overall recording.


  • Dynamic Range

Embrace the dynamic range of the live orchestra and allow the music to breathe naturally. Capture the softest pianissimo passages and the grandest fortissimo moments to convey the entire emotional spectrum of the composition.


  • Performance Nuances

Encourage the musicians to bring their individuality and interpretative nuances to the performance. This adds a personal touch and brings out the unique character of the composition, making the recording genuinely captivating.


  • Post-Production

After the recording session, collaborate with skilled audio engineers who understand the intricacies of working with live orchestra recordings. The post-production phase allows for fine-tuning, editing, and mixing to enhance the recorded performance further and achieve a polished final product. Chat with us about our post-production services as part of your recording package.


By focusing on these aspects and embracing the collaborative nature of recording in a live orchestra hall, composers can create recordings that transport listeners into the heart of the music, capturing its essence and leaving a lasting impact.




 

Recording music in a live orchestra hall is an exhilarating experience that brings compositions to life in a unique and powerful way.


In an ideal world, composers would have a budget for multiday hall recordings. Hall recordings can have a more significant performance aspect to their sound and be more cohesive. Due to the nature of our profession, budget is an essential factor in our choices. It is best to make an informed decision about what will work best for you and your project.


By preparing for orchestral balance in the orchestration process, composers can capture the true essence of their music. Embrace the collaboration, communicate your artistic vision, and work with a skilled recording team to create immersive and captivating recordings that resonate with audiences. Let the magic of a live orchestra recording elevate your compositions to new heights.


Experience the transformative power of recording music in a live orchestra hall. Elevate your compositions, create immersive recordings, and make a lasting impression on your audience. Contact us, and let's embark on an extraordinary musical recording adventure together.







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