Musical collaboration on the cheap?
March 23, 2020 10:05 AM   Subscribe

A friend's church has swapped to doing online services. They were wondering if there is an easy way for the choir to record their parts together from their phones or computers. Is there some standard software for layering together a vocal track and building it up?

I've found people talk about "pass the track" but can't find any cheap software that enables it. Right now, the choir director is sitting with her iPhone and recording herself doing the melody part of all hymns and they just are skipping the choir pieces. It seems like it shouldn't be hard to pass around the recording of the director (or record the organ part on piano and use that) and then have people layer on and combine them together.

I found professional software for remote collaboration (nuendo, cubase and vst performer) but it looks like it is close to $1000 and probably over kill. Is there a simpler solution for this that I'm missing? Another caveat is that a lot of the choir is old, so hopefully easy to use for the individual recording person too.
posted by cmm to Media & Arts (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
I dunno how well this will work, but could you try combining everyone's part using Audacity, modifying a technique to record harmony with yourself.? Even though it's free, I wouldn't suggest that everyone downloads it because there is a bit of a learning curve and the workflow could get confusing.

One way you could hack this is to have everyone record their part either on their phone or computer, and then send their isolated vocal track to someone who will combine all the tracks in Audacity. Rather than recording everyone's track directly, you can import each of them as a separate audio file, do some editing, and then voila, you have a choral recording!

The trick is making sure that everyone records their part without having anything else that's been recorded get picked up in their recording. That means that people would have to listen to the director's recording with headphones as they sing along.
posted by blerghamot at 10:27 AM on March 23 [2 favorites]


Audacity is not too hard, especially with the limited use case here. I’d suggest everyone downloads it and the choir director puts together a one-page “how to” for recording and exporting each person’s part.
posted by music for skeletons at 12:00 PM on March 23


I saw this a couple of days ago on Facebook. If you scroll down it gives you these instructions.

I don't know anything about this stuff, but it looks useful. I know you can get some kind of free zoom account.
posted by mareli at 2:37 PM on March 23


Is there some standard software for layering together a vocal track and building it up? I found professional software for remote collaboration (nuendo, cubase and vst performer)

Building up multiple different tracks into a combined whole is exactly what these programs are for. These are commonly known as DAW for Digital Audio Workstations - basically recording studios in your computer.

Reaper is a de-facto free DAW - it does ask for payment, but 1) they are offering a free temp license through June and 2) in my past versions of Reaper you download a fully-functional "demo" version and then all that happens if you don't pay for a license is that a pop-up opens asking you to pay each time you open the program. You just click the X to make it go away, the program continues to work fine. (This may have changed with the current build.)

If the director has an iPhone, GarageBand is a simple DAW that comes with iOS - it's esentially a really simple version of LogicPro, another professional DAW.

One way you could hack this is to have everyone record their part either on their phone or computer, and then send their isolated vocal track to someone who will combine all the tracks in Audacity. Rather than recording everyone's track directly, you can import each of them as a separate audio file, do some editing, and then voila, you have a choral recording!

I think blerghamot's idea is the way to go here, especially if most of the choir is not very tech-savvy. One person does the "tech" stuff of combining all the separate recordings in a DAW, the choir members just record themselves singing with whatever simple program is on their phones/home computers and emails the files to the tech person.

If the church has any kind of regular audio tech person for services they should put the tech part in their hands, otherwise they should put out a call for volunteers to the church members and families - lots of amateur musicians have at least some experience with using DAW's for home recording, I would not be at all surprised if there are a few folks in the church able and willing to handle or learn the tech part of this.
posted by soundguy99 at 3:45 PM on March 23 [2 favorites]


Reaper looks like what I was looking for. The non-profit license on there is cheap enough that I can just try it. That's awesome.

Now if I only had an easy to use android/iOS app that I could send music to, they could play with headphones on, sing and record themselves, listen and when they are happy send back in.
posted by cmm at 2:59 PM on March 24


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