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Lord Knows - Choirs - Ken Lewis /Mix approach
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17th May 2012
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Lord Knows - Choirs - Ken Lewis /Mix approach

I love the choir arrangement on Lord knows by Drake. In my opinion it makes the whole song.

I noticed mr Ken Lewis was responsible for this arrangement. I have a couple of questions relating to (Mix/recording and arrangement).

Firstly: What is the general, high level approach you take when arranging a choir. I am aware this is no easy strategy - more just general Do's and Dont's.

Second: Mixing a choir to ensure you have no issues with lead or even back vocals. Should they be treated as backing vocals in this context? Clearly not a general question is the choir is the focal point of vocal.

Any good advice on micing etc would be very much appreciated. Although this relates to Ken Lewis input into the aforementioned drake song - I am interested in anyone who has experience recording this type of source.

Many thanks in advance.
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17th May 2012
Old 17th May 2012
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search. I remember Ken already addressing this topic.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MediaMix View Post
search. I remember Ken already addressing this topic.
Oh really ? Guilty didn't search..
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MediaMix View Post
search. I remember Ken already addressing this topic.
Cant find anything actually - In fact there was a thread on drake take care where Ken mentioned he was involved in the choir part but it goes no further. Nothing about how one would mix etc...much like the other part of my thread opener..So yeh BUMP and await feedback from those in the know. If you found another thread link it.
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17th May 2012
Old 17th May 2012
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Originally Posted by KT1 View Post
Oh really ? Guilty didn't search..





....All that aside though I would like to hear some (possibly new) input from Ken on the topic anyway. As I read the OP I was thinking that I don't put enough thought into my choirs.

Would love to hear what his approach is/was.
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17th May 2012
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Perhaps Ken can post a lesson on how to do this... I would pay for it
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Originally Posted by mista min View Post
Perhaps Ken can post a lesson on how to do this... I would pay for it
Me too. That would be incredible.

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17th May 2012
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Well first of all I recorded some choirs in my young career and I can tell you that this is not the most traditional choir recording in my oppinion!

You can hear that some voices where effected singularly etc... (the phaser and stuff)

Normally you record a choir like this:

A) You get a big good sounding room and put the choir in there!

B) You find the sweet spot between diffuse and direct signal ( i dont know the term in english)

C) you place a stereomic of some kind there

D) You take a llloooong ass time adjusting it in height and angle etc. depending on the Stereomic technique you've chosen

Sidenote: There are a lot of different stereo micing techniques each with their own benefits and disadvantages so you really gotta weight out what you wanna use...

I can say though that Id use an AB most of the time!

E) you place another Stereomic pair somewhere in the room where you only get the difuse signal (maybe even face em against the wall pretty high under the ceilling)

F) NOW THIS IS IMPORTANT: you let the choir sing a peace and listen to what your mics receive... If u get the feeling that you dont get the soloists capured for example u need to use backup mics to be able to emphasize solo voices...

NOW this is where it gets hairy again: You need to make sure all these mics are in phase or you will have a lot of problems lateron in the mix!!!

Well and that is it basicly :D GOOD LUCK
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17th May 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Danny Downer View Post
Well first of all I recorded some choirs in my young career and I can tell you that this is not the most traditional choir recording in my oppinion!

You can hear that some voices where effected singularly etc... (the phaser and stuff)

Normally you record a choir like this:

A) You get a big good sounding room and put the choir in there!

B) You find the sweet spot between diffuse and direct signal ( i dont know the term in english)

C) you place a stereomic of some kind there

D) You take a llloooong ass time adjusting it in height and angle etc. depending on the Stereomic technique you've chosen

Sidenote: There are a lot of different stereo micing techniques each with their own benefits and disadvantages so you really gotta weight out what you wanna use...

I can say though that Id use an AB most of the time!

E) you place another Stereomic pair somewhere in the room where you only get the difuse signal (maybe even face em against the wall pretty high under the ceilling)

F) NOW THIS IS IMPORTANT: you let the choir sing a peace and listen to what your mics receive... If u get the feeling that you dont get the soloists capured for example u need to use backup mics to be able to emphasize solo voices...

NOW this is where it gets hairy again: You need to make sure all these mics are in phase or you will have a lot of problems lateron in the mix!!!

Well and that is it basicly :D GOOD LUCK
Thanks Danny. This is exactly the type of thing I'm looking for. Sounds a lot like the process of getting a drum tone ..

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17th May 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KT1 View Post
Thanks Danny. This is exactly the type of thing I'm looking for. Sounds a lot like the process of getting a drum tone ..

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Well its the process of any classical recording basicly...

You can record a whole orchestra like this!
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17th May 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Danny Downer View Post
Well its the process of any classical recording basicly...

You can record a whole orchestra like this!
You say this like i should know? I can barely tie my own shoelaces..
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Haha nah bro u know I envy u for ur synthesis knowledge!!!
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The room is the key
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In the past I've recorded choirs and there's two ways I've done it.

1) If it's small enough (under 30 people or so) put them in a circle. Put two omni LDCs as a coincident pair in the center. Pan hard left/right. You'll get a wonderful sound with no gaps in the stereo field, collapses to mono well, etc.

2) A little more traditional: Leave the choir as is on their risers. Two mics medium distance, each kinda pointing at one half of the choir. Medium distance being like 12-15 feet or so. Then two more either ORTF or XY way back. Blend to taste.

But in situations where you are overdubbing, it's much more challanging and requires a producer who really knows what he's doing.

I should emphasise that the two biggest ingredients are 1) arrangement, as choir arrangements are generally different from say, pop/r&b vocal arrangements. 2) the use of vibrato which has different rules for classical compared to pop/r&b and can get kinda complicated.

Not sure if that helps or is the kind of info you are looking for.
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18th May 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KT1 View Post
Cant find anything actually
Here you go:

Drake's "Lord Knows" Choirs

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken Lewis View Post
pretty simple actually. We got a choir. We put them in the studio. Told them what to sing and how to sing it. recorded them. stacked them. then i worked some magic on the audio side and really dirtied the ish out of them, just blaze of course did his thing - times 1000, i created some music, Drake and Ross killed it. the end
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken Lewis View Post
Stacking vocals is recording multiple takes of the same part, so maybe for instance you take 4 full takes of the choir singing the same part, then i'd pan one hard left, one hard right, and maybe the other 2 left and right but not panned out very much. i would "stack" them
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18th May 2012
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Originally Posted by MediaMix View Post
Thanks media ..much appreciated the link.

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Quote:
Originally Posted by chris carter View Post
In the past I've recorded choirs and there's two ways I've done it.

1) If it's small enough (under 30 people or so) put them in a circle. Put two omni LDCs as a coincident pair in the center. Pan hard left/right. You'll get a wonderful sound with no gaps in the stereo field, collapses to mono well, etc.

2) A little more traditional: Leave the choir as is on their risers. Two mics medium distance, each kinda pointing at one half of the choir. Medium distance being like 12-15 feet or so. Then two more either ORTF or XY way back. Blend to taste.

But in situations where you are overdubbing, it's much more challanging and requires a producer who really knows what he's doing.

I should emphasise that the two biggest ingredients are 1) arrangement, as choir arrangements are generally different from say, pop/r&b vocal arrangements. 2) the use of vibrato which has different rules for classical compared to pop/r&b and can get kinda complicated.

Not sure if that helps or is the kind of info you are looking for.
Thanks Chris. I don't think with my recording experience I will be able to get what I need but I'm gonna give it a go. Have a great local small gospel choir who are willing to return a favour. Got a good space lined up and am sourcing some mics for the session. I will have an experienced tracking engineer on site. Just want to enter with an idea in mind.

Really appreciated ..its just a little daunting right now.

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19th May 2012
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Biggest problem recording choirs is getting them to sing in tune. this can be a MAJOR problem, especially if you are working with a choir who are not seasoned at recording.

The way i put together the Lord Knows choir, i hired a choir contractor to bring in a choir. a few hours before the session i get a call telling me that FAR fewer vocalists where going to show up than i was promised, so i got on the phone and called all my favorite local artists i work with and brought them in to supplement the choir. I think i ended up with about 15 people, which is not enough people for what we were going for.

then i brought in Alvin Fields to direct the choir (alvin and i sang the chant vocals together on "Power" and "Lost In The World" and we were also a part of the backing vocal group on "All Of The Lights". So, in the studio, i directed Alvin (and Just Blaze directed Alvin), Alvin directed the choir. the few times i wasnt getting exactly what i wanted, i directed the choir directly. We stacked alot of takes, and i sorted thru all of them, found the takes with the most power and solid intonation and used those. Pulled some studio magic out of my hat to make them sound big and gritty like an old church choir record and there you go.

In the session at Stadium Red Studios, i put the choir at one end of the live room, with 4 mics across the front of them, maybe 4 or 5 feet in front of them. Cant remember, maybe U87's and / or 414's, probably omni. Then i had a stereo pair of mics on the far end of the room to give it some depth. Blended everything to taste. It was a nightmare because not enough people showed up for what we were going for (yes, people were actually given the opportunity to sing on a Drake album and get paid for it and didnt show up!!!!!!!) So, at the session, i wasnt 100% sure we'd get what we really needed, which made the blending and mixing of the choir that much more challenging and important. but in the end it all worked out, as you can hear.

I ended up singing on a couple small parts of the record when we really needed the male voices to lead and every voice counted. mostly i just ran the circus. All of it was Just Blaze's vision, lets not get it twisted. i am not some genius who thought to bring in a choir, Just Blaze was. He told me what he wanted, what his vision for it was, and it was my job to deliver that vision. I did.

I used SSL 9000 mic pre's, cant remember if i used compression but probably not.
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19th May 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken Lewis View Post
Biggest problem recording choirs is getting them to sing in tune. this can be a MAJOR problem, especially if you are working with a choir who are not seasoned at recording.

The way i put together the Lord Knows choir, i hired a choir contractor to bring in a choir. a few hours before the session i get a call telling me that FAR fewer vocalists where going to show up than i was promised, so i got on the phone and called all my favorite local artists i work with and brought them in to supplement the choir. I think i ended up with about 15 people, which is not enough people for what we were going for.

then i brought in Alvin Fields to direct the choir (alvin and i sang the chant vocals together on "Power" and "Lost In The World" and we were also a part of the backing vocal group on "All Of The Lights". So, in the studio, i directed Alvin (and Just Blaze directed Alvin), Alvin directed the choir. the few times i wasnt getting exactly what i wanted, i directed the choir directly. We stacked alot of takes, and i sorted thru all of them, found the takes with the most power and solid intonation and used those. Pulled some studio magic out of my hat to make them sound big and gritty like an old church choir record and there you go.

In the session at Stadium Red Studios, i put the choir at one end of the live room, with 4 mics across the front of them, maybe 4 or 5 feet in front of them. Cant remember, maybe U87's and / or 414's, probably omni. Then i had a stereo pair of mics on the far end of the room to give it some depth. Blended everything to taste. It was a nightmare because not enough people showed up for what we were going for (yes, people were actually given the opportunity to sing on a Drake album and get paid for it and didnt show up!!!!!!!) So, at the session, i wasnt 100% sure we'd get what we really needed, which made the blending and mixing of the choir that much more challenging and important. but in the end it all worked out, as you can hear.

I ended up singing on a couple small parts of the record when we really needed the male voices to lead and every voice counted. mostly i just ran the circus. All of it was Just Blaze's vision, lets not get it twisted. i am not some genius who thought to bring in a choir, Just Blaze was. He told me what he wanted, what his vision for it was, and it was my job to deliver that vision. I did.

I used SSL 9000 mic pre's, cant remember if i used compression but probably not.
Thanks so much for such an informative response. Great read. Enjoyed reading about the challenges. I cant believe that choir was as small as you have stated. The sonic of the recording - the 'grit' you added..is one of the parts that really gets me. It sounds natural and has so much presence. This is the thing i find that gets me every time with certain engineers. Sure JB had the idea that's why he is what he is right Ken? It doesn't change the fact that you helped with Alvin to make it a reality.

Awesome! Really inspired after hearing this.

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