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Recording Multiple Voices Simultaneously?

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KingConga wrote:


What's the best way to record 3 bckground voices at the same time?  Should I record each 1 separately for greatest manageability, or set up 2 condensors on 2 separate ch.s on the board?



Frankly, it depends on the quality of the singers, and how well rehearsed and prepared they are.

If they've been singing together for a while, and are good singers and know how to sing in pitch and blend and phrase well together, I'd recommend setting them up in a semi-circle around a single large diaphragm omnidirectional condenser and have them sing simultaneously. You can adjust their relative positioning until you like the overall blend - make the loudest singer move back a bit, move the softest one a little closer to the mic, etc. If you want a produced sound, you can overdub them a few times for a thicker sounding BGV "section."

If you think you're going to need to adjust things like the releases of phrases (so they all "end together") or if you have pitch issues and think you're going to need to do a fair amount of doctoring there, then I'd recommend tracking them all individually. If you've got a couple of iso booths, you can separate them so you don't have bleed issues and then try tracking them at the same time, but to separate tracks.

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Hardware support: you need a sound card or external sound device which has enough Analogue to Digital Converters (ADC's) to do multi-channel recording. Most consumer cards only have one stereo pair of ADC's that is switched between various inputs such as Line-In and "Mic". You'll need at least a semi-professional device to find support for multi-channel recording.

Driver support: the drivers for the device must make it possible to record more than two channels at once. This is more problematic that it might seem because the standard sound interfaces for many operating systems were designed long before multi-channel recording was possible, and so only allow for up to two channels of recording. Also, consumer-level systems are not designed to achieve the low latencies and high throughputs needed for high quality multi-channel recordings.

Application support: the application you are recording into must support working with multiple channels of audio. Audacity prior to legacy 1.3.8 can potentially record up to 16 simultaneous channels of audio, while current Audacity and legacy 1.3.8 onwards supports recording however many channels the device offers (for example, 24). The number of channels desired can be selected in the Audio I/O tab of Preferences. There are two current limitations:

Channel selection: You can't select exactly which channels are used - Audacity will simply use the first ones it finds. You may need to increase the number of recording channels in Audacity preferences (possibly to the maximum supported by the device, even though you are only recording a subset of them), until all you want are included. This may mean having to delete silent tracks after recording. Some sound cards or devices however will display a "Multi" device. Selecting this as recording device in Audacity should let you record all the channels at once automatically.

Channel to track allocation: Particular channels of the sound device can't be recorded to particular tracks. After recording, multi-channel files can be exported using current Audacity, by choosing the appropriate mixdown option in Preferences (File Formats tab in 1.3.3 or Import/Export tab in 1.3.5 and later). Playback support in Audacity is currently limited to stereo (2 channels), so all multi-channel recordings will be sent to your sound device in stereo. Your device can probably be configured as to whether the front left and front right speakers are used, or if output is duplicated to the surround channels. Offers from developers to help us add support for multi-channel playback are welcomed - to get in touch please join our developers' mailing list.

Crucially, available driver and application support for multi-channel audio (and whether you can use Audacity for multi-channel recording) depends on the operating system you are using. Please check the relevant section below for your particular system.

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