It’s interesting – most articles, blog posts, and recording forums seem to rarely touch on the topic of recording children in the studio. It’s easy to understand why. It’s not a topic as glamorous as discussing the next best compressor, or console, or microphone, or whatever studio equipment trend is being fed to us by the ads on our favorite recording website or in magazines. However, at the end of the day, we will be judged by our techniques and workflow and not by what gear we used.
So let’s talk about children in the recording studio in regards to Pop or Rock music production. Sounds scary, yea? There’s all these little people with little hands ready, willing, and desperately wanting to grab at every piece of expensive gear in the room. Yikes! That scared me a little. Truth is recording kids, or even young adults, in the studio can be a blast.
In my experience, to be successful at recording children in the recording studio you need to be efficient, fast, and… realistic.
Being efficient means having the mics setup and ready to go when they walk in the door. You have to trust your gut and make a judgment call on the mic selection and placement. Have the mics on stands, with cables, plugged into mic preamps, and routed into your recorder. If you try and test every microphone in your locker along with all sorts of placement options, more times than not, you’re going to end up with a group of restless kids pretty quick.
If you’re fast then you’re well versed in the digital audio workstation (DAW) of your choice. You need to be able to setup and duplicate tracks easily, comp. takes quickly, and handle any additional editing as if it were second nature. Have the tracks created and ready to go. Make sure you have the headphone cues setup and ready as well. You need to be able to operate your DAW without really thinking about it.
Now comes the easy part – be realistic. What do I mean by this? Let’s face it, kids have fun, quirky, and cute voices. It’s pretty rare that a group of kids comes through the door sounding like an award winning children’s choir. You need to realize that while it will sound good it may not ever be perfect. Just think about that for a minute because it’s important. Not every take is going to be the take. Every takes is going to have, at least, one of the kids slightly outta time or outta pitch. If you are recording a small group of kids multiple times to create a choir effect then you want the variation anyway. I recommend just going through takes, fairly quick, and then editing the best you can after the fact. Yes this may be fixing it in the mix, which we should never do, but we have to be… what? Realistic. Good job!
So when it comes down to it, having children in the recording studio can be a stressful yet insanely fun learning experience for them and it can also be rewarding for you. Just use your gut and work quickly and you’ll be fine. Besides, fingerprints wash off but the experience will last a lifetime for you and them.
Just to show an example of how to make this happen, take a look at this video of the Colorado Children’s Choir (Evergreen, CO) singing the ever popular We Are the World
And here is a photo of children from the local elementary school singing backing vocals to the Big Green Carpet tune, Common Ground.