Rob Meffe, Music Director and online music wizard, walks us through how he compiled the voices of the ensemble.
There are only eight cast members in the SDSU production of Pippin, and there are many moments of the show that require an entire cast of singers singing together in wonderful majestic moments. So how do we achieve this big sound with only eight actors? Here is a sneak peak into our process.
As part of the licensing agreement with Music Theatre International (MTI), we rented use of orchestral backing tracks that were recorded with live musicians in New York. This excerpt of “Magic to Do” from Pippin is a playback of part of one of those rented tracks, and that is what I use to start the ensemble recording process.
Once I have loaded the orchestral backing track into a music software program called Logic, I connected my electric piano in my office to my computer and played each of the soprano, alto, tenor and bass lines on a synthesized piano sound. After I recorded each individual part, I sent the recordings to the cast members for them to record at home (we are rehearsing in the time of COVID, remember?). All of the women made at least two different recordings of themselves singing the alto and soprano parts and them men made two recordings of both the tenor and bass parts. They recorded their voice in an external microphone while singing along to the backing track and the piano line fed into their headphones; that way, it isolates just their voice.
The eight members of the cast uploaded all of their recordings (the total is around forty) to a Google Drive folder. I retrieved those files and loaded them into Logic. In this video, you can hear one isolated cast member singing a part of the alto line of “Magic To Do” along with the orchestral track. One interesting facet of this recording is that you will hear a clap before the singing starts. That clap is very important to me, because I use that sudden sound to line up all of the vocal tracks so it sounds like everyone is singing together, even though they were all recording their parts in their own homes.
In this video you can see all the vocalist tracks highlighted and hear what they sound like when all of the tracks are laid down on top of each other. Again, you can hear the clap lined up perfectly so they sound like they are singing together.
After some vocal adjustments in compression, EQ and a little reverb, I’ve put all of the vocal tracks together with the orchestral backing track and you can hear the finished product from this point in the song to the end. When we film the show in April this track will play along with the live actors singing from the stage of the Don Powell so it will give the aural impression of many more people singing. Enjoy!