Shepherds Arise!

The next #TradSongTues topic is `Carols', and carols definitely sound best with lots of folk singing them. So here’s a followup to our previous Trad Song Tuesday Choir version of Country Life where a bunch of people on the internet all contributed tracks to a multitrack recording. This time we’re going to sing “Shepherds Arise!” from the Copper Family.

I’ve made a (very) rough two part recording. You can download that, record your own part (harmony, unison, both are great) and send it back to me by Sunday the 16th. I’ll assemble everybody’s contributions and release something on Tuesday. Won’t that be fun?

A few tips on recording

The key thing for getting a usable recording is that you must be able to hear the track you’re singing along with as you sing. If you’ve got a device with Garageband or something similar, life is easy, just just add a new vocal track, stick your headphones on, run through the song a few times to get a feel for the pitch and tempo, then hit record and have at it.

Things get a little trickier if you don’t have multitrack software, if all else fails, borrow a friend’s phone and record on that while you listen to the track on your phone. In this case, maybe leave one earbud out so you can hear yourself better.

Don’t throw anything away

It might take you a couple of takes to get a recording you’re really happy with, but unless the earlier takes are really terrible, send them too. Audio editing software is magical and I can use good bits from one take to fix bad bits in another.

Do it again

Got a good take? Record another! It might be better, and it’s amazing how good a vocal track can sound when you take two or three recordings of the same singer singing in unison with themself and play them together. It sounds ‘fuller’ somehow.

Editing is magic

I usually sing the high line of Shepherds Arise, so I was comfortable leaving a gap for the low “With our blessed infant there” and coming in on the right note without needing to hear something as I was doing it. However, when it came time to record the low part, if I tried not singing anything as the high part sang “To our Redeemer” in the chorus then I couldn’t hit the right note when I came in with the repeat. So I just sang along, got the note right, and edited out the bit I shouldn’t have been singing. Easy. If it helps you, then do exactly the same thing, it’s easily fixed.

Microphone technique

Your phone’s microphone is amazing. There are 20th century recording artists who would kill for something as good as the mic in your pocket. The chief limitation of a phone mic is that it hears everything, so you want your voice to be, by far the loudest sound it hears, thus drowning everything else out. You might think that holding your phone up two or three inches in front of your mouth is the way to go, and it’ll sound great, right up until the ‘p’ in “Shepherds” when the high velocity air that leaves your mouth every time you make a plosive sound hits your poor undefended microphone and overloads it with a popping sound. You don’t want that. The trick is to hold the phone to one side and, rather than pointing it towards your face, turn it through 90° so it’s pointing across your face. It will look a bit weird, but the mic is omnidirectional, and you’ve reduced the risk of popping dramatically.

If you do have a decent external mic and the gear to connect it, then don’t let me stop you. Great as phone mics are, the noise rejection an external mic is a definite plus. If you enjoy recording yourself, then a cheap large diaphragm condenser mic and audio interface are very good investments, but don’t go spending money just to contibute to Trad Song Tuesday Choir projects.


If you want to shoot a video of you singing, brilliant, I’ll be making one of myself and it’d be great to have some others to edit into the final version. If you don’t want to shoot a video, that’s great too.

Getting the files

I’m a Mac and iPhone user, so it’ll be easier if you are too. On an iPhone or an iPad, you can download the GarageBand for iOS file, make a copy, do your recording and then share your version back to me.

If you’re on a Mac, theres a Mac GarageBand file available too. Again, download it, add your tracks, then zip it up and share it back to me.

If you don’t have GarageBand, there are three audio files available, A rough mix, which is probably the best option if you’re going to be listening on one device and recording on another, or high line and low line recordings which you can grab and drop into the recording software of your choice. Once you’ve made your recordings, please send me files of the individual tracks.

Getting your recordings back to me

The best way of getting in touch is by email to Put TradSongTuesChoir in the subject. Don’t attach your files to the email, they’ll be too big. Instead, send me a link to them (GarageBand has ways to let you share projects via email that don’t involve attaching the file, so use them if you’re on a Mac or iDevice). If you don’t have a Dropbox or similar, drop me some email and I’ll send you a link to somewhere you can upload your tracks and some more detail on what to call them when you do.

Have fun!

Recording stuff for #TradSongTues every week has been great fun and a lovely change of pace during my week. I encourage everyone to have a go. Hopefully adding your voice to our choir this week will just be the start. Thanks in advance for all your contributions.

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