How to Create a Virtual Choir Part 2: Audio Editing in Logic Pro X

Updated: Jan 27



Hello virtual choir enthusiasts! I’m very excited to jump back into this virtual choir discussion, and to share my approach on how to handle the audio portion of the creation process.


This is Part 2 / 3 of the "How to Create a Virtual Choir" series. Be sure to also check out:


Part 1: How to Create a Virtual Choir: Organization is Key

Part 3: How to Create a Virtual Choir: Video Editing in Final Cut Pro X


This is just a taste of our content, so be sure to subscribe to our email list for more virtual music tips.


As another resource to you, I have recorded a basic walkthrough of my process, bringing this three-part-series to a visual format. If you learn something from it, consider subscribing to our YouTube channel for more helpful tips.



Focus on The Music


The mysterious concept of “mastering your track” is one that we will save for another conversation. All you need to do in creating your track is to make sure that your overall mix is loud enough (unless you plan on having your audio track dispersed to a series of online streaming platforms). Instead of just raising the volume (that may cause clipping, which you don’t want), putting a limiter on your master track is a sure-fire way of raising your volume while making sure your high volume peaks don’t clip. Once you have done this, bounce your track by clicking ⌘B. You now have your completed mix, ready to be inserted into your video editor of choice!


When creating a virtual choir, don’t make the mistake of treating the video as the foremost priority, and audio as a mere afterthought (which I’ve seen been done on numerous occasions).


Think about it: back when regular choir concerts existed (I know, think way way back, but they were real once), people came to listen to the music. Having a proper dress code, good formation, and overall presentation certainly added to the experience, but only in a way to serve the music. Creating virtual choirs should be no different. With that, I give this advice to you: go the distance and ensure the overall quality and cohesiveness of the audio to the best of your ability. It’s worth it. Yes, I assure you it takes time to edit your track, but I’d prefer a more functional, basic video with tight sounding audio any day over the reverse.


To go down the rabbit hole of mixing and mastering can be a dangerous one, and after a few years of experience, I can assure you that the more you learn, the more you will discover you do not know. That being said, I will try to contain this article to one of simplicity and basic procedure, as an assistance to those seeking basic instructions in creating their very own virtual choir. I will break it down into a few chunks: session organization, audio alignment, creating a functional mix, and bouncing your file.


Recommendation: While Audacity and Garageband are free (and mostly great for this purpose) audio workstations, I recommend editing in either Logic Pro X, Protools (Avid), Digital Performer, or any of the non-free editing software out there. However, Reaper compares to the non-free software, and it is actually free (I just learned this)! If you choose to go for any of the priced software, I really do believe that it is a worthy investment. I chose to display my examples in Logic, although I frequently use Protools as my primary editing software.


Session organization


If you already read my first installment of virtual choir creation, then you know how important I (as any creator should) value organization. So when you are importing or dragging your audio files into your session, do not do so haphazardly. Here’s an example of what one of my virtual choir sessions in Protools looks like:


Notice everything, from the color coding, to the diligent labelling of files, to the session markers at the top. Here’s a list of must do’s for every virtual choir project:


  1. Label Your Tracks. Every time I choose to skip this step, I tend to regret it later down the road. If you are editing with another collaborator, labeling is absolutely essential.

  2. Organize your session from top to bottom. Start with your click track at the top, followed by any accompaniment tracks (if different). If you have soloists (marked in orange), place them underneath. I also recommend organizing your choir sectionally, even if you choose to intersperse their vocals in the mix.

  3. Color Code. That way, you never get lost. If you want to make an edit to the tenors (which we all know the tenors are going to make mistakes XD), color them the same. If you are using Logic, as per the example, make sure to color code in the mixer as well as the editing window

  4. Create Groups (Track stacks in Logic). This is different than creating a bus, which is an optional — but important—mixing procedure. Above, I created a track stack by:

  • Highlighting my tracks I want to group (in this case all of my choir tracks)

  • Right clicking on the tracks control bar (not the tracks area) and selecting “Make Track Stack”. You may also use the shortcut, ⇧⌘D.


Audio Alignment

Once you have done all of the above, then you can start to align your tracks. This part is the most, simple, yet crucial part of virtual choirs. If you have a clap sync point, all you have to do is align the tracks to the clap! The waveforms stick out like a sore thumb, so it’s a good way of syncing tracks.


Tip: If you are dragging your video files directly into your Logic session, they will be defaulted to having a SMPTE lock. You can remove that by right clicking on your audio files and clicking "Remove SMPTE Lock". From there, simply drag your clips into place!


Bonus tip: Dragging your clips into place not working? Try nudging. You can nudge by selecting your track, hold down Option (⌥), and use your right and left arrow keys to move your track around. You can change your nudge value by right clicking on your track, selecting move, and then "change nudge value to..".


Disclaimer:

Make sure to listen to the alignment of each track after you sync the claps. Depending on the ensemble, the clap point may not be precise, so a good (sometimes better) way to sync tracks is just by looking at the waveform. Using the marquee or scissors tools can be helpful to make quick cuts.



If you are looking for quicker ways to sync your tracks, check out Da Vinci Resolve.

It’s free if you don’t purchase the studio version, and Da Vinci is turning into a powerhouse in the NLE world (Non Linear Editing). I believe they have a “match waveform” sync option. Powerful stuff.



Creating a Functional Mix


Before you add reverb…..

As mentioned earlier, there are many many ways to mix, edit, and improve your raw choir tracks and turn them into a nice performance. I encourage you not to just add reverb to your mix, bounce off your track, and start video editing. Here are my quick fix recommendations to greatly improve your mix:


1. Balance your voices. Play with the volume knob on each track to set your levels straight. Here is your real, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to lower your tenors in the mix. Finally!


2. Pan! Make sure to utilize the full stereo space that G-d has given you (or if you don’t believe, what Steve Jobs has given you indirectly). Whether you choose to separate your parts by section or mixed is your decision.


3. Put a High-Pass filter on your singers. To speed things up, I use a bus to mix my sections at once (so I can round up all of the tenor *noise* at once). Other EQ work can be very important, but this is a quick fix to remove all the rumble of the room noise you don’t ever need. Below is an example of an EQ band on a track. I tend to advocate for reductive EQ (removing frequencies) over additive EQ (boosting frequencies) to a mix.



4. Compression. This, along with EQ, deserve an entirely different stage to be discussed, but adding compression (in a healthy, limited amount) not only gives you more control over your parts, but can add nice coloration and breathing room to your mix. Don’t over compress!!

Okay, add your reverb. It is a virtual choir after all!

Now that we have finally come to this step, adding reverb isn’t actually the most intuitive process. To give you increased control over how much reverb is applied to a given track, and to create a sense of cohesion in your reverb, we need to put the reverb effect its own separate track.


Here’s my step-by-step process of applying reverb on a given track, using Logic Pro X as my example interface:


1. Create an auxiliary track. While in your mixing window, hit ⌃N, or go select options, and click “Create New Auxiliary Channel Strip”.