Choir Layering Experiment

I did this as an experiment to see if I could put together a decent sounding choir part that has words, not just vowels. At first I thought I might be able to record myself making a variety of consonant sounds and then put them together with some choir libraries to construct words, but that very much did not work.

Then I decided I’d just record myself several times, trying to add variety in each take and then layer them. I made copies of each take and added a vocal transformer to adjust the formant on some of them to vary the tracks further. Then I mixed in 3 different choir libraries playing the part to add texture. I did try to match the vowels of each choir sample to the word that it was playing under, so I might switch it from an E to an AH to an O, or something.

I came up with the melody first, then recorded/mixed all the choir parts, then came up with the instrumental accompaniment.

The choir part is unison, except for a low root drone and a low 5th. The next time I try this I want to write multiple choir parts with more harmony. And I’d like to take more time in recording and do more passes to build a bigger choir. The main thing I wanted to test with this was to see if I could use some basic choir libraries and my own voice to construct a workable choir recording using words without having to purchase a library that can edit syllables or gather a room full of singers to mic.

I’d love to hear any feedback of what you think, or if anyone’s done anything similar to this before.

Genre/Style: I call it a Viking Choir.

Creative Vision for the Track: It was a test of different choir ideas. I kind of imagined it as the first part of an intro for a game or a show. Like opening credits music. I might add more sections later where the instruments take over from the choir.

Composition Details (Tempo, Key, Main Chords etc): It’s a slow tempo. It’s in E.

Main Instruments used: The main thing is the choir. For the choir samples I used Classical Male Choir and Gregorian Choir from the GarageBand Jampack and Sonatina Male choir. The instruments are all from BBCSO Core from Spitfire.


Very nice work, Mike! Very visual music that captures your intent wonderfully!

Great choice of supporting libraries. Again, it helped create the mood and gravity of the piece.

Bear McCreary, the composer for “Black Sails”, did a vlog on how they did some of the chants for the series. I believe it was called “Singers of Sails”. They walk through a few different mic-ing techniques plus a very interesting performance technique to give it the sound of lots of voices (basically singing in a loud whisper and layering that behind multiple layers of full voiced singers). Worth a look!

Again, nice job here!


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Funny you mention Bear McCreary because the last God of War game, which he scored, was kind of the inspiration for this idea. I’ll definitely look that up. Thanks!


I met Bear at an ASCAP event a couple years ago. An amazing and talented man!

A great composer! One of my favorites, and not nearly recognized enough imho. His work on Battlestar Galactica is among my personal favorites. :slight_smile:

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Awesome piece, and interesting approach! Sound amazing.

I’ve been planning on doing stuff like this, in particular after I started taking vocal coaching some time ago (starting with opera, now looking into jazz), but haven’t done anything where it seemed appropriate yet.

BTW, I have the EastWest Hollywood Choirs, which does sing actual lyrics, in a similar fashion to how speech synthesizers splice consonants and vowels together. Would come in handy for layering here (though it’s already quite capable on its own), but it does take some effort to get good results with it. The included phrases are surprisingly unimpressive (one would have expected those to be tuned to perfection…), and the text-to-phonetics translation is more of an “I have no idea what I’m doing” entry point, so the “proper” approach is to do it all in phonetics, and then tweak as needed in the integrated sequencer. That part works rather well, though, so if you’re prepared to do the work, it’s not a bad tool.


Funny thing was that I was in a monastery for 3 days with my school a week ago (yeah it’s a catholic school) and this reminded me of the Gregorian chants by the monks. Very nice work!


David, I’ve heard that about the fussiness of the EastWest Hollywood Choir. I feel like that’s the next frontier in digital music is making realistic and usable digital choirs. I definitely want to try out EastWest as soon as I get a computer that can handle it.

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I love it. Really cool man! Great inspiration behind the piece too!

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Very nice done. I´ve tried to do something similar with Hollywood choir wordbuilder but not managed to get anything good yet. Well done.