"How to" Guide to Virtual Choir

By Joseph Ripka, Director of Music


“A virtual choir, online choir or home choir is a choir whose members do not meet physically, but who work together online from separate places.” This is one of the many definitions you will find if you Google ‘Virtual Choir.’ This kind of choir, though not a new invention, has essentially been the primary way for singers to sing ‘together’ during the Covid19 pandemic. Our services over the past few months have included several musical offerings assembled as virtual choir pieces, including the psalm last Sunday and the choir anthem for this coming Sunday.

All Saints’ has been blessed with many talented singers and wonderful choral groups over the years, including the Senior Choir, Chamber Choir, Day School Choristers, Community Choristers, and Schola Cantorum. Belonging to a choir and participating in a choir is a true family experience. Many of our own All Saints’ long-term choir members also sing in a variety of different vocal ensembles around the valley. Choir participation becomes a wonderful weekly routine and an experience that forms bonds, friendships and family.

If you have sung in a choir before, you know that there are many skills that form the choral sound. Breathing together, listening together, making sounds together - all of these things combined, and many more, form the basis of how choirs sound the way they do. Many of these skills are those in which it's very helpful to be aware of the other singers in the room and respond to what they are doing. Imagine taking all of those group skills that conductors and singers depend on out of the music making process, and then asking choir members to wear headphones and sing to a video recorder in their living rooms! This is the new reality of week-to-week choir performance.

Over the next few weeks, I would like to share with you the process through which our choirs have come together to make choral music during this pandemic. I hope it will shed some light on the work that we do each week and inspire your thoughts and ideas. Over the next two weeks, I will also share with you the process of recording and editing these virtual choir videos.

If you haven’t already, I invite you to browse our All Saints’ YouTube channel where you can find some of our various virtual choir recordings. You can link to our channel HERE. Please also watch for music updates on the church website.  


The recording process contains several parts, depending on the type of virtual choir music selected. Regardless of the music, all virtual choir recordings need a recording guide or ‘click track.’ The term ‘click track’ technically refers to the use of a metronome to keep a steady beat but has evolved into a general term referring to any recording guide for virtual choir recordings.

After I’ve decided on a musical selection, the first step is to prepare the musical score. Just as with live rehearsal, I make notes in the score to indicate where I’d like the choir to breathe, what dynamics (loud and soft) should be emphasized, or to indicate exact placement of consonants. This is important for virtual choir recordings since it will be up to each individual singer to be as exact as possible while recording alone. In a live rehearsal or performance, we can rely on body language, gesture, eye contact, the conductor, and our ears to help us place these things in the proper places.

The next step is to make a simple recording of the choir parts and accompaniment, if any, either on the piano or by using a music notation software such as Finale or Sibelius. This will not only guide the singers rhythmically, but also provide them with pitches and a tonal center.

After I have an adequate audio recording of the choir parts and a marked score, I can then use video editing software to create a video of myself conducting through the music. When choir members receive this recording guide, they will rely on this video for visual and aural cues. Here is an example of a recording guide that was made for a psalm recording:


Next, I email the recording guide video to the singers with detailed instructions and a printable score. In order for singers to make a recording at home, they must have two electronic devices.

1) A device to listen to the recording guide with headphones.

2) Another device to make the video recording, such as an iPhone.

The reason for using headphones on device number 1 is to ensure that the recording guide audio is not picked up in the recording onto device number 2. The recording that the singer makes should contain just the solo voice with pauses or rests. The singer then uploads the video file and sends it via email to me.

Sometimes, when the choir music has an organ accompaniment, it is necessary to have the conductor conduct while the organist plays through the accompaniment during the audio recording. This will ensure good musical communication with the organist, conductor, and ultimately, all of the singers who submit recordings.

Here are some links to a few other recording guides:



Check back next week to read about the editing process! This Sunday, the psalm is a virtual choir recording and the offertory anthem is a wonderful handbell solo by Diane Peters, which includes violin and piano accompaniment.


Click here to see this article with screenshots of each step.

Here comes the fun part! (or the frustrating part) The final step is, of course, assembling all of the submitted recordings. This part of the process is the most educational in terms of teaching me what I did right or wrong with my recording guides. For the most part, I’ve had success with assembling our virtual choirs because of our talented singers! The process for editing has a few steps before the actual alignment and synchronization process can happen. First, after collecting all of the video files, I need to detach the audio from each video by using Apple Quicktime and convert the format into WAV. Waveform Audio File Format. The default format that must be converted is m4a. Second, I upload all WAV files into Garage Band by voice type beginning with the accompaniment track.

It is very important to get all of the audio files in sync and balanced according to volume before any video synchronization can begin. This is the virtual ‘rehearsal’ if you will. In the example above, you see the WAV files arranged in ‘steps.’ These ‘steps’ correspond to different verses of a psalm. Separating them helps me to align consonants perfectly and also adjust volume accordingly.

Once I am happy with the result, I then export the assembled file as a master audio WAV. Next, I open my video editing software. Currently I am using Movavi but I’ve recently been training myself to use Adobe Premiere Pro. Here I need to upload the MASTER AUDIO WAV, and all videos that have been submitted. Please note that the videos still have audio attached. This will be helpful when I sync the video movement to the MASTER AUDIO. Here you can see what it looks like with one video of the organist in the editor.

The way I sync the video is by aligning the two WAVE forms, one in green and one in blue. Here is what it looks like magnified for fine tuning:

I must repeat the process for each video that I insert. Of course, the more singers you have the more time it takes! Once all of the videos are in sync, I can ‘layer’ each image or arrange the boxes on the screen and add special effects such as fading, etc.

As you know, the final product is only an approximation of what our singers can actually do. I hope that this has shed some light on some of our ‘behind the scenes’ virtual worship. Please feel free to send me an email and let me know which ones you enjoyed the most, or if you’d like more information.