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choir recording

Discussion in 'Vocals' started by kylempetersen, Feb 19, 2008.

  1. Hey all,
    This is my very first post. I really dug this forum after I just happened to come across it and decided to join. Anywho, I have a session where I am tracking a 25-30 piece choir. I am planning on recording sections of the choir separately not only for the control aspect (when mixing) but also because our tracking room won't fit that many people comfortably. My question(s) is/are what mics would any of you recommend for the recording? Our mic locker consists of a pair of C414s, a pair of Neumann TLM 127s, a pair of Royer 121s, among many others (just listing our pairs). Also...would it be best to do a stereo pair for each section of the choir or track some sections in mono and others in stereo? Keep in mind that the choir will have a backing band (drums, bass, guitar, piano, etc.) Also, for monitoring purposes we have monitors mounted in our tracking room and I've heard of a little trick to help larger choirs track...

    Track the choir while they are monitoring through the monitors in the tracking room so they don't have to use headphones (thus being able to hear each other a lot easier without the trouble of having that many headphone mixes). Obviously there will be bleed into the mics...and I've heard one way to get rid of it is to flip the polarity of the microphone(s) and leave them in the exact same position and just record the "bleed" from the monitors and when combined with the original track with the choir it'll cancel out the "bleed" I was just curious if any of you have heard of that technique or if it works and how well? Thanks! I think that's all the questions I have for right now. If any of you have any other suggestions I'm all ears.

  2. BobRogers

    BobRogers Distinguished Member

    Apr 4, 2006
    Blacksburg, VA
    This trick has been discussed before on this board a year or two ago. I could not find it with a quick search. Maybe someone else will remember who was involved and have better keywords.

    I have not done choirs and will let those in the know give their advice, but I'm skeptical about recording the choir in multiple sections - especially if you are trying the reverse phase trick. Might work on one take...3 or 4 ... well, I'd love to hear it.
  3. JoeH

    JoeH Distinguished Member

    Jun 22, 2004
    Philadelphia, PA/ Greenville, DE
    Home Page:
    Regardless of mic choices, for all the effort and aggravation you're about to put yourself through, why not hire (or barter/trade) a local church hall and be done with it? You'll have to lug some equipment, sure, but you can do the whole choir at once and be done with it. You'll probably get a better overall performance out of it as well.

    If your backing track is already done, you could put it on a CD player (or even an iPod) and use it for playback at the church session. (I'd recommend single earcup headphones, but that's just me...) One trick is to put every OTHER person on headphones, so you could do this with 12-15 headphones instead of 30. The others - while hearing those in tune/on pitch - will be able to follow them and the conductor - who will also be on headphones. (You ARE having a conductor for the choir, right?) You might even have an accompanist (also on headphones) playing along with the track to keep things in tempo & on pitch, but only if the piano was going to be part of the track in the end, of course.

    As for mic choices in the studio, I'd go with the best cardioid pair of the lot in the middle of each "Take" or section; in ORTF pattern, high enough above the front line of the singers, looking slightly down on them. If you go with the church option, add a pair of omni's far left & right (flanks, as they've been called more recently) for a wide & smoother blend. Mix to taste (esp as it fits with your track) and off you go.

    Remember: choirs function together as a blended group of voices, not layers of separate, disembodied sections. When doing harmonies and accompaniment tracks, it's important they hear each other - while it's happening - to make that wonderful sound of a choir - intonation is crucial for a good choir sound, and it's better made "live", in real time.

    What you're considering certainly can be done, but unless they're a professional, highly skilled group (with a conductor), they might be a little sloppy with entrances and attacks from one take to another, taking away from the overall blend once you try to mix them at the end of it all. Multiply this by all your multiple takes, and you may have a lot of "Fixing" to do after they go home. AND, if they're professional singers, they're not going to be very happy about multiple takes over and over again, so if you go this route, make sure you've got everything ready to go before they walk in the door. Having 25-30 people milling around between takes might put a strain on your studios resources.

    That speaker trick you mention is OK for a take or two, but I'm already cringing at the thought of doing that over and over again with multiple passes. What's left over might not be pretty, is all's I'm sayin....
    I'd still recommend the HPs, however you end up tracking it.

    Good luck!

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