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Mic placement for a choir

Discussion in 'Vocals' started by EvilOverlord, Aug 29, 2006.

  1. EvilOverlord

    EvilOverlord Guest

    I have to record a choir, with band for a few events a year. We hire in the equipment most years, so it's kind of a blank slate, however it's a charity affair, so budget is exceptionally tight for what people want out of it. We produce a CD each year, but the results have been haphazard in the past and usually require way too much time trying to fix problems in post production; time none of us really want to spend.

    I've seen people work incredible magic using nothing but a few SM58s on high stands and careful mixing, and we've done some experimentation with mic placement, but the choir always come out very thinly, especially the men. We are going to multitrack the recording in future, but I'm still worried that I have no real idea how a choir should be miced up properly.

    It's an SATB group arranged Sop-Ten-Bas-Alt, though sometimes we put the male line behind the female one. Using dynamic mics only ends up catching a few people in each section, and cartoid condenser mics always pic up waaaay too much spill from the band, and feedback from the monitors prevents them being turned up too high (I understand this isn't a recording issue but the mics are used for the performance as well as the recording).

    I've googled about but there doesn't seem to be much clear advice. Thanks for reading.
  2. pmolsonmus

    pmolsonmus Well-Known Member

    HI Evil,

    Try this for the bleed issue and do a search for choirs/ chorus in this forum and you should find a bunch of info.

    (Dead Link Removed)

    If you can avoid monitors for the choir your life will be much easier. But if you must, I would try to put them behind the choir, and not use the same mics for recording as PA if possible.

  3. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    That's what I've usually done with a church choir and a rock band for accompaniment, like for Yolanda Adams live in Washington DC. SM57/58 but forget about any kind of "XY" or "ORTF". Put up 4 spaced microphones in a row in front of the choir and try to keep them within 6 to 8 feet in front of and above the choir. The closer you can get them to the choir the more low frequencies you will obtain.

    I love SM57's/58's for recording
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  4. zemlin

    zemlin Well-Known Member

    Are you recording a live performance, or would it be possible to track the band seperate from the choir? I've had good success (well once anyway) recording a choir using recorded music. I had speakers in front of the choir so they could hear the music and a pair of SDC mics ORTF in front of the choir.

    I had the music loud enough so the choir could hear easily - recorded the choir - then did another take WITHOUT CHANGING A THING - played just the music and the choir was SILENT. I took the second track, inverted it on the first, and got OUTSTANDING cancelation of the music - I was then able to mix in the recorded music clean without worrking about the spill in the mics.
  5. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    zemlin, GREAT SUGGESTION! That is also a great technique in the studio to use during overdub sessions. You can turn the studio speakers on and let them really get into the feeling. Once they are done singing, remove them from the studio and record an additional track as if they were in front of the microphone, only you will be recording the room sound with the speakers on. You must make absolutely certain not to move any microphones or speakers otherwise this will not work. Then you combine both tracks together out of phase without ever moving any of the microphones. The speakers will magically cancel out! I've used it many times since 1978. It's magically delicious!

    Always disappearing
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  6. Sonarerec

    Sonarerec Guest

    Excellent technique! I did something similar on a choral/organ project with brass on a few tracks.

    It is nearly impossible to have brass within a country mile of a 30-voice choir and have a balance, so the brass was overdubbed.

    The brass had the previous choral stuff to listen to (plus a counting track-- less bleed than a click) and once the whining stopped the results were good. There tracks needed more editing to get attacks and note lengths with the choir material, but the ability to let them play with intensity and also have good balance made up for the editing headaches.

  7. DavidSpearritt

    DavidSpearritt Well-Known Member

    Interesting technique.

    Recently, we got less than satisfactory results in a live performance recording of Karl Jenkins "The Armed Man", where the amateur choir was accompanied by two trumpets and a drum and percussion kit in front of them in a 6 sec RT60 Gothic Cathedral. A feature of this piece about war, was some huge explosion sounds from the drums, percussion and some massive fanfares from the dualling trumpets. They love playing loud those trumpeters, especially when trying to outdo each other. :shock:

    Boy oh boy, balance ended up being impossible, our MK21 pair could not dig out the choir. In hindsight and with more soundcheck, we should have used 3 or 4 figure 8's across the choir with their nulls down to the trumpets and drumkit, and then miked the trumpets and drums with an SF24 low.

    The trouble with amateur choirs is to get blend you have to move out, because voices stick out, but they don't have the vocal production to sing out enough. One of the most difficult jobs we have had in a long time.
  8. Sonarerec

    Sonarerec Guest

    David- we live and learn. Well, some only live!

  9. DavidSpearritt

    DavidSpearritt Well-Known Member

    Indeed. Reminds me of a quote from some aussie footy coach somewhere, that I always remember. "There are 3 types of people in the world. Those that make it happen, those that watch it happen and those that say, "What happened?""
  10. MasonMedia

    MasonMedia Guest

    I too have used spaced fig-8s on a large choir accompanied by a band with good results. I use 15' tall stands and booms so mics can be placed above and forward facing down into the group with the nulls aimed at the instruments (which are separately mic'd and tracked). The mic-to-source distance depends on vocal blend, spill, and the amount of room reverb. The group performs in a reverberant church with PA, everthing from classical to gospel, so spill and reverb are a big issue. We tend to mic things closer and add some artificial reverb in the final mix, if required.

  11. pmolsonmus

    pmolsonmus Well-Known Member

    Dearest Remy,

    I was going to try this very technique in the coming weeks because we're planning on doing a popular style Christmas recording in the coming months and I wanted to lay down rhythm beds. My concern was having the choir leave the room. Don't their bodies (all 50 of 'em) alter the shape of the room and create a different wave form if they leave? Or am I being too anal about this? Do you use speakers behind or like a typical band monitor set up facing the singers?

    I would prefer to have them leave so a take wouldn't get blown if somone coughed or sneezed or whatever, but was assuming they had to stay.
  12. 0VU

    0VU Active Member

    I recorded the world premiere performance of that in the Royal Albert Hall, London, not to mention a few other complete performances and many concerts using individual items from the work, and balancing it doesn't get any easier with professionals :roll: Just for good measure, we had the cello soloist behind and above the brass, one of the vocal soloists on the gallery about 50-60' above and behind the stage and several other assorted novelties :shock: The whole thing was also covered by a large sound reinforcement system which made for an interesting sound on any ambient micing. Iirr, we were sharing the choir (and many other) mics with the PA guys and used 8 or 10 closeish mics (closer than I'd've liked but we went with trying to make it easier for PA) - a mixture of CMC64s and CMC66s in Fig-8. It sort of scrubbed up ok but was far from easy. It's not great music but I see why it's so popular.

    The Armed Man, however, is still an easier balance than the Adiemus series - spot the composer who orchestrates for studio recordings rather than live performance :roll: That features some very ..er...interesting orchestrations such as where you have to dig the recorder solos out of an entire orchestra and massive percussion section chugging along at a healthy mf, and get it loud enough to mask the rather exuberant level in the PAand foldback without ending up with an utterly implausibe solo balance. It's treading the fine line between false but pleasant or false and ridiculous.

    The first concert performance of Adiemus 1+2 currently holds the record for the most inputs I've ever had to handle in a single piece - 102 stage mics, another 16 or so ambient and audience mics and two 48 track tape replays (main and backup), mixed live to stereo for a broadcast. I've done shows with higher mic counts but none which used so much for so long or in a single piece.
  13. zemlin

    zemlin Well-Known Member

    When I did it, the speakers were facing the choir. In my test run (just me making noise, and no singers in the space on either take) the cancellation was FANTASTIC. In the actual take, I had the singers leave the room for the music recording. The chorus was 150 5th-grade kids. Having them be SILENT for the entire music playback was out of the question, so I had no option.

    Cancellation of the recording with the bodies gone was not as good.

    If you have the option, I'd do the second take with bodies in place to keep the acoustic properties the same.

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