Orchestra-Choir Recording Question

Discussion in 'Orchestra' started by JimboJ, Aug 23, 2005.

  1. JimboJ

    JimboJ Active Member

    I am recording a concert in September of Bach cantatas in a large, reverberant church made of stone. I have about 1 hour to 90 minutes to set up at most, so my rig has to be fairly simple.

    The orchestra of 17-20 musicians is set up on the altar. The 12-voice choir stands shoulder-to-shoulder directly in front of the orchestra with the conductor standing on a podium in the middle of the choir. The vocal soloists are drawn from the choir and simply take a step forward to perform their recitatives and arias.

    I have recorded these concerts for several years now using a pair of small diaphragm cardioid condenser microphones in ORTF positioned above and in front of the whole ensemble. I get a clear and warm sound from the choir and the vocal soloists. Not surprisingly, the orchestra sounds slightly distant and muted – after all, they are playing into the backs of the singers standing in front of them.

    The client likes the sound I achieve (singer-friendly) but I’d like to get a better balance of orchestra and vocalists. Any ideas? I can’t mess with the way the stage is set-up. I’ve thought about putting up a pair of microphones behind the singers to mic the orchestra, but I’m not sure where to put them – in front of the conductor’s stand? They’d have to be low profile so as not to interfere with the conductor’s line of sight.

    Thank you for your suggestions.

    -- James
  2. FifthCircle

    FifthCircle Well-Known Member

    I usually do concerts like this with a minimum of 6 mics.

    A blumlein pair in the center and omnis on the flanks. (usually a SF-24 or AKG 426 with DPA4006's). Choir gets 2 mics spaced equally across the front (splits the group in 3). I usually use a second pair of 4006's or perhaps Schoeps with MK21 capsules (in the case of soloists inside the group, I may opt for the Schoeps). The mics are positioned high- usually above the heads of the top row and then they are angled down into the ensemble. It allows for a unified sound, but you still get the presence needed.

  3. JimboJ

    JimboJ Active Member


    Thanks for your reply. With the choir standing in front of the orchestra, wouldn't your main mics be the choir mics by default? How would you pick up the orchestra's sound? As I mentioned, the orchestra is behind the choir. And because the instrumentalists are sitting and the choir is standing, the orchestra is essentially below the choir. I could possibly try and slip some microphones between the chorus and the orchestra.

    -- James
  4. MasonMedia

    MasonMedia Guest


    From your description, the choir is the primary instrument with the orchestra accompanying. You might simply add a few spot mics to bring out more distant sections of the orchestra. Some examples might be to place an MS or ORTF pair over the woodwinds; spot on the bass section; plus one or two on percussion. If the piece includes harp or celeste, consider spotting them as well.

  5. FifthCircle

    FifthCircle Well-Known Member

    Is it possible to hang or place mics on a stand between the choir and the conductor? I might not use a full blumlein as the rear lobes may make things sound strange, but an ORTF pair, Mid Side, X-Y, or 90 degree hypercardiods all are ways of doing it well. Each has their pluses and minuses.. You could even do a decca tree of sorts by placing three mics out- one in front of the violins, another in front of the violas/seconds, and the third by the cellos.

    Depending on how the soloists step out, I may use a stereo pair and flanks on the choir or I may do 3 across or still stick with the 2 mics as I described earlier. It really depends on how they step out and if they sound bounces from side to side. You may find that something like a pair of MK21's on a wide bar may work as a great pickup for the choir and soloists....

    It is all variations on a theme and they can all work- just depends on the room, the group and your rig.

  6. JimboJ

    JimboJ Active Member

    Ben and Peter, thanks for your suggestions. Some good ideas.

    The choir is split on either side of the conductor, i.e. 6 voices on the conductor's right elbow and 6 voices on the conductor's left elbow. Everyone is cheek-by-jowl. The soloists take 1 step forward for their recits and arias. (The space is very cramped.)

    Given this set-up, it's not possible to hang mics between the choir and the conductor. I might be able to do something like the modified Decca tree to cover the orchestra -- would you use omnis in that case or cardiods?

    (By the way, I'd love to try the Royer SF-24 sometime. Do you know where I can rent one in NYC? It sounds as though this is just the thing for most of my work, which is mostly chamber ensembles and chamber orchestras.)

    Orchestra spots aren't really needed since we're talking about a Baroque orchestra of 16 to 17 players. I need to find a way to bring out the whole instrumental ensemble in the mix. Also, a critical issue is the lack of time for set-up: 60 to 90 minutes at the outside. No way to hang mics. They have to be on stands.

    I'll try and take some pictures of the concert and post them. It takes place in a couple of weeks and is the first in a series that continues through the fall with the same basic instrumentation and type of repertoire, i.e. Bach cantatas.

    -- James
  7. FifthCircle

    FifthCircle Well-Known Member

    If you want to try the SF-24, why don't you contact Royer directly or arrange a demo from a dealer? I'm sure Royer can also put you in touch with folks that have them or rent them on the east coast.

    In NYC, I'd start by talking to somebody like Dreamhire to see if they have one for rent.


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