Unusual Set-up for Bach Cantata Concert

Discussion in 'Location Recording' started by JimboJ, Oct 19, 2005.

  1. JimboJ

    JimboJ Active Member

    A few weeks ago, I wrote about Bach cantata concerts where the choir stands in front of the orchestra, completely blocking the instrumentalists from sight and sound. Using my limited and budget-priced microphone collection, I decided to supplement the main pair by sneaking a pair of microphones in front of the conductor’s music stand – an unusual set-up but no one objected. Here are the details:

    Main pair: Studio Projects C4 in omni spaced about 65 cm (26 inches) apart on a stereo bar.

    “Orchestra” pair: Rode NT5 in ORTF positioned in front of the conductor’s music stand to pick up the orchestra. Effects used on the Rodes: 15 millisecond delay, -6db in the mix, eq’ed to give 3db boost at 12 kHz. Because the Rodes are cardioid and because the singers have their backs to the microphones (and consequently to the orchestra), the mics pick up almost no sounds of the choir.

    I’ve now done three concerts this way and they sound better than my previous attempts with a main-pair-only set-up. I’d love to have some DPA 4006’s or a Royer SF-24 out front but for now I have to use what’s in the bag.

    I’d appreciate any comments. Here are some excerpts in mp3 format:

    Coro from Cantata BWV 120

    Soprano Aria from Cantata BWV 120

    The choir consists of 12 singers: 3 sopranos, 3 altos, 3 tenors, 3 basses. The orchestra consists of 3 first violins, 3 second violins, 2 violas, 1 cello, 1 bass, 1 organ, 2 oboes, 1 bassoon, 3 trumpets, 1 timpani.

    There are no other effects other than what I added to the ORTF pair. The “room” is a huge stone church that gives back very few reflections, none of them pleasing. As a result of the acoustics and the fact that the singers are facing away from the orchestra, the musicians can barely hear the singers and have real trouble hearing each other. So you will hear some balance and ensemble problems. The joys of a live concert!

    Thanks for listening.

    -- James
  2. pmolsonmus

    pmolsonmus Well-Known Member


    Its really tough to make a judgment call on an MP3 especially on acoustic music. I was listening through Windows Media Player on a basic computer.
    That said, for my ears I could use a little more high end. But that could be the MP3 issue or my monitoring system.
    Given the mics you were using I expected a brighter tone and less warmth. I got more warmth than I expected and I think (given the set-up issues) that you should be very pleased with the results.

    I would be. Nice work

    What software and pres were you using?
  3. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    I agree with Phil. Given the acoustics and what you had to work with, you made the best of what you had. You should be pleased.

    My comments/criticisms would be fairly simple.

    1. The orchestra actually has a VERY good sound considering the setup and acoustics you described. BUT, the chorus and the orchestra do not sound as though they are in the same space. I don't know what your height constraints were, but often, you can get the mics high enough to "see" past the chorus and effectively pick up the orchestra too. This would have given a more cohesive picture. You could then use the cardioids as spot mics to bring out what the omnis couldn't.

    2. Back to the choir again, they felt VERY close to the mics. Considering your spacing between the mics, I would have suggested a fairly decent distance from the choir to the mics. In this case, it sounds as though they are directly over the chorus.

    Those are really my only 2 gripes. Sometimes you just have to live with what you get from a live gig. In this case, it seems salvagable.

    To me, if I were going to try to fix issue #2, I would isolate those mics and apply a decent amount of reverb and try as best as possible to match them up tonally to the sound of your orchestra.

    Just some thoughts.

  4. JimboJ

    JimboJ Active Member

    Phil and Jeremy,

    Thank you for your comments.

    I use the PreSonus Firepod. For software, I tracked with Cubase and mixed in WaveLab.

    I have yet to uncover the nuances of using omnis as a main pair. (I'm more familiar with cardioids in ORTF.) I agree that the singers sounded too close. I can easily back up the mics a foot or so and raise the mic stand another foot. I probably worried too much about losing the sound in a space with such poor acoustics.

    It will be difficult to pull together sonically the chorus and the orchestra given the poor acoustics and the bass-ackwards set-up. I didn't use any reverb and that might help.

    -- James
  5. pmolsonmus

    pmolsonmus Well-Known Member

    I like Jeremy's idea of flying a few mics above the choir to catch both. Placement is critical.

    I've often thought about trying the set-up that you're forced into to get more presence from the choir without phase and other multi-mic issues that arise by placing mics between the choir and orchestra in a normal set-up. The 2 different ensemble issue is why I haven't done it, singers tend to stay with a conductor further away than instrumentalists whose eyes are buried in the music.

    I think a set of omnis (I know Jeremy often recommends this as well) would serve you better, but you're going to have to spend some $ to get a whole lot better than you're getting now. I don't think budget omnis would foot the bill. (my .02)

    On a musical note, the singers sound fine, but seem to lack a cohesive "sound". Good individually but (if I had to guess) under-rehearsed as an ensemble. Sounds like excellent readers who learn individually but don't meet often enough to get a uniform sound. Not an atypical problem of choirs.
    (the next sentence is pure editorial comment)

    This would happen less if they actually paid singers comparably to instrumental musicians! But I'm just a singer....what do I know.
  6. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:

    I think you're harboring some resentment for us lowly instrumentalists.

    I look at my conductor all the time. It doesn't hurt that she's blonde, 5'5" 110 lbs and smiles a lot... :lol:

    Besides, we get paid the big bucks cuz:
    1. We gotta BUY our instruments
    2. We can't practice in the shower
    3. We NEVER get private dressing rooms with STARS on them.
    4. We have serious alcohol addictions
    5. You'll never see a horn player on "American Idol"
    6. In this country, you've got to PAY for a good blow...
    7. We have to sit closer to the oboes than ANY chorus member ever will
    8. We need bail money.

    Okay, now it's time for me to get 3/4s sloshed and pass out in the arms of my horn. The only being that truly loves me for who I am, even though I cover it in spit all the time and put my hand where the sun don't shine...

  7. pmolsonmus

    pmolsonmus Well-Known Member

    Besides, we get paid the big bucks cuz:
    1. We gotta BUY our instruments
    ...gimme a break, your parent bought that instrument when you were twelve!
    2. We can't practice in the shower
    It, however, might be a good idea if some instrumentalists showered once in awhile anyway
    3. We NEVER get private dressing rooms with STARS on them.
    duh.... guess why
    4. We have serious alcohol addictions
    point taken
    5. You'll never see a horn player on "American Idol"
    well, maybe if they showered once in awhile and would wear more revealing clothing...
    6. In this country, you've got to PAY for a good blow...
    OH! ......So that's how singers can make money too!THANKS
    7. We have to sit closer to the oboes than ANY chorus member
    ever will
    that is, unless #6 applies
    8. We need bail money. ...
    The tips from our waiter/waitress positions don't go as far as they used to...life's tough all over

    No resentment
  8. o2x

    o2x Active Member

    I thought the Orchestra recording was excellent (although i think my monitors are f***ed :cry: - i'm getting distortion, any one else get that, pleeeeese say its the MP3 encoding)

    I agree with Jeremy about the separation of the Choir. The closeness of the mics has given rise to a very dry sound which doesn't seem like it matches the orchestra. It almost seems overdubbed.

    A really good quality verb on the choir may help the two elements sit together better.

    Nice work.

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