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Thoughts about recording the crowd at a folk music show

Here's the situation - well known, well regarded, well recorded (over MANY years) folk singer. He played for us last year - the first time in our town - the crowd was great, knew much of his music, great sing-alongs with harmonies from the audience, etc. The performer asked to come back and play again this year.

I'll be able to record the show. I figure the chances of the recording being released are slim, but if I can do a good job of capturing the crowd it might be a nice CD for an established performer to add to their selection - so that's going to be my focus. Good sound on stage won't be an issue - I've done that plenty of times - acoustic guitar and vocals.

The venue is small - usually 100-120 folks in the house. Folks sitting around tables - not in rows. There are 8 SMALL but mighty speakers installed overhead on the trusses.

You can see one speaker in this image on the truss directly over the minister's head. That will give you some idea about the venue, although that shot is not of the concert setup.

I'm toying around with several ideas for recording the crowd, and I just haven't decided which would be the best bet - and I'll only have one shot at this and no opportunity to test the setup.

My thoughts - in no particular order
1 pair of omnis in the middle of the room. I've done this before and it worked OK, but I get a lot of bleed from the speakers, of course, and it really colors the sound if I try to bring up the crowd.

3 or 4 cardioids hanging from the "rafters" - overhead grids of track lights make hanging mics easy. I thought about dropping 3 or 4 SDCs pointed straight down with the mics at about the same level as the speakers. My concern with this is that the pickup will be too focussed on the area directly below the mics.

3 or 4 cardioids hanging, but angled so they point down at about 30 degrees and are facing away from the stage and into the crowd. I even throught about putting these directy in front of some of the speakers to try to minimize the bleed.
My mic options for crowd mics
(2) RØDE NT5s
(3) Oktava MK012
(2) Behringer ECM8000 Omnis
(2) Studio Projects C3s (Omni, Cardiod, Fig-8)I might have a pair of RØDE NT2000s to use, depending on what I choose to setup for his VOX mic - could either be a RØDE or a Sennheiser e865. I'm probably leaning toward the Sennheiser because the space is very live and feedback can be a problem, and a stage mic would probably work out better for live recording in this situation.


Boswell Tue, 01/16/2007 - 15:40
zemlin wrote: I might have a pair of Rode NT2000s to use, depending on what I choose to setup for his VOX mic - could either be a Rode or a Senn e865. I'm probably leaning toward the Senn because the space is very live and feedback can be a problem, and a stage mic would probably work out better for live recording in this situation.
Don't rule out the Rode S1 for vocals - it may not be the ultimate in quality but I've used it at times in very lively venues when all the other condensers I tried fed back before the listening levels were reached.

For the audience mics, I would go with almost any half-decent SDC, but beware of the difference between their response to singing along and applause. I have had to do a lot of nifty automation at mixdown to tame the applause from mics such as the NT5s when the gain and eq is set for capturing audience participation.

It sounds an interesting gig to do though. Good luck, and I hope you will post some clips as you did last time.

FifthCircle Wed, 01/17/2007 - 11:44
My usual for audience mics are a tall stand at either end of the stage facing out. I would not use omnis as the ambience change when you bring them up and down will be distracting. If I use 2 mics, I put a pair of cardiods aiming right into the middle of the crowd. If I use 4 mics, I'll place cardiods for close audience and either hypercardiods or shotguns for far audience.

I've also done cardiods hanging down over the crowd with reasonable success. Omnis out over the crowd are not good (besides the ambience issue, you also don't get enough "dig" into the crowd sound).


JoeH Wed, 01/17/2007 - 20:42
I take a similar approach to Ben, but I've used omni's plenty of times with good results, but it's probably because of one hall in particular. For mics onstage facing out or 5.1 stuff, it's definitely cardioids. For overheads hanging down mid-way out in the house over the audience, I prefer omni's, at least for bringing in applause. For a lot of my radio broadcast recordings, it's a nicer smoother-overall sound.

Very often, I only want the applause and some low-level ambience, so I bring the applause tracks up at the end of each song/work, and then gently fade them back out; most of the time it's seamless. It used to be a lot trickier (and it still is for "LIVE" mixing) but these days with good DAWs, you can easily cheat the ambient mics in and out as needed in post.

Back to the original question; if you're tracking to multitrack and just want the crowd reaction after each song, or various points along the way where they "react" to something, you're probably fine with Cardioids facing out from the stage or a little bit out in front. You will certainly get bleed from the PA, (esp the way this one seems to be configured) but if you're bringing them up and down, in and out, as needed, it should be manageable.

You'll probably find that they're too much to use continuously throughout; you'll probably use some "artificial" reverb for that. Use both effects sparingly, of course.

JimboJ Thu, 01/18/2007 - 15:02
Ben and Joe,

When you hang mics in the audience area, do you point the mics straight down at the heads of the audience members or do you point the mics toward the stage? Does it depend on whether your goal is to pick up ambient sounds from the stage or to pick up applause (or singalong) from the audience? What if you're trying to do both?


-- James

zemlin Thu, 01/18/2007 - 19:20
I've used a pair of Omnis on a tall stand with good results - picks up great applause and hand clapping - nice ambience to add to the close mics - and I bring these mics up as needed during the mix. I usually duplicate the room mics and use one copy for ambience and another for applause.

The deal with this show is that I really want to pick up the crowd during the songs - they'll be singing along and I want to capture as much of that as possible.

This will be multitracked (I can do up to 24 tracks).

RemyRAD Thu, 01/18/2007 - 22:27
I will frequently use PZM's on the side and rear walls as well as on the front wall of a raised stage. One of the reasons for the use of PZM's and boundary microphones is its ability to really relieve you of one major reflective surface while providing a slightly thinner quality that I find works better for applause and such. I don't mind telling you I don't like the ambience Mike's in certain rooms because of the Tubby quality one frequently gets that the boundary style microphones seem to be less susceptible to. Besides while I find they improve the articulation of the sound, I find that they provide a larger broader wall of sound without any one person that seems to be highlighted by its directional characteristics which of course are hemispherical in this case.

OK, sometimes people will get upset when you pull the microphones off-the-wall that you so carefully taped up with duct tape and the paint and/or wallpaper comes off with the microphone. But what the heck! They got a good recording didn't they?!?!

Always shopping for new paint and wallpaper
Ms. Remy Ann David

FifthCircle Sat, 01/20/2007 - 20:06
I usually try for directional mics facing back from stage... They go on stands. The couple times I've had to hang omnis, I hang them capsule down to the audience.

The thing is, I want those mics to pick up audience without affecting the overall ambient signature of the recording. Omnis in my experiences almost never do that. If you use hypercardiod mics, you can even set them in such a way that your null on that back side of the mics (well, back lower side) is in the performers/PA system. Means that you get the clapping/response and not much else.