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Orchestra with Choir/soloists @ church...mic help please!

Hey all-
My first post to the forum!

This weekend I will be recording an orchestra with a choir at a church.
I will be using a Sound Devices 8 track and I have a good selection of microphones to use (through the university), and up to this point, I was thinking:
2 U87s for the main stereo pair (ORTF or blumlein)
2 omnis for the outriggers (not sure what mics yet)

the choir will be behind the orchestra, so I was thinking 2 spaced shoeps cardiods (to help isolate from intruments)?
and then there will be solo vocalists in between the orchestra and choir...was thinking a pair of 87's in ORTF would work?

Any thoughts on this? Thanks for the help/input!


Boswell Fri, 04/08/2011 - 10:06

Welcome to the forums!

I really would not use U87s for this. What else have you got available, particularly in the SDC range?

We had a recent [[url=http://[/URL]="http://recording.or…"]thread[/]="http://recording.or…"]thread[/] about choir miking, and there have been comments in other threads concerning orchestra/vocal soloists/choir setups. Try the R.O. search engine.

Which University is it that has all those U87s?

schwa283 Fri, 04/08/2011 - 10:17

thanks for the quick response!
I go to Michigan State and work for the college of music recording department. I'm still a student and a newbie but I'm trying to learn as quick as I can! I'm very glad I found this forum, there is a lot of good info.

I have been reading lots of threads on similar situations, and they have helped a lot, but I am still a little skeptical as to what I am going to do.

I have another pair of Shoeps small diaphrams that I could use for the solo mics (instead of 87s), as well as the choir mics. For the solo mics, I read in a thread that stomach height seems to be a good starting point. (?)
For the 2 choir mics, should I still have the mics up high (similar height to the main pair/flanks in front of orchestra) or have them more head-level?

Are you advising against using the 87's as the main pair as well?

Thanks again

TheJackAttack Fri, 04/08/2011 - 12:20

Your main stereo pair should not in this case be LDC. Without seeing the church it is probably not the right environment for them. Use a pair of SDC in ORTF. Height of the main pair is roughly 2-4 feet above the conductor's head and 6-10 feet behind him/her. You can keep your omni flanks but know that you have to time align them to the main stereo pair. Also, the flanks are usually at the seated head height or slightly above the front arc of musicians. This will be easier if you take notes and tape off the distance from flank to main pair, and main pair to conductor. Now, the choir. If the choir is behind the orchestra (hopefully on risers of some sort) cardioid spots are probably required IF a spot is needed for them. This is completely dependent upon the conductor and the chorus master. If they create proper balance and dynamics then spots aren't needed for the chorus. Ha. They won't. It is possible you won't have enough space to spot mic the choir too. You can't just cram stands in there and hope singers and musicians won't hit them or knock them ass over teakettle. If there is room you will aim the spots from head height of the top tier towards the bottom third of the singers elevation wise. If you can hang the mic's that is best but not likely in most churches I've seen without gear you don't have.

Soloists, you don't want any mic's at waist height. Mid chest pointed up towards the mouth is ok provided there is no music stand in the way. Slightly above the head pointed down towards the upper chest is better. Lot's of times for live performance you don't get the optimal placement because of aesthetics. I have even had to have the mic slightly off to the side of the soloist pointing at the neck/head. The U87 might be better served here in a cardioid pattern due to the usual echo chamber that is a church but have a SDC handy just in case there is too much bleed from the orchestra.


Of course, these are all just guidelines. Nothing in pro audio is set in stone and this is where experience gives you the edge when you have no opportunity with the rehearsals or dress rehearsal. Knowing the mic's intimately is crucial as well. For instance, in the last year I have reacquainted myself with ribbon mics and had to relearn specific positions for the live chamber recordings I do. Now that I've done that work the smooth and beautiful sound ribbons are known for becomes self evident instead of dead and lifeless. As an aspiring recordist you need to do this homework with all of the regular mic's you use. Even two different brands of the same type (SDC, LDC, moving coil, ribbon) behave completely different. The AT4051 and AKG C391 are both quality SDC but I would adjust distances and position specific to the pair I was using at the moment.

TheJackAttack Fri, 04/08/2011 - 12:26

Oh yeah, just because you have spot mic on the soloist(s) you don't bring them up huge in the mix. The spot mic is only to reinforce the main stereo pair. Again you will need to tape the distance from the soloist mic to the main stereo pair for time alignment. A rough guide is 1 foot equals 1 ms delay. For classical music and most folk music, what we do is reinforcement. Amplification is saved for rock and electrified country bands. Even then surprisingly less is often more.

RemyRAD Sat, 04/09/2011 - 13:14

Since I'm from Detroit and my mother used to teach at the U. of M. in Ann Arbor, here are some other suggestions.

Trying to isolate the choir & solo singers from the orchestra can be different & challenging. Here is where to stay away from the conventional belief that you need to use all condenser microphones, big or small. This is where ribbon microphones can make all the difference in the world. If possible, the choir, along with the soloists should be highlighted with ribbon microphones. I don't care what kind or who makes them. I only have my Beyer M 130/160's & RCA 77 DX's But everything from a cheap Cascades FatHead, To the high-end Royer tube enhanced ribbon. Phasing & distance will be less of an issue since ribbon microphones and all the rest are not exactly phase coherent to begin with. With what I've described, your recordings won't sound like everybody else's. Isn't that the point of all of this? Are you there to be like everybody or rise above the rest? My parents weren't Metropolitan Opera stars or major concert masters because they wanted to sound like everybody else. I don't sound like everybody else either. Neither should you.

Thinking outside of the capsule
Mx. Remy Ann David

JoeH Fri, 04/15/2011 - 06:08

This is easy.....use the 414s in an ORTF or XY pattern on a tall stand up high in front of the choir. (Try to avoid getting too close to any single singer; I know this is tough and placement of the stand is tricky. WHen it doubt, go higher and look DOWN on the choir, even if you're right in front of them.)

Use the 4006's in a big split pair of outriggers/flanks to get everyone. Spot-mic the soloists with the SDC Schoeps on short stands right in front of them, mic the strings/bass/instruments with whatever you have left. (Anything that you THINK may need more detail in your post-production mix should have a touch-up mic on it, just in case.)

If you've placed things correctly, you should ALMOST be able to make the recording from the pair of DPA's alone. (Yeah, they're that good for this, 90% of the time). The rest are icing on the cake.

Good luck, if you haven't already done this gig. (And by the date of your last post, I suspect you may have?)