Live Contemporary A Cappella Sound - advice on budgeted equip

Discussion in 'Microphones & Recording' started by Jregal, Oct 26, 2012.

  1. Jregal

    Jregal Active Member

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2012
    Location:
    Florida
    Hi everyone, this is my first time posting on this site, but from the threads i've read, the community seems to be awesome.

    So here's my situation. I'm a part of a collegiate all-male a cappella group at UF. We are a 15 guy group, and our performances usually have 1 person on vocal percussion (VP) and one soloist. We have the university doing sound for us in most situations, and it is usually pretty lousy. When using the university's sound, we usually have 2-3 generic dynamic mics placed almost horizontally facing us, while we are in an arc. The VP has his own mic, and the soloist has their own mic.

    Lately i've been taking a bit of initiative to try to bring some of my own equipment and just using that, but that is limited. I've started to bring my cheap condenser mic (a Carvin CM87s), and that has made the overall sound better, but usually means i we can't have any kind of monitors (feedback issues).

    Lately i've been reading around the forum about people using cardiods in ORTF (i'm very new to the field). would placing 2 of the university's dynamic mics in ORTF improve the sound substantially over what what they normally do? I've read a pair of SM57s can go a long way in this situation as well. What do you think about that? Being in bands growing up, i've always been under the impression that SM58 was more for vocals SM57 more for instruments.

    I'm mainly looking at micing the group (not solo or vp so much). My budget is probably under $200 for any kind of mics (i know, its low, but thats college a cappella for ya).

    I'm open also to just general tips on using any mics in this situation (omni or cardioid). Monitors aren't completely necessary, but they help out a lot. Thanks a lot, sorry if its been a bit long-winded.
     
  2. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    Joined:
    Apr 19, 2006
    Location:
    UK
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    Hi and welcome!

    Can you tell us a bit more about one or two things concerning your performances?

    Firstly, the layout of your singers: if are they (for example) in a semicircle, is the soloist loose in the middle or separated? Is there a geometric point that is equidistant from all the non-soloist group singers?

    Secondly, what are the performance reasons for needing foldback (cueing, hearing the soloists etc), and which mic channels get put though it? Where are the monitors situated relative to the singers?

    Thirdly, what type of PA is used, both for FOH and foldback?


    A few general points. Condenser mics are going to be worse from a feedback point of view than dynamics, and omnis worse than directional. In this type of situation, you really need to stick to dynamics if you are using foldback monitors. The Shure SM57 and SM58 are essentially the same dynamic microphone, but the 58 has a ball-shaped wind mesh designed for close vocal use and the 57 has a flat mesh designed for instrument use, but both perform similarly at a distance of a foot or more. The SM series has a cardioid-shaped response with a null along the axis at the rear. The Beta versions of these microphones (Beta 57A and Beta 58A) have a hypercardioid pattern with nulls at 60 degrees either side of the rear axis. This hypercardioid pattern can sometimes make all the difference when you are struggling to place foldback monitors in the nulls of vocal microphones. The extended upper octave of the Beta series over the standard SM series would probably not make much of a difference to a choir of male voices.

    Have you considered high-quality headset mics for the soloist and VP? They do not necessarily need to be combined with radio packs, so the cost would not be sky-high.

    I can't really advise further on the mic placement (X-Y, ORTF etc) until you say a bit more about the group layout.
     
  3. Jregal

    Jregal Active Member

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2012
    Location:
    Florida
    Generally we're working with the singers in a semicircle with the soloist on the other side of the group mics.

    The main reason we need the foldback is for hearing the soloist and vocal percussion. To a lesser extend, it helps in some venues with allowing us to blend (when the venue is very open, it is harder to hear everyone).


    I have no idea about the PA. It changes basically per show and venue.


    Soloist and VP mics aren't much of a problem for our shows since they are singing directly into a mic. the problem has usually been getting a good even blend of all of the background parts. It seems it was always either too quiet (usually with condensers, because of feedback issues), or uneven in the what parts were picked up (with dynamic mics) even if we sounded fine acoustically.

    So, assuming i went with a pair of hypercardioids, is it possible that i could move the mics further back (to allow for more even distribution what what parts are being picked up), and then arrange the monitors so that they are more in the null areas of the mic? Does that make sense?

    I appreciate the feedback. i don't really have access to a venue for trial and error until maybe an hour before our shows.
     
  4. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    Joined:
    Apr 19, 2006
    Location:
    UK
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    My thinking would be the other way: use more mics and get them closer. Live PA work like this is always a compromise, especially if you are performing in a series of new venues where you have not had chance to experiment to find what works for the best sound, but you won't get there without experiment.

    If it means, for example, going to one mic per two performers with any stereo effect done by panning in the mix, then that's the way it may have to be. If there are N of you as non-soloists in the group, you could do a lot worse than trying N/2 SM57s distributed around the group at chest height and pointing about 30 degrees upwards. Foldback monitors would be in a semi-circular array on the floor roughly in the focal point of the arc, and hence close to the null in the cardioid response of the 57s.
     
  5. rockstardave

    rockstardave Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2006
    hey man, if you really want to get in-depth with this, shoot me a PM or email.

    one of my companies specializes in collegiate a cappella. we are based out of Buffalo NY and travel all throughout the NorthEast and Midwest (boston, chicago, ithaca, harrisburg, syracuse, yada yada). we just did sound and lights for CASA's A Cappella Fest in chicago a few weeks ago and have worked with national acts too.

    we've recently moved from area mics to a full suite of 24 wireless sennheisers and put a ton of money into processing, lights, insurance, etc.

    i could probably chat your ear off about it, so like i said - shoot me a PM.

    for what it's worth - www.facebook.com/acaproducers

    good luck in the mean time!

    -dave g


     

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