Oratorio Recording

Discussion in 'Microphones (live or studio)' started by lell010, Sep 22, 2007.

  1. lell010

    lell010 Guest

    The majority of the recording I do is Oratorio in live concerts.

    Typically 2 - 5 soloists either side of conductor, small orchestra often with hapsichord or chamber organ and about 100 person choir.

    Lately, I have been attempting to record direct to stereo with an AB system of DPA4006 about 3metres behind conductor. I cant go much further back as the mic stand is already about 3 rows from the front and I need to minimise inconvenience for the audience.

    At this distance the soloists are far too left and right, but without using additional mics to localise them towards the centre there is little I can do. Fitting in these mics would be problematic owing to the proximity of the soloists to the front row of audience. Note the venue is a cathedral so there is no stage to speak of. Suspending mics for the soloists is VERY difficult in the limited set up time available. Some photos were taken at the rehearsal yesterday by the choir photographer and I will see if I can get one to post.

    However, the soloist “issue” is not my main concern. It is the relative perspective of the sound of the outer edges of the choir compared to the centre. Clearly the edges of the choir and about 1.5 - 2 times as far from the mics as the centre. The balance is not too bad as that is largely dependant on the reverberant level, but the centre of the choir sounds too close.

    I am wondering if a Blumlein configuration might be worth trying as the axis of the crossed mics would be “aimed” towards the outsides of the choir which might increase the direct to reverberant ratio. I do have access to an SM69 or could demo a Royer.

    I would welcome suggestions from users that also do this type of recording.

    Whilst I would strongly prefer to remain using only two mics I am not adverse to using more but rigging them is as I see it problematic in this venue.

    Thanks so much

    Larry Elliott
  2. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Mar 8, 2004
    Tacoma, WA
    Hey Larry -

    I don't know if I'd resort to Blumlein to solve your problems. It would actually exacerbate (sp?) your issue with your soloists. Personally, I don't mind hearing the soloists come from the left or right as this is where I "see" them and more or less hear them from during the concert anyway.

    However, this would be grossly exaggerated.

    On the other hand, perhaps either the SM69 or the Royer would do rather well in M/S. It would again make the soloists appear hard left and right, but this is your call.

    I'm eager to hear others' suggestions on this and to hear what your ultimate solution is.


  3. lell010

    lell010 Guest

    Hi Jeremy

    Thanks for your thoughts. I am less concerned about the “location” of the soloists than I am with the perspective on the outer edges of the choir.

    Hopefully some others will join in.

  4. liuto

    liuto Guest

    Hi Larry,
    what was the distance between your capsules? Maybe you just suffer from a "hole in the middle" effect because of a too large AB microphone base.
  5. lell010

    lell010 Guest


    The distance between capsules was 36cm - slightly over 14 inches.

  6. liuto

    liuto Guest

    So, with such a small base there should definately be no "hole in the middle" effect. In principal AB recordings tend to strech the middle part of an ensemble. That could be the effect you observe. Blumlein will show a more linear reproduction of the soundstage but you loose a bit of the low frequency impact of omnis. I'd probably try Blumlein (personally some ORTF like thing) and add large AB as room mics some meters behind the main system which will give you that extra weight, the figure of eight might be missing. If the soloists are not extremely left/right I'd stay with your original setup if you like the sound of it.
    Best regards
  7. ghellquist

    ghellquist Member

    May 25, 2004
    My spontaneus suggestion is to try the old proved 3 microphone technique. One mic in the middle and two out towards the edges, around 1/3 and 2/3 of the full width. Mix down to two channels to taste.

  8. DavidSpearritt

    DavidSpearritt Well-Known Member

    Jan 9, 2005
    Brisbane, Australia
    Home Page:
    Hi Larry,

    We do this sort of recording often. Our typical setup is a Blumlein pair in the middle, mainly picking up orchestra but choir as well, and wider omni outriggers. This seems to give an even balance across to the extremes of the choir. Remember that the Blumlein pair has more reach than the omnis.

    But the main problem we still have is getting enough choral sound. The amateur choirs we record mostly just do not sing out enough, they are short on quality vocal production.

    The next one of these we do will probably get 4 fig8's on 4 stands behind the orchestra and close to the choir, pointing down so their nulls are on the orchestra, just so we can get more choir sound. Voices will stick out, but at least we will have some balance control.

    This is where multitrack recording helps, you can later put reverb on the close choir mics to assist with perspective.
  9. Simmosonic

    Simmosonic Active Member

    Jan 13, 2005
    At the risk of sounding both repetitive and under-achieving, my recommendation would be an ORTF pair as the main pickup, and a spot mic on the harpsichord or organ if necessary. BUT, only if you've got good cardioids for the ORTF pair - DPAs, Schoeps et al, with good off-axis response...

    I do lots of live concerts of choirs, and these days I rarely go to anything except ORTF for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it is a very forgiving technique that produces acceptable results in a minimum of time - important for live concerts, and especially those in public venues such as cathedrals and similar where you don't have much set-up time or space, and where flying microphones is not possible. Secondly, being a live performance I don't want too much audience noise. Yes, it is nice to capture all the room's lovely reverberation, but adding a bit of artificial reverb (impulse stuff) is, IMO, far preferable to audience noise (which can often be downright disturbing). An ORTF pair will capture enough of the room's reverberation to provide the right character, and a bit of 'blank' reverb added over that will not change things too much - especially if you set the predelay so that it leaves room for the venue's first reflections (which define the space), and if you're able to modify its attack so it does not come in as a reverberated echo.

    For many years I was a Blumlein devotee, trying to use it on everything. The problem with Blumlein in this situation is that it captures sound from 360 degrees, so you get everything in the room, similar to omnis. Not only that, it is one of the fussiest stereo microphone techniques in existence. If you have the time and space to get it in the right spot, the results can be wonderful. Otherwise, not so impressive. And some rooms it is simply not suited to, no matter where you put it.

    Also... Blumlein is a coincident technique, and I find coincident techniques to be a bit disappointing in choral situations. Coincident techniques excel at pinpoint imaging, but rarely offer immersion. They are good for smaller ensembles where imaging is important and worthwhile. For choirs, a sense of size is far more important, and near-coincident and AB techniques provide that.

    One more thing: I have also found coincident techniques to be a bit disastrous in cathedrals and churches if they have a barrel-vaulted ceiling. There is always a huge build-up of 'blurry' sound in the centre, which is usually where you want to place the microphone. A spaced pair, even ORTF, works well, but a coincident pair like Blumlein often results in a cloudy and confused sound.

    Just a few cents worth...
  10. lell010

    lell010 Guest

    Thanks for all the helpful information. I have a pic and an audio file to post but cant work out how to upload them :(
  11. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    Jun 22, 2004
    Philadelphia, PA/ Greenville, DE
    Home Page:
    I'm a bit late to this post, but I'll add my own techniques, which seem to be a combination of David's and Simmonsonic's. For oratorios and similar situations, (esp a big choir in the middle and chamber orchestra in front, soloists L&R of the conductor), I like an ORTF or XY on the choir, sometimes two more on the sides if it's over 100-150 members. If I can, I "look in" a few feet above the conductors head, or sometimes (if they'll let me, if there's enough front to back room), I'll have it between the conductor and the choir.

    I'll also go with a wide Omni pair (mainly for the overall ensemble and blend. Many times, the omnis and the cardioids are all on the same plane, or front line, so time-smear is rarely an issue.

    On occasion, I've snuck in a small stereo mic (very often the NT-4 these days), on the strings or chamber ensemble, down in front, for touch up if I need it later. Ditto for mics on the bass and continuo parts, like Harpsichord, portative organ, etc. Very often it's just one bass violin, and it's nice to be able to add a little extra support down there, just a smidge goes a long way sometimes.

    Then there's the soloists. No other way works for me than to just give in and mic them on small, short stands in front. Here again, less can be more. All you need is a small bit of the solo mic to bring it to life in the final mix. If you're tracking to multitrack, you can still do it all with less than 8 mics if you're careful. (2 for the ORTF pair, 2 omni's, 1 bass, 1 continuo, and 2 solo/spot mics.)

    If space is a problem, tape off the first rows of pews and put your solo mics and even tall stands for your omni's. Get creative. I always ask permission first, but unless it's a huge sellout crowd (or if the seats are numbered), I rarely get turned down from stealing the front row for mics and taping off the entrances. (The musicians and soloists are actually happy in most cases, those first rows are all too often full of people sitting just too darn close! ;-) This adds a nice buffer for all. No one's coughing or sneezing on the violin section, either!)

    Bottom line: My omni's capture 90% of what I need, while the other mics let me fill out the details as needed in the panoramic field. The trick is to never let it sound like you're doing any more than than a stereo recording. When in doubt, turn the spot mics down a db or two, or toggle back and forth with and without them for a reality check.

    Hope that helps.
  12. willi

    willi Guest

    I'm going to record a very famous chamber orchestra + choir in a huge cathedral. I mainly recorded since yet chamber music, so I'm a bit confused...

    I read the previous post about micing technique for oratorios... 1 ortf, 1 spaced omni pair, 2 solos, 1 bass, 1 continuo... Don't you mic the choir ? does the ortf pair pick the choir up ?

    Do you use omni flanks as well in big reverberant spaces ?? What distance between the 2 omnis do you deal with ?

    I own : 1 pair cardio (cmc5 mk4) schoeps ; 1 pair subcardio (cmc6 mk21) schoeps ; 1 pair omni (cmc6 mk2s) schoeps ; 1 pair oktava 319 (cardio)modified ; I can rent a pair of Neumann km 84 cardio.. I use pretty good pre (forssell 2 ch ; dav bg1 2 ch ; audient asp 008) and mytek converters. I record on pro tools (adat in) + backup on fostex d90 (adat too, i have a adat "splitter").

    What would you do with that stuff ?

    thank you very much

  13. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Mar 8, 2004
    Tacoma, WA
    I'm sure others will weigh in with valuable opinions, but I'll offer my advice from experience.

    When recording choir and orchestra, using only front mics (main and flanks), the choir is often a little muddy and occassionally buried (unless this is a particularly loud/large choir.

    However, putting spot mics on the choir often highlights individuals only and can generally be easily noticed.

    When I spot choirs, I'll go with one of the following:

    1 - Omnis overhead. Fly them above the choir often from behind and point them down into the choir. The problem with this is that it will pick up extra horns and percussion (not always a problem in an overly reverberant space.)

    2 - Blumlein in front of the choir - placed high and aimed down so that the rear lobes face above the back of the orchestra. You'll still pick up a little horn and percussion, but a bit less than the previous.

    3 - MS in front of the choir.

    I tend to like ribbons for choir as they seem to have a far better off-axis response and don't tend to zoom into the choir like condensers do.

    Other than that, my favorite mic for choir is without a doubt the MK21 - it's off axis response is wonderful and it's smooth enough to not get the crunchies. Perhaps a pair flown over the choir like in option 1 would work well. Just make sure to use sandbags.

  14. willi

    willi Guest

    Hi Cucco

    Do you think it's really necessary to set up omni flanks in a huge cathedral ? I'm scarry about picking too much reverb.

    For the bach's magnificat recording I'm planing to use (cos of the reverb): ORTF schoeps cardio main pair, mk21 large ortf pair on the choir, (omni mk2s flanks ?), Neumann km 84 cardio left and right of the conductor to pick up soloists singers. Do you think I'll need more spot mics ? (continuo, woodwinds ?)

    30 persons choir, chamber orchestra (12 violins, 4 violas, celli ?, 2 (!!) double-bass, tympani). It's a very famous chamber orchestra here, I can't miss it !
  15. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Mar 8, 2004
    Tacoma, WA
    I would still use the omni flanks even in highly reverberant spaces. While I like ORTF, I find it lacks the depth possible from AB, no matter what the situation and how much tweaking is done. The omnis, if brought in just enough, can add that depth and width.

    As for spot mics on the woodwinds...I generally don't unless upon listening during the sound check, I find that they get lost (which is often the case in reverb heavy spaces). If there were horn, I would definitely spot mic. When horns are in a cathedral setting (what with them facing the wrong direction and all), they tend to lose definition and turn into mush very quickly. A single spot above them can help add a little clarity. They're VERY touchy though - many horn players get very twitchy at the sight of a microphone nearby. (We sound MUCH better from afar...)

    Anyway, since there's no mention of that and only strings, clearly there's no need.

    What's providing the continuo? Harpsichord? Yes, a spot might be appropriate. Organ...depends on the space... Other? Well, they're a pro group, they wouldn't substitute, would they?

  16. willi

    willi Guest

    thanks cucco !

    So, I summarize your mind (as I understood) : You'd go for AB main pair omnis + omni flanks ?

    The only bad thing, I will not have time to try several set up... The way I set the stuff up, the way I'll record the rehearsal (with audience) and the concert the next day.

    mk 21 on the choir (sort of large ortf ?) and cards on spots ?

    Other people would share their minds ?
    Thanks again
  17. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Mar 8, 2004
    Tacoma, WA
    Not quite.

    In your case, AB will probably not work. While it's my preferred setup when all things are optimum, it won't work in an overly live setup.

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