recording a capella

Discussion in 'Microphones (live or studio)' started by karambos, Jul 5, 2004.

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  1. karambos

    karambos Guest

    I'm recording an a capella outfit at the moment.

    For example, at the moment I've been recording 5 singers with two mics. Later, I'll do it properly (i.e. one singer per track) but at the moment it's two mics: a Neumann TLM103 and an AKG SolidTube. The boys (bass, contrabass and tenor) mostly through the Nuemann and the girls (alto and soprano) mostly through the SolidTube. I say "mostly" because obviously there's some leakage.

    So when it comes to creating the final mix I've got two tracks, each with compression at a ration of 6:1 (or thereabouts), each with a limiter, each with some reverb.

    I'm fairly sure that has helped matters. However, I've also done the following and I'm not sure if it's a good idea:
    I rolled off the lows at approx 80Hz for the boys and 100Hz for the girls
    I rolled off the highs at 15kHz for both.
    Finally, I added a really small amount of chorus to give it some umpf

    Are there any "standard" tricks that people could recommend that should be applied in any case to the vocals? What do the pros do?
    Kind of "Oh, everyone knows you have to apply some...."- type of thing.

    Thanks for any advice
  2. UncleBob58

    UncleBob58 Active Member

    Apr 9, 2003
    Fairfield County, CT
    Home Page:
    Personally I like a matched pair of mics or a really good stereo mic. Depending on the situation I may add a mic for the bass singer and/or the lead singer. Many of the decisions will be based upon the type of singing. I do a lot of DooWop, both instrumental and accapella, and a couple of groups similar to Take 6.

    I don't like a mic per singer since it seems to lose some of the organic feel of the genre.

    I also like a fairly live room and keep the singers a couple of feet off of the mic(s). This keeps the organic feel and I don't have to use any effects.

    If you have to add chorus because it sounds thin, why not just have them double?

    Just my two ducats.
  3. karambos

    karambos Guest

    Thankyou for the ducats!

    I forgot to say that I'd experimented with three rough areas of the frequency spectrum:
    I boosted ~200-300 Hz for some "rumble"
    I reduced ~3000Hz for, well, because it sounded good
    I boosted ~5000 Hz for presence
    I reduced at ~7000 again, because it sounded good
    I boosted at 10-15,000 for top-end

    But with the same singers, it sounded good on some songs and bad on others. Strange. They are not professional singers but they have been together for a number of years and have done over 30 gigs in various lineups.

    The mics I have are:
    Neumann TLM103
    AKG SOlidTube
    Sennheiser 421
    Shure SM57
    Beyerdynamic Opus99 (kick drum mic)

    I also panned, not heavy, but enough to be noticed. On my sequencer (Logic) it works from -64 to +64. I panned at somewhere between 25-33.

    I had two mics in front of the singers, about 3/4 feet apart from one another (the mic stands, I mean) with the mics slightly higher than the singers heads and so pointing down (like Lemmy from Motorhead does or Liam GAllagher from Oasis) to the singers. The singers were in a row - just like they were performing.

    Incidentally, I you were going to go for a stereo pair of mics for such a job as this would you go for two of the same mics or two different mics? What do people think of the AKG 414's? Worth getting two of them?
  4. Markd102

    Markd102 Well-Known Member

    Apr 24, 2001
    I agree that stereo micing is the way to go. Then spot micing the lead or the bass or both on occasion.
    The thing with acapella is that you need to treat the group as a single instument, and it's hard to achieve this with only close micing. If the group are any good then they will be balanced within their group. The other thing is that you need a really good sounding room. This will affect your sound more than anything else by a long way.

    Maybe if you can swing another TLM103 so you have a stereo pair, and then use the AKG for the lead, and the 421 for the bass if needed.

    If you go to and then select "microphone university" you'll find some great descriptions of stereo micing techniques.

    Good luck
  5. UncleBob58

    UncleBob58 Active Member

    Apr 9, 2003
    Fairfield County, CT
    Home Page:
    Stereo micing should be matched pairs, in other words two of the exact same mic. Some companies sell matched pairs, which usually mean that they are sequenced serial numbers.

    Mics are like guitars. Even though they are made exactly the same way they will have their own personalities. I also have a TLM103. One of the studios at which I freelance has one also. I don't know why, but it sounds terrible. I thought that maybe it was the mic pre, the room, the singer... brought mine in and mine sounded fine.

    Put the mics a nose level, not above the singers unless you are more that 10 feet away. I also like a half circle so the singers can look at each other without turning their heads.

    At a recent session I used a pair of U87s in a V for the stereo, the five singers about two 1/2 feet off. I used an RE-20 for the bass singer about 16 inches off and 6 inches below his mouth level. All harmony, no lead singer. I used a pair of 414BUL/s for room tone, about 12 feet off, 8 feet high and spread about 16 feet apart in a moderately live room. At mix the singers mics were panned -45/45, nudged just a little of the bass mic in, and the room mics -100/100. Sounded GREAT! Added just a touch of reverb to the whole mix, almost no EQ at all, just a hint of compression.
  6. Markd102

    Markd102 Well-Known Member

    Apr 24, 2001
    Ideally, yes, matched pairs are the way to go. But generally unless the recording is VERY critical I wouldn't bother too much. A pair of the same model should yield excellent results.
    If I bought a second TLM and it sounded that radically different from the first, I'd be returning it and asking for another. They will differ slightly, yes. But from a company like Neumann I'd expect them to be pretty close.
  7. karambos

    karambos Guest

    this is all fantastic advice for which I'm extremely grateful. Thankyou to you both. :wink:

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