Recording choir in large church

Discussion in 'Vocals' started by GentleG, Aug 9, 2005.

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  1. GentleG

    GentleG Guest

    Hi all

    I'm starting to get some practise on on-location recording,
    but I feel a bit intimidated by my next project.

    I'm asked to record a choir (55 people) in a large church
    The church is about 80m (250 feet) long, 25m (80 feet) wide, 21m (70 feet) heigth
    The choir will be standing [see post below]
    At point 6 there is a large organ with balkony

    [see post below]
  2. Sonarerec

    Sonarerec Guest

    IMO you should be about 3m from the front row to get a blend rather than individual voices. You will probably get plenty of room with only that pair

    Will the choir stand on the chancel steps or be on risers?

  3. GentleG

    GentleG Guest

    thanks for the reply

    I'll post an update when I had the chance to get a preview

  4. GentleG

    GentleG Guest

    Hi all

    I've just visited the church with the conductor and co.

    There'll be 3 priests around the altar; speaking / singing towards the altar.
    There'll be 2 'diaken' (let's call 'm soloists) each singing towards a relic right in front of them.
    And a choir of about 55 people scattered on and before the stairs (towards the right side )

    See schedule:

    (watch the orientation of the different groups)

    The church is extremely reverbant.

    My first instinct tells me to do it as follows:

    A: xy pair of cardioid oktava mk012
    B & C: Rode NT1A
    E: ortf cardiod oktava mk012 about 3 metres high

    I'm very interested what your 'instinct' would be about this

    My current gear:
    1 stereopair mk012 only cardiod
    1 stereopair mk012 all capsules (card & omni & 8)
    2 NT1A
    1 AT3035
    3 sm57
    1 beta52A

    Again, any input is much appreciated

  5. ptr

    ptr Active Member

    Nov 3, 2004
    Göteborg, Sweden
    Home Page:
    Will there be any playing on the organ?

  6. GentleG

    GentleG Guest

    thanks for the reply ptr

    no organ

    it's a byzantium lythurgian something

  7. ptr

    ptr Active Member

    Nov 3, 2004
    Göteborg, Sweden
    Home Page:
    I'm reusing your image.


    Because I'd want to give the listener a good feel for how the singers where placed in the church I'd do a placement profile like I have set my red ABC.

    Begining with C, there I'd place My 012 Omnis as a speced AB pair, fairly high (3+ meters).

    At B I'd set the Röde Nt1a's as a pseudo ORTF pair on a spacer, not that high at all, perhaps waist high.

    And at A I'd place the the second 012 pair as ORTF, fairly low.

    Question : Will the middle preist sing with his back against the congregation?

    If so, I'd probobly place my A behind the altar.

    I'd rely heavily om the Omni's using the ORTF pairs as supports. On own tracks for a later mix or if You mix to stereo on the spot, very sparcely (Just to highten intellability).

    The church beeing reverbant is to your advantage as Bysantian music should not be recorded in a dry enviroment! (I've heard sveral Greek recordings of this kind of music and its always very spacious!)

    I would avoid close miking as it will give a quite unnatural ambience mix when You listen in stereo (ie. the feeling that the voices are in diffrent rooms..)

    Avoid using the SM57's and Betas as their sound will never match what your 012's and Rodes will give..

  8. GentleG

    GentleG Guest


    Thank you for your detailed reply

    Did you take in account the soloist B&C facing the Altar?

    And yes, the priests all face the ALtar

    About your position C

    Wouldn't the recording be very right-side heavy?

    I do understand how (too-)close micing would make it sound like different rooms

    Thank you very much

  9. ptr

    ptr Active Member

    Nov 3, 2004
    Göteborg, Sweden
    Home Page:
    Nope, missed that, then we'll have to reverse the whole thing...

    Perhaps a bit, but that is what the church layout says..

    New Image :

    I'm still with my original C position (With an alternate C position infront of the Choir)

    Then I'd turn the mike sets placing the O12's at position A and the N1a at B, but You'll have to reverse the channels in the mix. I would not worry about any phase problems with reversing the channels, as You will have tonnes of phase issues du to the reverbation times in the church.

    My condition on going easy on the A & B spots still stands!

  10. GentleG

    GentleG Guest


    Again, thanks for the reply

    I think I'd like to draw the center line from the Altar to the choir, so:

    Including your alternate C (not regular C)
    The positions are basicly as my instinct,
    incorporating more distance (good point)

    You also suggest to use the NT1A for the Altar, and mk012 on the rest, why's that? Because the others are singers and the priests are more talkers?

    So everything's ortf?
    I think I'd like to pan the priests / altar very close to center (11 and 1 o'clock)
    The soloists a bit wider (10 and 2)
    and the choir as wide as possible (9 and 3; keeping in mind the setup: maybe a bit less)

    To me this would mean (I think) using xy on your new position B and maybe even A

    And yes, left-right would be switched for A&B

    Thank you very much for your detailed response

    I'm still learning :)

  11. mdemeyer

    mdemeyer Active Member

    Dec 22, 2004
    Dublin, CA USA
    Regarding the skew of the sound to the right (if you run all three pairs up the center), how this would be as a listening experience would depend on the relative roles of the choir and soloists in the work. If the choir really carries a major role, I would be concerned that this would be very strange to listen to at home, since it would skew everything so much to the right and the listener would not have the knowledge of the performance layout.

    I guess this is a philosophy issue to some extent... are you trying to make a documentary or a recording? If a recording, then I think some 'reinterpretation' of the space is legitimate and probably called for.

  12. GentleG

    GentleG Guest

    Thank you for your reply

    Both the choir and I are both amateurs
    I think we both strive for something that's currently beyond our reach :)

    That said, and good question btw:
    The choir will be about 75%,
    Soloist about 35%
    Priests about 15%
    (there's some overlap here and there)

    So I feel the choir should be big, wide (as far as the setup allows this) and primary
    The soloists should be close second
    It's nice to hear/understand the priests too ( ;) )

    This RO keeps amazing me
    If it isn't the answers I like
    It's the questions they raise :)

    Keep it up
    And thanks again



    gear update:
    I now have all the capsules for the mk012s (4x omni, 4x card 4x hypercard)
  13. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Mar 8, 2004
    Tacoma, WA
    I've been watching this thread with a LOT of interest. This is the kind of concert I LOVE to do. It challenges me and my equipment and keeps me thinking.

    As for the main choir - I would definitely use omnis out in front. Not too far, or you'll get nothing but a wash of sound. (Too much reverb, not enough direct. It should be pretty obvious where the edge of the reverb field is.)

    Because of the extreme off-balance of the choir, I would consider placing another spot over the section where there is a mass of folks on one side but not on the other. Then, I would try to creatively pan that so that it makes sense in the mix. Keep this spot nice and high though. High enough to simulate the first mic position, but not so high as to get all of the singers again.

    As for those folks situated around the altar - I would personally use a blumlein pair or perhaps XY. If worse came to worse, I might use a single omni between them all.

    As for the 2 backwards facing soloists (kneeling? or standing?), I would have to spot mic these folks. One mic each.

    I know, I've gone over your mic count (and forsaken your patterns available), but I would definitely suggest you borrow/rent additional mics for this job.

    Hopefully your Oktavas are well matched too, otherwise, you're in for a world of hurt. In general, I think a lot of emphasis (perhaps too much) is given to matched pairs. In the case of the Oktavas though, were 2 mics with contiguous serial numbers can sound completely different, I would definitely stress the importance of similar sounding mics.

    Please let us know how this turns out!

  14. GentleG

    GentleG Guest

    Thanks for the reply

    Something I have forgotten to mention all this time:

    The goal of the recording is to create a cd to sell to the friends and families of the choir (about 200 is their guestimate). They want something to be proud of and earn some money on at the same time.
    Only the conductor is slightly interested in an accurate documentary.

    I therefore feel some reinterpretation of space is legitimate.

    So combining all the points being made and taking my equipment in account:
    2 sets of matched pairs mk012 with all capsules, 2x NT1A, 1x AT 3035 and 8-track digital recording (firepod + notebook))

    I come to this temporary conclusion

    priests: xy cardioid NT1A (about 2m away)
    soloists: supercardiod mk012 (about 1.5m away (is max possible)
    choir: ortf omni mk012 (about 1.5m away, 3m high, using best matched pair)

    Renting isn't an option: no money
    The small fee I get will be spend on transportation, tape, extra high micstand, extra long cables, coffee, nicotine.

    Again thanks for all your replies

    And feel free to comment on my temporary conclusion :)

  15. zemlin

    zemlin Well-Known Member

    Sep 4, 2004
    Indianapolis, IN
    Home Page:
    Use your ears

    I have a paint roller extention pole that I take with me for location recordings. Before I place my mics I walk around the room while the choir is singing and listen for a sweet spot. Your proposal sounds reasonable, but consider that a starting point.

    Get yourself some good headphones with good isolation. I use FutureSonics in-ear monitors and a pair of 30dB ear protection muffs. When I have that stuff on I don't hear SQUAT unless it comes through the wire.

    On the end of my paint pole I have a clamp for a paint brush handle. I take a small mic boom, wrap a couple turns of gaff tape around it and stick it in the clamp. Then I put my mic pair on the boom.

    I don my in-ears and muffs and search for the sweet spot based on what I hear. With ORTF, pay close attention to the stereo image. It's very easy to end up with a hole in the middle. Adjust the mic angle so you have a consistant soundfield from left to right without losing the center.

    Also, I always do this with my eyes closed. My ears work better when my eyes are shut off. I don't think my PSU has enough juice to keep both devices working at full power.

    Good cans and some careful hunting will yield better results than any amount of discussion here - granted it's good to have a plan when you walk in, and it looks like you've got that.

    All this assumes, of course, that the choir will be rehearsing in place before the service.
  16. ghellquist

    ghellquist Member

    May 25, 2004
    I am not sure I could really add anything to what mics and where to place them. Better people than me has contributed there. I would however add a routine that has helped me quite a bit.

    Before going on my first important on-site recording I did a dry run at home. I started by packing everything up in the boxes and moved all the boxes to the kitchen. Then I carried them into the living room setting everything up as if it was on location. Snakes and cables and such got rolled out to the expected lenght and connected. Stands put up and mic holders and mics added. Then recording started, running for the two hours I expected.

    Finally everything was packed down into the boxes, each having a list of included items.

    This dry-run highlighted a lot of missing stuff in my equipment list and also allowed me to become much faster at setting up things.

    Nowadays I must admit beeing lazy, only running the dry-run in my head. But I am continuosly looking for the small things that will help on location. Things like zipper pouches and tupperware boxes and various other small things helping out. These really help to save the day, in addition to beeing great fun finding.

    In a way, you get only one shot at the big day. Missing it because you forget a cable is no favourite.

  17. GentleG

    GentleG Guest


    I'm allowed to set up between 09:00 and 10:00
    Rehearsal is planned (.. :roll: ..) from 10:00 till 10:15 .....\
    Doors open.
    Show starts at 10:30

    Rehearsel at home: I've done that already some times for previous gigs. I usually carry way too much with me (ectra stand, cables, small bits and pieces, volt/Ohm-meter!!! etc.) :D

    My previous experience is recording:
    choir in rehearsel space
    jazz band
    So this one is a bit different

    My mild panic has finally ebbed away (thanks all)
    I'm just feeling a bit anxious now
    That's just healthy I think
    Can't wait for the day!


    Any comments still welcome
  18. zemlin

    zemlin Well-Known Member

    Sep 4, 2004
    Indianapolis, IN
    Home Page:
    I always carry too much stuff - but I figure better to have extra rather than being short. It is also commonplace for there to be surprises ...

    "I forgot to mention the solo violinist on this piece. Is that going to be a problem?

    FWIW, I'd want 2 hours minimum to haul in and setup - but then I'm not known for being speedy. :-?

    Here's what my location kit looked like about a year ago.
    I've added a few bits since then - like some stands and an additional rack bag. I don't take everything for every gig, but I rarely travel light.

    Zoinks! - 15 minutes of rehearsal and 15 minutes to doors open? That's not much "play" time! You'll have to have your ORTF angles set before the choir gets there - if you can have a helper to walk around in front of the mics to check the spacing, that will save some time.

    I'd definitely plan for more than 60 minutes to setup!
  19. GentleG

    GentleG Guest

    wow, THAT's light travel :-?

    I have:
    1 extra large backpack (notebook, mics, cables, etc.)
    1 2HE rackcase (firepod, mouse, digital camera, headphones
    1 bag with micstands
    1 25meter electra cable winding up thing (what's the word for that in English)

    I theory I can carry it all at once
    (not taking spinal injuries into account :wink: )

  20. zemlin

    zemlin Well-Known Member

    Sep 4, 2004
    Indianapolis, IN
    Home Page:
    Yeah - for a choral gig a lot of that would stay home. That was after unloading the car for a 6-piece band concert where I did FOH and multitrack track recording.

    The cable winding up thing would be called a REEL.
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    The New AT5047 Premier Studio Microphone Purity Transformed

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