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Recording a small cathedral choir and organ
Old 25th February 2015
  #1
Gear interested
 

Thread Starter
Recording a small cathedral choir and organ

I've read some great advice on the forums already, but can't answer this dilemma:

I do hobbyist recordings of a small cathedral choir of around 30 singers and organ and own a single MKH30/40 pair which I use straight into a Sound Devices 722. Time to up my game!

I find mic placement is critical, but the results can be good. I'm after a richer sound though and the 722 is neutral in a flat way, rather than a spacious one.

I've been wondering about some alternatives:

Add a DAV BG-1 before line input of the 722.

Or a DAV BG-2 with some extra mics for choir or organ (I'd still like to keep individual track outputs for mixing, so would need an affordable line-input interface in place of the 722)

Or 4 mics into Apogee Quartet?

3 x MKH 20 on choir then MKH30/40 behind conductor and MKH30/40 raised up high for organ pipes? All into BG8 then RME UC and matrix the M/S pairs in DAW? This is my fantasy rig. Dream on.

I'm wondering which path is best for this type of classical/small ensemble recording? Just squeeze maximum sound from the 2 mics I've got, or record closer with multiple mics?
Old 25th February 2015
  #2
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boojum's Avatar
You can get excellent recordings with the Senn MS array you have. Look to Rolo 46 for examples of what can be accomplished with the same array into a 702. The SD pre's are good, in the 788's they could not be distinguished from the Nagra VI which some people think is as good as it gets.

Your sound will be most determined by the mics, their placement and what you do with the MS in post. If I were you I would get as good as I can with the MS/722 before I went to new pre's. The secret is in the placement of the mics. For organ recording you would be well off to get the MKH 20 as omni's have the bottom end that organs need to be recorded by. It should also give you a more spacious sound. And you know you are just dying to get that mic anyway.

If you want real expert advice on this, go to Rolo 46, a man who knows hos onions with Senn, SD and MS.

Last edited by boojum; 25th February 2015 at 07:17 AM..
Old 25th February 2015
  #3
Lives for gear
 

Seconded what boojum said (speaking as one who has used that same Sennheiser combination since about 1985 on just about every recording - though sometimes supplemented by various spots when absolutely necessary).

Some thoughts (IMHO, YMMV, etc) -

For me, the concept of a preamp that has any kind of character is all wrong. For me the ideal preamp is "a piece of wire with gain" and no noise with it, thank you. Mics have "character", likewise acoustic spaces, instruments, and mic placement adds to the mix. That's plenty enough character to contend with - the recording device and preamp should have the nearest possible thing to a ruler flat response. I used a Sennheiser MZA preamp designed to suit their mics (sold to me I think by John Willett??) but I think that's a bit long in the tooth now and no longer available.

If I were asked to record cathedral choir with organ and didn't know the group or space well, I'd be inclined to go along with the MS pair, a pair for the organ, and a pair for distant reverb pickup. Apart from the main pair, anything else would be deployed if strictly and evidently necessary. The pair for the organ would be required if optimum placement of the main pair for the choir lead to an imbalance with the organ, and the distant pair would be a matter of taste (and note that they'd tend to add ambient noise).

One thing musicians and conductors like is minimal fuss and quick setup. If you go in with a recorder with decent onboard preamps, a fine stereo pair, and a single cable wired for stereo (and one mic stand), you're popular from the outset. As soon as you add to that, the complexity and setup time and time-to-balance all start to balloon. Of course if the whole context is something high end such as Plush might be asked to do, then the client expectation is for that very complexity, and the whole hog is more welcome.

I used to do a great deal of mix-straight-to-stereo, but these days a multitrack recorder is, IMHO, the way to go for location recording where monitoring may be difficult. If I'm understanding your present rig correctly, it seems to me that your upgrade path would be to add more channels to your recording capability, plus a pair of mics suitable either for spots or for a second coincident pair. That package would cover a surprising amount of requirements of the kind of recording you seem to be doing.

But other may well disagree!

PS - any chance of you posting a sample of what you're currently getting?
Old 25th February 2015
  #4
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king2070lplaya's Avatar
Roger (Rolo46) definitely gets great results with his MS setups, they remind me very much of early Telarc discs and have a great sound and perspective overall.

Just to throw a different perspective at you:

My go-to choir setup is 4-5 mics across the front of the choir, and another pair further out to gel all together. So if it's a Capella choir, I'll probably use 4-5 omnis or subcard across depending on the room and size of the ensemble, and then maybe a coincident pair further away to give a bit of imaging.

If it's choir and an ensemble, usually the omnis will make up the more distant pair, and the choir spots will be more directional.

With the organ, I'd probably set up for a good room (organ) pickup with omnis, with the balance going to the organ, and then cardioid spots for the choir to give some clarity to them. Then maybe another cardioid pair between to capture a good bit of both to help with overall imaging.

Organ is a tough beast to record with other instruments, it bleeds into everything! A certain label used to record it seperately for their symphonic rep that featured organ... Can you imagine that logistical planning?! The results were great though.
Old 25th February 2015
  #5
Gear Maniac
 
henryf's Avatar
 

I'm just a hobbyist myself, but my recommendations would be:
1. Get equipment that can record more than one stereo pair at a time, and
2. Try blending a stereo pair of omnidirectional mics into the mix.
Old 25th February 2015
  #6
Gear Nut
 

For sure the OP's need for "richer" sound has nothing to do with the preamp. I would strongly recommend to get some omnis and to find out what can be achieved with these ones. Or a second MKH40 and running ORTF or similar solutions. Could also be nice. In the end, the spaced stereo approach will give you more "richness".
Old 25th February 2015
  #7
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Keep on experimenting with placement, it takes experience to find the golden spot
Consider a MKH 30 mid, this can be a spacious game changer with its rear field
Buy a used Nagra VI when you can afford it, its mic amps are quite wonderful imho.
Old 25th February 2015
  #8
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pkautzsch's Avatar
 

"Rich" sound in the sense of "spacious" does not come from preamps. It does come from mics and placement.
Spaciousness comes from spaced setups. For a 30 piece choir I'd start with maybe 2 or 3 ft of spacing. Omnis work best in a good room (like a nice sounding church) and with a large organ that has 16" stops. They will need a little closer placement than an MS pair.
I don't think that more mics will get you what you're after. Spots or section mics add clarity, but not spaciousness.

"Richness" in terms of sound quality often is associated with slightly non-linear response or saturation. MKHs and SD preamps are both very clean, close to sterile. If you have the budget, get another flavor of mics. Neumann KM or Schoeps come to my mind first.
Keep that MS pair, though!
Rolo's MS artistry is beyond what most of us can accomplish with that technique. Many years of experience.
Old 25th February 2015
  #9
Lives for gear
The OP posted he has a SD722 which is 2 tracks. Various posts have suggested setups involving more than 2 mics.

Having listened to Rolo's recordings, I find myself asking how far can one go with 2 tracks in recording choir/piano/organ? Sometimes the choir is 30 people and sometimes it's 200. And what do you do when there is a soloist who sings from the far end of the choir? What do you do if you only have 2 tracks or do you have to find a way to add more?
Old 25th February 2015
  #10
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boojum's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by 2manyrocks View Post
What do you do if you only have 2 tracks or do you have to find a way to add more?

You buy an SD 788T.
Old 25th February 2015
  #11
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If you enjoy the fun of live mixing you dont need additional tracks
If you dont, its belt and braces and iso record of all mikes
What sort of creative hobby is that?
I have my unused 6 tracks on the Nagra as insurance and the HD but record only to Compact Flash, I also have my Sonosax SX6 mixer as unused insurance, those devices give 'confidence' but I genuinely savour the challenge, flying by seat of pants
For many years I recorded direct to mono, then twin and 4 track arrived , I still mixed the finished result on site, never gave iso tracks
My BBC training was not as acquisitor of material but as a premixer of dialogue and FX which then passed quickly and painlessly through the dub
Small good choirs and organ in good acoustics are difficult to cock up, even with rudimentary kit and experience
Large ensembles can be intimidating but they can be tamed by 2 tracks 2 mics, the mics have to be precisely right and the position is vitally paramount
Its fun finding out as one of my early GFs said.
Old 25th February 2015
  #12
Lives for gear
....buy a 788T....

So $6500 for the 788T plus four sets of Senns or similar at $2,400 per pair, plus cables and stands for a total investment of $16,000 or so?

I like Rolo's answer better.
Old 25th February 2015
  #13
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Bruce Watson's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jimbobs View Post
I'm after a richer sound...
What does "richer" mean to you? I need more specificity; please give us more details about what you are looking for. Or, failing that, give us more details about what you find lacking in your current recordings. Either way (or both) more detail from you will help the group know what to suggest.
Old 25th February 2015
  #14
Gear interested
 

Thread Starter
Thanks for all the great suggestions. I suppose by 'richer' or spacious, what I've found with my MKH30/40 into SD722 in a big venue is that I'm torn between wanting to move closer in to capture more diction from the singers, and further out to get more of the church acoustic.

Maybe it's a result of hearing classical recordings that mix multiple mics, so I'm hoping to hear both in my recording. That's where my M/S sound is flat by comparison (sure, my technique will be lacking too).

Rolo 46 - I loved your recordings on other threads, especially the Soweto strings. Obviously M/S goes much further than I've been able to capture so far.

I'm wondering if for choir and organ two flanking omnis would give the rich/spacious sound I'm seeking. But then I'll need to look beyond my 722, and I do love the ease and portability of a simple setup. Hmmm...

The Nagra VI looks wonderful. I think I'm many years and recordings away from justifying anything like that yet!
Old 26th February 2015
  #15
Lives for gear
 

Remember the more mics you add the less reality intrudes to your recording
I love the Decca Boys theatricality,but Im a puritan at heart.
Old 26th February 2015
  #16
Gear Addict
Last september I recorder a female schola (in concert) in a large gothic church, using 2 LDC fig.8s in MS.
It was as spacious as could be in my view, without the 'blur' that AB normally gives me.
Then again, that church is a miracle.
Attached Thumbnails
Recording a small cathedral choir and organ-ww.jpg  
Attached Files

veni.mp3 (2.79 MB, 1039 views)


Last edited by heva; 26th February 2015 at 01:45 PM..
Old 26th February 2015
  #17
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jimbobs View Post
Thanks for all the great suggestions. I suppose by 'richer' or spacious, what I've found with my MKH30/40 into SD722 in a big venue is that I'm torn between wanting to move closer in to capture more diction from the singers, and further out to get more of the church acoustic.

Maybe it's a result of hearing classical recordings that mix multiple mics, so I'm hoping to hear both in my recording. That's where my M/S sound is flat by comparison (sure, my technique will be lacking too).
Most classical recordings are not done with M/S. Did you ever collect any experience with other setups, e.g. A/B?
Richness can also be achieved by adding room mics (omnis). But in the first place I recommend to try something different from M/S.
Old 26th February 2015
  #18
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jimjazzdad's Avatar
Jimbobs, I too am an amateur recordist, attempting to record my son's youth symphony, mainly in stone churches. Lately I have been using a MS pair along with omnis at ~40 cm. (aka the Boojum-Norman array). Like you, I started with MS (AKG C414) and then added the omnis (KSM 141) because I was looking for something 'more'. This is a very powerful combination, with a lot of flexibility to adjust the sound to taste in post. I am still learning how to best use this technique, but I feel I can recommend it to you. Here is a sample:
https://www.dropbox.com/s/gwg2671y6v...o%201.wav?dl=0
Old 26th February 2015
  #19
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pkautzsch's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jimbobs View Post
I'm torn between wanting to move closer in to capture more diction from the singers, and further out to get more of the church acoustic.
This, again, calls for omnis, preferrably the diffuse field variety. Neumann 183, Schoeps MK2H or MK3, Sennheiser MKH 20 with treble switch ON, for example.

For larger scale, you might consider renting another 7 series machine first. They can be linked and will then operate like one unit, recording in sample accurate sync.
Or get a small portable mixer and mix it right there on the spot (though you need to know what you want and have reliable listening available).
Old 26th February 2015
  #20
Lives for gear
Rental suggestion is excellent idea to try gear before investing in something that might or might not be satisfying at the expense level discussed here.

I'm wondering if the 722 can be linked to a tascam dr680mkii to use the 722 for the main pair and use the other preamps on the 680 for the rest? Its $600.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #21
Here for the gear
Hi guys, sorry for the topic resurrection.
In two days Im going to record a choir with an organ. I was thinking about to position the choir under the organ or place them in the opposite side of the church. What are your recommendations? Ive never recorded something like that before...
I have 8 channels available and the mics I consider to bring there are: 2x Line audio OM1, 2x Oktava 012, 2x SP B3 (LDC), 1x Neumann U87ai, 1x Coles 4038
What would be your setup with these?
Thanks for every reply
Old 2 weeks ago
  #22
Gear Maniac
 

What piece will be performed, how big is the choir, how large/high is the church and the organ?
Positioning the choir on the other site of a large church could mean you'll be picking up to much reverb from the organ, and have timing differences with the on-mic organ tracks - that need to be adjusted in post.
But I can imagine that some work would require a positioning like that, like if the organ is drowning out the quire (or vice versa)..
Old 2 weeks ago
  #23
Here for the gear
thank you for the reply!
it is going to be music for a movie about WW2..so an old song about a soldier rearranged for organ and choir... so not a classical piece..It´s a smaller type of church and a choir is not huge either...approx. 40 people in it..
I was thinking about putting the cardiod Oktavas on the choir in ORTF, the 2 line audio OM1s in AB 3-4m high closer to the organ, u87with coles 4038 for MS (maybe...) and I will bring 2 LDCs to use in a wide spaced pair in the church... any other ideas? Also was thinking about to positioning the choir under the organ?
Old 1 week ago
  #24
Gear Maniac
 

Neither have lots of experience in recording that combination..
I would figure out if the position of the choir (mics) would pickup any unwanted organ frequencies, and repostion the choir accordingly. Further: picking up enough male voice in a choir can be a challenge with one pair of microphones.
But overall, your 'mic plan' seems like a good choice, maybe you need to time compensate for the wide spaced pair. Would like to hear a sample of the result, if that's possible!
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