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Orchestra with Choir vs Choir with Orchestra
Old 1 week ago
  #1
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Thread Starter
Orchestra with Choir vs Choir with Orchestra

Hey, all. I've been recording the local orchestra for NPR broadcasts, and now the best local choir want in on the act. I've recorded orchestra with choir a couple of times with decent results, capturing everything in my main front pair plus a pair of spots on the choir that were barely needed. But I'm wondering if I should change my approach a bit for what is essentially a choir performance with orchestra accompaniment. Do most people treat them the same, or is it common to use a more choir-centric mic setup when it's the choir's turn to shine?
Old 1 week ago
  #2
Think of it this way: It's still a band in a room with a conductor/director. The latter being responsible for the balance between voices and orchestra. You just have to make sure you don't get in the way.

I'd make sure I have enough coverage of both, but I'd still get out from under my cans and listen to hear what it sounds like in the hall. If it's blended well there, then it better be blended well in my cans. I'd mic the chorus with 2-4 mics depending on how they're physically laid out (especially since they sound like they're the paying client), but your main array should ideally be capturing the whole of the ensemble.
Old 1 week ago
  #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by seanmccoy View Post
Hey, all. I've been recording the local orchestra for NPR broadcasts, and now the best local choir want in on the act. I've recorded orchestra with choir a couple of times with decent results, capturing everything in my main front pair plus a pair of spots on the choir that were barely needed. But I'm wondering if I should change my approach a bit for what is essentially a choir performance with orchestra accompaniment. Do most people treat them the same, or is it common to use a more choir-centric mic setup when it's the choir's turn to shine?
Sounds like you're doing well down there!

I'm about to record an annual concert featuring a few hundred in the choir with full orchestra. Four mics over the choir, corresponding roughly to its four sections, get mixed in (~10-15%) with a main pair. (Space considerations put the main pair a little far from stage, so the pair alone is a touch heavy on orchestra.) I'm not sure that I'd mic "choir-centric" material differently, except positioning of the main pair, as I leave it to the director to manage balance of voice and instrument no matter the material.
Old 1 week ago
  #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by avillalta View Post
Think of it this way: It's still a band in a room with a conductor/director. The latter being responsible for the balance between voices and orchestra. You just have to make sure you don't get in the way.

I'd make sure I have enough coverage of both, but I'd still get out from under my cans and listen to hear what it sounds like in the hall. If it's blended well there, then it better be blended well in my cans. I'd mic the chorus with 2-4 mics depending on how they're physically laid out (especially since they sound like they're the paying client), but your main array should ideally be capturing the whole of the ensemble.
Agreed. (and I use flankers also) When I recorded this full orchestra with choir, the voices bordered on overwhelming the orchestra at times, so with this smaller orchestra it shouldn't be much of a problem to 'feature' the choir.


Quote:
Originally Posted by DrReid View Post
Sounds like you're doing well down there!

I'm about to record an annual concert featuring a few hundred in the choir with full orchestra. Four mics over the choir, corresponding roughly to its four sections, get mixed in (~10-15%) with a main pair. (Space considerations put the main pair a little far from stage, so the pair alone is a touch heavy on orchestra.) I'm not sure that I'd mic "choir-centric" material differently, except positioning of the main pair, as I leave it to the director to manage balance of voice and instrument no matter the material.
Sounds like a plan. I haven't seen this group in performance, but in their online videos it looks like they're all mixed together. So since I won't be able to set up actual 'section' spots, I'm thinking a three-mic array for the 66-voice choir. Thoughts?
Old 1 week ago
  #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by avillalta View Post
Think of it this way: It's still a band in a room with a conductor/director. The latter being responsible for the balance between voices and orchestra. You just have to make sure you don't get in the way.
I agree in theory. But I rarely find that to work in practice.

There have been many times that I have had to cover the choir specifically with directional microphones and leave the orchestra in the rear (attenuated) pattern.

The conductor is "adjusting" the balance for what s/he is hearing and/or what the mix sounds like out in the house. And IME, that is rarely the same balance that I get from the microphones.
Old 1 week ago
  #6
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I always consider the conductor as the pivot for choir recording
Cover his position and then add to taste
Choirs can be difficult, the very best simple , the lesser variety does not bear close inspection
A smaller band makes the task easier
With fig 8 arrays it is possible to steer the microphones by panning up or down to produce a finessed balance
66 vox and a small band should be manageable on a good main pair
Some relocation of principles might have to be considered if the balance of Vox is uneven or lumpy.
As Richard says sometimes the main array might be moved to the choir area with the band in the rear
With fig 8s they are still on mic in the rear lobes, this is a useful quick fix, band geography is of course reversed field
Best of luck, choirs can be demanding, especially at Christmas.
Roger
Old 6 days ago
  #7
I have never seen the orchestra in the rear, maybe a band a half dozen times, but I haven't seen everything I suppose. The "Choir with Orchestra" arrangement to me usually means a small pick-up group accompanying the choir in a supportive role. The balance usually takes care of itself because of the orchestra size, though I usually use two to four spot mics on the choir either way depending on their position and size. With choir alone or with piano, I have been favoring a blumlein ribbon main pair. With orchestra, spaced omnis.
Old 6 days ago
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rumleymusic View Post
I have never seen the orchestra in the rear,
I haven't, either. By "rear' I meant the back-side of the directional microphone(s).

And with the traditional placement of the orchestra in front of the choir, it doesn't help when the loudest sections of the orchestra (brass, percussion) are the closest to the choir.
Old 6 days ago
  #9
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I always enjoy reading Richard Crowley's posts in these threads: his observations through the years mirror mine in many ways. When recording a choir with stellar performance skills in an appropriate space with tasteful selective supportive accompaniment a couple of high quality omnis will usually do the job. This however is not a real world scenario: a spiking soprano or a "more me" dude playing a huge pipe organ can/will wreck an otherwise good performance. There is a clear and unmistakable difference between a professional VxS volunteer ensemble that is assembled to perform seasonal music. A professional production will have a conductor that has the responsibility and standing to demand a precise execution of a given score: unlike the worship director/church choir director that has to be careful not to tread on the sensitive feelings of the volunteers.
As FOH mixers or recording technicians we might be able to discuss obvious problems with a director however in most cases we will have to do the best we can to highlight the good and electronically muzzle the noise.
Hugh
Old 7 hours ago
  #10
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Thread Starter
So it turns out this choir concert will feature all new music, and nearly every piece uses a different choir configuration. Sometimes they'll be in traditional SATB layout, sometimes quartets interspersed throughout the choir, sometimes three separate choirs stage left, center and right. I don't think there's any universal choir spot mic config I can get away with, so the audience will be seeing a lot of me on stage. Could be a long night.
Old 4 hours ago
  #11
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Go with the flow is my mantra
Sometimes modern contemporary choral can have 30 part singing, no time to re mic
Just get coverage and sprinkle fairy dust in your secret lair!
Roger
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