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Problem With Choirs Condenser Microphones
Old 22nd August 2007
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bexarametric's Avatar

Question Problem With Choirs

I talked to a guy today that said that his church was having problems with their choir mics. He said that he couldn't get the mix of the choir to be as loud as he wanted. Of course I asked him all the right questions (what type of mics, what type of board etc). He couldn't really give me a lot of information other than they were long Shure mics (maybe SM81's) and he doesn't know what type of board they have.

Obviously that's not a lot of helpful information. But I'm thinking that I may still be able to solve his problem. He said that he couldn't get the choir loud enough. I'm thinking that maybe whatever board he's using might not have good enough preamps. I don't think it's the mics. While SM81's wouldn't be my first choice for miking a choir, I think they can still get the job done.

What do you guys think?
Old 22nd August 2007
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We have found most amateur choirs are helped with a small amount of compression (1.4:1) and make up gain in mastering. They simply do not have sufficient vocal technique to project. Moving the mics closer is not an option as you lose blend, space and room sound all of which are so important for choral recordings.
Old 22nd August 2007
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I'm assuming "loud enough" means they feed back before reaching the desired SPL... I doubt it's the console's preamps. It's either one or a combination of the following:

1. The choir just doesn't project. This is common and won't be fixed by throwing microphones in people's faces.

2. The PA is behind (or not far enough in front of) the microphones.

3. The choir is using monitors with the choir mics being fed into them.

4. The 3:1 rule is not being followed.
Old 22nd August 2007
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Are we talking about recording or live amplification?
Old 22nd August 2007
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Well maybe they are loud enough....just another instrument is out of control volume wise. Acoustic drums are usually the culprit in every church i've run sound in.
Old 22nd August 2007
Actually, the specific brand of the mic and console are not really all that important. I assume we are talking about sound reinforcement here, but some of these points work for recording as well.

Firstly, I assume that the PA system is adequate for the space, and more or less tuned and functioning properly, and any mic's that need phantom power are receiving it - this is a very large assumption.

The size, makeup and position of the choir is first thing to consider. Is this a feedback issue or a mix issue? Are we mic'ing "the choir" or is each section individually mic'ed? The general type of mic's being used would be important - condenser/dynamic - pickup pattern - cardioid/super/hyper? What is the position of the choir and mic's relative to the PA system? Relative to the band? How many mic's are being used and what is their distance from the choir? Are monitors involved? If there is feedback, is it in the House or monitors?

If there is a band, there might be a lot of leakage into the choir mic's and so when you go to bring up the choir, you are also bringing up the band. Also, since most churches tend to be acoustically lively, feedback will often start to kick in at a lower level than in a more controlled environment - especially if condenser mic's are being employed.
Old 23rd August 2007
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Jim vanBergen's Avatar

This is a case for a good sound designer/engineer to explain the laws of physics.

Without really specific information, you can assume it's largely about gain before feedback due to mic & speaker location. You can't assume that even with great mics, a top console, and high priced drive, amps & speakers that you can solve a basic problem if they are put together poorly.

Ultimately, you'll likely know as soon as you walk in.
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