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Mic Setup Advice for Live Choral Concert in mid December
Old 2 weeks ago
  #1
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Mic Setup Advice for Live Choral Concert in mid December

Hi guys & gals!

I have been tasked with an upcoming live Holiday concert for a local chorale in December and have a limited number of mics and setup opportunities (in order to keep visible mic stand clutter to a minimum and the mic placement consistent throughout the performance).

I was wondering about the best way to maximize the mic coverage and audio quality with this minimal gear as I am a relative newcomer to remote location recording (especially live) compared to others on this forum.


The Gear:

3 - Sennheiser MKH 8040 Cardioids

3 - Audio-Technica Omnis

2 - Schoeps MK21 Wide Cardioids

1 - Schoeps MK41 Super Cardioid

1 - 8-channel, 24 bit audio recorder (I can borrow another if need be)


Plus a few tall and standard sized mic stands.


The Setup:

The 85-87 member choir will consist of four straight rows with sopranos on the first row, altos on the second, tenors on the third, and bass singers at the top.

The full Steinway grand piano will be stage right and angled with the pianist facing the conductor, full stick.

Conductor podium will be centered. Usually he has been placed a few feet from the choir and not backed all the way to the stage lip.

A new twist for me - separate vocal groups consisting of soloists, duets, a trio, and a quartet have been requested to be positioned between the piano and the conductor. They will be accompanied by either the piano or both it and the choir.

One song in particular will have a vocal trio, grand piano, and a string trio. The chorale director was hoping to place the string trio stage right of the piano with the vocal trio stage left of the piano as flankers. However, if there is a better, more balanced approach, I am up for ideas.

The last time the piano was stage right with a place for soloists by the conductor, there was little space more stage right of the piano, which might push the strings downstage and in front of the piano toward the audience.

A large electric screen will drop about four feet in front of the first row of the choir pre and post concert and during the intermission, so I have to be mindful of that.

In the first concert I placed spaced omnis inside the lid of the piano and close miked the choir with three of my Sennheiser cardioids on tall stands in a relative 3:1 ratio to minimize audience noise and maximize the breadth and depth of the choir. The four main choir sections were normally scrambled to balance the sound in that manner, but not this time.

Having said that, the conductor has now made his preference known that he doesn't want a center mic stand between himself and the choir and only begrudgingly accepted it in my last live recording session.

I now have access to that additional pair of MK21 wide cardioids for this concert.

Any particular advice from the experts on how best to place the mics for a fairly balanced sound without having to shift mic stands around during the performance, which is a no-go?

Would something like a four mic phased array (Boojum or Faulkner) on the lip of the stage at a particular specific height work here with spots, or are there other miking alternatives you would suggest?

Note - I doubt I can place a tall stand out in the auditorium with the audience without the chorale director squawking, and the pit section will be raised in order to have the full stage available, so I can't place a stand in the pit with an extension.

Thank you for any and all of your suggestions and advice!
Old 2 weeks ago
  #2
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by AVProducer View Post
Hi guys & gals!

I have been tasked with an upcoming live Holiday concert for a local chorale in December and have a limited number of mics and setup opportunities (in order to keep visible mic stand clutter to a minimum and the mic placement consistent throughout the performance).

I was wondering about the best way to maximize the mic coverage and audio quality with this minimal gear as I am a relative newcomer to remote location recording (especially live) compared to others on this forum.


The Gear:

3 - Sennheiser MKH 8040 Cardioids

3 - Audio-Technica Omnis

2 - Schoeps MK21 Wide Cardioids

1 - Schoeps MK41 Super Cardioid

1 - 8-channel, 24 bit audio recorder (I can borrow another if need be)


Plus a few tall and standard sized mic stands.


The Setup:

The 85-87 member choir will consist of four straight rows with sopranos on the first row, altos on the second, tenors on the third, and bass singers at the top.

The full Steinway grand piano will be stage right and angled with the pianist facing the conductor, full stick.

Conductor podium will be centered. Usually he has been placed a few feet from the choir and not backed all the way to the stage lip.

A new twist for me - separate vocal groups consisting of soloists, duets, a trio, and a quartet have been requested to be positioned between the piano and the conductor. They will be accompanied by either the piano or both it and the choir.

One song in particular will have a vocal trio, grand piano, and a string trio. The chorale director was hoping to place the string trio stage right of the piano with the vocal trio stage left of the piano as flankers. However, if there is a better, more balanced approach, I am up for ideas.

The last time the piano was stage right with a place for soloists by the conductor, there was little space more stage right of the piano, which might push the strings downstage and in front of the piano toward the audience.

A large electric screen will drop about four feet in front of the first row of the choir pre and post concert and during the intermission, so I have to be mindful of that.

In the first concert I placed spaced omnis inside the lid of the piano and close miked the choir with three of my Sennheiser cardioids on tall stands in a relative 3:1 ratio to minimize audience noise and maximize the breadth and depth of the choir. The four main choir sections were normally scrambled to balance the sound in that manner, but not this time.

Having said that, the conductor has now made his preference known that he doesn't want a center mic stand between himself and the choir and only begrudgingly accepted it in my last live recording session.

I now have access to that additional pair of MK21 wide cardioids for this concert.

Any particular advice from the experts on how best to place the mics for a fairly balanced sound without having to shift mic stands around during the performance, which is a no-go?

Would something like a four mic phased array (Boojum or Faulkner) on the lip of the stage at a particular specific height work here with spots, or are there other miking alternatives you would suggest?

Note - I doubt I can place a tall stand out in the auditorium with the audience without the chorale director squawking, and the pit section will be raised in order to have the full stage available, so I can't place a stand in the pit with an extension.

Thank you for any and all of your suggestions and advice!
depends on what soundfield you're after, your budget and your mixing skills (and a few other factors): if you're lucky, you can get away with a single mic system! doesn't leave any options after recording though (unless you're using a soundfield)...

at the other end of the scale, you'd use 3-4mics on the choir (depending on width, mic pattern, amount of room sound), 2 on the piano, min. 2 for soloist, 3 for strings, a main pair, ambient pair etc.

i'm not much of a fan of spaced arrays for stereo production but that's my taste.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #3
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I can't very well use three to four stands on the choir since I had mentioned above that the conductor decided he wanted as few mic stands as possible and didn't like the idea of stands in the middle section of the choir (even though there could potentially be a sonic hole in the middle).

Since I have an odd number of omnis (3) I was mulling over, perhaps, a Decca Tree like main pair at the front of the stage to grab the widest acoustics I could (given the large choir, variety of vocal ensembles, piano, and one piece with strings and vocals and piano), 2 widely spaced MK21's wide cards close to the choir (each section will be about 17 chairs wide) and use two 8040 cards as ORTF spots for the vocal soloists and ensembles (since I'll have up to 4 singers at one time), and one 8040 spot for the strings. Leave the piano to be picked up by the main pair or use the MK41 super card to capture the piano (if that's even warranted).

I'm still not sure the best place to put the vocal trio and string trio with the piano accompaniment for that one final number.

Anyone have thoughts on these ideas?

Any other suggestions?

Thanks again!
Old 2 weeks ago
  #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AVProducer View Post
I can't very well use three to four stands on the choir since I had mentioned above that the conductor decided he wanted as few mic stands as possible and didn't like the idea of stands in the middle section of the choir (even though there could potentially be a sonic hole in the middle).

Since I have an odd number of omnis (3) I was mulling over, perhaps, a Decca Tree like main pair at the front of the stage, 2 widely spaced MK21's wide cards close to the choir and use two 8040 cards as ORTF spots for the vocal soloists and ensembles (since I'll have up to 4 singers at one time), and one 8040 spot for the strings. Leave the piano to be picked up by the main pair or use the MK41 super card to capture the piano (if that's even warranted).

I'm still not sure the best place to put the vocal trio and string trio with the piano accompaniment for that one final number.

Anyone have thoughts on these ideas?

Any other suggestions?

Thanks again!
if the piano is sr, i'd put the string trio sl, maybe on a small podium and the soloists between the conductor and the piano.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by deedeeyeah View Post
if the piano is sr, i'd put the string trio sl, maybe on a small podium and the soloists between the conductor and the piano.
That sounds interesting. Thanks!
Old 2 weeks ago
  #6
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voltronic's Avatar
 

This is very much like a concert I record every year, projector screen and all.

I agree 100% with deedeeyeah's advice on placement. If you can do that, you might get away with a very minimal setup of just 2 mics. This is the type of gig where I would put up my pair of DPA 4061 omnis, if the acoustics are good. I never spot mic soloists in this situation, unless for some strange reason they are downstage of the main pair.

If I had to pick just one pair from your available mics, I would choose the Schoeps MK 21 pair. Set them in NOS on a high stand behind the conductor, and aim the capsules at the back row of the choir. You'll have to lower this during whatever is happening during intermission.

As long as the room is decent and the choir isn't shoved way upstage, it should work. Acoustic shells behind the choir will help as well.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by voltronic View Post
This is very much like a concert I record every year, projector screen and all.

I agree 100% with deedeeyeah's advice on placement. If you can do that, you might get away with a very minimal setup of just 2 mics. This is the type of gig where I would put up my pair of DPA 4061 omnis, if the acoustics are good. I never spot mic soloists in this situation, unless for some strange reason they are downstage of the main pair.

If I had to pick just one pair from your available mics, I would choose the Schoeps MK 21 pair. Set them in NOS on a high stand behind the conductor, and aim the capsules at the back row of the choir. You'll have to lower this during whatever is happening during intermission.

As long as the room is decent and the choir isn't shoved way upstage, it should work. Acoustic shells behind the choir will help as well.
Given the choice of the MK21's as mains, would it be a good idea to try the omnis on the main bar as well in a Faulkner type of array and then have an expanded choice of mixing options? Or would the fact that I wouldn't be using his recommended Schoeps MK2s with the MK21s kill that idea?

Would it be prudent to spot the piano, if you've ever done so in these scenarios, and if so of the mics I mentioned, would there be a preference?

Thanks!
Old 1 week ago
  #8
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The general thought is to use omnis when good acoustics are present and to use cardioids if needed to reduce the effect of the space. What is your assessment of the acoustical space?

If you expect there to be a good blend between the piano and everything else, perhaps a spot is not necessary.

How large is the space and the distance between the piano and the expected location of your main pair of mics?
Old 1 week ago
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 2manyrocks View Post
The general thought is to use omnis when good acoustics are present and to use cardioids if needed to reduce the effect of the space. What is your assessment of the acoustical space?

If you expect there to be a good blend between the piano and everything else, perhaps a spot is not necessary.

How large is the space and the distance between the piano and the expected location of your main pair of mics?

The acoustics in the hall are very good and they will be putting up a shell. It's a medium to large hall for plays and musical performances.

It is live, so I'm dealing with potential audience noise.

I would say about 12-14 feet from the piano to the main mics if memory serves. At least going by where they placed the piano at the last performance I recorded and that I am not doing three cardioids on three tall stands close miked to the choir this time, but a central main pair.
Old 1 week ago
  #10
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Using the pair of MK21s is going to give a broader pattern than what you said you did to close mic in your original post. Additional mics would give you additional options in your mix.

What's the intended use of the recording? If it's an archival recording for the conductor and the choir, I'd stop at the pair of MK21s.
Old 1 week ago
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 2manyrocks View Post
Using the pair of MK21s is going to give a broader pattern than what you said you did to close mic in your original post. Additional mics would give you additional options in your mix.

What's the intended use of the recording? If it's an archival recording for the conductor and the choir, I'd stop at the pair of MK21s.
It will probably be archived and also handed out to the choir and sold to the public on CD or download.
Old 1 week ago
  #12
Quote:
Originally Posted by AVProducer View Post
The acoustics in the hall are very good and they will be putting up a shell. It's a medium to large hall for plays and musical performances.

It is live, so I'm dealing with potential audience noise.

I would say about 12-14 feet from the piano to the main mics if memory serves. At least going by where they placed the piano at the last performance I recorded and that I am not doing three cardioids on three tall stands close miked to the choir this time, but a central main pair.
Not knowing how resonant the acoustic you describe is, it's hard to judge, but I recorded a similar setup in a UK cathedral last year - the Faulkner/boojum/jnorman four-mic array (also much used by BBC Radio 3's engineers at the moment) was greatly successful, supplemented as it was by two omni piano spots, which were used only as necessary to improve what was at a distance of 16ft from the main array (and somewhat over to the left of the image) a slightly diffuse and 'tinkly' sound from the Yamaha C7x.

Below is an extract from the Brahms Requiem, from the self-same performance. No spot mic was used for the soprano soloist, who stood forward of the main choir.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/6q8w8r2trm...6kbps.mp3?dl=0

Mic specs:

Central pair of Rode M5s in NOS, AB (67cm) Line Audio OM-1s (roughly equal mix of each). Sontronics STC-1s with omni caps (borrowed from a friend) on the piano, about 1m spacing at lid opening height, fairly close in (the piano was played lid down or on micro-stick for most of the items for which it was played).

Last edited by tenorfran; 1 week ago at 11:53 PM.. Reason: added Mics used...
Old 1 week ago
  #13
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jimjazzdad's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by tenorfran View Post
Below is an extract from the Brahms Requiem, from the self-same performance. No spot mic was used for the soprano soloist, who stood forward of the main choir.
Old 1 week ago
  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tenorfran View Post
Not knowing how resonant the acoustic you describe is, it's hard to judge, but I recorded a similar setup in a UK cathedral last year - the Faulkner/boojum/jnorman four-mic array (also much used by BBC Radio 3's engineers at the moment) was greatly successful, supplemented as it was by two omni piano spots, which were used only as necessary to improve what was at a distance of 16ft from the main array (and somewhat over to the left of the image) a slightly diffuse and 'tinkly' sound from the Yamaha C7x.

Below is an extract from the Brahms Requiem, from the self-same performance. No spot mic was used for the soprano soloist, who stood forward of the main choir.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/6q8w8r2trm...6kbps.mp3?dl=0

Mic specs:

Central pair of Rode M5s in NOS, AB (67cm) Line Audio OM-1s (roughly equal mix of each). Sontronics STC-1s with omni caps (borrowed from a friend) on the piano, about 1m spacing at lid opening height, fairly close in (the piano was played lid down or on micro-stick for most of the items for which it was played).
Sounds great! How far back from the conductor and about what height did you set the main 4 mic pair? The 85-87 person choir is going 4 risers high (one tier for each section with the men on the top two and women on the lower two), at about 17 per row.
Old 6 days ago
  #15
Quote:
Originally Posted by AVProducer View Post
Sounds great! How far back from the conductor and about what height did you set the main 4 mic pair? The 85-87 person choir is going 4 risers high (one tier for each section with the men on the top two and women on the lower two), at about 17 per row.
I set it about 4.5m, ~2m behind the conductor's rostrum (I didn't have a huge amount of choice). the 50-strong choir (you only hear the girls and back row in this excerpt though, so 32 of the whole) were set in a gentle V formation on risers. I also had some Rode NT1-As hidden behind pillars nearer the edge of the back rows for a bit of definition on the back row, but I didn't really use them in the end.
Old 6 days ago
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tenorfran View Post
Not knowing how resonant the acoustic you describe is, it's hard to judge, but I recorded a similar setup in a UK cathedral last year - the Faulkner/boojum/jnorman four-mic array (also much used by BBC Radio 3's engineers at the moment) was greatly successful, supplemented as it was by two omni piano spots, which were used only as necessary to improve what was at a distance of 16ft from the main array (and somewhat over to the left of the image) a slightly diffuse and 'tinkly' sound from the Yamaha C7x.

Below is an extract from the Brahms Requiem, from the self-same performance. No spot mic was used for the soprano soloist, who stood forward of the main choir.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/6q8w8r2trm...6kbps.mp3?dl=0

Mic specs:

Central pair of Rode M5s in NOS, AB (67cm) Line Audio OM-1s (roughly equal mix of each). Sontronics STC-1s with omni caps (borrowed from a friend) on the piano, about 1m spacing at lid opening height, fairly close in (the piano was played lid down or on micro-stick for most of the items for which it was played).
Maybe it's the MP3 conversion - but this recording is lacking definition on most of the vocalist and piano parts.
Old 6 days ago
  #17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Papanate View Post
Maybe it's the MP3 conversion - but this recording is lacking definition on most of the vocalist and piano parts.
Perhaps. A matter of taste, certainly, but the Director of Music in question certainly wanted a more diffuse sound than is my preference. If you only knew the arguments I'd had with him over the placement of our permanent hanging spaced array...
Old 6 days ago
  #18
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Papanate's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by tenorfran View Post
Perhaps. A matter of taste, certainly, but the Director of Music in question certainly wanted a more diffuse sound than is my preference. If you only knew the arguments I'd had with him over the placement of our permanent hanging spaced array...

Some of these Music Directors are not very flexible - yet want pristine recordings done through audio magic or something. LOL!

The recording certainly is diffused!
Old 6 days ago
  #19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Papanate View Post
Some of these Music Directors are not very flexible - yet want pristine recordings done through audio magic or something. LOL!

The recording certainly is diffused!
You don't like it?
Old 6 days ago
  #20
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tourtelot's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by tenorfran View Post
Perhaps. A matter of taste, certainly, but the Director of Music in question certainly wanted a more diffuse sound than is my preference. If you only knew the arguments I'd had with him over the placement of our permanent hanging spaced array...
I have had this discussion frequently when recording vocal ensembles. I ALWAY want articulation but I find that most choir directors want "blend". Since I am recording for them, and not for me, I find that I often times don't get as crisp a sound as I would like, and that is intentionally trying to please these directors.

As we know, only the best choirs sing with both blend and articulation off the stage and in many of the (community) choirs I record, the synchronization of the singers is not perfect so a wider view with more forgiving mics works to smooth out the mistakes.

On the really good choirs, this "diffuse" blend and articulation come through good mics with nary a struggle.

Just part of the job.

Oh, and I love Mk21s for vocal music. I tend toward DPAs as "first picks" for almost everything else, but Schoeps Mk4s in ORTF and Mk21s on a 1m bar make almost everyone sound great.

D.

Forgot to ask, is there any possibility of flying a bar with some array mounted on it?
Old 6 days ago
  #21
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Papanate's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by tenorfran View Post
You don't like it?
I'm hesitant to say anything negative since you said you were restricted by the Music Director.

But to be honest - too much audience noise and the soloist is smearing the image.
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