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Old March 12th, 2008, 01:22 PM   #1
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simple setup for piano, choir, soloist

Please point me in the right direction. I need to record a school performance that includes a piano, choir, and soloist. I have recorded piano performances with good results, but don't have any experience with more than two mics.

Here is what I currently own: Canon XL H1, M-Audio 410, and two Shure SM81 mics.

Based in my limited knowledge, I'm guessing my options include the following:

1. Get two more mics designed for vocals, get a mixer, and then mix the four mics to stereo and record using the M-Audio

2. Get two more mics designed for vocals, and record the four channels on the XL H1.

3. Get two more more mics and record two channels on the XL H1 and two channels on the M-Audio, use a clap board to sync start and finish.

Comments and suggestions?

Best,
Christopher
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Old March 12th, 2008, 02:23 PM   #2
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How big of a choir are you recording? Regardless, I would record the choir with into the separate DAW. It will be a heck of a lot noticeable if there were a tiny amount of drift in the choir then a lead vocalist and possibly pianist if you are shooting a close shot of him/her.
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Old March 12th, 2008, 02:38 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Christopher Glaeser View Post
Please point me in the right direction. I need to record a school performance that includes a piano, choir, and soloist. I have recorded piano performances with good results, but don't have any experience with more than two mics.

Here is what I currently own: Canon XL H1, M-Audio 410, and two Shure SM81 mics.

Based in my limited knowledge, I'm guessing my options include the following:

1. Get two more mics designed for vocals, get a mixer, and then mix the four mics to stereo and record using the M-Audio

2. Get two more mics designed for vocals, and record the four channels on the XL H1.

3. Get two more more mics and record two channels on the XL H1 and two channels on the M-Audio, use a clap board to sync start and finish.

Comments and suggestions?
Do you really need any more than 2 mics? If the performance is likely to be balanced acoustically it may well effective just to record with a stereo pair if you can get to position them front centre. Larger ensembles than this are often recorded quite simply if the conductor can keep the balance under control.
The soloist will be likely be standing with the chorus and it might be hard to use a spotlight mic effectively in a live performance. The piano would be relatively easy but pianos are quite intrusive and tend to hold their own even if not directly mic'ed.

I'll leave it to others to comment on the suitability of the SM81s - I haven't used them, but vocal mics are generally designed to be used fairly close up by one or two people are they not? Perhaps vocal mics are not what is required for recording a chorus from a greater distance.

Just my 2 groats, feel free to disagree.
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Old March 12th, 2008, 02:43 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Jonathan Bufkin View Post
How big of a choir are you recording?
About 30 in the choir.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jonathan Bufkin View Post
Regardless, I would record the choir with into the separate DAW. It will be a heck of a lot noticeable if there were a tiny amount of drift in the choir then a lead vocalist and possibly pianist if you are shooting a close shot of him/her.
Clarification: I'm mostly interested in getting a good audio track. Although I plan to shoot some video of the choir, I will only use a few seconds of choir video. Most of the video will be other scenes and photos of the school with the audio track used as background. So, I don't need to worry about drift between the audio and video. Only need to make sure the audio is a good recording.

Best,
Christopher
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Old March 12th, 2008, 03:17 PM   #5
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Do you really need any more than 2 mics?
I honestly don't know. Last year the choir went to a quote "recording studio". I don't know where they went or if it was professional or any of the details, but to my ear, the piano was pretty bad, as in distant and faint. My daughters play a Yamaha C7 grand at our house, and I don't claim to be an expert by any stretch, but I do manage to get decent recordings at home. I use two SM81 above the sound board in a configuration I found on the internet.

I think the choir uses an old upright, so I don't expect magic, but I'd like to get something similar with the choir, so I assumed I would need at least one mic dedicated to the piano. Maybe two mics would work; one for the piano and one for the choir and soloist. But I think I need to mic the piano.

Of course, I'm just guessing and flying blind here, so all comments are welcome.

Best,
Christopher
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Old March 12th, 2008, 03:19 PM   #6
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I see. If audio is crucial then my order of priority would be as follows:

#1 spaced stereo pair in audience as Colin suggested using the best set of condenser mics I had through the best preamp and a/d converter. From what I know about your equipment that would be SM 81's through M-Audio.

#2 Close mic of the solo vocal. He or she might not project enough and mom and dad want to hear their kids solo. I suggest an SM58 or equivalent.

#3 Close mic the choir and piano. Sm81's would be great for a choir as well and for a piano it would depend what I had available.


I hope this opinion helps.
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Old March 12th, 2008, 03:39 PM   #7
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I hope this opinion helps.
Very helpful indeed. So, if I use four mics, I think I have two options - either record the four tracks using the XL H1 and M Audio 410, or use a mixer and the 410. Now, this is a very basic question I expect you get a lot. If I use four mics and a mixer and a stereo recorder, how do I combine those four channels into stereo out on the mixer? Do I combine the piano and left choir to the left, and soloist and right choir to the right?

Best,
Christopher
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Old March 12th, 2008, 03:45 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Christopher Glaeser View Post
About 30 in the choir.

Clarification: I'm mostly interested in getting a good audio track. Although I plan to shoot some video of the choir, I will only use a few seconds of choir video. Most of the video will be other scenes and photos of the school with the audio track used as background. So, I don't need to worry about drift between the audio and video. Only need to make sure the audio is a good recording.
OK, that makes a difference if you aren't making a video of a live performance as such. Although audio should always be as good as possible, viewers can be more forgiving if they can see it's being done as a live performance recording.

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Originally Posted by Christopher Glaeser View Post
I think the choir uses an old upright, so I don't expect magic, but I'd like to get something similar with the choir, so I assumed I would need at least one mic dedicated to the piano. Maybe two mics would work; one for the piano and one for the choir and soloist. But I think I need to mic the piano.
You may well want to mic the piano then but it will still leak into the other track(s) quite a bit. You may need to consider the 3:1 separation rule - mics separated by 3x the distance from mic to source.

One mic only for soloist and choir seems a bit mean though - if you want to mic the piano maybe better using 4 as Jonathan has just suggested.

*EDIT - sorry that was 5 at least, not 4. By the way Jonathan, how do you close mic a whole choir?

Last edited by Colin McDonald; March 12th, 2008 at 03:54 PM. Reason: Can't count
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Old March 12th, 2008, 04:24 PM   #9
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Colin,

You duct tape it to their mouth! :) Sorry I typed in a hurry...I meant spot mic the choir with a pair of SM 81's.



Christopher,

The priority list I made would determine my decisions. I don't know every resource at your disposal. In the scenario of using a mixer and summing them down to 2 tracks that might be a little tough for me. You would have to get the levels just right because whatever went down to disk will be hard to adjust. Will the M-Audio 410 take 2 XLR inputs as well as 2 TRS line inputs simultaneously? If so, then you would have 6 inputs(if you used a mixer) and this would open up a lot more options.
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Old March 12th, 2008, 04:55 PM   #10
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SM81 is a good small diaphragm condenser. It won't be as warm as a large diaphragm condenser but will work just fine. Few people will hear the difference even if you A/B tested. I recorded a small choir singing acappella of one of my wife's compositions, so we could play the recording at a conference. The hall had a fabulous set up with large diaphragm Neumann's. Just for fun, I set up some AKG small diaphragm condensers through a mixer into my iPod (I wanted to test grunge to gold;-) My wife liked the sound of the small diaphragms and I mixed it with the Neumann's!

Are you recording a concert or is the performance strictly for the recording? Will it be in a performance hall or a rehearsal space? Mic placement with be critical depending on your situation.

In performance, the piano is usually in front of the choir with the soloist somewhere out front. For short solos, the soloist stays within the choir and just sings out with a fuller voice. Try to get the soloist in front, a little closer to the mics, unless s/he has a huge voice and won't be necessary.

Generally when recording vocals in a hall, you want to be just off stage or a row back to get the performance with hall acoustics and a good blend. Place the mics 8-15 feet off the floor using ORTF or similar. Of course, every hall is different. So you may want to be closer or farther away to get a good blend of the voices and piano without it becoming too reverberant.

If possible, attend a dress rehearsal and experiment a little. Talk to the director. Unless you have a new director, they generally know what works.
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Old March 12th, 2008, 10:52 PM   #11
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Are you recording a concert or is the performance strictly for the recording?
Strictly for the recording. I may have some latitude about placement of the piano and voices, so that should help.

Thanks for all the suggestions.

Best,
Christopher
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Old March 12th, 2008, 11:04 PM   #12
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Will the M-Audio 410 take 2 XLR inputs as well as 2 TRS line inputs simultaneously?
That's a very good question, but I'm unsure of the answer. The 410 does have 4 inputs (and 10 outputs), but I think you have to select either line or mic for each side. I don't think you can select all four inputs at the same time, but again, it's above my pay grade and I'm not sure. Can you tell from this ... http://www.m-audio.com/products/en_u...e410-main.html

Best,
Christopher
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Old March 13th, 2008, 04:53 AM   #13
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Just a note, you can record the video and audio separately if you can only record good audio by some weird configuration:

1. Place everyone and the mics the right way for the best recording possible.

2. Place everyone to look good in the video shots and shoot the video.

If you are only using quick cuts of video, synch will be easy.

If you want to make sure the video matches the recording, play back the audio for the conductor as he conducts for the video.

I have a feeling that recording with 2 mics might give you the best result if you can move people where you want and the acoustics of the room are okay. Recording with multiple mics multiplies the possible complications and might make it harder to get a good finished recording.

It would seem that the first order of business would be to get to a rehearsal and record with the two mics and see what kind of sound you are starting with.
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Old March 13th, 2008, 10:06 AM   #14
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It appears that it does not do 4 simultaneous analog inputs but will do 2 analog and 2 digital via an spdif connection. This won't help unless you have such a piece of gear.
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Last edited by Jonathan Bufkin; March 13th, 2008 at 10:07 AM. Reason: made a correction
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Old March 13th, 2008, 12:01 PM   #15
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If you want to make sure the video matches the recording, play back the audio for the conductor as he conducts for the video.
Yes, I've done this before (choir only) and it was very easy. Plus, I only use a few seconds of panned choir video here and there (most of the video is a photo slide show), so it's very easy to synch audio and video convincingly if I get to choose the choir video segments.

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I have a feeling that recording with 2 mics might give you the best result if you can move people where you want and the acoustics of the room are okay. Recording with multiple mics multiplies the possible complications and might make it harder to get a good finished recording.
Thanks! You have convinced me. I already have everything I need. I think I could get a better piano track with a 4 channel recorder, but maybe not, and I already have a couple of good mics and a stereo recorder I know how to use.

Thanks again for all the help.

Best,
Christopher
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