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Old December 11th, 2017, 12:03 AM   #1
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Audio Micing Church Choir

Hereís another Audio gig question.

This Friday there will be a girlís choir performance in a church and Iím looking for suggestions on how to record the audio.

The gear available include Sennheiser ME64, ME66 (but only one K6 capsule so it is one mic or the other), AKG C414 XLS (gold with the ďbumpĒ), AKG C414 XLII. The recorder is a Tascam DR-44WL (stereo).

There are plenty of stands and cables. This will be a multicam shoot with the potential for up to four cams but weíll probably only use a max of two and maybe three. Currently thinking of a wide (probably a wide angle but maybe at the rear), one for soloists, and one for the harpist.

The church interior is tall, somewhat narrow, but quite long compared to the width, with openings on each side. Iíve never been there so I donít know the dimensions.

So, one more thing, this is not a BBC documentary and not looking for the ultimate audio job but want to get something better than in the past which was just using a H4n by itself.

Would like to have the mic(s) and stands as incognito as possible. We can probably put a mic about 10 feet in front of the choir as this was done once before, but I donít know how high (I know itís nice to have it high).

So the big question is, what do the audio guruís think?
Mic choice(s)?
Options?
Mic the harpist or soloists separately (I think the soloist(s) might be backed up a bit by the choir)?
Concerns?
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Old December 11th, 2017, 07:54 AM   #2
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Re: Audio Micing Church Choir

Some thoughts: Try black gaffers tape on silver colored mic stands to make them stand out a bit less.

The C414s in cardioid or wide cardioid setting are probably the better mic for the choir. Try beg, borrow, etc. an additional mic for the soloists, otherwise have them close to one of the C414

Use the ME64 for the harp.

Try setups at a rehearsal if you can to see what gives the better results. Record each mic to a separate channel (the DR-44WL has 4) so you can optimize the mix in post.

http://www.shure.com/publications/au...of-worship.pdf
will provide a lot of useful information.

Other guides are also available at
Publications | Shure Americas
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Old December 11th, 2017, 09:01 AM   #3
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Re: Audio Micing Church Choir

Since the only 'matched set' you have are on the Tascam recorder, I would use them as the main (anchor) 'stereo field' mics and use the rest for sections (if there are any) and spot mics on the soloists. Of course with out seeing or hearing the choir, it's a generalization. Naturally you want to record all to separate tracks and you'll want a minimum of six.
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Old December 11th, 2017, 03:39 PM   #4
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Re: Audio Micing Church Choir

Agreed with Rick to use the Tascam as your main pair because it's internal mics are the only arguably matched ones you have. Since it is XY, the stereo image won't be terrific, but it will be solid and stable. Your description of the church suggests a potentially significant amount of natural reverb, and (if that is correct) you'll have an easier time controlling it with the Tascam's SDC's. The 414's, like other LDC's, have off-axis coloration, and if you have a lot of echoes in that church, I think the Tascam would do a better job at eliminating any such coloration.

I've used a matched pair of 414s on small vocal ensembles to good effect, but not on larger choirs.

A good starting point is to place the Tascam on a stand within a few feet behind the conductor, farther back if you're not picking up enough of the girls on either extreme side of the choir. Somewhere 10-13 feet high is a good starting point; I try to select a height that makes each row of choristers equidistant from the main pair. If the position results in too dry a sound, first raise the mics, don't move them back.
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Old December 11th, 2017, 06:33 PM   #5
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Re: Audio Micing Church Choir

Been out all day and just got in. Thanks for the quick reply, Don:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Don Palomaki View Post
Some thoughts: Try black gaffers tape on silver colored mic stands to make them stand out a bit less.
Good comment. Fortunately, they're already black.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Don Palomaki View Post
The C414s in cardioid or wide cardioid setting are probably the better mic for the choir. Try beg, borrow, etc. an additional mic for the soloists, otherwise have them close to one of the C414
Use the ME64 for the harp.
These are the newer mics and they have five setting options from omni to hypercardioid and figure eight. Unfortunately, there aren't any other options for picking up another (good) mic. I do have an Electro-Voice E-V RE50B "interview" mic but didn't think that would have an application in this event.
One concern I have is with the way the soloist(s) come down front and how this will make it really difficult and I'll be reading the other posts for suggestions.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Don Palomaki View Post
Try setups at a rehearsal if you can to see what gives the better results. Record each mic to a separate channel (the DR-44WL has 4) so you can optimize the mix in post.
The recorder has four channels alright but only two XLR inputs and I've been using two of the recorder's four tracks for safety tracks.
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Old December 11th, 2017, 06:41 PM   #6
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Re: Audio Micing Church Choir

Lots of options to consider. If there is a rehearsal, try be there to run some test to see what works best for you, recognizing it will not have any audience noise/effects.

Some issues from the photo:

The ensemble is spread out in a line over a wide area. Makes balanced pickup by a single point mic difficult due to varing distance from the singers. An arc would be a better arrangement to keep all voices about the same distance from the mic.

The conductor appears to be almost back to the first row of pews. A mic placed behind him may pick up more audience noise than you want. Also, the further the mic is from the direct sound source (vocalists) the greater the impact of venue reverb, and the conductor is a good distance from the singers.

The two mics in the $199 DR-44 may, or may not, be better matched than the $950 C414s whose published curves appear to be within 2 dB. Be sure to evaluate that in your tests.
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Old December 11th, 2017, 07:09 PM   #7
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Re: Audio Micing Church Choir

Rick -
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rick Reineke View Post
Since the only 'matched set' you have are on the Tascam recorder, I would use them as the main (anchor) 'stereo field' mics .....
My first reaction is that the recorder's mics aren't nearly as good as the AKGs or the Sennheisers, and my second reaction is that I don't know what the tradeoff is. Additionally, I don't know what a 'stereo field' mic is, or does. Would they be for the main recording of the choir?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rick Reineke View Post
... and use the rest for sections (if there are any)....
I'm not a choir knowledgeable person but, if by 'sections' you mean like alto, bass, etc., they do have those, but from what I've seen they all stand together. I'm sure they're grouped because I've seen certain "groups" of girls sing parts of a song, but not separated by a distance (i.e., they're all shoulder to shoulder).

Another bit of info: When they come in to the church it is from the rear and they're singing when they do it. They march up the center aisle, split into tow columns past the conductor, then form the group on stage. For this reason I don't see how there can be any mic stands on the left or right side. If I do this again next year then something like this could be re-visited so it is done during rehersal.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rick Reineke View Post
Naturally you want to record all to separate tracks and you'll want a minimum of six.
Six? SIX??? (Okay, I'm calming down) There is another recorder available owned by the conductor and it's a Zoom H4N, so there are more tracks available. With mine I can operate the gain and On/Off functions remotely but with his I cannot. It'd have to be on continuously.
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Old December 11th, 2017, 07:57 PM   #8
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Re: Audio Micing Church Choir

@ Steve & Rick:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Steven Reid View Post
Agreed with Rick to use the Tascam as your main pair because it's internal mics are the only arguably matched ones you have. Since it is XY, the stereo image won't be terrific, but it will be solid and stable.
By "main pair" do you mean that the Tascam will be on top of the stand pointed at the choir? and behind the conductor? [deleted]
It's not a very small piece of gear so it'd stand out visually. The one plus I can see is it would be in a flat or prone position so would't be quite as bad.
What about using the Zoom H4n instead? It has a 1/4" thread that might be used for mounting on the back. I was sorta thinking this one might be for the harp with the ME64.

There are only two recorders - beginning to look like more will be needed in the future.

Steven:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Steven Reid View Post
Your description of the church suggests a potentially significant amount of natural reverb, and (if that is correct) you'll have an easier time controlling it with the Tascam's SDC's. The 414's, like other LDC's, have off-axis coloration, and if you have a lot of echoes in that church, I think the Tascam would do a better job at eliminating any such coloration.
Natural reverb: yes, very typical 'old school' church kind of sound. I was actually thinking of mentioning this in the original post but could't come up with the words to describe it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Steven Reid View Post
A good starting point is to place the Tascam on a stand within a few feet behind the conductor, farther back if you're not picking up enough of the girls on either extreme side of the choir. Somewhere 10-13 feet high is a good starting point; I try to select a height that makes each row of choristers equidistant from the main pair. If the position results in too dry a sound, first raise the mics, don't move them back.
I can use an Avenger A630B light stand that goes up to 10.8 feet, or about 10' 9". It'd be nicer to have a stand with less of a visual cross-section. From the audience's view it would really stick out. The lighting will be exactly what's shown in the picture so it will definitely be visible.

Last edited by John Nantz; December 11th, 2017 at 09:38 PM. Reason: deleted sentence - was confusing.
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Old December 11th, 2017, 11:10 PM   #9
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Re: Audio Micing Church Choir

This is depressing and not the outcome I had hoped for.

As I read the comments above from learned and esteemed members, it appears the consensus, if Iím getting it right, seems to be to use one of the recorders built-in mics to record the choir. Is that correct?

If so, this is not the outcome I anticipated or hoped for which was to make use of the recorders using the good mics.

What concerns me is:
(1) the quality of the recorders h4n and Tascam built-in mics (or lack of thereof, compared to others available), and
(2) the distance of the recorder from the choir. Given the distance behind the conductor (Iíd estimate about 20 feet to the front row) wouldnít the recording sound very flat and shallow, or thin?

If the choir ties up one of the recorders then there is only one left, so what to do with it? Capture the soloist(s) and the harp? We might be able to run a cable along the foot of the bottom step between the soloist(s) mic and the harpís mic. That could work.

Are there any other possible options with the kit we have?

Would it be better if the conductor was closer to the choir? If so, I could ask.

More info: There is no organ and no PA system involved.
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Old December 12th, 2017, 12:46 AM   #10
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Re: Audio Micing Church Choir

The good thing about conductors (well, one of many good things in fact) is that they somehow connive to balance the group so things sound good at the conductor's position. Whether they do it by getting the folks at the outer end of the line to sing/play louder I don't know, but what I do know from having played in amateur musical groups for decades is that the closer you can get the mics to the conductor's position, the better. I play tuba and we're always in the back row and the conductor is always all over us to lead the beat a hair so it doesn't sound like we're lagging.

Any way you could beg, borrow, or rent a good stereo pair for the occasion? I've used a Sony PCM-D50 as a backup clamped to the same mic stand as my main pair. It's not terrible, but I'd sure try hard to get a couple of better mics than the ones built in to the recorder..
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Old December 12th, 2017, 07:26 AM   #11
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Re: Audio Micing Church Choir

Jim:

Have you read the section on micing choirs in
http://www.shure.com/publications/au...of-worship.pdf

Short of suspending mics from the ceiling, or a complicated bit of rigging you are going to have mic stands. But it is a choir concert, mot a stage play or dance recital so sound will be more important than visuals. Heck, most attendees are not in the front two pews, so their visuals are obstructed by heads anyway. And you can position camcorders to avoid the worst of mic stand obstructions. Mics should be mounted high to get best coverage of a choir so they will not be in the line of sight (only the stands) unless there is a balcony,

And I cannot emphasize enough, run some tests during remaining rehearsals to see how things work and what works best for you.

At this point you are on a very tight time and funds budget. If the group wanted a professional job they would have a corresponding budget and have contracted for it more than a week or two in advance. And keep in mind that what ever you are able to do should be much better than the video from the smart phone in the second row.

Quote:
Whether they do it by getting the folks at the outer end of the line to sing/play louder I don't know
In a live situation the human ear can discern what the mic cannot. I doubt he has the outer singers singing louder. The direct sound intensity from a point source (e.g., a vocalist) drops about 6 dB as the distance doubles. The reverberant sound generally does not. That is why it is usually best to have the mics closer to the source, and part of why camcorder mic sound is usually poor.

Quote:
...conductor is always all over us to lead the beat a hair...
Sound travels at about 1125 feet per second, so 37 feet further away is about a video frame later compared to visuals..
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Old December 12th, 2017, 08:11 AM   #12
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Re: Audio Micing Church Choir

With the two 414s - probably my favourite allrounder - how about using them in M/S, where the slightly different performance won't be an issue? That said, in an uncontrolled environment the results from two similar but not identical mics are much smaller than people often believe. Any chance of trying them out at a rehearsal.

Is flying them on 3mm wire or even nylon 5mm rope totally out of the question? I've even done it with the mic cable supporting the mics when all else failed. Stands, even if you can live with the look often need isolation mounts because the choirs feet bump the stage surface.I'm thinking of UK churches, but with a decent ladder and some wire, it's often fairly simple to get a high level catenary across and then you just hang the mics from it. I realise this simply might be impossible, but floor mics for video always look horrible and in the way - especially when they are very high to cover any second or third row you may have?
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Old December 12th, 2017, 08:55 AM   #13
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Re: Audio Micing Church Choir

" 414s - probably my favourite allrounder "
- Same here.
Yeah, an M/S set-up is certainly an option, and would allow the adjustment of width and indirect sound in post. M/S micing however requires skills in set-up.. and in post, so you may want to have the Tascam's X/Y mics for back up.
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Old December 12th, 2017, 02:03 PM   #14
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Re: Audio Micing Church Choir

Lost everything on the post I had just written and have to start over again. This time it will be the short form.

More info: The songs theyíre singing are mostly out of the 1400s and 1500s and not the popular songs of today (f.e., Jingle Bells, White Christmas, etc.). The sound of the songs, including the ambience, is like one would envision from some old convent, monastery, or abbey way back in the day, complete with all the natural reverb.

And it is a concert, not a stage play. The church has a really really high ceiling, maybe 40 to 50 feet, and there is no balcony.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Andrada View Post
Any way you could beg, borrow, or rent a good stereo pair for the occasion? ... It's not terrible, but I'd sure try hard to get a couple of better mics than the ones built in to the recorder..
Playing ahead of the beat has got to be really difficult. As for picking up another mic or mics, I really doubt it. I typically spend a lot of time researching something and at this point I don't even know where to start.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Don Palomaki View Post
And I cannot emphasize enough, run some tests during remaining rehearsals to see how things work and what works best for you.....At this point you are on a very tight time and funds budget.
I'd really like to run some tests but the venue is a full day drive, round trip, and I just don't have the time.
And, yes, it is a very tight time frame. Budget? There isn't one. This is pro-bono. All I wanted to do is get a recording of our granddaughter who will be doing a solo performance. I asked the conductor if this would be possible and he came back with the offer of working together on this and, naturally, I jumped at the offer. This way what ever I could do would be blessed and approved. All he had was the H4n so I thought my kit would be a step up. Well .... I'm learning. Maybe for next year?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Don Palomaki View Post
And keep in mind that what ever you are able to do should be much better than the video from the smart phone in the second row.
Ah ha! You caught that, eh? When I did the screen shot I purposely put it in just for everybody's benefit.

After reading the Shure link, pages 41 > 42, it provided some good input on choir recording. The AKG booklet that came with the mics also had some recommended techniques for choir and backing vocals and it really fit with what everyone has been saying here. For now, I'm resigned to just using one of the recorders for the choir and will work on a setup for the vocalist and the harp.
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Old December 12th, 2017, 02:43 PM   #15
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Re: Audio Micing Church Choir

Paul -
Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul R Johnson View Post
With the two 414s - probably my favourite allrounder - how about using them in M/S, where the slightly different performance won't be an issue? That said, in an uncontrolled environment the results from two similar but not identical mics are much smaller than people often believe. Any chance of trying them out at a rehearsal.
The M/S arrangement seems like it would be the perfect solution with the kit that is available in this situation. I never heard of this arrangement before and the first article I read about it at https://www.uaudio.com/blog/mid-side-mic-recording/ was very positive.

The article also raises the same cautions that Rick mentioned about set-up and post editing. If it weren't for the problems with editing I think this would be the perfect solution, especially when considering that the two C414s aren't exactly a matched pair. In fact, because of the slight difference between them they may actually be the perfect pair!

They both have settings for different polar patterns, from omni to figure eight, AND, one has a slight high frequency boost. The article makes a very positive statement about a mic pair where one is an omni, the other a figure eight, and one slightly brighter than the other, and that's exactly what they are.

With regard to the floor sending vibrations to the mic stand - I don't know if it is concrete or wood, but both mics have their own shock-mount suspension system so that would be helpful.

The really big problem I see here is I've never done this before. It would be a totally new experience, and with time running out. The recorder XY option would be an easier no-brainer and I can handle that. I think. But WoW! this M/S arrangement is VERY interesting.

Edit: Learn something new every day!

Last edited by John Nantz; December 12th, 2017 at 07:06 PM. Reason: sp: came > same; learn ....; changed X/Y to M/S; changed one M/S back to XY
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