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Old 08-02-2006, 02:11 PM
cscottshepherd cscottshepherd is offline
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 22
Default Recording 16 Voice Choir - Advice Needed

Within the next couple of weeks I will be recording a 16 voice a cappella high school choir/ensemble. I'm good friends with the director and am doing this primarily as a favor to him.

This is my first recording project outside of my own music that I have written and recording in my home studio (one room). I'll be recording them onsite in a choir room.

My background in both education and experience is in choral music, so I feel prepared in this area as using my ear for tweaking. But this is my first time recorging in such a setting.

I'm recording with the 002 and have five studio (large diaphragm) mics available. I'm interested to hear what you recommend as far as mic placement, whether to use four mics (one for each section) and also an overall mic for the entire group. Or just one or the other, etc.

I am interested the advice of any of you that are more experienced with such a setting. Any other suggestions you may have are appreciated.

Thank you in advance!

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Old 08-02-2006, 03:04 PM
Obsidian Dragon Obsidian Dragon is online now
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Posts: 4,266
Default Re: Recording 16 Voice Choir - Advice Needed

I record choirs all the time so hopefully this will help. The choirs that I record prefer to sing together (all sections at the same time). It helps them stay together and harmonize with each other while singing. The problem with using the four mic (one per section) approach is the bleeding of one section into another. If you put partitions between them that helps the bleeding problem but then they complain about net hearing each other too well while singing.

Start with the room. Keep it natural but avoid obvious reflections and slap back echos. Don't over deaden the room as the natural reverb is part of what makes a choir sound the way it does.

With luck, you can convince them to try to record one section at a time. The sections that aren't singing usually get bored waiting so be careful. It is a good idea to have someone, (the director) sing or play the part on the piano to one track (or maybe a click track) and then feed this track to the headphones for the group to sing along with. This helps to ensure that each section is isolated to one track. With accapella singing it is also necessary to enaure a good reference pitch therefore a piano track is excellent for a reference track. If the piano track contains all the parts, it can be reused for each section. While tracking each section, punching in is easier because only that section need to be fixed. The choir will alo be less tired as it is much easier to have four people sing right at the same time versus 16.

Now micing is a different issue. Select the mic that best suits the vocal range and use it. I've tried stereo recording with some success but often go back to mono. I'll pan them in the mixing process. I set a condensor about 4-6 feet away so no individual sticks out in the track. I usually have it about two feet higher than their heads in a high room to avoid reflection from the ceiling. I track relatively straight in (no compression, no EQ, etc. unless albolutely needed.) This is not rock or pop where everything seems to be slammed against a compressor. The Digi002 pres (and DigiMax LE) are fine for this application where you simply want a clean natural sound. Expensive pres are great to give the sound the color you want but in this case, accuracy is what I was going for. I add Compression, EQ, and reverbs as needed in the mix.

I hope this gets you going.
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Old 08-02-2006, 03:29 PM
cscottshepherd cscottshepherd is offline
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Posts: 22
Default Re: Recording 16 Voice Choir - Advice Needed

Thanks...good thoughts...I appreciate it.

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Old 08-02-2006, 05:12 PM
Aussie169 Aussie169 is offline
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Location: Leongatha, Vic, Australia
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Default Re: Recording 16 Voice Choir - Advice Needed

my method FWIW.....

singers nice and even in an arc. In your case I would go 2 deep.
A pair of cardioid condensers (in my case TLM-103's) in ORTF a few feet in front of the arc and a few feet above their heads.
Room needs to sound reasonable.
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Old 08-03-2006, 03:50 PM
GW GW is offline
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: Sweden
Posts: 1,709
Default Re: Recording 16 Voice Choir - Advice Needed

First of all it´s all a matter of taste and what kind of "school" you come from. Secondly it´s a matter of how good this choir is, how good the intonation is and how much agogic is applied to their singing...

If they know their stuff and intonate well, I really like to form quartets and gather 4-6 singers around each mic. It creates a very intimate sound as the conducter hears his choir and not as the audience does... If you are not singing Benjamin Britten it can be interresting to place the first chair in the middle of each microphone for spacing puposes.

When I did this a lot many years ago, I always used to let the singers listen in on the first takes, playing them back to sharpen their hearing and in the end we just sang because everyone wanted to get home and live normal lives... hahaha

If you have time for it, humor yourself with doing to takes with these two methods and the two best songs, send the singers home for the day, sit down with the conducter and decide which way to go... (...and yes, I would colour the Bass II)

p.s. 16 voices is a great number - I always wanted to do h-moll Messe with 16 voices, standing infront of a very small orchestra...
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Old 08-03-2006, 11:13 PM
doulos doulos is offline
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 13
Default Re: Recording 16 Voice Choir - Advice Needed

It's been a few years ago but I've had much experience with the choir setting as well. My experience was with a group three times as large but the basics are still the same. I too believe that when it all comes down to the bottom line, it proves to be just a matter of taste. However, there are some tried and true methods that will work to a good degree every time.

Your group of high school choir members are going to perform better if they are allowed to stay in their comfort zone. That would be in the way that they are used to singing. You will not have them in a studio environment so don't worry about trying to create one. If it were me, I would do just exactly as you mentioned. Put a mic with each section and use the other for overhead or even just a room mic positioned away from the other four mics. You're after the room ambience from this mic and you can bring it back into the mix just a touch to ad depth to the whole thing. AS for the four main mics,don't worry about one section bleeding into the other because they will. But believe me, if you put each mic directed at its respective secton and place it in front and dead center of its section, the bleed from one section to the next will be minimum and besides, a little bleed through is what makes a choir sound like they do...think about it. You have 16 voices singing next to each other in a room. You will definitely have enough of each section per track to do all the processing and mixing you desire. The name of the game is capturing the natural sound of the group. You'll be happy with the results if you just think of the natural simplicity. They use to record with much less technology than you will be bringing to the show so let the singers have fun and you do the same.

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Old 08-04-2006, 04:42 PM
eoinmossy eoinmossy is offline
Join Date: May 2006
Location: Dublin, Ireland
Posts: 50
Default Re: Recording 16 Voice Choir - Advice Needed


depending on price keep it simple and clean signal path.

if its there first recording together then perhaps record live to master CDR.

i have often recorded choirs using 2*184's(neumann) in x/y position about 10feet from centre (if you listen as there rehearsing you can usually find a sweet spot)

the 2 xlrs into a clean desk with phantom (eg makie)

output into a RNC (really nice compressor on supernice mode - very transparent for those soprano peaks)

into HHB830 - closed headphones on - hit the red button..

you can of course change any of the above but this system works. write down all takes/tracks as you go (you wont remember what happened even if you think you will). If there is somthing you hear not right then say it.. be the first there and last to leave..dont be in a rush..if there are solos in the music pieces then perhaps put up a u87 or the like and when rehearsing ride the fader. try to listen to similar music before yo do it to get an idea. if yr recording in a church bring a sweater there always colder then yo think. ask that anybody not recording leave if at all possible. have RECORDING IN PROGRESS sheets printed and put up on main doors etc.. and MOBILE PHONES OFF.

i use a minidisc for backing up always running..you could use a harddisc recorder etc..

hope this helps.. try to enjoy it..all good music is good

after the first main take..make sure you ask the directer to listen back ..better to be safe then sorry. he/she will most likely be pleasently surprised.

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