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Choir miking suggestions sought

Every year I have a challenge with getting my choir miked up for the annual pops concert. I always get a rhythm section together (drums, bass, elec. guitar) along with the grand piano and various other assorted instruments required for different songs. My problem is that the condenser microphones that I am using (Oktava M-012 small diaphragm mics) to get coverage on the choir have to be far enough away from the choir that they are very hot in the mix. Inevitably I run into feedback problems and I never seem to get the choir loud enough in the mix. The student rhythm section is actually playing at a reasonable volume level, so it's not like I can just tell them to play softer.
 
So, I'm wondering what kinds of strategies and what kinds of microphones I should be looking at to get more volume from the choir without running into feedback problems. Should I use more microphones and place them closer to the choir? What microphones are especially good for miking up a choir for live sound reinforcement?
Replies (6): Threaded | Chronological
on May 17, 2014 8:17am
Bruce, Oktava mics are excellent recording mics, but they're designed for recording, not reinforcement. You'll have this problem whenever you cross over. I think you have the right idea. More mics, closer distance, and go with something with less juice than the Oktavas. Instead of using two Oktavas, consider four SM-81s or Rode NT-5s closer to the voices, so that they are capturing more direct sound and less ambient. I almost never use the Shures for recording anymore - in fact, I sold my last four SM-81s last year - but that is for the very reason we're discussing here. They aren't nearly as good foe recording as for live sound.
 
The Rodes are much "hotter" than the Shures, so you don't get that benefit, but they're marvelous mics (for either application - recording or live sound) and much less expensive than the Shure. So you can more easily afford four or six (depending on the size of your ensemble), placed much closer to help avoid that feedback.
 
In addition to reducing the feedback risk, closer mic placement can give you the advantage of a more "correct" sound for the pops style.
 
Tom Tropp
SoundByte Studios
www.ChoirCD.com
 
Applauded by an audience of 1
on June 6, 2014 9:10am
Bruce,
 
I'll second what Tom says about the SM-81.  A very good value.  Be very critical of the angle of the mics.  When doing sound reenforcement work, the direction that the back side of the mic, relative to the speakers is almost as important as the front side relative to the choir. 
 
Preston Smith
www.perfect-record.com
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on June 7, 2014 8:53am
More than anything else, you need a good engineer who is experienced running choirs/musicals. Let them worry about what equipment to use. The best equipment in the world won't make a bit if difference without a good engineer to run the show. 
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on June 11, 2014 9:20am
Further to what Genevieve said above- you may not be able to afford having a good engineer at hand for every event, but if you need simple recordings to document concerts or services, hire a recording engineer to come in and give basic training to someone dependable in your circle who is willing to do the work.  In the cases where you need a great recording for a special event, bring in the professional engineer.
 
I've trained a handful of people over the years who do recording or PA work for churches or orchestras. Those who are enthusiastic are quick learners who can turn out pretty good results; not as good as a seasoned professional, but much better than someone inexperienced who is making it up as they go along.
 
Preston Smith
www.perfect-record.com
on June 21, 2014 7:22pm
This does not answer the question, but is on topic. We perform with band regularly and I run into this question all the time. We don't mic for various reasons. What I do is teach the choir to sing really, really forward (They are a good, auditioned 38-member community choir of amateur singers). I mean really forward, as in, the new singers are shocked and amazed. But when we perform, the choir is heard just fine, diction is clear, the sound is vibrant and energized. They are an independent ensemble rhythmically (meaning they don't lean on the band) singing ahead of the beat and the band, which is made up of excellent pro players, can just rock. I find this helps when we sing with orchestra as well, in that the choir can be heard clearly. Also, the choir never sounds far away. The audience has an aural experience of the choir coming out to meet them in the room (which is dry). 
 
It would be easier to be micked, but we've gained many benefits by doing it this way. The one time we were in a space that had mics installed already, I had no idea what the sound was that the audience was hearing—I had to depend on the judgment of the two guys (who I didn't know) in the sound booth, as sound in a full hall is always different from rehearsal in an empty hall. 
 
Karen Schuessler
www.kssingers.com
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on June 30, 2014 11:19am
Karen has a great approach.... for the ensembles who can make it work.  But this should serve as a reminder to always bring along a set of trusted ears to work with the venue sound people at sound check and performance time whenever mics are used. 
 
The reality is the sound people at the venue most likely have much more experience doing pop music than choral.  Oh for all the times I'v sat cringing in the audience when I go to a concert.
 
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