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Choir challenge

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Choir challenge

PostPosted: Sun Oct 18, 2020 3:03 pm
by Humf
I’m venturing into something I’ve never attempted before so doing plenty of reading and thought no harm in asking here.

My SATB church choir did lots of audio only recording during lockdown, with the 15 or so members using phones/iPads/phonographs to varying degrees of success. The final mixes were ok and at the time satisfied the need to keep us all singing and sane. Paired up with some decent local photography we were quite proud of the amount of new repertoire we got through in such an unconventional way. However the sound overall wasn’t ever going to match an ambient recording.

We are now rehearsing in the church with 2m distancing and getting used to that feel. The church is medium sized stone building from 12th century, wooden pews and partially carpeted.

This week we are going to attempt an ambient recording of music for Remembrance and if successful, use the same method for Xmas. For those not attending rehearsals (a handful of members who aren’t comfortable with live singing) I’ve offered to provide them with a stereo guide mix to use as a guide at home and I’ll have a go at mixing their contributions in. Whether that will be possible without detracting from overall capture, I don’t know.

So the question is what setup to try.

I have recently revamped my entire studio (around midi work and orchestral scoring) so keen to invest in a stereo pair that would have future general purpose use. I currently own a Rode NT1 but that’s it for condensers.

I would like to try a simple ORFT pair placed at the front of the ensemble with some experimenting on height and forward position to capture a good balance of ambience and definition, but have a few issues to consider:

1. Our distancing formation creates a deeper ensemble than usual (we’ve created the extra space deep not wide using the main nave of the church)

2. We don’t currently have any additional height for the tenors and bass at the rear

3. I like to sing along to help our men (who are typically lacking in number) and would be placed near the mics

I’ve spent a lot of £££ on my studio and have little left, so have been considering a MP of NT5s. But rather pleasingly i have just discovered that I live within 10 minutes drive of the UK distributer for the CM4. I suspect either would create a decent result?

On the balance issue, together with me singing, I’ve thought maybe swap the men with women placing them nearer the front. I could then stand with them as singer/conductor. Alternatively I could place the NT1 as a spot mic for the men, allowing some control later in the mix if needed.

Overall, the whole thing needs to be straightforward and fairly low cost. I’m willing to invest quality in the future but right now most of what I do will he sample based composing work. Unless this goes swimmingly well I suppose!

Will try to upload some church pics in a minute to help.

Have I got this roughly right?

Many thanks

Re: Choir challenge

PostPosted: Sun Oct 18, 2020 4:13 pm
by Mike Stranks
For choir work you'll need some height for the mics. How are you for mic stands?

If budget is tight then I'd suggest one solution is: a simple 95cm bar that you screw onto a conventional floor stand. (Not using a boom, obviously). I'm not sure that I'd put a pair plus stereo bar on one... but I'll come back to that.

Another options is: but very big and heavy and doesn't collapse very small. I had one for many years. Rock solid and will carry significant weight even with the boom fully extended. Here's my detailed review...

And another: Never used one, but looks OK.

I know you've mentioned ORTF, but another option might be a spaced pair of omnis. That's my preference for choirs these days. Which leads to mics...

A pair of NT5s (or CM4s) would be good. They're both astounding value for money.

If you went for spaced omnis then that brings in the Line-Audio OM1s - what I use.

Another option would be the updated Superlux 502: The Mk1 was well-thought of (still available for slightly less - I had one for a while.) The advantage of that would be less weight so you'd be OK with using that with a decent tripod stand with one of the K&M extender rods. BUT quality control with these mics can be an issue - good tough the 'good' ones are...

Where in the UK are you based?

PS: NT1 is a cracking mic! One of my biggest regrets is selling mine. :cry:

Note to all: I have worked within the OP's statement that money is tight so have avoided the marvellous mics that you thoroughly recommend and are only £600 plus each! For that reason I've also not mentioned the Rode TFs which were my first thought....

Re: Choir challenge

PostPosted: Sun Oct 18, 2020 4:24 pm
by Humf

Looking down the nave from altar

Re: Choir challenge

PostPosted: Sun Oct 18, 2020 4:25 pm
by Humf

Looking up the nave towards altar.

I could potentially place the choir facing this way and ask the back section on the chancel step to give some height separation.

Re: Choir challenge

PostPosted: Sun Oct 18, 2020 4:26 pm
by Mike Stranks
Humf wrote:Image

Looking down the nave from altar

Image is very small and can't be expanded... try using Imgur to host images

Re: Choir challenge

PostPosted: Sun Oct 18, 2020 4:49 pm
by zenguitar
Right clicking and opening in new tab/window will take you to the image on the hosting site.

Andy :beamup:

Re: Choir challenge

PostPosted: Sun Oct 18, 2020 4:56 pm
by Mike Stranks
zenguitar wrote:Right clicking and opening in new tab/window will take you to the image on the hosting site.

Andy :beamup:

Thanks Andy! :thumbup:

Re: Choir challenge

PostPosted: Sun Oct 18, 2020 5:26 pm
by Humf
Where in the UK are you based?

Sorry - forgot to answer this one - just south of Stroud, Gloucestershire.

Re: Choir challenge

PostPosted: Sun Oct 18, 2020 5:52 pm
by Mike Stranks
PM sent... :)

Re: Choir challenge

PostPosted: Mon Oct 19, 2020 2:39 am
by Martin Walker
Hi Humf!

That church does seem familiar - is it by any chance in Nailsworth?


Re: Choir challenge

PostPosted: Mon Oct 19, 2020 7:56 am
by Humf
Hi Martin

You’re close! Hawkesbury, just a bit further south.



Re: Choir challenge

PostPosted: Tue Oct 20, 2020 12:07 pm
by MaidenBartok
I have almost the same challenge!

My choir (usually 115 voices - currently 35) is rehearsing by sitting socially-distanced in the Nave and Aisles. This means the field is VERY wide and deep. I've had success with an ORTF pair over the choir (high boom about 12' up) and about 30deg from the centre of the choir.

It sounds good enough for live-streaming to our members who are still isolating at home - piano "leaks" in because it is behind the mics.

But here's the next challenge. We want to include the organ which is an a spearate chamber to the left of the Nave (North Aisle) about 30 feet behind the boom!

My thoughts were to leave the ORTF pair over the choir in the Nave and put a spaced omni pair up high towards the organ pipe chamber about 3ft apart? But I don't know what distance to go back - I haven't measured the criticial distance yet becuase that would be of the North Aisle, not the whole church!

I'm using a pair of Rode NT55s on the ORTF, have another pair of NT55s with Omni capsules I could use somewhere, a pair of NT1-As and a pair of NT2-As.

My thoughts were:

- NT55 cardioids on the ORTF above the choir
- NT2As in Omni spaced up high in front of the organ (I really like the "wide" sound you get on an organ with spaced-omnis but worried how that would mix with the wide ORTF of the choir...)
- NT1As on the piano?

Should I add a wide-spaced Omni pair for the choir as well? Even though there aren't many of us we fill the entire church North and South Aisles, Nave due to flipping social distancing...


Re: Choir challenge

PostPosted: Tue Oct 20, 2020 4:34 pm
by wireman
i think you just have to experiment and see what works, especially so with the distance of the microphones from the organ.
Advice I have receved here has leaned to SDCs for Organ, I have used the Rode NT-5 with omni capsules which I presume would be identical to your NT-55s but you have to see what works for your objectives.

And by the way I take it from these posts that choirs can now sing in 'their' church but the congregation can't?

Re: Choir challenge

PostPosted: Tue Oct 20, 2020 4:43 pm
by Hugh Robjohns
With such a spread out choir all 'normal' techniques are out the window -- there can be no conventional ensemble effect.

So your only real option is to multi-mic across the spread of choristers and how to blend it together in the mix.

Depending on the organ (and organist) you may not need separate accent mics -- the pickup on everything else could well be sufficient...

Re: Choir challenge

PostPosted: Tue Oct 20, 2020 5:10 pm
by MaidenBartok
Thanks both.

My choir is not the resident church choir - we're another group having to use the church because our usual venue is too small.

The NT5 and NT55s are virtually identical - use the same capsules and I have both Omni and Cardioid for both sets.

One problem that I have is that the choir is spread across the North Aisle, the Nave and the South Aisle with the organ in the "front part" of the North Aisle which means if I put Omnis in there for the organ I risk spilling that part of the choir into the organ. The front row of the choir is probably no more than 20' away from the organ pipes in the North Aisle.

The ORTF seems to work very well for the main choir but point taken about something at the edges (and possibly half-way into the choir as well).

So my problem now is what to do about the organ? Or do I just put the choir in the Nave, go even deeper (and risk being VERY unbalanced between front and back due to the depth of the seating) and omnis on the organ in the North Aisle, no-one in the South Aisle.

Nightmare all round!