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Recording Setup for High School Choir
Old 1 week ago
  #1
Gear Maniac
Recording Setup for High School Choir

I’m looking for setup suggestions for an upcoming recording session, using the gear I have. I’ve offered to do several recordings throughout this year for a high school choir. Field recording is new for me, I’m doing these no charge to the school. They’d like to build up a library of higher quality recordings for uses such as audio for slide show presentations. The first session will be their ‘top tier’ choir of about 30 members. They will sing a Capella. No audience. The location for this first recording will be the school’s theatre used primarily for plays. The choir is intended to stand on the floor and the first few rows of bleacher seating. Room is about 45’ wide, 40’ in front of the bleacher seats, and 30’ ceiling. HVAC can be turned off. I’m not expecting a great sounding room (future recordings may be at a nice church).

For gear I have 6 recording channels: Condenser Mics; a pair of Gefell M296S omni mics, a pair of Senn MKH40 cardioids, and a pair of 3-Zigma cardioids. Preamp channels; 2 Gordon, 2 Speck, and 2 internal to a Motu interface. A/D converter channels; 4 Mytek, 2 internal to a Motu interface. Mic stands; one 11’ Manfrotto, three 5’ stands. One 60cm stereo bar, one small Rode bar.

I may be able to do some testing of the space, with the choir in place, the week before the recording, but not sure how much setup / record / teardown time I’ll have. One thought would be to at least get samples at various distances with one omni and one cardioid to see what the space sounds like.

For the session I was thinking of using a spaced pair arrangement. If I don’t get a chance to test the space before the recording session date, I was thinking of mounting both omni and cardioid spaced A-B pairs on my bar. I should have enough time to get them in a reasonably optimal distance from the choir. Both pair would be the same distance from the choir, but the omni will provide more of the ‘room’, the cardioid more dry. Depending on how the recordings turn out I could pick whichever sounds best. The space bar allows for quick mic adjustment, so once I have a distance to the choir I can adjust spacing between the mics for a reasonable stereo width.

Since the choir isn’t going to be that wide, I assume there wouldn’t be need / benefit for a pair of outriggers. I could maybe place a near coincident pair (ORTF, DIN, NOS, EBS) up closer to the choir (as a backup just in case the A-B spaced pairs don’t sound good) but that might be in the way of the choir director.

Thoughts? Suggestions for improvement?
Thanks!
Old 1 week ago
  #2
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
I would recommend your pair of MKH40’s in ORTF-starting point is approximately 9ft high and aimed at the back row of the choir. Starting location for the stand is right behind the conductor.
For the choir, 3 rows of 10 is definitely better than 2 rows of 15 ( too wide a spread for simple stereo capture). You can add a 2ft spaced pair of omni’s (1ft. either side of the ORTF pair to add spaciousness or in case it sounds better than the ORTF in this dry room.
I would use the Gordon’s for your main pair (ORTF) or omni pair if after comparing it sounds better as the main pair.
Good luck.
Old 6 days ago | Show parent
  #3
Gear Maniac
Thanks for your detailed setup suggestions. It makes sense, but I do have a question. Why use ORTF (or other near coincident technique) versus an A-B spaced pair for the MKH40 cardioids? I could see the ORTF advantage, producing a wider stereo image, if I could get the pair placed closer to the choir. But, if placed behind the conductor wouldn't a spaced pair be about the same stereo image and also have the advantage of the source being more on axis?
Thanks!
Old 6 days ago
  #4
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
Put both main pairs on the same bar behind the conductor...a 67cm pair of AB spaced omnis and your NOS or ORTF pair of the MKH40 at the centre of the bar....you'll achieve this by gaffa-taping your Rode bar onto the centre of your 60cm bar, and then angling your Gefell omni pair each outwards by 45 degrees.

You may as well use your Zigma pair on the choir too, as widely spaced AB cardioid area mics...by placing them on tall stands at the 1/3 and 2/3 points of the choir occupancy width, aimed down at the rear row of choristers and about 3 feet in front of the front row of singers (mics are parallel to each other, not angled, pointed at the rear wall, about 8.5 feet high). You may not need this pair in the mix, but it could lend some extra detail, width and heft if it's needed.

Then after recording both main pairs at the same time. use either or both (if both, allow either one pair or the other to dominate the mix by at least 7dB or more...don't have them at equal contribution to the mix)

Done this way, you'll extract close to the best potential of both main pairs...affording you the chance to decide at leisure. Technically the ORTF/NOS pair may be a little too close to the players, or the AB omnis a little too far away...hence the 'blend at mix' suggestion, to mitigate the departure from optimal positioning.
Old 6 days ago | Show parent
  #5
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chuck_S ➡️
Thanks for your detailed setup suggestions. It makes sense, but I do have a question. Why use ORTF (or other near coincident technique) versus an A-B spaced pair for the MKH40 cardioids? I could see the ORTF advantage, producing a wider stereo image, if I could get the pair placed closer to the choir. But, if placed behind the conductor wouldn't a spaced pair be about the same stereo image and also have the advantage of the source being more on axis?
Thanks!
Using ORTF you get some spaciousness but minimize the risk of Left bs Right phasiness.
As Studer described, you can get additional spaciousness if needed, by adding in omni pair.
Old 6 days ago
  #6
Gear Maniac
Thanks Studer and Folkie. It seems like you are both suggesting the Faulkner 4 mic array (or slight variation of it). Is that correct? I've been reading about it but have no experience.
Old 6 days ago
  #7
Lives for gear
 
James Lehmann's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chuck_S ➡️
The location for this first recording will be the school’s theatre used primarily for plays.

The choir is intended to stand on the floor and the first few rows of bleacher seating.
Curious about this arrangement - are you saying they'll be singing facing the stage?

If that's the case the fly gallery might play havoc with your omnis.
Old 6 days ago | Show parent
  #8
Gear Maniac
Quote:
Originally Posted by James Lehmann ➡️
Curious about this arrangement - are you saying they'll be singing facing the stage?

If that's the case the fly gallery might play havoc with your omnis.
There is no elevated stage. Basically it's a converted gym. The 'stage' area for plays is basically the floor level. The risers are at the far end of the room, going from floor level upwards.
Old 5 days ago | Show parent
  #9
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chuck_S ➡️
Thanks Studer and Folkie. It seems like you are both suggesting the Faulkner 4 mic array (or slight variation of it). Is that correct? I've been reading about it but have no experience.
Yes, also referred to as “Boojum-Norman” in this forum.
It allows lots of flexibility.
Old 5 days ago | Show parent
  #10
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chuck_S ➡️
Thanks Studer and Folkie. It seems like you are both suggesting the Faulkner 4 mic array (or slight variation of it). Is that correct? I've been reading about it but have no experience.
Yes, that's the one...or Boojum/Norman array (at least...and only...on this forum !)

There are many references and threads devoted to it here, as well as Tony Faulkner himself discussing it in a couple of videos too:
https://youtu.be/8uCcFIyJJ-w ....from 30:00 onwards...
https://youtu.be/v8qkjoWJwSI.... from 17:00 onwards
Old 5 days ago | Show parent
  #11
Gear Guru
 
1 Review written
🎧 5 years
i wouldn't use a typical array but four mics (cardioids) across the choir, equally spaced from left to right, plus an ambient pair (omnis) - you may still not route the ambis to the main mix bus but send them just to an efx device...
Old 5 days ago | Show parent
  #12
Gear Maniac
Quote:
Originally Posted by studer58 ➡️
Put both main pairs on the same bar behind the conductor...a 67cm pair of AB spaced omnis and your NOS or ORTF pair of the MKH40 at the centre of the bar....you'll achieve this by gaffa-taping your Rode bar onto the centre of your 60cm bar, and then angling your Gefell omni pair each outwards by 45 degrees.

You may as well use your Zigma pair on the choir too, as widely spaced AB cardioid area mics...by placing them on tall stands at the 1/3 and 2/3 points of the choir occupancy width, aimed down at the rear row of choristers and about 3 feet in front of the front row of singers (mics are parallel to each other, not angled, pointed at the rear wall, about 8.5 feet high). You may not need this pair in the mix, but it could lend some extra detail, width and heft if it's needed.

Then after recording both main pairs at the same time. use either or both (if both, allow either one pair or the other to dominate the mix by at least 7dB or more...don't have them at equal contribution to the mix)

Done this way, you'll extract close to the best potential of both main pairs...affording you the chance to decide at leisure. Technically the ORTF/NOS pair may be a little too close to the players, or the AB omnis a little too far away...hence the 'blend at mix' suggestion, to mitigate the departure from optimal positioning.
As I was initially thinking of various setups to consider (I realize my thinking is a poor excuse for experience), and reading about the 4 mic array using the AB spaced omni with a near coincident cardioid pair, I wondered about using a 2 pair A-B arrangement with an omni pair and a cardioid pair, not angled, where the cardioid and omni mics were mounted on top of each other. My thinking was that phase issues (sound from the side) would be minimized, they would have very similar stereo width patterns, and in post I could combine them and vary from the omni capture to the cardioid capture. I couldn't find a dual mount (one on top of the other) that worked with my mics so instead I was thinking of using the omni pair on the outside not angled, and the cardioid pair just inside and next to the omnis (with the cardioid angled out just a bit, maybe 15 degrees).

As I was doing more reading, I saw your fairly recent post in the "First try with boojum /jnorman array" thread (post #86 ) where you described the AB spaced Straus Paket array. Just what I had been considering! I guess I didn't come up with a novel idea, but glad it might have some merit.

Do you have any experience, or comparison, of the AB spaced Straus Paket to the 4 mic array using the AB spaced omni with a near coincident cardioid pair?

Thanks
Old 4 days ago | Show parent
  #13
Gear Addict
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chuck_S ➡️
There is no elevated stage. Basically it's a converted gym. The 'stage' area for plays is basically the floor level. The risers are at the far end of the room, going from floor level upwards.
In High School I performed in a production of The Music Man with just such an arrangement - it was very weird to have the audience in bleachers above us!
Old 4 days ago | Show parent
  #14
Gear Addict
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chuck_S ➡️
As I was initially thinking of various setups to consider (I realize my thinking is a poor excuse for experience), and reading about the 4 mic array using the AB spaced omni with a near coincident cardioid pair, I wondered about using a 2 pair A-B arrangement with an omni pair and a cardioid pair, not angled, where the cardioid and omni mics were mounted on top of each other. My thinking was that phase issues (sound from the side) would be minimized, they would have very similar stereo width patterns, and in post I could combine them and vary from the omni capture to the cardioid capture. I couldn't find a dual mount (one on top of the other) that worked with my mics so instead I was thinking of using the omni pair on the outside not angled, and the cardioid pair just inside and next to the omnis (with the cardioid angled out just a bit, maybe 15 degrees).

As I was doing more reading, I saw your fairly recent post in the "First try with boojum /jnorman array" thread (post #86 ) where you described the AB spaced Straus Paket array. Just what I had been considering! I guess I didn't come up with a novel idea, but glad it might have some merit.

Do you have any experience, or comparison, of the AB spaced Straus Paket to the 4 mic array using the AB spaced omni with a near coincident cardioid pair?

Thanks
The only real point of the Straus Packet, was to mix the two patterns together to achieve a sub-cardioid pattern; only done because there were few if any quality sub-cards available at the time.
Old 4 days ago
  #15
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
You don't mention any particularly undesirable side wall reflection issues, so there's no need to use fig 8 pics to capitalise on side reflection cancellation. As kbrown mentioned, the Straus Paket just gives you 2 mic types added electrically to give you a sub-cardioid pattern...but again, there seem to be no room issues demanding that pattern.

The parallel pairing of cardioid mics will tend to give you a strong centre image, perhaps too mono in character....and is best used in close spacing as a spot mic pair on a small source. Rather than trying to reinvent the audio-engineering wheel (or fight the City Hall of accumulated recording practice) I recommend you start with the 4 mic Faulkner/boojum/Norman array (with its recommended mic angles and spacings).....as you've read here, in multiple postings, it will give you a reliably constant width image from both pairs...without undue stretching or "clumped into the middle mono'

If you're hell bent on inventing a new mounting method without extensive theoretical underpinnings or treasury of historically satisfactory results....by all means go ahead, and please post the audio samples here for future learnings. Science progresses in sometimes unpredictable & unknown ways....the mould-breakers can also be unwitting pioneers !
Old 3 days ago
  #16
Gear Maniac
Thanks all for your insights and guidance, in this thread and in the PMs. The first recording is still a few weeks out.
Old 3 days ago
  #17
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
Ive done a few of these in school gyms
Use all of the floor ,its useful
I MS'd with MKH 30/30,if there was a feeble soloist I placed them behind the main pair and spaced them for best balance
I also placed the accompanying musos there, it worked very well and was enabled to record the whole school years for a Xmas Cd in a day.
Minimum processing, a little dusting of 2/1 comp and a sprinkle of Skywalker Soundstage ambio and I produced the CD on my laptop next day.
All Cds sold very well
Old 1 day ago
  #18
Gear Head
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chuck_S ➡️
I’m looking for setup suggestions for an upcoming recording session, using the gear I have. I’ve offered to do several recordings throughout this year for a high school choir. Field recording is new for me, I’m doing these no charge to the school. They’d like to build up a library of higher quality recordings for uses such as audio for slide show presentations. The first session will be their ‘top tier’ choir of about 30 members. They will sing a Capella. No audience. The location for this first recording will be the school’s theatre used primarily for plays. The choir is intended to stand on the floor and the first few rows of bleacher seating. Room is about 45’ wide, 40’ in front of the bleacher seats, and 30’ ceiling. HVAC can be turned off. I’m not expecting a great sounding room (future recordings may be at a nice church).

For gear I have 6 recording channels: Condenser Mics; a pair of Gefell M296S omni mics, a pair of Senn MKH40 cardioids, and a pair of 3-Zigma cardioids. Preamp channels; 2 Gordon, 2 Speck, and 2 internal to a Motu interface. A/D converter channels; 4 Mytek, 2 internal to a Motu interface. Mic stands; one 11’ Manfrotto, three 5’ stands. One 60cm stereo bar, one small Rode bar.

I may be able to do some testing of the space, with the choir in place, the week before the recording, but not sure how much setup / record / teardown time I’ll have. One thought would be to at least get samples at various distances with one omni and one cardioid to see what the space sounds like.

For the session I was thinking of using a spaced pair arrangement. If I don’t get a chance to test the space before the recording session date, I was thinking of mounting both omni and cardioid spaced A-B pairs on my bar. I should have enough time to get them in a reasonably optimal distance from the choir. Both pair would be the same distance from the choir, but the omni will provide more of the ‘room’, the cardioid more dry. Depending on how the recordings turn out I could pick whichever sounds best. The space bar allows for quick mic adjustment, so once I have a distance to the choir I can adjust spacing between the mics for a reasonable stereo width.

Since the choir isn’t going to be that wide, I assume there wouldn’t be need / benefit for a pair of outriggers. I could maybe place a near coincident pair (ORTF, DIN, NOS, EBS) up closer to the choir (as a backup just in case the A-B spaced pairs don’t sound good) but that might be in the way of the choir director.

Thoughts? Suggestions for improvement?
Thanks!
You’re doing this for free?!?
I, and a few other engineers in my area record HS choirs, bands, ensembles all the time, that are used for various reasons - but certainly not for free. I find this sad and disturbing, taking work away.
Old 1 day ago | Show parent
  #19
Gear Maniac
Quote:
Originally Posted by merman1983 ➡️
You’re doing this for free?!?
I, and a few other engineers in my area record HS choirs, bands, ensembles all the time, that are used for various reasons - but certainly not for free. I find this sad and disturbing, taking work away.
I can understand your position, and since this disturbs you, I will provide a bit more context. I realize this explanation may not justify my actions to you. The high school is a private parochial school associated with my church. As members of the church, many try to donate time and talents to the church and their outreach programs. As an example, the convent was recently renovated, with much of the labor performed by the nuns and parishioners. I guess that could also be considered taking business away from carpenters. However, as a parishioner, I am aware of their financial condition. I approached the school about doing some recordings; these recordings would not have even been considered if I had not offered. This is a hobby of mine, and I am glad to help my parish. As far as doing these recordings for free, that is what I’m worth at this time since field recordings are new to me. Sorry this is disturbing to you.
Old 1 day ago
  #20
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
You’ve considered your situation and that of your client, and come to a resolution which suits you both and exploits neither…so that ends wider scrutiny or criticism by commentators here. Now we just wait until Plush weighs in with didactic bluster…
Old 1 day ago
  #21
Gear Addict
 
In my area there are several community orchestras and choirs (some quite good) whose members are all-volunteer. I often record them for free, to try new techniques or test new gear; these orchestras don't have deep pockets - they barely have pockets at all, they simply can't afford to hire a recording service.

It's a win-win: they get a nice recording, and I get to test things - nobody's losing out on a job because the funds are not there to hire anyone; the musicians aren't even paid!
Old 1 day ago | Show parent
  #22
Gear Guru
 
joelpatterson's Avatar
 
2 Reviews written
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by studer58 ➡️
.... didactic bluster…
And perhaps a little trace of attitude.
Old 4 hours ago
  #23
Lives for gear
 
1 Review written
🎧 5 years
I'd suggest trying to keep this as simple as possible for the fastest setup/teardown and to minimize distractions to the choir. A 30 voice choir doesn't require that many microphones. Give this a test run or two or three and then go with the most simple option that works.

When you start to settle on a configuration, making a custom snake can greatly simplify setup for you going forward.

Also tend to think a field recorder like a SD mixpre, a used Sound Devices 7xx series or one of the Zoom F6-F8 units would also make life easier if you end up doing a lot of this.
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