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Author Topic: Best way for me to handle choirs  (Read 14260 times)

Mike Jenkins

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Best way for me to handle choirs
« on: February 22, 2011, 08:18:15 am »

Hi all,

I am going to be doing an event soon which will have a couple of choirs either singing along to music on an ipod or to a band.

The last time I tried to mic these choirs I had huge problems with vocal levels and feedback.

Non of the choirs are professional and some members do not project very well. The kit I have at my disposal for this is 3 tyoes of Shure mic, I am not sure what the best choice is going to be so some advice is sought.

I have 3 SM57s, 3 SM58s and 3 PG81s, these will be going into a Roland V-mixer M400 so I do have some EQ control and can add compression if needed.

My preference would be to use the SM58s but I am not sure if these would work best or if a mix of the mics would be better.

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Jordan Wolf

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Re: Best way for me to handle choirs
« Reply #1 on: February 22, 2011, 11:29:20 am »

Mike Jenkins wrote on Tue, 22 February 2011 08:18


The last time I tried to mic these choirs I had huge problems with vocal levels and feedback.

Non[e] of the choirs are professional and some members do not project very well.

A common statement here is "fix the problem at the source".  If they're not willing to do that, you're going to have a hard time improving on whatever quality (or lack thereof) you got last time.
Quote:

The kit I have at my disposal for this is... 3 SM57s, 3 SM58s and 3 PG81s...

I say stick with the PG81s and use the SM58s for solos.

Quote:

[T]hese will be going into a Roland V-mixer M400 so I do have some EQ control and can add compression if needed.

Precise use of EQ can definitely help with GBF...I don't think compression will be your friend in this instance, however.  Better to leave it out of the equation.

My take on miking choirs: no mics until I can hear them from some reasonable distance without reinforcement. I'd be inclined to tell the choir director(s) that they're not getting mics if the vocalists aren't willing to sing loud enough for them to be useful.  That, or they pay for more mics and every third person gets one...or something like that.

Good luck, be patient, and use them thar people skills!  Smile
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David A. Parker

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Re: Best way for me to handle choirs
« Reply #2 on: February 22, 2011, 12:32:49 pm »

I've had some experience with these type situations. I too would go for the PG81's, although I've used '58's before on choirs if that was all I had, and it works ok. One thing about bands and choirs, the band will always be louder than the choir, so if the band is behind the choir, you'll pick up more band with your choir mics than choir. The loudest source always wins. The band needs to be in front of the choir, and the choir mics behind the band.
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Silas Pradetto

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Re: Best way for me to handle choirs
« Reply #3 on: February 22, 2011, 01:38:48 pm »

This should be helpful:

 http://www.prosoundweb.com/site/choir_microphone_techniques_ optimizing_in_challenging_situations/

I own a couple of the variable pattern mics mentioned in the article, and I can put my fanboy hat on and say, without a doubt, "holy crap, these are the best mics I've ever used".

I've had so many examples of how those variable-pattern mics worked wonders that I can't even list them all.

One situation is where I used one of them, behind the mains about 10 feet, to mic an entire drum kit, and was able to get "rock toms" in the mains with no issue.
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Jordan Wolf

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Re: Best way for me to handle choirs
« Reply #4 on: February 22, 2011, 08:32:01 pm »

Silas Pradetto wrote on Tue, 22 February 2011 13:38

One situation is where I used one of them, behind the mains about 10 feet, to mic an entire drum kit, and was able to get "rock toms" in the mains with no issue.

Like the ones Spinal Tap's "Big Bottom"? Laughing
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Pete Bansen

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Re: Best way for me to handle choirs
« Reply #5 on: March 01, 2011, 01:16:29 pm »

Mike - can you provide some more information on the setting (indoor/outdoor, church/hotel ballroom/concert hall/school gym), audience size, choir size(s) and some general idea of how the sound system is configured?

I work with choirs quite a bit and generally only reinforce the soloists (particularly those with smaller voices or who don't project well), but I'm usually working with live orchestras.  Part of the challenge with recorded music is making it so the choir can hear it - you probably need to provide some sidefills for the choir in addition to getting the recorded tracks in the FOH system.

Generally speaking, I agree with the suggestion to use the PG81's, but we can provide some more suggestions on placement with some additional information.
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Mike Jenkins

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Re: Best way for me to handle choirs
« Reply #6 on: March 02, 2011, 09:42:08 am »

The event is going to be outdoors, it is a campus event at a university and there will be two stages. The choirs are going on the smaller stage which is going to be using a Roland digital mixer and the audio is going out through 4 HK Audio Stacks, 2 either side of the stage.

I have been told that one choir will be using music on MP3 which I will play out through 2 monitors on stage, most likely set up to side fill. The other choir will be using at least a keyboard although possible a singing with a big band (Saxes, Trumpets, Trombones, Guitar, Bass, Keys, Drums).

The issue I have more than anything with the two choirs is that they are students doing it for fun which means the ability of singers to project is very mixed. The choir singing to music is very quiet and do struggle to project.

The stage size is 4 x 3 m so I may get away with only using one or 2 mics plus extra for soloists.
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Pete Bansen

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Re: Best way for me to handle choirs
« Reply #7 on: March 02, 2011, 11:58:56 am »

I think I'd try the PG81's on high stands and spread so that they are roughly 1/3 of the way in from each side of the choir grouping.  As described in the article referenced above, you want to separate the two mics a minimum of three times their distance to the performers.  

Use the third PG81 as a spot mic for the soloists - and have the soloists move prior to their solo so as to be in position for the mic to do some good.  The other thing to watch for is that the soloists don't block the mic with their sheet music... Rolling Eyes

Simpler is better.  Don't hesitate to assert yourself with the choir directors and/or soloists and don't assume that they will know to move to the mic before singing their solo.  I try to talk through each piece with the choir director so that we both know what is going to happen and so that they pause between pieces long enough to allow the soloist to move into position before starting.  I try to be there and set up prior to their pre-concert rehearsal or warm-up so I can get some idea of the varying volume of each soloist.  

Choirs are kind of a crap shoot - keep smiling, make them louder and they'll have a good time and be appreciative.
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Dick Rees

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Re: Best way for me to handle choirs
« Reply #8 on: March 02, 2011, 12:28:24 pm »

Mike....

Given that the weak link in the chain is the initial volume level of the choir, be prepared to explain this:

Loudest sound at the mic wins.

This is just physics.  If the microphones "hear" the sound system over the choir it just won't work.  Trying to boost them will only result in feedback.  So regardless of which mics you use the make/break factors are:

1.  Choir volume/projection.
2.  Mic placement in relation to the choir AND in relation to the speakers.

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Pete Bansen

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Re: Best way for me to handle choirs
« Reply #9 on: March 02, 2011, 02:35:23 pm »

Dick Rees wrote on Wed, 02 March 2011 11:28


Loudest sound at the mic wins.


True that.  If the loudest thing at the mic isn't the choir, you're done before you begin...
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