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Author Topic: mixing choir around piano  (Read 1095 times)

Harold Reiser

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mixing choir around piano
« on: January 21, 2013, 11:46:39 am »

Our Session has decided to relocate our 12-15 member choir from the loft to standing in a semi-circle around the piano. I'm seeking suggestions for mic placement to obtain a good balance between the vocals and the piano. Thanks
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Frank DeWitt

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Re: mixing choir around piano
« Reply #1 on: January 21, 2013, 11:55:57 am »

Our Session has decided to relocate our 12-15 member choir from the loft to standing in a semi-circle around the piano. I'm seeking suggestions for mic placement to obtain a good balance between the vocals and the piano. Thanks

Of course you know that you can only reinforce you can't cut.  If mics for the choir get to much piano there is nothing you can do except get the piano player to play quieter, or move the choir or the piano.  If you don't have enough piano that can be fixed by placing a mic or mics where they can't hear the choir as well, example in the piano or assuming it is a grand, under the piano
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Mac Kerr

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Re: mixing choir around piano
« Reply #2 on: January 21, 2013, 12:12:12 pm »

Our Session has decided to relocate

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Bob L. Wilson

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Re: mixing choir around piano
« Reply #3 on: January 22, 2013, 12:43:46 pm »

Our Session has decided to relocate our 12-15 member choir from the loft to standing in a semi-circle around the piano. I'm seeking suggestions for mic placement to obtain a good balance between the vocals and the piano. Thanks

Assuming this is a grand piano, the system has solid gain before feedback, and piano location is not in the coverage pattern of the house speaker system.

Stand mount directional small diaphragm condenser microphones about two foot in front of and two foot above the performers at each end of the semi-circle. Start out with both microphones level and pointed approximately along the arc of the performers. Start out with the piano lid on the half stick and ask the pianist to err on the side of a light touch. Get the choir to sing something they know really well. There will probably be too much piano so shut the lid and try again. If there is still too much piano, stronger singing is the real answer but if that is not possible then enlist a church member that can sew to make a padded drape. The drape will need to cover the entire lid and probably the entire body all the way around, but allow the music stand and light to be in playable positions. Experiment with the drape materials especially the makeup and thickness of the padding and overhang length until it sounds right. We cut up and experimented with an old cover until we came up with what works for us. We generally use one for kids ensembles and dramas so the piano doesn't overpower them. Once the piano level is correct with the drape you may find it sounds too dead if so add a single PZM mic to the underside of the lid positioned over the center of the upper half of the strings. The mic can be readily and securely attached with four to six 3M command adhesive strips. The idea with this mic is to just add back the high frequency information that is being excessively attenuated by the drape. Start with a high pass filter on this mics channel set like 400-500Hz or if yours is not adjustable then engage what you have and roll out the low frequency shelving control on the EQ. A reasonable boost to the high frequency shelving EQ may also be beneficial to capturing the "air" you want without adding back too much overall level. For the record I like hanging Astatic 1600VP microphones for this kind of choir micing and a Crown PZM 6, 12, 30, or 180 for the under lid microphone.
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dick rees

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Re: mixing choir around piano
« Reply #4 on: January 22, 2013, 02:24:54 pm »

Assuming this is a grand piano, the system has solid gain before feedback, and piano location is not in the coverage pattern of the house speaker system.
 stronger singing is the real answer but if that is not possible then enlist a church member that can sew to make a padded drape. The drape will need to cover the entire lid and probably the entire body all the way around, but allow the music stand and light to be in playable positions. Experiment with the drape materials especially the makeup and thickness of the padding and overhang length until it sounds right.

In addition to this I would ask if the piano is sitting on a carpeted floor or a hard surface, either wood or tile.  If the floor is highly reflective, I've found that adding a thick-pile carpet underneath can slightly but effectively tone the piano down.
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Jerome Malsack

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Re: mixing choir around piano
« Reply #5 on: January 25, 2013, 08:36:08 am »

With the carpet under the piano it will make it more difficult for the piano player to hear the instrument.  Adding the drop cloth over the open lid will also affect his ability to hear the instrument.  Leaving the lid up and side facing the piano player open would help him.  When the floor is hard and piano to much you can try turning the piano with the lid half open away from the choir.   

In one church we had the piano on a 90 with the choir so the pianist could easily see the conductor with the choir behind the seat of the player.  Hard floor and lid half open.  Choir was back from the seat by only 3 feet, and we had hanging overhead microphones. 
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dick rees

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Re: mixing choir around piano
« Reply #6 on: January 25, 2013, 09:01:03 am »

With the carpet under the piano it will make it more difficult for the piano player to hear the instrument.  Adding the drop cloth over the open lid will also affect his ability to hear the instrument.  Leaving the lid up and side facing the piano player open would help him.  When the floor is hard and piano to much you can try turning the piano with the lid half open away from the choir.   

In one church we had the piano on a 90 with the choir so the pianist could easily see the conductor with the choir behind the seat of the player.  Hard floor and lid half open.  Choir was back from the seat by only 3 feet, and we had hanging overhead microphones.

I must disagree.  The whole idea of choir "around the piano" usually precludes open lid as it gets in the way visually and sonically. As far as losing so much sound that the piano player can't hear themselves.......nope.  I have played piano for small choirs (8-16 members) around the piano and have to "throttle it down" to balance things out.  We regulate the piano/voice balance in the recording by using a piece of carpet about 3 x 4 on the maple floor beneath the piano and by mic placement.  Since it's a small group, one AT3031 suffices. We do turn the choir up in the delay speakers a bit.

I'd put equal responsibility on the pianist and the choir director.
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Bob L. Wilson

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Re: mixing choir around piano
« Reply #7 on: January 25, 2013, 10:08:45 am »

I can't envision how to turn the piano away from the choir members that are standing around it in a semi-circle.

The carpet under the piano is a good idea. We have done similar with a 3" thick mattress topper under our tympani at Easter so the "thunder" when the stone rolls doesn't drown out the kids speaking in the drama.
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Taylor Phillips

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Re: mixing choir around piano
« Reply #8 on: January 27, 2013, 10:54:32 pm »

  The whole idea of choir "around the piano" usually precludes open lid as it gets in the way visually and sonically.
Choir behind the piano with lid at half stick was a pretty standard setup for the choirs I was a part of in high school and college, especially in a couple situations where the conductor and accompanist were one in the same.  These were 30 (college) to 80 (high school) voice choirs, so they had no problem singing over a grand piano. Most church choirs I've seen or been a part of don't sing out near as much as those choirs in the schools I went to, though. 
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I'd put equal responsibility on the pianist and the choir director.
Agree 110% here. 
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