When you are dealing with a band or solo performing artist, mic placement is pretty simple.
You place one mic in front of the lead singer, and other mics in front of the backup singers and you’re good to go.
If you are working with a choir, however, things get more complicated.
You want the mic to pick up all singers equally. And if there are soloists, you will want to consider that as well.
You also won’t want to create feedback and you will want a nice natural sound.
With that in mind, mic placement is harder to figure out.
Fortunately, soundmen that have come before you have figured out some tried and true methods.
Read on to find out some valuable tips.
In this post we'll cover:
- 1 How Many Mics Should You Use for a Choir?
- 2 How High Should the Mics Be?
- 3 How Far Should the Mics Be Placed from the Singers?
- 4 How Many Feet Apart Should They Be?
- 5 Tips for Recording a Choir
How Many Mics Should You Use for a Choir?
The short answer to this question is, as few as possible.
The fewer mics you use the less likely you are to be dealing with feedback.
In general, one mic can be used for every 15-20 singers.
The arrangement of the singers will also come into play.
For optimal acoustics, the singers should be arranged in a row of three in a wedge or rectangular shape that is about 10’ wide.
How High Should the Mics Be?
You will want to set the mics to a height where they are best able to pick up the singers’ voices.
If you ask sound engineers what height they think is best, opinions will vary.
Some think the mic should be adjusted so they are 2-3 feet high. Others think the mic should be as high as the tallest singer in the back row.
In general, you will want to adjust the mic higher up. This way it will pick up the voices of the singers in the back row without being overwhelmed by front row singers.
How Far Should the Mics Be Placed from the Singers?
In general, it’s best to place the mics 2-3 feet from the front row singers.
The mics to the side should be three times that distance.
So, if you place a mic 3 feet from your front row singers, and you need more mics for your choir, they should be placed 9 feet from your center mic on either side.
How Many Feet Apart Should They Be?
You want the mics evenly spaced. Otherwise, you might experience something called “phase cancellation”, a comb filter or hollow sound that acts as a filter over your audio.
This is likely to happen when two mics are too close together. They will pick up the same vocal audio, but one will catch it directly and the second one will pick it up with a slight delay.
When this occurs, the frequencies will cancel each other out. This creates a frequency response that, when you look at it, shows an “inverted comb” pattern, which is why it’s called a comb filter effect.
While this effect is desirable in some audio situations, it typically will not work for a choir.
Therefore, it’s best to space mics appropriately so this won’t occur.
Tips for Recording a Choir
The rules above will apply if you are miking a choir for a live performance and they will apply if you are recording as well.
However, there are other factors that come into play when you are recording. These are as follows.
Pick the Right Room
Different rooms have different acoustics.
When you move your choir from a church or an auditorium into a recording studio, they may not sound the same. Therefore, it’s important to find the right room to record in.
You may be able to add effects to the mix after the recording to reproduce a fuller sound, but it may affect the natural feel of the music.
Use the Right Overheads
If you are recording, you may want to add overhead mics in addition to the mics you have in front of your singers. Small diaphragm condenser mics are recommended.
When you are recording a large group of singers, it is not uncommon for the voices to be out of balance. Small diaphragm condenser mics will even the balance to produce a smoother tone.
Add Room Mics
In addition to front and overhead mics, you may also want to add some room mics for your recording. Room mics will pick up some of the ambiance to produce a more natural sound.
When considering which room mics to use, spaced pairs are preferred but any stereo mics will do the job.
When mixing, you can combine the tracks recorded on your overheads, your room mics, and your front mics to get a perfect blend.
Consider Adding Spot Mics
You also may consider adding spot mics into the mix. Spot mics will pick up some singers over others and can also be used for soloists.
Some engineers don’t like to use spot mics because they prefer a more natural sound. However, they can be good for picking up groups or singers that may not be as balanced in the mix.
If you don’t like the effect your spot mics have produced, you can always leave those tracks out of the mix when the time comes.
Headroom is defined as the space between the ideal tone and the distorted tone.
Having plenty of headroom allows you to record sound at lower and louder volumes without getting distortion.
It is a good idea for a choir recording because singers tend to get louder as they warm up.
Give Your Singers Plenty of Breaks
Singers’ voices can tire out easily. Be sure to give them plenty of breaks so they can rest up.
With the clock ticking in the studio, it may be tempting to keep going so you can get things done.
But taking breaks will result in better performances and it’s likely singers will nail their parts right away more than making up for any time spent resting.
Now that you know how to mic a choir, what inspirational performances will you be capturing?
Be sure to also check out my review of the Best Wireless Microphones For Church!
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