Recording an A Capella group

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taperocket
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Recording an A Capella group

Post by taperocket » Wed Feb 22, 2006 5:41 pm

Ok, so I have an a capella group interested in recording (this is a first) but I have a few questions because I've never done anything like this before. First of all, they said the last place they recorded at gave all 14 singers an individual mic. To me this seems crazy! I don't have that many mics and I can't imagine the kind of nightmare I would have in terms of phasing, track bleed, and mixing! I was thinking a stereo pair with individual mics for solos. Then spend my time positioning each singer in relation to the mic to get a balanced sound. Any other ideas? If I did it this way would I arrange basses in the middle, etc? Little help! I need to know whether or not to take this session on!

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Recording an A Capella group

Post by nesta » Wed Feb 22, 2006 6:07 pm

let me preface this by saying i've never attempted this before...

if you have a multi-pattern mic you might want to throw it in omni and position the singers around it based upon the parts they sing and in relational distance to the mic...for solos you could have the soloist move closer and then step back to their original position...

stereo micing might also be a nice possibility using a similar approach as outlined above for soloists and arranging the different vocal characteristics distance wise from the mike to add depth as needed...

sounds like it will be a lot of fun either way and one hell of a learning experience...

please follow up with your results as i for one would be interested in how you tackle this and the subsequent outcome...

good luck,

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Pitch

Post by cdbabel » Wed Feb 22, 2006 6:53 pm

Miking each singer individually has its advantages. Often in large a cappella groups, one person making a small mistake will ruin the entire recording. For some reason people are more picky about their a cappella then most other types of music.

If you mic each singer individually, you can use pitch correction to save most nearly-perfect takes. I'm currently recording a Barbershop quartet like this. I have them stand in a large square so that each mic is pointing in a different direction, giving pretty good isolation, plus they can communicate visually with each-other easily, which is very important for Barbershop.

However, I have to agree that giving mics to each member of a 14 person group would be a big problem. The only thing I can think of would be 14 SM 58s with each singer very close to his/her own mic to minimize bleed. I can't imagine it would work very well.
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Post by kayagum » Wed Feb 22, 2006 7:15 pm

If you have a good room (especially a concert hall or church), a stereo pair can be beautiful. I especially love ORTF.
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Post by taperocket » Thu Feb 23, 2006 9:50 am

Ok, based on the comments so far and my own good judgement I'm not even going to consider individual mics for each singer. I think I'll try my Rode nt4 stereo mic in a nice room (hopefully) and just keep the signal path simple (NT4-RNP-Swissonic-digi002). Then I'll probably mixdown to 1/4" reel to reel. If they don't like it this way, then I'm just going to have to turn them down. I think the individual mics will be a mess. I'll let you know how it turns out.

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Post by JGriffin » Thu Feb 23, 2006 10:06 am

spaced omnis could also work well here.
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Post by pantone247 » Thu Feb 23, 2006 10:10 am

how about small groups around a few mics?

4 singers covering the bass range around one mic, 4 covering the middy parts on another and... uh how many singers do I have left... sing high parts, around another mic?

Maybe use an omni for room sound, then the 'group mics' for definition

then at least you have a bit too play around with during the mix

p.s. I have no idea what I'm talking about, obviously.... good luck!
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Post by kayagum » Thu Feb 23, 2006 10:21 am

taperocket wrote:Ok, based on the comments so far and my own good judgement I'm not even going to consider individual mics for each singer. I think I'll try my Rode nt4 stereo mic in a nice room (hopefully) and just keep the signal path simple (NT4-RNP-Swissonic-digi002). Then I'll probably mixdown to 1/4" reel to reel. If they don't like it this way, then I'm just going to have to turn them down. I think the individual mics will be a mess. I'll let you know how it turns out.
My rig is a pair of NT5--> RNP --> HD24. Works great. If you have an RNC or some other clean compressor handy, you may want to patch it in, if only to limit peaks.
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Post by JGriffin » Thu Feb 23, 2006 10:22 am

pantone247 wrote:how about small groups around a few mics?

4 singers covering the bass range around one mic, 4 covering the middy parts on another and... uh how many singers do I have left... sing high parts, around another mic?

Maybe use an omni for room sound, then the 'group mics' for definition

then at least you have a bit too play around with during the mix

p.s. I have no idea what I'm talking about, obviously.... good luck!
That's a good idea, to mic in sections.
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Post by rydberg » Thu Feb 23, 2006 11:01 am

Well, I've (unfortunately?) recorded a few acapella groups and lemme tell ya - you're gonna need a mic for everybody. ESPECIALLY if that's what they're used to or what they've done before. You're gonna need it to get everything blended right (and lower the volume of the person who's singing out of tune). When I've done it, I've arranged everyone in a semicircle and put either an omni or a stereo pair in the middle to use as an overall blender/reverb send/mega-compression kinda thing. So in my opinion, CYA and use what you want later in the mix.

Also, carefully consider how you're going to handle headphones. If you don't have a headphone system that can handle multiple mixes (or 14 sets of headphones), I would aim for not using headphones at all.


My $.02. YMMV.


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Post by xSALx » Thu Feb 23, 2006 2:07 pm

Yeah recording acapella groups. I'm actually doing an album for one right now. It's boring let me tell ya. Anyhow. What I've done before is miced each section with a couple of omnis out and it works fairly well. The problem of course is that you really don't have option of pitch correction.

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Post by aeijtzsche » Thu Feb 23, 2006 3:02 pm

Jesus. The bread and butter of an A Capella group is singing in tune, the raison d'etre really, and it's unreasonable to expect them to be able to pull off one good take?

If you read music, get a copy of the score before you record them. I would say it really depends on the kind of writing their repertoire is. If there are actually 14 discrete parts, I could see lots of individual mics, but if it's mostly 4 part with solos, I would try to get a nice stereo picture of each section.

Good choirs actually arrange their performance formation based on sometimes tedious auditioning of various combinations. They do that for a reason.

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Post by Mark Alan Miller » Thu Feb 23, 2006 3:11 pm

On the pitch correction thought: If there's any bleed on the mic that's being corrected, it will get pulled out of tune as much as it's pulling the main voice in tune. If you can hear it in context or not is of course in question, but I thought I'd mention it.

I usually do acapella micing in sections, or set them up in a circle around a 4 top 6 mic array...
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Post by joelpatterson » Thu Feb 23, 2006 3:31 pm

I did a group last week, and if you hear a song about cell phones on the Prarie Home Companion show someday, these are the people.

I grouped them in a semi-circle around this simple set up: two mics in ORTF (Oktava MK-012's) and between them in the center was a CAD M9. Holy Jesus Christ did they sound like the Mills Brothers or what! Beautifully sweet and clear and ALIVE and right infront of you. (Pre's were Sytek and Grace 101). There is nothing like the reality of this kind of phase-coherent system.

I couldn't imagine doing it all on separate mics, are you an engineer or a switchboard operator!
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Post by Mark Alan Miller » Thu Feb 23, 2006 3:34 pm

I'm not into the separate mics thing either, but I see little difference between mixing 18 vocals and mixing 12 tracks of drums, 1 of bass, 3 of guitar and 2 vocals.

Mentioned just for the sake of argument. :)
he took a duck in the face at two and hundred fifty knots.

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