Recording an A Capella group

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taperocket
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Post by taperocket » Thu Feb 23, 2006 3:53 pm

Yeah, I'm not doing individual mics for my own sanity...Joel what's this ORTF configuration you speak of and is the M9 an omni?

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Post by joelpatterson » Thu Feb 23, 2006 6:35 pm

Image

These are two mics in ORTF--or technically NOS, but who's counting.

Splayed out to either side, and the result of listening to both of them panned in stereo is the incredible localization of every sound source in the field. And this precise location gives a real tangible sense of the singers three-dimensionally.

In the middle is where I put my M9--tube mic from CAD, cardioid. I think of tube mics as also, in their way, capturing the human element, the shine off the ear-ring, so to say. So between the three mics, you are stylin'.
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taperocket
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Post by taperocket » Thu Feb 23, 2006 7:24 pm

Thanks, so If I used my Rode NT4 for the stereo pair would I just place my condensor slightly below the fixed xy mic capsules of the NT4? Would their close proximity avoid phasing issues or will I most likely have to flip the phase on the condensor?

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Post by kayagum » Thu Feb 23, 2006 7:50 pm

taperocket wrote:Yeah, I'm not doing individual mics for my own sanity...Joel what's this ORTF configuration you speak of and is the M9 an omni?
OK Taperocket- use the search function at the top of the page. You'll get plenty of info on ORTF from past threads.
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Post by joelpatterson » Fri Feb 24, 2006 11:11 am

But who want's to read boring, old threads when you can read hip, happening, now threads?

The Rode NT 4 is pretty good, no? You'd want the center mic to be as close as possible to a point right between the two splayed capsules, slightly below sounds like a workable plan. I don't notice any phase weirdness in my set-up--but then, I'm not much of a "phase-flip" guy. You can fool with the panning of the left and right signals, and at a certain point you will hear everything come into sharp focus.

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Post by rydberg » Fri Feb 24, 2006 4:13 pm

aeijtzsche wrote: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?

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

Now there's the problem - don't assume you'll be recording a good choir! Shit, if I was recording something like Joel over there with his Prarie Home companion group, yer damn tootin' I would go simple. I guess MY problem was that I was assuming a worst case scenario.

Like I said, unfortunately my exerience has been with either college or community choirs. People pull sharp, go flat or the whole lot gradually change keys over the course of the song.....it's a freaking nightmare. And don't get me started on the material that they've "arranged".....<shudder>.

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Post by matyas » Sat Feb 25, 2006 6:32 am

Mark Alan Miller wrote: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.
There's a big difference. In the case of 18 singers, you're not going for the separate sound of 18 individuals. That's not how we hear choral groups. A choral ensemble is just that an ensemble which we should be percieving as more or less a single polyphonic sound source. You wouldn't mic each player in a string section - it would be like miking each string individually on an acoustic guitar! (Although I'm sure someone does just that.)

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Post by Mark Alan Miller » Sat Feb 25, 2006 8:17 am

matyas wrote:
Mark Alan Miller wrote: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.
There's a big difference. In the case of 18 singers, you're not going for the separate sound of 18 individuals. That's not how we hear choral groups. A choral ensemble is just that an ensemble which we should be percieving as more or less a single polyphonic sound source. You wouldn't mic each player in a string section - it would be like miking each string individually on an acoustic guitar! (Although I'm sure someone does just that.)
I disagree in part, as my comment was aimed at the technical difficulty in balancing 18 mics, not the sonic wherewithall of close/individual vs group/semi-distant micing. (And in the case of 12 tracks of drums, one would, closemicing included, be still looking for a unified sound, no?)
I do agree, thought, that close-micing 18 people will steer one away from the natural blending of voices in a space that lends to the unification of a choral sound. That's why I use an array of 4 to 6 microphones with acapella, as mentioned before.

Some groups I record (I record 4 or 5 in my area pretty regularly) will record everything except the leads and percussion parts live, then overdub the rest... and if we need a click, one person in each section gets headphones, uses only one earcup, and tries to gesture the time to the rest of the group. (The second you put two earcups on an individual when they're trying to sing in a group it makes it almost impossible for them to really tune to the rest of the group, I've found.) I even built a device to flash a lamp, triggered off the click to add to the visual stimuli for the rest of the group. Works really well. Just thought that was worth mentioning.
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Re: Recording an A Capella group

Post by Studiodawg » Mon Feb 27, 2006 11:51 am

I've recorded many A Capella groups mostly on location, but did produce an A Capella album using a bunch of mics...I prefer the blend of a stereo pair from a distance. The ORTF method coupled with a large diaphragm condensor looks interesting, but it will not yield "true" stereo imaging. Mid/Side recording method at a distance can sound huge and there is a lot of control of the spatiality.

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Post by b3groover » Wed Mar 01, 2006 5:20 am

As someone who was in a college a capella group for four years and who also recorded said group as well as other a capella groups, this thread has been pretty funny!

I agree that individual mics on every member is a very bad idea unless you're going to isolate every singer in his/her own room. It will make for an extremely un-natural sounding recording. Sure, Take 6 can do it, but that's only six guys.

Most a capella music is arranged like choir music into four parts: Either TTBB (Tenor 1, Tenor 2, Baritone, Bass) for all male groups, SATB (Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass) for mixed, or SSAA (Soprano 1, Soprano 2, Alto 1, Alto 2) for all female groups. Then there's usually one or two soloists, and mayb someone doing some crazy beatbox/rhythm stuff. So you're looking at usually six parts max. Mic'ing the parts is a much better option if you don't want to go the ORTF route. That way, if the bass guys mess up, you can do some punching, as long as the bleed isn't terrible.

My experience, however, is that the best thing to do to fix mistakes is to do full takes of the group (all 14 dudes or whatever) and then cut and paste entire sections together to get the best take. Did they fuck up the second chorus? Paste the second chorus from the third take in there. Don't try to paste individual parts, because it'll never sound natural. Paste the whole group.

One of the best recordings of an all-girl a capella group I ever did was in a nice, live room with all 12 girls in a circle around an AKG C-24 (stereo version of a C12) in omni mode. It sounded like every girl was on her own mic, right in your face, but totally balanced and beautiful. I loved that mic. Unfortunately it belonged to the university. I should've ganked it when they gave me the boot. :)

To summarize: I think mic'ing the different parts (bass, baritone, tenor, tenor 2 or whatever they are using) and possibly using an ORTF pair as well, in a good sounding room, might be your best option. When people sing a bass line, it is usually much more quiet than singing tenor, so you'd be able to compress the bass part a bit, add a little low-end bump, and make it sit well with the rest of the group. It's always nice to have options. And hey, if it sounded like shit, you could use your ORTF pair instead.

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Post by Mark Alan Miller » Wed Mar 01, 2006 6:32 am

B3, you're describing much, much more along the lines of exactly how every acapella group I work with does things in the studio, and precisely why I typically use a small array of microphones, four to six most often, with the group arranged in a circle around them (how most groups rehearse, so that has always made sense to us...)

Basses usually end up on their own mic, as do the 'percussionists' if they're doing that live with the group. And the lead will, too, if it's cut live. And pretty much one mic per 'section' after that.
And yeah, doing multiple takes is the only way it's ever worked for us/them, too...
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