recording a high school choir, orchestra, and a jazz band

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cozy
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recording a high school choir, orchestra, and a jazz band

Post by cozy » Thu Feb 05, 2009 8:05 am

Hey guys

This is going to be my first paid recording session. It doesn't have to be platinum record quality, but obviously I'd like to get it as close as I can with the gear that we have, which isn't much. We are only getting paid $200 that will be split between my partner and myself (this is actually his gig, but he asked me to help), so renting gear would probably eat up any profit, but if it would help get more gigs, it would be worth it.

I've done plenty of recording of individual vocalists, synths and samplers in my home studio, but I haven't done anything like this before.

Here's what we are working with:

Digi 002 rack or Mbox 2 Pro (PT LE 7.4)

Rode NT-1

Shure SM7B

Shure SM58 or 57, I can't remember which one is the vocal mic

Behringer B2 Pro Condenser that is pretty worthless

DBX 266

Art Pro VLA

And we will be recording into PT on my Macbook.

If anyone has any suggestions for any of the sessions, I would greatly appreciate it.

Thanks

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Post by JGriffin » Thu Feb 05, 2009 8:26 am

Are the choir, orchestra and jazz band performing simultaneously?
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Post by cozy » Thu Feb 05, 2009 8:33 am

dwlb wrote:Are the choir, orchestra and jazz band performing simultaneously?
haha, yeah, its a new genre called chorchejazz!

no, one after the other, we have 4 hours to record 1-3 songs each.

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Post by cozy » Thu Feb 05, 2009 9:34 am

i guess what i am looking for is suggestions on mic placement for these situations. i dont know how to record a choir or orchestra. im pretty sure i can figure out the jazz band, but still would like some suggestions if possible.

thanks

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Post by Gummy » Thu Feb 05, 2009 9:38 am

What will have mics on it for amplification? Have you been in the room? Does it sound good?
It may be a garage, but it doesn't sound like one.

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Post by JGriffin » Thu Feb 05, 2009 9:55 am

cozy wrote:i guess what i am looking for is suggestions on mic placement for these situations. i dont know how to record a choir or orchestra. im pretty sure i can figure out the jazz band, but still would like some suggestions if possible.

thanks


The live orchestra/choir recordings I've done (and seen in progress) were generally a stereo pair of condensers about 15-20 feet in the air, and about 12 feet behind the conductor. With spot mics for solo instruments. Those distances are approximate, though: you should check the placement at the rehearsal/warmup/soundcheck to see that you're getting the right ratio of direct orchestra:room reflections.
"Jeweller, you've failed. Jeweller."

"Lots of people are nostalgic for analog. I suspect they're people who never had to work with it." ? Brian Eno

All the DWLB music is at http://dwlb.bandcamp.com/

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Post by cozy » Thu Feb 05, 2009 9:59 am

Gummy wrote:What will have mics on it for amplification? Have you been in the room? Does it sound good?
i havent been in the room. the gig isnt until mid next month and i havent seen the room yet.

as far as micing goes, i am not 100%. i honestly dont even know what instruments will be there.

at first i was just thinking that we would set the mics up and try to capture the whole thing(choir and orchestra), but after you asked whats going to be mic'd for amplification, thats not going to work, is it?

i guess maybe i wasnt ready to ask this question yet. i dont have all of the information. im going to try and get the info by next week and will find this thread again. sorry, and thanks!

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Post by acjetnut » Thu Feb 05, 2009 11:22 am

dwlb wrote: The live orchestra/choir recordings I've done (and seen in progress) were generally a stereo pair of condensers about 15-20 feet in the air, and about 12 feet behind the conductor. With spot mics for solo instruments. Those distances are approximate, though: you should check the placement at the rehearsal/warmup/soundcheck to see that you're getting the right ratio of direct orchestra:room reflections.

+1

Spot mics for soloists in the choir as well. Orchestra folks usually prefer and are used to more natural sounding recordings, so don't go crazy trying to place a dozen mics to get an upfront, modern movie-score type sound.

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Post by cozy » Thu Feb 05, 2009 12:39 pm

dwlb wrote:
cozy wrote:i guess what i am looking for is suggestions on mic placement for these situations. i dont know how to record a choir or orchestra. im pretty sure i can figure out the jazz band, but still would like some suggestions if possible.

thanks


The live orchestra/choir recordings I've done (and seen in progress) were generally a stereo pair of condensers about 15-20 feet in the air, and about 12 feet behind the conductor. With spot mics for solo instruments. Those distances are approximate, though: you should check the placement at the rehearsal/warmup/soundcheck to see that you're getting the right ratio of direct orchestra:room reflections.
dwlb wrote:

The live orchestra/choir recordings I've done (and seen in progress) were generally a stereo pair of condensers about 15-20 feet in the air, and about 12 feet behind the conductor. With spot mics for solo instruments. Those distances are approximate, though: you should check the placement at the rehearsal/warmup/soundcheck to see that you're getting the right ratio of direct orchestra:room reflections.



+1

Spot mics for soloists in the choir as well. Orchestra folks usually prefer and are used to more natural sounding recordings, so don't go crazy trying to place a dozen mics to get an upfront, modern movie-score type sound.
i didnt see these posts. yes, this is what i was looking for. i dont understand the ratio of direct orchestra:room reflections. could you explain that a little, or tell me where to read about it please.

also, where about would you place the stereo condensers if the choir or orchestra is in a cresent shape, which i am not sure they will be, but its likely. would you place them closer to the outside of the choir/orchestra?, or closer to the center of the formation?

thank you for replying, that already gives me a few ideas as to what to do.

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Post by JGriffin » Thu Feb 05, 2009 1:45 pm

cozy wrote: i dont understand the ratio of direct orchestra:room reflections. could you explain that a little, or tell me where to read about it please.
Sorry about that.

A microphone aimed at a sound source will "hear" a combination of 2 things: the direct sound of the source, and the sound of the source bouncing/reflecting around the room (which we sometimes call reverb). If you move the mic closer to the source, you hear more of the source and less of the "room," and if you move the mic farther from the source, you hear more of the "room" and less of the source. (Put another way: a close-miked guitar amp is almost 100% direct sound and no reflected sound. The ratio of direct:reflected will change as you move the mic away from the amp into the room. Try this at home to see what the effect is.)

The idea in the orchestra/choir recording scenario is that you place the mics someplace where the orchestra sounds full and up-front, but still has some "room" to it. If you put the mics too close the orchestra will sound too "dry" and you'll end up adding reverb at mixdown. If you put the mics too far away the orchestra will sound distant and small...too "roomy."


cozy wrote: also, where about would you place the stereo condensers if the choir or orchestra is in a cresent shape, which i am not sure they will be, but its likely. would you place them closer to the outside of the choir/orchestra?, or closer to the center of the formation?
I would place the mics in the center of the arc created by the performers...or more specifically I would place the mics in the center of the audience's listening space. Keep in mind that a symphony orchestra generally sets up in a consistent configuration. This configuration has been established over time to provide the audience with a "mix" that includes volume and stereo-panning information. Same with a choir: the director has decided how he wants the audience to hear the performance and arranged the bodies on the stage accordingly.

Referring to the image below, I would place the mics directly beneath the big red rectangle, which is where the conductor stands. That's where he's "mixing" from.



Image
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Post by Professor » Thu Feb 05, 2009 5:18 pm

That's a really great post from dwlb up there. I'm going to add a little, but not much, because if I were going to claim any particular specialty or area of expertise around here, it would be the kind of recording you are about to do.

The balance of Direct vs. Reflected sound is indeed something we consider pretty carefully when recording a large ensemble in a performance (or rehearsal) space. The general approach that is used starts with some kind of basic stereo pair or array at a 'prime location' within the space. All of those 'standard stereo configurations' you have seen or heard about from websites, books, etc. are practices that were developed for this kind of recording. So when I am getting ready to record a group in a space like this I start by listening and trying to get a feel for how live the room is and where I'd like that direct vs. reflected balance to end up. There is a certain point in most every hall where the amount of reflected sound becomes equal to (and past that greater-than) the direct sound, and that's a point called the reverberation radius. In very live halls that can be dangerously close to the stage, like at the 5th or 6th row, while in other halls it may be almost to the back wall. There are actually a few ways of measuring it, but I wouldn't sweat it too much for this application. It's just something to be aware of, and it might make for a good search term to learn a little more.
As for how you might want to deal with this consideration when recording, I would say that it is better to err on the side of being too close rather than too far. Just like it would be better to record too soft and turn things up later rather than having to deal with clipped signals, it's far easier to add just the tiniest bit of artificial reverb to liven up a recording made too close than it is try to dry up a recording made from too far away. We have no real tools for reverb removal.
A good starting estimate would be to record right above the conductor's head. He will be adjusting the balance of the group to deliver what he wants to hear from his listening position (well ideally he would be adjusting for the audience's position but that's kinda hard and rather unlikely for that level of group). Now there may be some kind of natural obstruction that puts him closer to, or further from his group, like stairs, edge of the stage, etc. so that's where a little extra listening and judgement on your part might end up with the mics a little closer or further out. But somewhere close will be your best bet.
Height, however, is another matter altogether.
You see the mics way up in the air for a couple of reasons. First, it puts the audience further away, which makes them quieter. Second, it helps to even out the balance of the ensemble because the difference in distances from the mics to the front row vs. the back row is brought a little closer to even. Audio Technica has a pretty good booklet they used to print but you can find online here that has a few diagrams of choir mic technique among other things. The particular method they show is for sound reinforcement more than recording, but it gives a good basic explanation.


OK, maybe that was a little more than I expected to write on that subject.
What I wanted to ask about more though was your available equipment. You listed the MBox as well as the Digi002. I would recommend going with the 002 simply because you can put more tracks into the machine. Since you are a little unsure of what you're doing, it's probably a good idea to err on the side of having more material available in case something goes wrong. When I was first getting my location recording business going I was using a Tacam DA-78 recorder which had 8 tracks available, and I tried to at least always have my main pair of mics and one auxiliary pair (whether those were closer, further, wider, or whatever) so that if I got a surprise loud spot that clipped I would have something else to draw from to save that take.
But that brings us around to your mic collection, which sounds a little thin for this kind of work. The standard fair is usually a nice stereo pair of clean condensers to capture the "natural" sound of each ensemble performing in the room. And from what I saw, you don't have any stereo pair of mics available. The only group likely to use any mics is the jazz band, and it's probably not going to be as helpful to the recording you might want. Typically they will amplify the piano so it can keep up with the rest of the group, and the bass will go through an amp, and maybe they will stick a soloist mic up front for the horns who are soloing. But the drums and the 12-15 horn players in the sections won't usually be mic'ed. It's somewhat possible that the choir is set up to use area mics for reinforcement, but that's pretty uncommon, and they probably won't mic the soloists in that group unless they are doing a pop/rock/jazz piece.
So yeah, you might need to rent, buy, or borrow a couple more mics to get something close to what would be expected for this kind of session. If the Behringer mic isn't worthwhile, then it doesn't make sense to buy it a mate. Do you have more than one of the Rode NT-1 mics? Do you have any friends who might loan you a nice stereo pair of something? Since the typical expectation of this kind of recording session would be an accurate, clean, and 'natural' sound for the ensembles, that kind of approach will be important. Using the other mics you have as spot mics as necessary for maybe piano in the big band, or a soloist in the choir or orchestra would be great, but those will only really be a supplement to the main pair.

-Jeremy

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Post by cozy » Thu Feb 05, 2009 8:01 pm

dwlb and professor:

thank you for the huge chunk of knowledge you both just dropped on me. there are some terms in there that i am going to have to really absorb before going at this thing i see. im glad i asked the question here.

1st off, i was at work earlier, and the rode is actually an nt2, it actually belongs to my friend, and we only have the one. as far as the behringer goes, i bought that before i knew anything about anything. i didnt even know what a condenser mic was, so its basically been collecting dust all of this time.

i might have to end up renting some mics, the mics that are listed are the only mics that we have in the whole crew, so no, i cant borrow a nice pair from anyone.

i dont even know where to look to rent mics. i think i will google "rent microphones" or "rent recording equipment" or something similar to see whats around, then i will start pricing them. i cant imagine it would be to expensive.

ok, so a matched pair of condensers are basically the mics that will capture the performance and the room, and the mics that we have would be good for certain aspects we may want more control of, spot mics.

so i guess i have a month to find a matched pair of condensers.

thanks again for the great posts guys. im going to do some googling and make some calls over the next few days to see what i can turn up.

thank you thank you thank you thank you!!!!

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Post by JGriffin » Thu Feb 05, 2009 9:33 pm

Professor wrote:That's a really great post from dwlb up there.
Thanks, Jeremy. I was really just killing time until you got here!
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Post by JGriffin » Thu Feb 05, 2009 9:38 pm

Professor wrote: if I got a surprise loud spot that clipped I would have something else to draw from to save that take.
This reminds me: an orchestra will likely have a wider dynamic range than a rock band...so when you're soundchecking try to get the orchestra to play their softest bit and their loudest bit, and assume that they'll get louder than that during the actual performance. Don't set the level based on the mp intro; there'll doubtless be a really big bit later on that'll pin your ears to the wall if you've set your levels too high.
"Jeweller, you've failed. Jeweller."

"Lots of people are nostalgic for analog. I suspect they're people who never had to work with it." ? Brian Eno

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Post by JGriffin » Thu Feb 05, 2009 9:41 pm

cozy wrote:
i dont even know where to look to rent mics. i think i will google "rent microphones" or "rent recording equipment" or something similar to see whats around, then i will start pricing them. i cant imagine it would be to expensive.
Generally not, mics are usually pretty inexpensive to rent (compared to mixers, amps, speakers, processors etc.) Though nice condensers will be pricier than a handful of 57s and 58s.

I'm not sure what city you're in; most larger towns and cities will have at least one rental house that services local festivals etc. Chicago has several; East Lansing, MI has at least one, maybe two these days. So, yeah, check the yellow pages.
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"Lots of people are nostalgic for analog. I suspect they're people who never had to work with it." ? Brian Eno

All the DWLB music is at http://dwlb.bandcamp.com/

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