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Sound Design Chorus & Orchestra

I am looking for ideas on the best way to mic a large chours that performs
with orchestra (30 players). Chorus is on stage and orchestra is in pit.
Auditorium seats 1000. I am looking to achieve an "acoustic" sound. We
have not had much luck finding the right sound designers.



Eric Brown
ebrown(a)national-amusements.com




on December 18, 2008 4:35pm
At 8:19 AM -0800 12/18/08, Eric Brown wrote:
>I am looking for ideas on the best way to mic a large chours that performs
>with orchestra (30 players). Chorus is on stage and orchestra is in pit.
>Auditorium seats 1000. I am looking to achieve an "acoustic" sound. We
>have not had much luck finding the right sound designers.

What you're talking about is "reinforcement," kept as low level as
possible, and I heartily approve. The basic requirement is not to
have the mic(s) too close, so they won't pick out individual voices.
That means they WILL pick up ambient noise, so you don't want them
turned up too high in any case.

1. A single mic (directional--that is a "cardioid" pattern--but not
hypercardioid) as far in front of the entire chorus as your setup
allows, without picking up a noticeable amount of spill from the
orchestra.

2. Two mics (also directional, but not a very tight hypercardioid
pickup pattern) either separated across the front or (better) placed
together in the center with the business ends almost touching at a 90
degree angle to eliminate phase cancellation. Better for a very
large chorus since each mic is "aimed" at half of the chorus. I
regularly used this for chorus pickup in the recording studio for a
small (22 members) chorus, and it worked beautifully as well as
giving a very natural stereo image, something you don't need to worry
about.

3. Two flat mics (I can't remember the technical term for them, but
the kind that you would tape to the inside of a piano lid) taped to
the floor as far as possible from the chorus, but make sure they are
directional, and they WILL pick up shoe noise.

4. Two mics hung from above, in front of and as far from the chorus
as possible, but it's awfully hard to keep them from picking up spill
from the orchestra.

5. In any case, make sure that the tech on the mixing board is a
musician and knows what you want, and make sure that s/he rings out
the system to avoid the peaks that cause feedback. Placement of the
house speakers is VERY important for this, and it helps to have at
least an octave equalizer if not a 1/3-octave EQ with notch filters.
But for your use, this may not be a problem at all, depending on the
speaker placement. Do NOT use monitor speakers unless your techs
REALLY know what they're doing. It invites feedback.

John


--
John R. Howell, Assoc. Prof. of Music
Virginia Tech Department of Music
College of Liberal Arts & Human Sciences
Blacksburg, Virginia, U.S.A. 24061-0240
Vox (540) 231-8411 Fax (540) 231-5034
(mailto:John.Howell(a)vt.edu)
http://www.music.vt.edu/faculty/howell/howell.html

"We never play anything the same way once." Shelly Manne's definition
of jazz musicians.




on January 2, 2009 7:17am
/******************from John's post
 
1. A single mic (directional--that is a "cardioid" pattern--but not
hypercardioid) as far in front of the entire chorus as your setup allows,
without picking up a noticeable amount of spill from the orchestra.

2. Two mics (also directional, but not a very tight hypercardioid pickup
pattern) either separated across the front or (better) placed together in the
center with the business ends almost touching at a 90 degree angle to eliminate
phase cancellation.
 *******************************/
John; 
About the mics you suggest putting in the front, how do you not trip over them or pickup yourself singing parts to people?... 

Rachael Barlow
Director All Together Now Family Chorus
Littleton, MA
rachael_barlow_groton(a)yahoo.com








on January 6, 2009 3:00pm
At 4:09 AM -0800 1/2/09, Rachael Barlow wrote:
>/******************from John's post
>
>1. A single mic (directional--that is a "cardioid" pattern--but not
>hypercardioid) as far in front of the entire chorus as your setup allows,
>without picking up a noticeable amount of spill from the orchestra.
>
>2. Two mics (also directional, but not a very tight hypercardioid pickup
>pattern) either separated across the front or (better) placed together in the
>center with the business ends almost touching at a 90 degree angle
>to eliminate
>phase cancellation.
> *******************************/
>John;
>About the mics you suggest putting in the front, how do you not trip
>over them or pickup yourself singing parts to people?...

Hi, Rachael! Do keep in mind that your situation (family chorus) and
mine (show group with 22 singer/dancers and a Showband behind the
singers' stage set) are neither one exactly like a traditional chorus
either a cappella or with piano accompaniment, or like traditional
chorus with orchestra in front.

Partly it depends on your own style and on where you prefer to work.
If you're right up in your chorus' face, the mics can be safely
behind you closer to the front of the stage. If you like to back up
from the chorus they can be either behind you or in front of you in
fixed positions. But the key is to have the cables taped down so
that neither you nor anyone else can trip over them. (And on the 8th
day God created gaffer's tape!) And of course you need a certain
amount of stage awareness to avoid them. In a choral-orchestral
situation the conductor is normally in front of the orchestra, and
therefore far enough away from the chorus that it isn't a problem.

As to singing parts, I never did so it was never a problem! But
that's where you take advantage of the directional characteristics of
a cardioid mic, with the chorus on the hot side and the conductor on
the dead side. With our particular setup, they wouldn't have heard
me anyway, since we used 11 mics on the choral set with mostly 2
singers per mic, and we did use monitor speakers. (One of the first
things we did at our preschool fall workshop was to match up couples
as regular partners, as closely matched in both height and vocal
projection as possible. And yes, all my dancers sang, and sang in
multiple parts even though they were not necessarily soloists!)
Close miking rather than area miking, made necessary by the
positioning and sound level of the Showband.

And I should probably also mention that I very seldom actually
conducted on stage with that ensemble. I trained them very well and
they cued off our Showband Director or the band itself, which is what
show ensembles and musical theater performers DO. (When we conduct
in the pit we may THINK we're leading them, but actually we're
following them, and opera's even worse!) They were quite capable of
singing virtually anything without conductor, but maybe once during a
show I would come out and conduct something rubato, just to show that
I could! On occasion I also had my Choral Assistant step forward to
do limited conducting, but it was for coordination; they already knew
the interpretation. (This is the advantage of learning a touring
program and gradually letting it evolve and change it over the course
of a season rather than performing it once, putting it away, and
learning a new program. The same paradigm is followed by barbershop
choruses, who may be working on new pieces but who have a lot of
music "in repertoire" that can be called up at any time. And of
course by professional touring choruses, either small ones like
Chanticleer or larger ones like Waring, Shaw, and so on in the old
days.

John


--
John R. Howell, Assoc. Prof. of Music
Virginia Tech Department of Music
College of Liberal Arts & Human Sciences
Blacksburg, Virginia, U.S.A. 24061-0240
Vox (540) 231-8411 Fax (540) 231-5034
(mailto:John.Howell(a)vt.edu)
http://www.music.vt.edu/faculty/howell/howell.html

"We never play anything the same way once." Shelly Manne's definition
of jazz musicians.




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