Mic placement: Choir & ensemble vocals

Miking a choir or vocal ensemble is naturally quite different than working with just a single singer. Keep in mind you’ll need to capture multiple sound sources – or several voices combined as one large source – at a distance.

Achieving this comes down to having the right microphone for the job and ensuring proper mic placement.

Condenser microphones are quite popular for this type of application, because they offer an authentic, uncoloured replication of sound. In the microphone business, this is called having a “flat” frequency response.

Miking a choir typically entails putting a directional microphone with a cardioid pattern a few feet (one metre) in front and above the first row of singers. This should safely cover a 15-person vocal ensemble arranged in a rectangular or wedge-shaped group.

But if you’re working with a particularly large choir, you may need more than one microphone. Generally you should use as few mics as possible, as this will minimise the potential for interference problems. Be sure to observe the so-called 3-to-1 rule, which stipulates spacing apart mics three times the distance from the original sound source.

If the choir has any existing physical divisions, such as aisles or boxes, use these to define microphone sections. Each mic should cover approximately six to nine feet (two to three metres). Vocal ensembles can also be grouped according to range (soprano, alto, tenor, bass), when working with multiple microphones. And remember: In a space with good acoustics, a pair of microphones in a stereo configuration will often do the job nicely.

Lastly, if you are recording a choir, consider having the singers stand in a circle around an omnidirectional mic. This will ensure all voices receive equal coverage and allow the performers to sing together naturally.

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