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Author Topic: ISO advice on recording an Acapella group (with hand drums) in a private session  (Read 1817 times)

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Offline achalsey

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I'm setting up plans to record a collective of musicians privately at their house.  All acoustic all Acapella.  There will be 5 or 6 singers  I will have free reign on how to organize the layout.  Each person sings while keeping the beat with a rattle and often are accompanied by a small drum.  I'm a little worried the rattle will be an issue being close to the vocal mics, but might be unavoidable.

Gear i have available at the moment is: a Mix pre 6 and a pair of AKG CK 61 (cards).  I'm going to be picking up a pair of miniature omins beforehand.  Depending on the price I would like to pick up 4 of them.  I'm hoping to find mini omnis that can be used for concert recording as well interview mics for other projects.

If i have 6 mics available I was thinking micing most people individually using mostly dedicated vocal mics as opposed to room mics, with a mix of lav and others sharing a cardiod.  I was also thinking of micing the drum individually as well.

If i only have 4 microphones, two cardioid and two Omni, I was thinking of two options: either the cards center and the omnis spaced wide.  Or a single center Omni with spaced cards and a mic on the drum.

Any thoughts or advice would be appreciated.  I'm not familiar with this kind of recording.

Thanks.

Offline EmRR

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Getting percussion away from vocals will be the primary challenge.  Any time I have a singer with a tambourine or shaker onstage the percussion is always in almost every mic onstage.  The plus side, you may not have to mic any of the percussion.  The thing you'll lose control over with percussion is aesthetic decisions about how vocals blend with each other.  Sometimes you want some ambient blend for things to gel versus totally iso'd and assembled, you'll most likely have to defer to iso'd with the percussion.  Hopefully they have acquired some stage mic technique already? 
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Offline achalsey

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Okay, thanks for the insight.  They don't actually have much stage practice I think.  One is classically trained, but they're not professional musicians per se.  Singing is part of their profession, but they don't tour and play together live.

I'm thinking I'm going to try to swing 4 lav mics, iso the main singers and put the stereo pair of cards in the middle of the circle for more of the room sound.

Offline EmRR

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It may be worth advising them to rehearse with the percussion instruments played as quietly as they can get away with so they might gain some dynamics control over the blend.  Then they'll more easily adjust between their usual and something quieter if needed. 
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Offline goodcooker

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I'm recording a vocal group next month so I'm following along here. Some a capella some accompanied by minimal instrumentation.

He asked me about the space since a few of them are educators and they can get access to a few different places. I asked them to pick a spot with some natural reverb not a dry rehearsal space.

I have 3 pairs of condensers - wide card and supercard SD and a pair of cardioid LDs. I have a few of my favorite vocal mics too - the KAM RT1. Smooth as butter and very cheap.
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Offline SMsound

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Since the pandemic I have made a lot of recordings like this.

- Choose the biggest room in the house.
- Have the vocalists set up however, they are most comfortable. Seriously. Their comfort makes a way bigger difference to your recording than the 3% improvement you get from moving them in the best way for your mics and having them make a mistake or sing badly. Make sure they are happy/chill. Be relaxed. Tell them they sound great.
- They should be near the center of the room.
- Your cards and omnis should be about 5-6.5ft in front of them (my guess)...so the middle of the room is between them and the mics. I would guess mics are either either both in AB at 20", or cards halfway between AB and NOS. You don't want to point the cards too wide like you would in Carnegie Hall as here you will just get more wall reflection (ugh).

- Are you doing video/have to hide the mics? If not, and if the ceilings are high-ish, then put the mics 7.5' tall and angle them down a bit to face the singers' mouths. Bring the stands down if you want to get more drums (my guess is you won't want to).

-fyi this setup is basically the result of trying to compromise to get the mics close to the source so the direct sound dominates compared to wall bounce sound and floor bounce sound, but you don't want to close-mic a group as whoever is right in front will dominate too much.

It may help (maybe!) to have them with their backs to a *corner* of the room so you get less wall bounce from behind them back into your cards.

Really it depends a lot on the room, but this should get you started. OH and bring blankets for the floor between them and the mics!

Turn off the heat or A/C in the house. Your mics will pick it up if it's coming through vents. Also listen very closely because a lot of consumer electronics whine (lights, TV screensaver, etc. that you tune out in day to day life but no fun on your nice recording).
« Last Edit: April 27, 2023, 12:33:43 AM by SMsound »
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Offline SMsound

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I'm recording a vocal group next month so I'm following along here. Some a capella some accompanied by minimal instrumentation.

He asked me about the space since a few of them are educators and they can get access to a few different places. I asked them to pick a spot with some natural reverb not a dry rehearsal space.


^^ IMHO it's very different recording in a living room vs. a decent hall (even a small one). If it is at all possible, pick the hall... your recording will be way, way better with way, way less effort on your part. If they are educators then record in the college performance hall and skip all of the awful living room wall bounce noise.

Just my opinion, but I have done a lot of both halls and (sadly) nice living rooms (that don't sound nice) since 2020...

In a decent hall, you have a ton more options to get creative with micing if you want, as you are no longer constrained by the primary goal of fighting wall bounce noise.
« Last Edit: April 27, 2023, 12:31:40 AM by SMsound »
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Offline voltronic

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Just chiming in to endorse SMSound's advice here, especially recording in a real hall if possible. Just a few points to add:

- If the room is small, not great sounding, and/or has a low ceiling, you're probably better off not using omnis at all. Lots of close early reflections in a small room will not sound good.
- Speaking of those early reflections, I would definitely experiment having the ensemble move to different locations/arrangements in the room not only to get the best of vocal balance, but to find the place where the percussion is least boomy/beamy. Also try rugs or blankets immediately in front of or behind the percussion. You could even have them stand in front of a couch if the open end of the drum faces that direction.
- I would start with your cardioids in NOS and adjust stand height and distance to dial in your balance. Normally high is better for choirs, but don't get too close to the ceiling.

Last point for anyone looking for a set of omnis - Line Audio OM1 (Omni1). Outstanding performance at I'm very low price. You won't get much better until you're in Schoeps / DPA territory.
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