How to Mic a Choir

One of the most challenging tasks for a house of worship audio technician is miking the choir. The right solution requires achieving:

  • a good balance of all the voices,
  • high gain before feedback, and of course,
  • a natural sound

There are two basic decisions to be made that will help you get the best sound for your choir:

  • microphone selection, and
  • microphone placement

In this issue of Shure Notes, we’ll focus on placement and teach you how to get the best possible sound for your choral ensemble.

How many microphones, and where should they go?
Once you’ve made the decision on which mics to use, you need to consider how many you need and where to place them. Here are some tips:

How many?
The simple answer is: as few as possible. Fewer microphones mean less feedback and an easier job of adjusting for the best sound. A decent cardioid choir mic, correctly placed, will cover 15-20 singers, arranged in a rectangular or wedge-shaped section about 10 ft. wide and 3 rows deep. A choir of 30-45 voices should require no more than two or three mics.

How high?
No hard and fast rule here. Some professionals recommend a vertical height as tall as the tallest singer in the back row. Others suggest that height, plus another 2-3 feet. Raising the mics makes all the singers equidistant and prevents the front row singers from overwhelming the back row

How close?
2-3 feet in front of the first row should give you a balanced sound.

For larger or unusually shaped choirs that require multiple microphones, try to observe the 3:1 Rule:

For multiple microphones, the distance between microphones should be approximately three times the distance between individual mics and the sound source.

For instance:
If a microphone is one foot in front of the front row of your choir, the next nearest microphone should be placed about three feet apart.

Here’s why:
You want to avoid the hollow sound that results from phase cancellation or the comb filter effect. This can happen when too-close mics pick up two vocal signals in the mix – one direct and one delayed. Certain frequencies cancel out, creating a frequency response that looks like an inverted comb – hence the name. And unless you’re looking for that kind of a filtered sound, it’s something you’ll want to avoid.

Seven simple rules:

  1. Place the microphones properly.
  2. Use the minimum number of microphones.
  3. Turn down unused mics.
  4. Let the choir naturally mix itself.
  5. Don’t over-amplify the choir
  6. Try not to sing at the mic.
  7. Sing in a natural voice.

 

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Davida Rochman

A Shure associate since 1979, Davida Rochman graduated with a degree in Speech Communications and never imagined that her first post-college job would result in a life-long career that had her marketing microphones rather than speaking into them. Today, Davida is a Communications Manager, lending her skills to a wide spectrum of activities – from public relations and social media to content development and sponsorships.

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