How to Choose the Best Mics for the Choir at Worship

Soren Pedersen | 04.09.2021 How to Choose the Best Mics for the Choir at Worship

We may be preaching to the choir, but miking a group of singers should be approached with the utmost care and consideration. It's not enough to throw a few mics on the stage and hope for the best. There are several vital things to consider, from the kinds of mics to mic placement. With that in mind, our team of experts has shared some choir miking techniques to help you elevate your Worship services.

When dealing with a soloist or a small group of vocalists, mic placement can be simple. If you are working with a choir, however, things get more complicated. With a choir, you want the mic to pick up all singers equally so that you can hear the harmonies and lyrics. In addition, it's crucial to ensure the mics can produce an excellent natural sound from the choir. 

Investing in purpose-built microphones for choirs and implementing optimal mics placement will ensure the congregation can clearly hear every note from the chorus. It's critical for the words of each song to be crisp and sparking. If the congregation can't hear the words of each piece, then it might hinder their worship experience. Even worse, if there is a low-quality sound, the congregants may become distracted from Worship and the Message.

In this guide, we'll focus on choir mic placement and teach you how to get the best possible sound for your choral ensemble. We'll also recommend a few mics to help your choir sound pitch-perfect.

 

Microphone Type

Condenser Mics have thinner diaphragms with an eclectically charged backplate to generate a signal and a smooth, natural sound. Generally, more sensitive than their dynamic counterparts, they're better at picking up finer details.

Dynamic Mics provide a warm and full sound and handle extremely high sound levels before distorting. They essentially operate as the reverse of a loudspeaker, using a diaphragm, voice coil, and magnet to turn a sound wave into an audio signal.

A condenser mic with a cardioid or super-cardioid polar pattern is the microphone most often used for choir applications. Cardioid or super-cardioid patterns reject feedback, yet they have a wide sound pickup for good coverage of multiple singers. Condenser mics can be made much smaller than dynamics of equivalent bass response.

 

How many mics to use for the choir?

The short answer to this question is as few as possible. The fewer mics you use, the less likely you are to deal with feedback. A correctly placed, decent cardioid choir mic will cover 15-20 singers arranged in a rectangular or wedge-shaped section about 10 ft wide and three rows deep.

 

How high should I set up the mics for the choir? 

There isn't a hard and fast rule here. Some professionals recommend a vertical height as tall as the tallest singer in the back row. Others suggest the height of the tallest singer in the back row, plus another 2-3 feet. Raising the mics can ensure that all singers are equal and prevent the front row singers from overwhelming your singers in the back row.

 

How close should I set up the mics to the choir?

3:1 rule

The basic formula for miking a choir is the 3:1 rule. In general, it's best to place the mics 2-3 feet from the front row singers. The mics to the side should be three times that distance. For example, if you place a mic 3 feet from your front row singers and need additional mics for the choir, you should set the mic 9 feet from your center mic on either side.

Why is that, you might ask?

You want to avoid the hollow sounds that result from phase cancellation or the comb filter effect. These hollow sounds can happen when you place mics too close to each other and pick up two vocal signals in the mix. One signal is direct, and the other is delayed. This pickup of two different signals causes specific frequencies to cancel – creating a frequency response that looks like an inverted comb. And unless you're looking for that kind of filtered sound, it's something you'll want to avoid.

 

Recommended Microphones for Choirs

MX202
The MX202 is designed to be virtually invisible to the camera and can pick up sounds within a 50-foot radius, perfect for large choirs. Its interchangeable cartridges allow you to easily tailor the microphone to suit a wide variety of applications. You can easily position this microphone above the choir to ensure the highest intelligibility of every word to your congregation. 

 


 

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CVO
The affordable Shure CVO microphone is a versatile overhead condenser mic with a cardioid polar pattern for a wide pickup angle. This mic is discreet, blends in, and will not distract your congregation or choir. 

 


 

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KSM137
For situations where the music director prefers to mic the choir with stand-mounted mics, the KSM137 provides studio-quality sound pickup. The KSM137 is a cardioid microphone that can withstand extremely high sound input volumes. 


 

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Shure: The Perfect Choice for Your Choir's Sound Needs

Whether you're looking to mic the entire choir, the pastor, or the pianist, Shure can equip your House of Worship with all sound needs. Contact us today to get started!

Here are a few other resources you might find helpful:

Shure's Central Hub for Houses of Worship

How to Choose the Best Mic for the Pastor

How to Choose the Right Wireless Microphone System

How to Choose the Best Mics for Brass, Wind, and String Instruments

How to Choose the Best Mics for the Guitar at Worship

How to Choose the Best Mic for the Pianist

How to Choose the Best Handheld Mics for Worship

How to Choose the Best Mics for the Drummer at Worship

 

Soren Pedersen

Soren Pedersen

Soren is a Product Specialist for wired microphones at Shure. He led development efforts on the MOTIV™ and PG ALTA product lines and is a Shure earphone enthusiast. He studied Audio Arts and Acoustics at Columbia College Chicago and has been recording music since the age of 15. Outside of Shure he plays drums and is an ambitious home cook.