Now that we’ve collectively caught our breath from the Christmas season, it’s time to look forward to the next big event on the Church calendar; Easter! For some, the Easter weekend won’t be as intense as Christmas. For others, it will be more so. During my time at my last church, we did two no-spoken-word Good Friday services, followed by five Easter services over the weekend. While the Easter weekend services are similar to our normal—except we add a few extra band members—Good Friday brings out the whole team and then some.
Many church audio guys will find themselves having to mic different or unusual instruments for Easter, something is both a challenge and a lot of fun. Like any mic’ing situation, it’s important to match the right mic to the source. There are some who eschew the process of proper mic selection and just throw any old mic up on stage. While that’s one approach, I’ve found that carefully selecting each mic and getting it positioned correctly will result in a far more natural sound, require a lot less EQ and generally blend better with the rest of the mix.
Not All Vocals Are The Same
Many churches stock only one type of vocal mic. While this makes mic selection easy (or does it?), it may not lead to the best sound. If you are working with your regular vocal team members, you should have a pretty good idea of what they sound like. Taking a little time to experiment with different mic’s often leads to dramatic improvements in the sound for each vocalist, which in turn creates a better vocal blend.
For Easter, if special singers will be bought in, I’m not above trying a few different mic’s on the singer until I hit on one that sounds good. How do you know what sounds good? Flatten the EQ (save for perhaps the high pass filter) and have them sing. If you’re close with no EQ, you have a winner. If your EQ curve looks like a roller coaster at Six Flags, you may want to consider trying a different capsule.
We have several regular worship leaders we have played with different capsules for each. Sometimes our first guess is the right one; other times a mic we would never have suspected would work turns out to be the winner. Don’t be afraid to try things; the worst that happens is you switch it back.
Many Horns and Stringed Instruments
I don’t know what it is about Easter that brings out the orchestras, but we often find ourselves mic’ing string sections, horns and woodwinds. And while it’s true that any mic on a violin will get sound, using a purpose-built mic will not only be easier to set up—they typically clip on the bridge and require no stand—they will sound a lot better to boot.
While most of the time we use dynamic mic’s on stage, condensers rule the orchestra pit. Several manufacturers make either instrument-specific mic’s or ones that have interchangeable mounts for various instruments. For violins, violas, clarinets and oboes, we typically use small condenser mic’s with a flat frequency response.
Getting mic’s close to the source is another trick for better sound. If you find yourself running short of violin mic’s, you might try using a headset mic on the player. The capsule ends up pretty close to the ear of the player, which is a great spot to hear the instrument. Clip-on lavaliere mic’s also work well in a pinch.
Once you get into cellos and basses, the options open up quite a bit. Larger diaphragm condensers and even dynamic mic’s often work well with those two. But don’t rule out small clip on mic’s, however. Horns are often best mic’d with dynamic elements, if only to handle the sound pressure levels. But again, we are seeing a new crop of purpose-built condenser mic’s that sound great on horns of all shapes and sizes, often with custom mounts that clip right on the bell.
Again, any mic will “work,” but getting a great orchestra sound is a lot easier with the right mic’s. Of course it helps to have great players and instruments, too.
So that covers some of the scenarios you’re likely to face. What do you do when you run out of mic’s or are asked to make everything wireless for that big weekend? We’ll tackle that next time.