As a Sound Engineer / Music Producer I spend a lot of time out on location recording choirs of almost every type imaginable from 4 Part Barbershop groups to Choral Societies with over 100 members and a full orchestral accompaniment. That said, a very high proportion of recordings are based on a choir of around 20-25 members with a piano accompaniment.
As such, for those types of recording, I have developed a “standard” setup which, with a few tweaks, will work for most choirs in most locations. However, in this business there is no “one size fits all” and whilst there is a basic principle to be followed every recording set up will be unique based around the choir and the recording location. There are a lot of companies and individuals out there who will undertake a basic recording by simply sticking up a couple of microphones roughly where the conductor stands to capture a “stereo” recording of the choir.
This is not entirely unreasonable and is certainly a good starting point. Indeed for virtually all recordings we set up some form of stereo pair from the point of view of the conductor so we at least have a reference. In most cases this microphone will form the basis of the recording. I did at one point consider offering so called “budget” recordings based around a single Stereo or Surround microphone. However, whilst these recordings would be perfectly reasonable I concluded they would not be the best I could do and therefore even as a “budget” option were not acceptable.
The other thing to consider is how this becomes a budget recording! Apart from saving on a bit of time and a few cables to connect up some extra microphones a lot of the same kit is required. You still need pre-amps and multiple laptops as well as speakers and other mics to run the talk back system. As a result I concluded a while ago that every recording would always be based around our full 8 or 16 channel recording rig. Having already invested heavily in professional recording kit, there is no benefit to anyone in leaving it behind! There are some purists who would argue you shouldn’t close mic anything and multiple mic solutions are not always appropriate. In part I agree, but one things for certain. If you don’t put a microphone in, you can’t use it. By always multi mic’ing every recording we are creating options for use in post production.
Every CD I record is approved by the client both in terms of the edit and the balance and in most cases there is often discussion about the balance between the choir and accompaniment / soloists. Well, a single mic / stereo recording gives you nowhere to go on this. It is only by putting in additional microphones for soloists and pianos etc that options are then available to properly adjust the balance. And it’s entirely for this reason that I do not offer “budget recordings”. Every recording must be done properly and as my company is fortunate enough to have a wide array of professional recording gear available then I see no reason not to employ it in every recording we undertake.