# Mic'ing the pit orchestra...

#### spiwak2005

##### Active Member
Need some advice here. We are doing West Side Story for our high school musical - 900 seat theatre. We will have about 10 rental lavs, 4 hanging mics, and 3 PCC's on stage. In the pit, we will have 4 violins, 1 viola, 1 cello, 3 woodwinds, 1 grand piano, about 5 brass and 2 percussion. We have 2 57's, I can probably borrow 4 more 57's or 58's, plus I was thinking of using 2 small capsule condensor mics on the violins. BUT the director is very insistent that we do NOT mic the orchestra at all. The only explanation I can get is "some of the actors are quiet, we've never mic'ed the orchestra before, we don't want it to be too loud" to which I reply using mics doesn't automatically mean they will be loud - it all depends on how we mix it. I also tried to explain that mic'ing will give us more control over the balance between the music and actors in the FOH speakers. What else can I use to persuade the director to let us mic the orchestra?

Also with the limited mic selection, any opinions on what to mic?

#### blsmn

##### Member
Do you by chance videotape the shows? - and if so do you send an audio feed from the board to the video? If so tell the director that if you don't put at least a couple mics - a couple small diaphram condensors would be my choice - on the pit that they will not be heard on the video tape. Proper placement of a couple SDC's should get you a good overall pit sound, and then during rehearsals you can sneak them in a tad to start to balance out the overall pit sound into the mix. It is important and essential, to me at least, to be able to blend the pit into FOH - not only to insure that the music and vocals are coming at people from the same place, but also to have the ability to wrap the vocals around the music and give the overall mix some depth. I absolutely hate sitting through a show where I'm hearing the pit coming from one location and the singing from another - even just a tickling of the pit into FOH will add so much more to the overall sound of the show - IMO. Hopefully your director has a good enough ear to recognize the difference - good luck.

#### dvsDave

##### Benevolent Dictator
Senior Team
CB Mods
Fight Leukemia
what model are the rented lav's... really good lav's sound great... and even mediocre ones can really detract from a performance.

Make sure you use your lav's in at least 3 rehearsals (my little rule of thumb,... yeah it uses up an ungodly amount of batteries, but having the experience ahead of time is invaluable.)

#### SuperCow

##### Active Member
We try to start them out with mics as soon as we can. That way, the director can hear it as close to how it will sound (so he can tell them to be louder or softer) and also they don;t get all confused!

#### lxdeptnz

##### Member
spiwak2005 said:
In the pit, we will have 4 violins, 1 viola, 1 cello, 3 woodwinds, 1 grand piano, about 5 brass and 2 percussion. We have 2 57's, I can probably borrow 4 more 57's or 58's, plus I was thinking of using 2 small capsule condensor mics on the violins. <snip> Also with the limited mic selection, any opinions on what to mic?
I would start off by micing the strings, and then the piano. The brass will probably be okay on it's own. You may want to consider having a mic for the percussion. Use the condensers on the violins, if you can have a say in the arrangement of the pit, get them to sit in pairs, have a mic for each pair. In my opinion, you're actually better off micing the orchestra with condensers, but if it's what you've got, 58's and the like should do.

Reasons for micing the pit: to get a more balanced mix. Often, if your PA is flown, it can sound a little odd to have the actors on stage, their voices coming from above them, and the music they're singing to coming from below them.

HTH David

#### cutlunch

##### Active Member
spiwak2005 said:
Need some advice here. We are doing West Side Story for our high school musical - 900 seat theatre. We will have about 10 rental lavs, 4 hanging mics, and 3 PCC's on stage. In the pit, we will have 4 violins, 1 viola, 1 cello, 3 woodwinds, 1 grand piano, about 5 brass and 2 percussion. We have 2 57's, I can probably borrow 4 more 57's or 58's, plus I was thinking of using 2 small capsule condensor mics on the violins. BUT the director is very insistent that we do NOT mic the orchestra at all. The only explanation I can get is "some of the actors are quiet, we've never mic'ed the orchestra before, we don't want it to be too loud" to which I reply using mics doesn't automatically mean they will be loud - it all depends on how we mix it. I also tried to explain that mic'ing will give us more control over the balance between the music and actors in the FOH speakers. What else can I use to persuade the director to let us mic the orchestra?

Also with the limited mic selection, any opinions on what to mic?
First is the orchestra pit behind the FOH speakers, just wondering about possible sources of feedback into any orchestra mikes. Although if you are adding just a touch of reinforcement it shouldn't be to big a problem.

Crown suggest a technique I want to try out at some stage. This is that in the orchestra pit you fit two PZM's to the wall behind and to the side of the conductor. In a left - right configuration with about 20 feet between them aimed at the sections. I don't know if this will work in your pit. If your pit is fairly small then if you mike individual sections you may get some spill into the mikes.

As to how to get the director to let you mike the orchestra that is tricky. How well can the cast hear the orchestra over the stage? You will probably have some form of monitors setup for the actors so you could suggest that you add a touch of orchestra to the stage monitors just to even out the sound for the actors. They might let you get away with a couple of mikes for a left - right mix. If the director says yes then you can quietly add a touch to FOH without telling them and ask them what they think . This all depends on how well they know sound, if they are an ex-sound operator you might have problems. But if they basically say I want good sound and I leave it up to you, you might be in with a chance.
You could try saying you just need a couple of monitor mikes in the pit just to help you balance the sound. If you don't use PZM's you will probably need a couple of condenser mikes on extened mike booms.

Good luck with convincing the director.

#### spiwak2005

##### Active Member
mics & more

Thanks everyone for your comments - this is exactly what I was thinking but I needed to hear it from others to know to stick to my guns with the director. Yes, I realize the 57's & 58's could pose a problem with feedback. I actually have 4 condensors available for this so maybe only use the dynamics for some close mic'ing.

dvsDave said:
what model are the rented lav's... really good lav's sound great... and even mediocre ones can really detract from a performance.

Make sure you use your lav's in at least 3 rehearsals (my little rule of thumb,... yeah it uses up an ungodly amount of batteries, but having the experience ahead of time is invaluable.)
Not sure what they're getting for rentals. This will be the 3rd musical they've rented lav's for - at about $1000 for 10 for a week (yes, 3 rehearsals). I inquired with the company that did the sound install and they estimated about$10,000 to buy 10, with full installation including a road case for the receivers and permanent mounting for the antennae. These would be the Sennheiser G2's I believe. What do you think about those for quality?

#### blsmn

##### Member
I have used the PZM on the wall of the pit configuration to mic a ballet symphony for The Nutcracker and it worked OK - just have to be sure the pit is large enough, the sections are fairly evenly distributed and the mic isn't sitting right in the midst of say the brass section. They collected a fairly even mix if you can get them in the right positions to do so.

Depending on the pit position, the suggestion of having to reinforce the pit into monitors is pretty much right on - if not the whole pit definitely the piano. From my experiences it seems if the singers are going to be following anything it will be the piano line so they have to hear that on stage. Same goes for FOH - the piano will be the most difficult to get above everything else so it needs its own mic. From there, I would just play with the other condensors you have (what brand of mics are they?) and position them to get the most balanced pick-up distribution you can get for the situation that presents itself to you - pit size, FOH speaker placement, orchestra set-up, etc. It may take some moving around to find the right spots but will be worth it sound wise in the long run.

#### cutlunch

##### Active Member
Spiwak2005 I have had just a couple more thoughts on your problem. One, do you have to have a grand piano in your pit? I was just thinking an upright piano may give you more space to spread the sections for easier miking.

Also when you talk about the director are you talking about the overall director or a music director. If the music director is not the same person as the director, can you get them on your side? Just explain your reasons to the music director and they hopefully will see the sense in what you are saying.

Just a thought.

#### spiwak2005

##### Active Member
FOH speakers are flown right above the front of the pit; the brass & percussion are in the back of the pit, under the stage.

Condensors are 2 MXL 990's and 2 large diaphragm MXL 1006's. Would you mic a closed grand with a 57 under the piano near the sound board?

No PZM's available but we have 3 PCC's. Since there is so much dancing and running in this musical, would it be better to not use the PCC's on stage and try them in the pit?

cutlunch said:
One, do you have to have a grand piano in your pit? I was just thinking an upright piano may give you more space to spread the sections for easier miking.

Also when you talk about the director are you talking about the overall director or a music director. If the music director is not the same person as the director, can you get them on your side?
Originally they were going to use an upright, but scheduling conflicts have promised that piano elsewhere. The grand (6') is the only thing available. The pit is large and the orchestra pretty small so space isn't a problem.

The "overall" director made the decision not to mic the pit and the music director agrees. They also were not planning on stage monitors but with the size of the stage, I think I can use that as justification. Also just thought of this - we have ADA Hearing Assisted transmitter/receivers. The hard of hearing will want to hear the music as well as the actors.

#### avkid

##### Not a New User
Fight Leukemia
yeah, tell them the hearing impaired want to hear the music too!!(guilt card points)

#### lxdeptnz

##### Member
spiwak2005 said:
No PZM's available but we have 3 PCC's. Since there is so much dancing and running in this musical, would it be better to not use the PCC's on stage and try them in the pit?
That is a good point- make sure there is a good pickup for the rest of the cast without radios. Especially for the video and hearing-impaired mixes.
Also- how are you going to generate the mixes for video and hearing-impaired? Just an alternate Left/Right out? Aux sends? or another board with the same inputs? I ask, because you will probably want a different mix for atleast video.

David

#### Studio

##### Active Member
I know I am bring a thread 5 years into the future but I have a question and don't want to clutter the forums with multiple threads with the same questions.

My school has the following:
14 choir mics
5 SM-57
3 Beta 87
2 Beta 58
Many "table top" style microphones
Many Sm-58 Type mics (random mix)

What would be the best way for micing the orchestra pit (for monitor feeds and video recording)

We currently use two SM-81 microphones or something of the likeness which hang in the house and are for the whole room. I would like to mic the pit separately so we don't have to edit so much later in FCP.

Any Ideas?

We have 3 large boom stands and 5 smaller boom mic stands.

#### Morpheus

##### Active Member
define "choir mic" and "table top style" mic...

those might be worthwhile, if we knew what they were

#### Eboy87

##### Well-Known Member
It would also help to know what instruments will be playing, and what style of show. I would mic Jesus Christ Superstar differently than I would The Music Man.

#### gizm770o

##### Member
I would go ahead and mic them just to be safe. You can always mut a mic that's there, but you can't turn on one that isn't. My last show we miked the crap out of the pit, and ended up using quite of bit of every single mic.

#### WooferHound

##### Well-Known Member
Everytime I do a show in our theater I need to provide a feed to three things besides the the House Mains
• The Hearing Impaired system
• The speakers in the Dressing Rooms
• A Feed for the Video Guy
All of our directors insist that the orchestra is NOT in the House mains system, but they are tolerant of the limited orchestra in the stage monitors and I respect them and do as I am asked.

Our Orchestra Pit moves and is usually about 7 feet down so the orchestra is out of sight. The result is that the musicians are surrounded on all sides by cement and some wooden walls, this provides reflections and evens out the sound really well so you can hear all the instruments very well no matter what position you are listening from.

I put 2 microphones on the center of the pit in front of the conductor. The mics are on Boomstands that are extended to full height and are positioned 180 degrees away from each other. This has always worked great for me. The instruments that are closest to the mics are a little louder but not overbearing. I recorded a show on a CD recorder with each separate mic on the Left and Right channels. it was a really good sound although not perfect.

Give that a try once and see what you think ?

#### WonderfullOne

##### Member
Reviving an old thread in order to create less clutter on the main pages! I'm new to this so bare with me.

I am an MD with a theatre company, and one of our upcoming productions is Footloose. I have the option to mic the 8 person pit: 2 keyboards, 2 guitars, 1 bass, 1 drum (set), 1 percussion (various perc. instruments), and 1 woodwind player playing clarinet, flute, tenor and bari sax. I'm fairly new to the whole pit mic'ing thing, so I'm not entirely sure what I'm trying to do, but I was thinking about taking the lines from each of the amp'd instruments (keys, guitars and bass) and plugging them in to a small 8 or 10 channel mixer board, then mic'ing the woodwinder player and percussion player and plugging them in to the board as well. I would then take two or three amps (keyboard I guess?) and plug them in to the out-lines of the mixer and control the volume of each instrument on that board for proper mixing.

So my main question: is this possible/a good idea? Or, should I just mic the woodwind and percussion players, considering they will get lost in the sound between a drum set and 5 amps. Any and all help is nice! Thanks everyone!

#### FMEng

##### Well-Known Member
Fight Leukemia
Reviving an old thread in order to create less clutter on the main pages! I'm new to this so bare with me.

I am an MD with a theatre company, and one of our upcoming productions is Footloose. I have the option to mic the 8 person pit: 2 keyboards, 2 guitars, 1 bass, 1 drum (set), 1 percussion (various perc. instruments), and 1 woodwind player playing clarinet, flute, tenor and bari sax. I'm fairly new to the whole pit mic'ing thing, so I'm not entirely sure what I'm trying to do, but I was thinking about taking the lines from each of the amp'd instruments (keys, guitars and bass) and plugging them in to a small 8 or 10 channel mixer board, then mic'ing the woodwinder player and percussion player and plugging them in to the board as well. I would then take two or three amps (keyboard I guess?) and plug them in to the out-lines of the mixer and control the volume of each instrument on that board for proper mixing.

So my main question: is this possible/a good idea? Or, should I just mic the woodwind and percussion players, considering they will get lost in the sound between a drum set and 5 amps. Any and all help is nice! Thanks everyone!
You can use direct interface boxes on keyboards and bass. The guitar amp needs to be miked because it contributes much to the sound character the instrument.

Whether or not you need reinforcement for the band depends entirely on what kind of balance can be acheived throughout the house. In many theaters, the drums will overwhelm everything. The answer there is to have the drummer control himself, use rod sticks, and hide the kit behind gobos to deaden acousitically.

If you do use sound reinforcement for the band, then the instrument amps should be used like stage monitors. They should be elevated and tilted to throw sound right at the musician's heads and the volume up just enough so they can hear themselves well. That will reduce spill from the pit so your sound tech can control the mix properly from the mixing console. I would recommed using conventional PA speakers rather than instrument amps from the mixer.

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#### MarshallPope

##### Well-Known Member
EDIT: I misread your original post a bit, but I'll leave this here for future reference.

-----

In regards to the drum set micing, make sure all parts of the kit are heard. Depending on the acoustics of your space, you may end up with huge amounts of unamplified cymbal noise, but little-to-no kick drum. This is something you will likely need to play around with for a while.
Just as a reference point, for the last show I mixed, I was getting a lot of set in the onstage hanging mics, but it was mainly snare and toms, with just a bit of cymbals. I fixed this by adding a kick mic and also added in just a bit from an Octava mk012 mounted above the drummer's head. This gave me a fairly full sound from him.
Give it a listen before adding any mics to the pit, and then mic accordingly.