stage sound newbie

Harold_Hill

Member
Joined
Mar 25, 2004
Hello there. Found this website after doing a search for 'hanging mics'. Seems like there's lots of good stuff here. So here's my scenario-- and please bear with me. While I do have some experience as a member of a rock band whom regularly perform live, the whole theatrical stage sound thing is new to me. So here goes:

I am doing the sound for a high school musical. They just purchased a Wenger series 400 unit which basically is comprised of a Soundcraft 12-channel mixer-- nice!-- a power amp, 3-band EQ and a set of 15" two-way speakers. They opted to hang mics over the stage as they have always had problems with the performers being able to be heard over the pit band. So here's the setup and then I'll tell you what I think is wrong with it, and then maybe someone can give me their feedback.

4 Shure D880 super-cardioid mics were hung approximately 15 feet over the stage, roughly 8-10 feet apart. and ~10feet from the front of the stage, or mid-stage whichver you prefer. Their cables run down to the mixer which is positioned backstage- stage-right. Here's the first problem already. How can I monitor the sound from backstage? OK, so I fire everything up and in order to get even the remotest signal I have to cracnk the gain up to about 50Db. This still only brings my levels up to about 50% at full projection and I can only really hear anything if I crank my headphones waaaay up. But with the gain cranked this high I can only bring the faders up to about -15 before I start getting lovely feedback.

So before I even tell you how the speakers produce barely enough sound I place the blame on a. the mics. From what I understand Shure D880's are vocal mics meant to be used at the front of the stage i.e. like in a rock band. b. mics are hung too high. This was done because the cables are not long enough to reach from their height down to the mixer and also because any lower and they would begin to obstruct the view of the scenery and personally I think that just looks awful.

So I'm gonna stop here because I think I already know my problem but if anybody has any thoughts I'd love to hear them.
 

avkid

Not a New User
Fight Leukemia
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Feb 17, 2004
Location
Lakewood, NJ
you should never hang anything not meant to be hung.
 

seanb

Member
Joined
Nov 11, 2003
are you sure the shure (ha ha?) d880 isn't an AKG D880? I've never heard of the shure D880 (google hadn't either) while the AKG D880 is an entry level super-cardiod vocal microphone.

That settled, I'd say the AKG isn't going to do an adaquate job at that distance under any conditions. You either need proper shotgun microphones (still a mediocre solution, at best), or to move those mics a lot closer to the source.
 

Harold_Hill

Member
Joined
Mar 25, 2004
oops. yeah, that's what I meant. AKG. I was thinking of what I originally suggested getting which would have the Shure Microflex overhead mic, although now that I've been doing some research I don't think those would've been the ultimate solution either.

Well, thanks for your replies. At least I know the blame isn't entriely on me. I just added two more speakers to the front of the stage to hopefully cover the front row a little better. And I cut a lot of the EQ by ringing everything out at different amplification levels to try and get the most juice with minimal feedback.

Like they say, "It is what it is."
 

anticowboyism

Member
Joined
Mar 24, 2004
Your main problem is you are using dynamic mics as overheads. You need to use condensers. Dynamic mics pretty much suck more than 2 feet away. Some would say 1 foot, but I'll be generous. Your mics are 15 feet high, that's 9 feet away from a six foot tall person standing right beneath it! No wonder your not getting any level. And these kids probably aren't 6' tall. Nor do they stand right under the mics.

You need to use condensers. It might not be too late to just rent some AKG 300 series with CK91 capsules or borrow some equivalent. Then try to determine the most important acting areas and hang a mic just downstage of each area. Don't attempt to just wash the stage with mics. You will get a washed out sound and probably pick up as much of the orchestra as the singers.

Every musical I've ever done has used wireless lav mics on the important actors. The chorus can just sing out over the band and be picked up by the overheads. But for leads I would never just use the overheads.

3rd, you didn't mention a 31 band graphic EQ in your setup. That's a very important piece to help you get the most gain out of your overheads.

So bottom line, use condensers, mic the important areas, give the leads lavs, use a graphic eq, and tell the band they've got to play quieter! Especially that damnn drummer! And mute that brass section!
 

DMXtools

Active Member
Joined
Oct 14, 2003
Location
Elgin, IL, USA
It's not so much using a dynamic mic as it is using a mic designed for close, handheld use as a hanging mic. There are dynamics designed to pick up well at a distance, some even designed specifically to be hung, that will work much better than a condenser designed for close, handheld use. The biggest differences between dynamics and condensers are frequency response and transient response, where the condenser has a huge advantage because the diaphragm doesn't have to drag along the mass of a voicecoil as it moves. The dynamic, on the other hand, has a slight advantage in the noise area because it requires less amplification. A condenser needs an extra preamp, usually built right into the microphone body, to get the signal up to a useable level.

John

John
 

mbenonis

Wireless Guy
Administrator
Premium Member
Joined
Sep 1, 2003
Location
Chicago, IL
Am I understanding correctly that you are using the mics hung above the stage for sound reinforcement? (correct term here? - to amplify the actors' voices?)

Also, is it even possible to use hanging mics for this? From what I understand, if I were to put the hangs through the house at Stone Bridge, I would get major feedback.
 

anticowboyism

Member
Joined
Mar 24, 2004
That's the problem Harold is dealing with. It's not a simple task to get a loud, full sound from hanging mics. You need to follow all the prerequisites above, including using the correct mics, hanging in the correct place, using some form of eq to reduce feedback/increase gain, and communicate with the orchestra about levels in the room.

But it's far from impossible. People with the right equipment and experience do this all the time with good results.

Oh, just to clarify with your post, the mics are not hung in the house. They are hung above the stage. I'm sure hanging mics in the house would be much more difficult.
 

mbenonis

Wireless Guy
Administrator
Premium Member
Joined
Sep 1, 2003
Location
Chicago, IL
anticowboyism said:
That's the problem Harold is dealing with. It's not a simple task to get a loud, full sound from hanging mics. You need to follow all the prerequisites above, including using the correct mics, hanging in the correct place, using some form of eq to reduce feedback/increase gain, and communicate with the orchestra about levels in the room.

But it's far from impossible. People with the right equipment and experience do this all the time with good results.

Oh, just to clarify with your post, the mics are not hung in the house. They are hung above the stage. I'm sure hanging mics in the house would be much more difficult.
Right, our mics are hung over the stage. We have a pair of SM81's, and they are extremely sensitive (we can talk at normal levels inside the booth and they will pick up up, over 200 feet away - of course, the gain is cranked up a bit then).
 

mixsa

Member
Joined
Jan 23, 2004
Location
New Zealand
ive always wondered what the best microphone shape is for mic'ing
a stage
ive heard cardiod and ive heard shotgun
but what will work best without give obvious loud spots?
 

Harold_Hill

Member
Joined
Mar 25, 2004
Whoa! I disappear for a while and wham! I get a bunch of posts to my thread. Figures.

Thanks all for your input. I think you're all right in your respective ways. Basically, the setup sucked, but according to everyone at the school it was better than what they've had in the past. You have to understand that I'm coming from a very small school district-- we're talking like 80 students in the graduating class-- so the money was just not there. I asked for the Shure condenser mics and they said no. It was enough that they had bought the Wenger cabinet I spoke of-- and yes it did have the 31-band graphic EQ which came in very useful to eliminate feedback which I had plenty of since I had the gain set so high.

So all in all it was a good learning experience for me in trying to make the best out of a horrible situation. The lav mics would've been a good idea only the drama teacher was worried about kids walking around backstage making noise and having it heard in the audience. He didn't really grasp the idea that I would have the ability to turn down their mics between sets but oh well. I think they would've been too expensive anyway.

Cheers.