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How To Mic a Choir

How To Mic a Choir

Posted by Laura Strommen - SoundPro on Mar 8th 2023

Estimated Reading Time: 16 Minutes

The human voice is one of the most versatile sound sources available to music. Individual vocals come in myriad ranges, timbres, registers, and more; when two or more voices are combined, the blend results in a new sound that musicians have utilized to achieve moving, emotional, and beautiful audio artistry for millennia. With the additional factor of incorporating modern microphone technology—whether in a live or recording setting—faithfully capturing a choir’s unique sound comes with several challenges.


Choirs come in various shapes and sizes, but generally share a structure of a group of singers, led by a conductor or choir director, and often (though not always) accompanied by musicians (accompanists). Depending on the number of singers, a vocal group may be called by a variety of terms, such as ensembles, chorales, choruses, chamber choirs, and harmony groups. No matter what the group size or terminology used, the basics of choir miking apply to all, and simply need to be scaled up or down to fit the specific needs of your group.

Choirs are sometimes centered around the age or gender of the singers. Examples include Children’s Choirs, Boys’ Choirs, Girls’ Choirs, Men’s Choirs, and Women’s Choirs. However, the most common type of choir is an Adult Mixed Choir, which includes male and female adults with the singing vocals of soprano, alto, tenor, and bass (known as SATB). Many choirs are categorized according to the institution they represent (such as a house of worship, school, or community) or the type of music they specialize in (classical, Gospel, jazz, and so on).

The physical structure of the choir depends on the venue, the layout of the specific stage or performance platform, and the choir director’s personal preference. A popular formation is a rectangular or wedge-shaped section, usually with singers arranged in three or more rows, and often with the back rows of singers standing on stairs to elevate them above the rows in front of them. If your choir layout differs from this setup, it’s still possible to achieve a successful mic setup strategy, but it might take a little more trial and error to get it right.

Reasons for Miking a Choir

Because the traditional choir originated long before their invention, are mics even necessary to incorporate into a choir setup? Maybe not…

  • If the choir is only performing live (without streaming or recording).
  • If the choir is the only sound source, and if there is minimal background noise.
  • If you have perfect acoustics in your space. Places like cathedrals and older theaters were designed specifically to project vocals without technological assistance.

However, for recording or streaming purposes, in noisier environments, or when trying to evenly blend choir and instrumental sound sources, miking a choir can be beneficial to giving your vocals the boost they need.


Based on the choir structure and requirements for optimizing its audio, several considerations become apparent when it comes to creating a miking strategy:

Audio Consistency

If you’re in charge of creating the best acoustic setup for a choir, it’s paramount to communicate with the conductor or choir director about what kind of sound you’re aiming to capture. Different conductors may organize their singers in different methods—by height, by vocal type, or by how strong the individual singers are—and it’s important to know these details before you start setting up mics. It’s also good to know whether there will be any solos incorporated into the choir’s repertoire; as we’ll discuss later in this article, different microphone types are ideal for group vocals versus individual voices.

Complete Coverage

Choosing the wrong type or choir mic placement can result in “spotty” coverage where some individual voices stand out. The goal is to create a full blend of voices.

Optimal Visibility

The choir and conductor need to be able to see each other to effectively communicate. Additionally, in live music such as a concert, a choir not only needs to be heard; it usually needs to be seen by the audience.

Minimal Stage Noise

The more audio sources involved, the more complex it will be to mix everything into a cohesive whole. This is particularly challenging for choirs who are sharing a stage with instrumentals (especially full orchestras), where each needs to complement rather than overwhelm the other.

Natural Vocals

One of the easiest flaws to encounter when miking a choir is phase cancellation. This is when you have too many microphones in your setup, and a single sound is reaching multiple mics—but at slightly different times. The result is a strange doubling effect (called comb filtering) that produces an unpleasant sound that’s difficult to correct and can create even more feedback problems.

Avoid Proximity Effect

The proximity effect is a phenomenon where the bass end of an audio range increases the closer you get to the mic. With choirs, the inverse is the problem: the farther away vocals are, the less bass will be picked up. With cardioid, supercardioid, and hypercardioid pickup patterns (common choices for choir mics), this anti-proximity effect is also experienced with vocals that are to the extreme sides of the mic. This is important to remember with bass singers: for instance, if a choir is organized by height, many male voices might end up in the back—farther away from the mic, and therefore their lower voices might get somewhat lost in the mix. The solution to this problem is equidistant mic placement, which ensures that each singer is approximately an equal distance from the mic.

Performance Space

Whether a choir is performing live or recording, the environment will play a part in how they sound. A traditional choir for a church may have a “home stage” with high ceilings and acoustics that are designed to enhance the vocals…but that isn’t guaranteed in every situation. Be sure you take the performance or studio space into account when deciding how to mic the choir, and apply acoustic treatment where necessary to achieve a clear, yet natural audio result. For outdoor choirs, be sure to set up the proper sound reinforcement accessories to cut down on environmental noise from wind and other elements.

Is the choir permanent or touring?

Another consideration is whether the choir is going to be stationary—such as a choir for a specific house of worship—or if it will be traveling from venue to venue. This will help you decide whether you can opt for installing a permanent setup or if a portable alternative is necessary. Creating a permanent setup offers some additional options for rigging microphones to hang from the ceiling—which reduces clutter on stage and removes visual obstacles.

Choir booms may be used for adjusting the height of mics; these are fortunately small and visually unobtrusive, making them a good alternative for temporary miking setups.


Close Miking vs. Group Miking

When faced with the problem of making every voice in a choir equal, the obvious solution would be to provide a mic for every individual singer. This is the close miking method. While it may solve the problem of equally capturing each vocal, it replaces that issue with several others: The more mics you use, the more factors there are to juggle, and the more opportunities for audio problems. Even if you space out your choir members to avoid feedback or one singer’s mic inadvertently picking up the vocals of their neighbors, you have the complex problem of mixing the vocals into one cohesive “choir” sound from a front-of-house workstation—something that can be a complex undertaking during a live performance and still a challenge in a recording setting.

On the other hand, group miking uses fewer mics and therefore reduces the factors that could go wrong when capturing choir audio. It does take a little more strategizing than simply handing every singer a mic, but when approached intentionally it can yield the best results with minimal headaches.

Condenser vs. Dynamic Choir Microphones

A popular all-purpose mic, dynamic microphones function by using a coil attached to a magnet. Sound waves cause the coil to vibrate up and down against the magnet, creating an electromagnetic current. This turns the sound into an electronic signal that can then be channeled into a loudspeaker or recording equipment. Sturdy and reliable, dynamic mics also minimize handling noise and are simple to maintain. Most models boast a classic cardioid polar pattern, making it easy to pick up sound from the front of the mic, while noise from the rear or sides is isolated.

Characterized by increased sound sensitivity, condenser microphones use a capacitor that converts sound vibrations into electric currents, enabling them to capture more natural, detailed audio from vocals and instruments. Compared to dynamic mics, condenser mics are louder, pick up a wider frequency response, and offer an expanded dynamic range. They also offer a wider variety of polar patterns, letting you customize what sounds are picked up. One additional thing to remember with condenser mics is that they run on phantom power, meaning you’ll need a console, external power pack, or batteries.

When miking a choir, condenser mics deliver the sensitivity and nuance you need to capture the well-rounded sound of multiple vocals.

If solos will be a part of the performance, handheld dynamic mics are ideal for highlighting an individual voice. To avoid feedback issues, position the dynamic mic apart from the rest of the sound sources onstage, and have the soloist walk out to this section. Choose a handheld model that can be held or mounted on a stand.

Dynamic mics typically come with a cardioid pickup pattern, but you may swap the mic capsule for a different pickup pattern as needed. You can also find handheld microphone transmitters that offer an option with a built-in mute switch; this allows the performer to turn the mic on and off so that it won’t pick up audio throughout the entire show.

Pick Your Pickup Patterns

Selecting the right pickup pattern for your microphones is a great way to “aim” it at the correct audio sources—and to avoid phase cancellation.

In an ideal environment where there are few sources of background or ambient noise, such as a recording studio, an omnidirectional pattern is preferable. As its name suggests, an omnidirectional pickup pattern picks up sounds from all directions. This is an ideal way to pick up sound evenly across a wide space, such as a group of vocalists. Unfortunately, when you get into live productions, an omnidirectional pattern will capture your choir’s audio…along with everything else, from the instruments to the audience.

For a more focused pickup pattern, go for cardioid. A regular cardioid pattern gets its name from the heart-shaped pickup area that avoids picking up audio from the microphone’s sides and rear. Supercardioid and hypercardioid variations offer an even more narrow pickup area, which further minimizes pickup from the sides.

For live productions, choosing a cardioid or its variations is determined mostly by the noises of your environment, and how finely your mic will need to target the desired sound source. One cardioid microphone might suffice for a smaller vocal group; if you’re incorporating multiple mics to cover a larger group, you may want to go with a supercardioid or hypercardioid.


Distance is key to proper placement of microphones, as you need to find the “sweet spot” that captures each vocal in the choir without picking up background noise, overlapping vocals on more than one mic, or placing your mics so close together they suffer from feedback.

There’s a simple trick to establishing a mic position that provides even coverage of all your vocals:

The 2x2 Rule: Place the microphone 2 feet in front of the first row of the choir, and position it so it is 2 feet higher than the tallest person in the back row.

This rule allows you to “aim” the mic so that it is the same distance from the back row as the front row.

For a smaller group, centering a single cardioid condenser microphone in front of the choir and positioning it according to the 2x2 Rule should cover up to 20 singers. But what happens if you have a larger group and need to incorporate more mics into your setup?

Rule of Thumb: More Microphones, More Problems

The main pitfall of using more than one mic on a choir is the potential for overlapping. Not only can mics encounter electronic interference if they’re placed too close to each other, but they can also pick up redundant sound sources—a singer’s vocals might be picked up by two separate mics, adding an unnatural element to the overall blend of the choir vocals.

To avoid these pitfalls, it’s crucial to do a little geometry:

The 3:1 Rule: Space microphones 3x the distance of the mic that is nearest to the sound source.

Assuming you followed the 2x2 Rule, Mic #1 should be 2 feet in front of the choir. This means additional mics can be spaced 6 feet apart from that first microphone.

When using multiple mics in a live setting, it may be beneficial to choose a supercardioid or hypercardioid pickup pattern to minimize the chance of overlapping with a neighboring microphone.

As you expand your microphones’ coverage area, be sure to keep track of any other sound sources that may be picked up, such as instrumentals, the audience, or other background noise.

What about X-Y Stereo Miking?

A common miking method in recording studios, X-Y (coincident) stereo miking uses a pair of matched microphones that are positioned at around a 90-degree angle with their diaphragms as close as possible to each other without touching. Though it’s not quite as realistic as hearing the sound source in-person, this simulates a stereo image of the sound you’re capturing, and the depth and dimensions of your sound can be altered by experimenting with the angle of the mics. Most small-to-medium-sized choirs can be adequately miked using this method. Look for stereo pairs to get the best results when using an X-Y Stereo mic setup.


What about Recording a Choir in a Studio?

Microphone choice, number, and placement are generally the same for recording choirs as in live productions. However, if you’re recording a choir without an audience, you may be able to opt for a wider pickup pattern since there’s less opportunity for background noise. An omnidirectional or cardioid pickup pattern will capture a more open sound.

What about Stage Monitors for Your Vocalists?

Aside from microphones, another crucial aspect of adding audio gear to a choir setup is the monitoring system. Stage monitors direct the choir’s audio back to them, so they can hear how they sound as a group, allowing them to adjust balance and pitch as needed in the middle of a performance. This is particularly important if the choir is performing along with other sound sources, such as an orchestra.

Monitors for choirs need to be positioned to give each vocalist coverage without getting in the way. Look for a monitor system that will provide accurate information without spilling energy into the surrounding area and messing with the microphone's performance. As with miking, monitoring setups should be kept minimalistic. Consult with the choir director and the vocalists themselves to determine exactly what they need to be able to hear from the monitors.


Choirs continue to be a beautiful way for us to share music: a choir is a community for vocalists, and it’s an art to be expressed to an audience. Miking is a natural progression in sharing this art, ensuring it can be heard by a wider audience or shared via recordings or streams. Whether your choir is singing for a house of worship, competing at a school competition, or performing with a classical orchestra, finding the right mic setup can provide the boost your vocals need to sound their best.

Wondering how to choose the best choir mics for your group vocals? Contact the Account Managers at Sound Productions at or call us at 800.203.5611 for expert advice on microphone types, brands, placement strategy, and more.

Laura has been part of the SoundPro team since 2021. In her downtime, she enjoys hiking, quilting, and watching shark documentaries with her cat (though not all three at once).