Chorus Director now too loud

I manage the podcast for the Oakland Symphony Chorus. We record and post our rehearsals every week. I’ve been doing this for 10 years with no major issues. I use a Zoom H4 digital recorder and Audacity 2.3.0 on Windows 7. I normally place the recorder right next to the director (in the middle of the chorus), slightly behind her, and as high as I can get it on the stand while still being able to reach it to turn it on and off. The Zoom records a 45 degree fan in front of the recorder. We record in stereo to a .WAV file, compress using the defaults on Chris’ Dynamic Compressor, and publish in .MP3.

We have a new piece that is causing problems. It is a commissioned mass based on African-American spirituals, and the rhythmic patterns are very challenging, as the time signature changes frequently. Our director has taken to counting out the rhythms while the chorus sings; and chorus members have complained to me that they can’t hear the music behind her. To hear a sample of this, go to and listen to the recording for part 1 of the Jan. 9 rehearsal, starting about 20 minutes into the recording, up to about 1 hour 4 minutes.

Our director records very loud, partly because she uses an amplified wireless mic (so she won’t have to shout), and partly because of the recorder placement, which is between her and the amp for her wireless mic. Can someone suggest a placement for the recorder that would reduce the volume from the wireless mic while still picking up what she’s saying? I’m hoping it’s as simple as moving the recorder to the other side of her and a little forward of her, which would require a longer extension cord. I don’t know how to record her voice on a separate channel.

Any suggestions gratefully accepted.

Please post a 10 second sample in WAV or FLAC format (44100 Hz, 16-bit) of the relevant part.
Short audio samples may be attached to forum posts (see:

I have a 10 second WAV file, which I have put in my DropBox account; it’s 337 MB, so I can’t just drag it in. Dropbox won’t allow me to create a link for sharing because I haven’t paid them for Dropbox Professional. I can send it to an email address; what email address would get it to this thread?

I may have to redo it, I think I selected WAV (Microsoft) signed 32 bit PCM when I saved it.

A 10 second, stereo, 16-bit 44100 Hz WAV file is 1.8MB.
The forum will allow you to upload a WAV file that is under 2MB.

OK, thank you. I’m now attaching a 16 bit file that is 1.7 MB, which I think shows the problem.

Zoon H4N pro only offers 90 or 120 degree fan …

X/Y stereo recording covers a wide area while capturing sound sources in the center with clarity and definition. The angle of its two unidirectional condenser mics can easily be changed from 90 degrees for a tightly focused stereo image to 120 degrees for a wider image simply by twisting the mic capsules.

https ://www


Well, that would be helpful if I had an H4N, but I have the old original H4. I’ll have to dig out the manual and see if it will do this. Thanks for the suggestion.

Thanks, that helps - quite a severe problem then.

I’m trying to build up a picture of the recording environment.
What is the room like?
How big is it?
How echoey is it?
How many in the chorus?
Is everyone standing at floor level?
Where are people in the room?

Where is the music coming from?

What is the amp? Make and model would be nice, otherwise a description. In particular, where is/are the loudspeaker(s) and is it / are they movable?

Perhaps you could sketch the layout on paper and either scan it or take a photo and attach to your reply.

The original H2 can record with 4 mic patterns:
Front, 90 degrees
Rear, 120 degrees
Surround 2 channel (front and rear, figure of 8)
Surround 4 channel (front, back, left, right)

I’ve had problems with dropouts (stutters and clicks) when attempting to use 4 channel mode, which may be due to the flash card not being fast enough.

To change the pattern mode:

I made a drawing, but my phone camera produces JPGs and it’s 4MB. I tried to scan it and the PDF is still 4MB. If you’d like to private message me your email address I can email it to you, if the verbal description isn’t clear enough. Here’s a general description.

It’s a big rectangular room with a stage at one end. It’s entirely wood paneled including the ceiling, so very live. We tried using the stage but it didn’t work well, so the chorus is arranged facing the wall where the entrance doors are. The room isn’t as echoey as I had expected. It’s big enough that a roughly 100 voice chorus (I think 105 at the moment), arranged in 4 rows of chairs in a shallow arc, takes up about a third of the space from the stage to the rear, and less than half of the width. We may sing sitting or standing but we’re all at floor level. As a further measure of size, we’ve done orchestra rehearsals there, with the entire Oakland Symphony in front of the chorus, and it didn’t quite fill the width!

The director stands against the wall, facing the chorus, in the middle of the arc. Until now, the H4 on its stand has been slightly behind and to the director’s right, as I mentioned in my post. I don’t have specs on the amp for her wireless mic, but she has a headset, and there’s a big box (18" - 2’ high) which sits on a table to her right, on the other side of the H4, and plugs into the wall. The guy who manages that has confirmed that yes, the box is where the wireless mic speakers are.

Per the Zoom H4, I believe I’m still using the original default mic arrangement. Since I can’t do a test run, and the default works, I hesitate to play with it.

I suspect that the placement of the H4 relative to the amp is the problem. My first thought is to try moving the amp to the director’s left, in roughly the same position (slightly behind her. This would put it 5-6 feet farther away from the amp. We could also move the amp farther to the right on the table where it sits, increasing the separation; right now it’s about at the middle of the table and maybe 4 feet from the H4.

We’ve actually been singing in this space all season with no complaints about this. I think I got them now because our previous performance this year was the Brahms Requiem, which most of us have performed at least 3 times, so the director didn’t have the issues with timing and rhythm that we have with the new piece. She doesn’t feel she needs to count out Brahms for us!

Is that a piano I can hear in the background?
Do your chorus members need to hear the piano in the recording, or is it just the choir that they need to hear more clearly?
If it’s the piano, or piano and choir that the need to hear, then where is the piano?

Am I correct in thinking that the current layout is roughly like this, where
“c” = choir,
“D” = Director
“H4” = H4 recorder
“S” = loudspeaker where the director’s amplified voice comes from

|                 |
|      ccccc      |
|    ccccccccc    |
|   ccc    cccc   |
|                 |
|       D H4  S   |

Your drawing (clever, that; when you say “drawing” I think of paper and pencil!) is correct, although it represents the room as smaller and squarer than it is.

Yes, that is a piano. Sorry, I forgot it. The piano is on the stage (recessed into the wall on the right of your drawing). If it’s the chorus’ piano (and I think it is), we moved it up there when we moved into the space. When we decided rehearsing was better on the floor facing the wall (sound bounce off the wall helps), I suspect we didn’t want to pay to move it again, and we weren’t sure our hosts (the local Masons chapter) would want to have it on the floor of an auditorium that they also use. There’s a remote possibility that it’s the Masons’ piano which we’re using and that our piano is in storage. I don’t know. The piano position was better for recording when the director was directing from the stage, but the chorus had trouble hearing other parts as the sound went into the backstage opening.

And yes, the singers do need to hear the piano. But they need to hear the singers more. As an alto, I need to hear all 4 parts.

I’d suggest that you try these two microphone placements and see which works best.
Also you could perhaps turn down the director’s mic a little.

|                 |
|      ccccc      |
|    ccccccccc    |
|   ccc    cccc   |
|                 |
|       D     S   |

|                 |
|      ccccc      |
|    ccccccccc    |
|   ccc    cccc   |
|                 |
|   H4  D     S   |

I tried the second position you requested last night. We’ll see how it comes out. And I’ll talk to the guy who runs the mic about volume control. Part of it, of course, is how upset or annoyed the director is…

I really appreciate all the help you’ve given me.