View Full Version : Listen to the difference in tone...

Jan-16-2009, 5:34am
...between Chris Thile's mandolin and Mike Marshall's in the following clip. Why? Is Chris using a pickup and Mike a microphone? Hard to see in the pictures... Any thoughts? It certainly makes me think about amplification and how important it is to get it right. That Loar of Mikes surely sounds horrible to my ears in this setting, specially compared to Chris's full bodied tone.

Jan-16-2009, 7:38am
It must be the amplification, mic, or something like that. I have heard and played that mandolin, and it sounded wonderful (but not when I was playing it ;) ).

Jan-16-2009, 7:51am
Well, I don't doubt that Mike's got a great mandolin. I've heard it in other recordings when it sounded awesome.

The question is about the amplifiation...

Joel Spaulding
Jan-16-2009, 8:17am
Mike's mic almost looks like an SM58 :confused: but the resolution becomes rather grainy at full screen size. So it could be ?? I haven't tried my 58s on the Mandos- proximity effect comes to mind as an issue for me.

Acoustic acts can be a bear to mix- I have heard a few fine performances diminished by less than optimal acoustical issues - Unfortunately, my playing has on occasion, been less than optimal for the sound situation provided. :whistling:

Jan-16-2009, 9:13am
wow...I wish I could sound that bad...haha!

Jan-16-2009, 9:51am
Yes, there's also a distinct "ringing" in background like the beginning of feedback. The sound on many of these clips can leave a lot to be desired. Listen to Mike's mandolin on a recording and you'll get a better idea of it's tone.

John Malayter
Jan-16-2009, 10:01am
I know Mike likes very low action and judging by his DVD he plays with a very light touch. I've heard he likes J75 strings 'cause he can get the action lower without buzzing. I've seen him last year in Bristol TN with the 2 younger kids, mike was using a P.U. but you could tell his action was real low. However the level on this recording is very very low and shame on the sound man for letting this happen.

I've played a lot of shows and its way frustrating when you have a decent band that sounds good acoustically then you get some knucklehead sound guy who either doesn't care or is incapable of doing the job and they completely ruin a show.

No.....i'm not angry..........anymore!

Tom C
Jan-16-2009, 10:07am
Chris plays with an extremely light touch. In the first mando symposium, all the mando teaches played unmiked during the indroductions and Chris was, by far, the softest sounding.

Jan-16-2009, 10:17am
Upon a 2nd listening I noticed a couple of other factors. Mike's mandolin mic level is pretty low. It appears that he gives the sound man a "turn it up" sign near the beggining (:48) of this video.

I like Mike's playing very much, but there are times when I find that I don't like the tone he gets from the mandolin. From my perspective this happens when his right hand goes back towards the bridge. I think he does this on purpose as a way to get a different sound, but I'm not a fan.

Jan-16-2009, 10:53am
Look at the way Mike is holding his mandolin in relation to the microphone. He has the mando tilted up and to his right, not pointing at the mike. Chris has his aimed right at his mike.

Good example of just how directional F-hole mandolins can be.

Jan-16-2009, 11:09am
So does Chris have a pickup inside his Loar?

Jan-16-2009, 11:15am
Well, Thile typically uses a Schertler pickup for his mandolin. I have the same pickup and it is incredible the difference in sound it produces versus a mic. Thile too plays with extremely low action and this is one big reason he uses this pickup (I believe I read that somewhere?). If Thile took Mike's Loar and put his pickup on it, I would bet an untrained ear would not be able to tell the difference between the two mandolins. Though using a mic does have some advantages for some. You can control the presence or volume of your instrument by simply moving in to or away from the mic. With a pickup, a volume pedal would probably have to be used (that's how I do it), and some people just do not like to bother with it. Why Mike is using a mic, personal preference I would say. Plus, in this video you are not hearing what the people are hearing live at the show. The audio can be a bit deceiving, I would say that live, his mandolin sounds quite a bit different.

Jan-16-2009, 3:50pm
It may have been said before but the answer is in the mix (and by no means blowing in the wind).

If you listen to the clip you´ll hardly hear the Loar Mandolin (Marshal), nor the bass, with a little guitar and a lot of fiddle and Thile whatever he plays. Now, with the fiddle and mandolin being about in the same "wavelength"-field, all component parts being considered the same, they ought to come across the same. The guitar and the bass are difficult to amplify via microphones, so they suffer the first. If you would guess that Thile´s touch is very light (as reported via several interviews) and the mandolin is much easier to be amplified as the guitar, it could be that Thile´s mandolin just has more volume in the mix (in the mixer, where I guess the recording came from). The house might have heard a balanced sound whereas the mixer just had more of one instrument than of the other.

Mixing is just difficult and I am no specialist though I know a couple of guys that do a great job.

Jan-16-2009, 5:48pm
Great. Another YouTube clip that raises many questions and resolves absolutely nothing. When a clip LOOKS like it was recorded on a cell phone from the seventh row, why expect the audio to solve anything for us?

Jan-17-2009, 2:40am
No need for that condescending tone... If you don't find the discussion interesting, don't bother reading it.

The way I see it, even if the clip is recorded with a cell phone camera, the balance between the two mandolins should have been more equal. This raises the question about proper amplification to me... Aint that important to discuss?

Gail Hester
Jan-17-2009, 3:14am
This highlights the peril of judging the amplified sound of acoustic instruments. That sound guy is so fired.:))

Jan-17-2009, 8:46am
This highlights the peril of judging the amplified sound of acoustic instruments. That sound guy is so fired.:))

I think I caught Tim saying "do we have time for one more" at the end of the clip..... :) "Sound Guy" work can't be easy, but I would think the sound should be pretty close to perfect by the end of the set.

Jan-17-2009, 10:54am
I believe this clip is from a Midnight Jam at Merlefest from some years back. If you guys are familiar with the format, players come and go frequently during the sets. Mike may have just come in to play on one or two tunes and the sound guy is either asleep or just didn't get it dialed in. It is hard to tell what it may have sounded like in the room. I have heard Mike play many times there (although not recently) and his mandolin has always sounded great.

Jan-17-2009, 12:38pm
From the sound that Chris gets when he taps on top of his mando during the bass solo I'm pretty sure he's plugged in with what ever internal p/u he's got. I'm pretty sure Mike is not plugged in. I've miked quite a few acoustic shows and am pretty sure that sm58 or whatever it is, is too far away from Mikes Loar. I've heard Mike and chris together just playing to one microphone and their volume was roughly equal ( i.e. I could hear them both). For what ever reason I'm pretty sure Mikes sound was off or he has strayed way to far from the mic.

Jan-17-2009, 3:58pm
Looks to me like Chris is plugged in. He moves around a lot more than Mike does, and that instrument mic on a stand may be just part of a generic setup for musicians sitting in on the jam, probably turned off. Go to the very end of the clip, where Chris does a tremelo riff and leans away from the mic. His mandolin doesn't change volume at all. Mike Marshall is staying close to the mic, although it's either the wrong placement or just a sound guy asleep at the switch.

Just a wild guess there, and I'm with Tim2723 in thinking that it's mostly pointless to make generalizations about players or instruments from an awful YouTube recording. Especially a single clip example. If Mike Marshall's mandolin sounded consistently thin on every other live event recording out there, then maybe something could be said. Obviously that's not the case.

P.S. Chris might be using an internal pickup on this older clip, but I think I read in one of the other threads here that he's using a mini-condenser (ATM350?) with Punch Brothers these days. He's an energetic guy, doesn't like to be tied to a mic stand. You can see some of that in this older clip.

Jan-17-2009, 6:06pm

Dewey Farmer -Altman and Mike Marshall Loar unamplified. There are two videos on there.

That Altman sounds good.

Jan-17-2009, 6:11pm

Heres the second song.

Jan-18-2009, 1:04am

Heres a third. I kind of like these impromtu mandolin jams. With no amplification or back-up players. Both mandolins and players sound great but different. I did not mean to come off sounding like I liked one over the other but I thought the vids were neat. Mike is going to have to have a lighter touch to rip off triplets like that.