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Thread: Micing my Farmers Market/Retirement Home Bluegrass band

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    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
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    Default Micing my Farmers Market/Retirement Home Bluegrass band

    Hi, I'm in a bluegrass music club. We get together for weekly jams and fun, purely acoustic. Most of the folks have very little experience in live performance with sound reinforcement. At 55 I'm one of the youngest members.

    A smaller subset of our club performs at retirement homes and farmers markets a few times a month. I set up the PA with individual vocal and instrument mics (SM58 and 57 or similar dynamic mics) for up to 7 of us at these shows. Its a challenge getting that many mics, stands and wires arranged, attempting to train these older folks how to use them, preventing feedback, accomodating their monitor needs (some ears don't work that well), and getting a good balanced sound out to the audience. We don't have someone running the sound real time which I know would help. I spent most of the last few years as a solo or duo which was pretty easy to handle. I think I'm the only one in our club with internal pickups as well.

    Would a few condenser (or broader pattern) mics spread around the stage work better? I don't think we'll ever be up to the onstage-bluegrass-band-dance around a single condenser level. Or any other ideas that might work? Thank as always.

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    Registered User Tom Wright's Avatar
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    Default Re: Micing my Farmers Market/Retirement Home Bluegrass band

    The Shure 57 and 58 mics are fussy about distance and angle, as you know. An omnidirectional dynamic mic will be forgiving but not as much sound above feedback. Then again, you may not need much volume, just ease of use.

    In my early band days in the 60s and 70s we made do with Electro-Voice omnis and they were fine, as well as less sensitive to close-up bass boost. Probably can find some of those on Ebay for fifty bucks or so.
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    Default Re: Micing my Farmers Market/Retirement Home Bluegrass band

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandobart View Post
    I don't think we'll ever be up to the onstage-bluegrass-band-dance around a single condenser level.
    I don't know if there is an obvious alternative to either group mic-ing or individual mic mixing. But I'll say this for a single mic (or a single main mic and a solo instrumental mic) - if folks are off mic, they don't do much harm. I mean, seven is a lot of musicians for an amateur bluegrass performance, adn so having a few off mic might be fine. And doing without stage monitors might also help more than it hurts in that situation.

    There's a monthly BG jam here in NYC that often has 15 people on stage and uses a single AT4033. I'm not saying that everyone is getting picked up by the mic. But the 5 or six who are central are - and it's easy on the audience for the most part.
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    Default Re: Micing my Farmers Market/Retirement Home Bluegrass band

    Bradklein brought up one of my favorite things about single mic set-up. It is less likely to do harm or another way to say it is more forgiving. Everyone may not come thru like you'd like but there is less likely to be a baritone solo or a break of out of time rhythm guitar. My band used a true single mic for years ( no extra mic for lead or bass, one and only one mic) and over time learned the dance pretty good, but even when we started it took away my worrying about something drowning everything else out.

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    Registered User William Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: Micing my Farmers Market/Retirement Home Bluegrass band

    With a really good PA one can use one middle condenser or multiple microphone's, one for each player, right now our set-up is one big ole condenser in the middle and each member has an instrument mic. We just got an extremely high tech system that runs on an Ipad/something like that but we also bought a very expensive condenser mic. I know not what it all is but we've been experimenting with one mike in the middle, we have monitors but have yet to try them accept in practice? I don't really know what we'll do or use, depends on if we can work the one mic. thing? I personally like everyone to have their own instrument mic as we are a 7 piece band? Unless we use the big daddy in the middle and our two other shure condenser's on each end? We just have too many people I think to use one mic. as myself on mandolin usually plays lead throughout most every tune, and also the dobro, banjo, and viola do the leads-not all at once, we have fills, leads and such worked out. But I believe one can use any set-up if the PA is balanced perfect!

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    Registered User gfury's Avatar
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    Default Re: Micing my Farmers Market/Retirement Home Bluegrass band

    I'll agree with the single condenser mic idea. I play with a group of folks and we do occasional gigs (farmers market's, parties, etc.). We have this Yamaha PA that has some level of feedback suppression (condenser mics seem to be prone to feedback).

    We have a few instrument mics (SM57), but you need to be right on top of them so they are rarely used.

    We use an inexpensive ($100) condenser mic in the center, and it seems to do pretty well for the small venues that we play.
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    Default Re: Micing my Farmers Market/Retirement Home Bluegrass band

    It always depends on the venue. One microphone with people moving in and out is best if you can make it work. With seven players I would set up three areas covered by condenser mics. One are for the singer / players one area for the rhythm players and one area for the lead players. Yes all players are likely to handle more than one job. I suggest you cast your mic pattern to "primary" focus of the players. For the players the rhythm has to be heard by everybody. I would put that mic / those players in the center area. The lyrics also as they keep track of "where we are" . Lastly are the breaks / solos while being very important to the player are less so to the audience. Sharing a mic between two or three folks is easy comparing it to sharing with seven. Also some players of an advanced age may wish to sit. R/
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    Registered User Roger Adams's Avatar
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    Default Re: Micing my Farmers Market/Retirement Home Bluegrass band

    With 7 folks, you are really approaching a Bluegrass Choir! It's going to be easier to teach folks to move in and out on a condenser mic using the classic old school BG band model. It just takes some planning and practice.
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    F5G & MD305 Astro's Avatar
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    Default Re: Micing my Farmers Market/Retirement Home Bluegrass band

    Im lazy. For something like that Im in the camp of one cheap condenser mic, volume just up to where no feedback, every man for himself bunched behind the mic, highest volume goes to those with pointiest elbows, and tell the audience to turn their hearing aids up.
    No matter where I go, there I am...Unless I'm running a little late.

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    Default Re: Micing my Farmers Market/Retirement Home Bluegrass band

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandobart View Post
    ... Would a few condenser (or broader pattern) mics spread around the stage work better? I don't think we'll ever be up to the onstage-bluegrass-band-dance around a single condenser level. Or any other ideas that might work? Thank as always.
    There are large diaphragm condensers (LDCs) and small diaphragm condensers (SDCs)... In general condensers are notoriously hot mics, and they require phantom power; they are very powerful, but also very sensitive to background noise are very prone to feedback. LDCs are excellent for a studio or sound stage where there is no background noise; they can pick up every sound within a large (ie: 7 to 15 foot) radius. SDCs are more controllable regarding background noise, but they are also more directional and require the sound source to be significantly closer.

    As an example, my sound systems include Audio-Technica and Octava LDCs, which I love for power, but very rarely am able to use due to background noise.

    Some dynamic mics are hot mics too. Most sound techs prefer them on stage because of the background noise and feedback issues, but these mics can also be driven to be pretty hot. Dynamic mics do not require phantom power.

    For example, my sound systems include Audix OM2 and OM5 mics (most comparable to the SM 57 and 58) which I use for instruments. But my favorite dynamic mic is the Sennheiser e935, which is most known as a voice mic but works equally well for (not plugged-in) acoustic instruments; I'll use the e935 for any situation where a singer is also playing an instrument.

    Two points about sound systems:

    1) Because it affects the audience directly, the sound system setup needs to be taken very seriously. Banjos, mandolins and fiddles occupy the high note range in a bluegrass band and they tend to cut through very well. Typically they don't need hot mics. Guitars, double basses and even some Dobros do not cut through well and do need hot mics. DI plugging-in may be the easier option for some of these instruments (most commonly, double bass), but in a bluegrass setting, both the volume and tone (EQ) have to be controlled especially carefully for anything that is plugged in. Voices need to be heard well above anything else and typically they should get the best mics and the most monitoring.

    2) Trying to play in a band and manage a sound system at the same time is a losing battle. If you're serious about the sound that your band is producing, have someone who knows something about your sound system control it in real time from the middle of the audience while you are playing the music. If your band is playing a gig, have this sound person with you running the sound system for at least one rehearsal, and also have this person accompany you to the venue to help identify what the sound system needs to accomplish.

    Note: With paying gigs, the sound person should at least get the same cut of the profits as any band member gets; if that sound person is also doing the sound system heavy lifting and setup, they should get up to 50% more than anyone else in the band -- that is how you keep a good sound person.
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    Registered User John Van Zandt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Micing my Farmers Market/Retirement Home Bluegrass band

    How to limit feedback w/ single condenser type? Is it finding a ‘sweet spot- level’ that works?

    (My experience is sound guy on a ‘fixed’ Yamaha LS-9 digital w/ single mics.)
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    Default Re: Micing my Farmers Market/Retirement Home Bluegrass band

    Quote Originally Posted by John Van Zandt View Post
    How to limit feedback w/ single condenser type? Is it finding a ‘sweet spot- level’ that works. ...
    In my full mixer experience dealing with feedback and noise using a single condenser mic, you reduce the levels of the condenser mic nearly to the point where it may as well be a dynamic mic.
    -- Don

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    Registered Muser dang's Avatar
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    Default Re: Micing my Farmers Market/Retirement Home Bluegrass band

    Quote Originally Posted by John Van Zandt View Post
    How to limit feedback w/ single condenser type? Is it finding a ‘sweet spot- level’ that works?

    (My experience is sound guy on a ‘fixed’ Yamaha LS-9 digital w/ single mics.)
    We played a gig Sat with 2x AT2020 and got great sound, we even had a monitor (my bass player is a very good sound guy). Our board is digital so he can see the frequency feeding back and applies a very narrow notch filter.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Default Re: Micing my Farmers Market/Retirement Home Bluegrass band

    Quote Originally Posted by dang View Post
    We played a gig Sat with 2x AT2020 and got great sound, we even had a monitor (my bass player is a very good sound guy). Our board is digital so he can see the frequency feeding back and applies a very narrow notch filter.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Nice... But isn't it harder to play upside-down?
    -- Don

    "It is a lot more fun to make music than it is to argue about it."

    2002 Gibson F-9
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    (plus a large assortment of banjos, dobros, guitars, basses and other noisemakers)
    [About how I tune my mandolins]
    [7/29/2019 -- New Arrival!!!]

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    Default Re: Micing my Farmers Market/Retirement Home Bluegrass band

    I think condenser mics unnecessarily get a bad rap from many. I've played through my mic, a Blue Baby Bottle SL, in live gigs where many said it shouldn't work.

    However, 1) you have to get the right mic for live use and 2) you have to treat the mic like another instrument.

    Regarding # 1, some mics have much better rejection of unwanted sounds. I chose the Blue BB SL after comparing it to other mics at Guitar Center. In layman's terms, I gauged how loud I could sound through the mic at various distances from it without also picking up the ambient and unwanted sounds of the store. (Perhaps a cross between gain before feedback and off axis rejection?)

    Regarding # 2, you absolutely have to practice with it and try different setup positions in relation to speakers and monitors and any windows, mirrors or other reflective surfaces. Sometimes a little tweak makes a big difference.

    I also think condenser mics are especially appropriate when used live at a reasonable sound level, a level I wished everyone wanted to play at. Haha.

    Even though I love the sound of the condenser mic and love being freed up of wires, I largely stopped using it live because a) most of the people I play with want to crank things up so flippin' loud and independently position their monitors to my mic's detriment and b) frankly, it's easier to setup, take down, and transport a dynamic mic and an instrument cable than it is dealing with a condenser mic that's more fragile and also requires a shock mount (and case) which adds bulk.

    If you are interested in going the condenser mic route, I recommend checking out Ear Trumpet Labs and all the articles about them, and especialy read through the interviews done with the owner of ETL. There's a lot of beneficial information on how to use condenser mics live there. I also think ETL mics have an internal shock mount which would streamline setup and transport a bit. I wish I would have sprang for an ETL mic rather than settled for my Blue mic. Although I like how my mic sounds, it isn't as convenient to setup and carry as I think an Edwina might be.

  22. #16

    Default Re: Micing my Farmers Market/Retirement Home Bluegrass band

    Quote Originally Posted by dhergert View Post
    Nice... But isn't it harder to play upside-down?
    I was wondering the same thing. But rotating the picture also works.

    Click image for larger version. 

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  23. #17

    Default Re: Micing my Farmers Market/Retirement Home Bluegrass band

    I have also had good success with a small condenser mic (Sennheiser e614) that was made for drummers. It is somewhat more directional than those large condenser mics, and also more shock proof.

    Unfortunately, I don't like to be rooted to one spot when playing a solo, so I went with a Schertler DYN-M P48 instead. My Carvin 200 amp has phantom 48V power, so it works for both the condenser mic and the Schertler.

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    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: Micing my Farmers Market/Retirement Home Bluegrass band

    Friends, 5 singer players use 2 side address LD mics side by side so they don't bang head's in harmony ..
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    Default Re: Micing my Farmers Market/Retirement Home Bluegrass band

    Quote Originally Posted by mandroid View Post
    Friends, 5 singer players use 2 side address LD mics side by side so they don't bang head's in harmony ..
    And take away the audience's fun?!

  27. #20
    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: Micing my Farmers Market/Retirement Home Bluegrass band

    on stage crash helmets can have in ear monitors ..
    writing about music
    is like dancing,
    about architecture

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    Default Re: Micing my Farmers Market/Retirement Home Bluegrass band

    Working with Condensers requires practice, and agility, and a pretty firm plan on who is going to solo next. Not really conducive to informal groups that don't play very often. Or are of, er, "a certain age." Personally I like one central vocal Large Condenser mic, with a guitar small condenser underneath, and two Large condensers with or without small condenser on the side depending on vocals, or instrumental play. Bass run direct. This setup easily accommodates a flexible group of 5-7, with multiple soloists. And uses 4-6 channels. Still a fair amount of stage spaghetti. It really helps to have someone running the board.

    However, as has been mentioned, if it doesn't work, there needs to be a plan B, so you might end up pulling out the Sm57's and stringing cables anyway.

  30. #22
    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: Micing my Farmers Market/Retirement Home Bluegrass band

    One Option I've seen for a band not splitting the fee pie thinner, for a sound tech,
    is 1 player, wireless , walking to FOH to hear what the audience hears..




    ...
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  31. #23

    Default Re: Micing my Farmers Market/Retirement Home Bluegrass band

    I’d also have a plan C which would be to have as many instruments as possible having the option of using pick ups with good pre amps, and to avoid wires, transmitters. We’ve just started to use the X Active systems and the lack of clutter is great. I appreciate that the original post was about using condenser microphone/microphones but, having read the discussion, I have to say that life is too short to be choreographing movements etc. Unless the audience is full of acoustic musicians, they won’t care about tonal quality they’ll want good music from a well rehearsed and entertaining band.

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