Flute mic

Discussion in 'Woodwinds' started by BobRogers, Jul 24, 2006.

  1. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    I am running sound at the "Children's Universe" at Floydfest this weekend. One of the bands has a flute. I was planning to have the following set of mics available:

    Shure Beta 87
    Shure SM58
    Shure SM57
    Rode NT5
    AKG D112

    Which would you use?

    To make the post actually relevent to the this forum, I'll add a second question - What would you use to record flute in the studio?
  2. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    Good questions, Bob!

    Took a look at the schedule for Floydfest this year. (wow...that's quite a lineup! I didn't know David Bromberg was still playing gigs, but that should be cool. I'd like to see Iris Dement again, ditto for Tim O'Brien.)

    What will be the style of this particular flute music? (I'm already assuming it's bluegrass/folk/natural style.)
    Is it solo or ensemble performance?
    Size of audience/size of PA System/intended results?

    I'll assume it's a professional, and further assume they're comfortable and ok with amplifying their instrument. I saw this description of the Children's Universe '05, I'm assuming you're dealing with the same thing this year, in an outdoor setting:

    There is a children's universe, a hay bale-encircled world full of activities for the kids. We witnessed the main parade the last two years and brought funky hats to join in this year. The director, Claudia, led all the kids, young and old, around the festival site and even got the folks directly in front of the stage to part so we could all troop past the band that was playing. At FloydFest being an adult doesn't mean leaving your inner child at home.

    Your choices can still change depending on if it's solo vs. ensemble playing, loud vs. softer sounds, and the type of performer as well. It's one thing if it's Ian Anderson leaping around the stage (well, as he USED to, anyway) vs. a classical musician who sits still and reads music from a chart - and everything in between.

    You can always go "quick and dirty" with something as simple as an SM57 on the flute (I've seen it done with various degrees of success, and the SM58 might give you less breath noise with its internal pop filter, if there's a problem), or you can try a variety of condensers and ribbons. (I doubt you'll have time or want to risk a ribbon out there on something like this, eh?) Mainly, your flutist has to know that with that kind of instrument (narrow band of almost pure frequencies fighting to be heard over a rowdy band sharing the stage or just solo work), they've got to help you by "working" the mic.

    In general, I prefer to mic it from an overhead position, similar to a violin; the sound tends to come up and out of an instrument like the flute; almost like a fountain of sound. (This is also close to how the flutist hears it as well.) If you're under the instrument looking up, you're more likely to get hit with air/breath blasts (not to mention spit and drool!) Just make sure you're out of the way of their fingering, and the boom is opposite to where they raise their arms & shoulders to play.

    If you have an unlimited budget you can always try an AMT microphone. (Your flute player may surprise you and show up with one anyway!) The AMT Z1 seems like the newest and best choise, but the original AMT Roam 3 is always a good choice, too. There's a long rambling interview between Tony Micelli (a vibraphone player who uses AMTs) with AMT's Marty Paglione on their website. It's a long rambling interview, but some good stuff there...good tips on live sound, pa's and micing instruments in general. http://www.appliedmicrophone.com

    For studio work, it's a whole 'nother smoke, of course. Two different approaches, even with a band playing as well.

    The differences will always be on what leeway you have to work with. For a live flute with a PA (and again, probably with a band), you're going to have to work tightly, in close, and it's not going to matter a whole lot what you use, as long as their technique is good. For studio/sesson work, it's more about the sound of the room, the air around the flute, the choice of mic (for tone color, breath sounds, etc.) and consistency in overall dynamics.

    My own choices for studio would be something like a KMi-84 with additional omni's in the room for more air. For live, probably an SM-81, or for quick and dirty, a good ol' SM58.

    I'd love to check out some of those artists at Floydfest, but I'll be too busy that weekend. :cry:
  3. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    The stage at the Children's Universe is very low key. In a tent. Small crowd. Groups of kids (e.g. my daughter's band doing Beatles covers). Other people doing children's music. All people with day jobs. The flute is in a group with acoustic guitar, electric bass, accordian, hand drums. Folk songs/children's music. We'll probably hand out egg shakers to the little kids running around. We are also in the line of fire from the main stage to the on one side and the beer garden on the other. So we're not talking too much nuance here, but I'd thought that I might as well do the best I can while I'm at it. Maybe learn something in the process.

    The 58 might be the best of what I have. I was guessing that the condensers might be too shrill, but if you'd go with an 81, I might try the NT5. Be nice to try them out in a long soundcheck, but it's outdoor festival time. Set 'em up, Tear 'em down, Move 'em out.
  4. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    Set 'em up, Tear 'em down, Move 'em out.

    I hear ya! :cool:

    Still, sometimes that's the best way to learn: in the trenches, under the gun, no net, and just get it done. (And of course, the old adage still applies with these kinds of gigs: Sound check = First song. :twisted: )
  5. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    Just got back from the festival earlier today. Please blame any typo on a hot shower an a Hendricks Martini (or 3). The Rode NT5 did very well on the flute and better for acoustic guitars. (I had some better AG players than this guy was on flute - and that's not a big insult to the flautist.) I have not seriously explored SDCs before. This was a wakeup call. The one problem was wind noise. I had to be a lot more aggressive with cutting off lows than I am used to.

    Anyway - I'll post more after a good night's sleep. Coming soon to clean white sheets near me.


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