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Seeking your advice on micing a mandolin (live)

Discussion in 'Guitars' started by pbouldin, Mar 3, 2011.

  1. pbouldin

    pbouldin Active Member

    Hi, this question is for a live performance. I play a mandolin and am interested in a high end mountable condensor such as a DPA 4099. Planning to use a wireless body pack, which I'd plug into a stage mixer. Here's my question - I'd like a foot switch to attenuate the signal depending when I'm not taking a lead. I guess I can buy stuff and patch it together, is that what I should do? If so, what switch do you recommend? I thought maybe there might be a "all in one" somewhere, something that would be a decent wireless receiver and also provide for a gain foot switch.

    Am I asking for trouble?

  2. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    You can't easily do this on the standard sort of bodypack wireless transmitter as there is the microphone polarizing voltage to take into account. It really needs to be done by processing the output of the wireless receiver.

    If the receiver is positioned on stage, then it would be relatively simple to run the output through a standard volume pedal before it went into a DI box for feeding the house mixer via the microphone circuits.

    I have achieved a similar effect by having the instrument's radio receiver adjacent to the mixer, but also having a wired MIDI pedal on the stage floor for the performer, and using the MIDI output function to control a ducking circuit in the mixer. In this case, it did mean getting MIDI signals all the way back to the mixer, which can create problems of its own. The advantage of this method is that I (as FOH engineer) had control of the volume range that the pedal could exercise.
  3. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    I think your best bet for this situation is to contact Schertler or perhaps K&K and ask your question there. Also the LRBaggs system is quite nice. I know that a great mic is the key to reproducing the woodiness of acoustic instruments. Its a problem that all of us with acoustic combos have suffered through (I have one)...If you have FOH engineers for your performances, then the best thing for you is to get the best sound for your comping and blending onstage with every other instrument and leave the lead boost to an open mic you can approach for your lead sections and let the engineer do his job.

    But I think you should contact these fine manufacturers first and run your needs by them before buying anything. The Schertler is the best I've ever heard.
  4. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    The old fashioned solution is the easiest for all concerned (though maybe not the best). Put a ribbon mic on a mic stand and learn to control the volume by moving back and forth. On the plus side:
    1) It's easy to set up. Mic on a stand. Adjust volume for your solos. Move back for comping.
    2) It's versatile (you can use the same mic in the studio if you want).
    3) Depending on what mic you choose (more on this below) it's probably the best sound you are going to get.
    4) Looks old school.
    1) There can be gain before feedback problems. But most ribbons are figure 8, so they have a pretty true null in which you can position monitors. Still, probably more feedback issues than attached mics.
    2) Ribbons are more fragile than other mics. I like them a lot better than condensers on a mando, but if you don't you could go that way. There are some inexpensive ribbons around like Cascade and Avantone, so that might be the way to go for live use. I have used a Cascade Fat Head on mando live with good results.
    3) Another stand takes up real estate on stage.
    4) Looks old school.
  5. pbouldin

    pbouldin Active Member

    Dave, we play in a mix of venues, a lot of the time the sound crew is pro and could handle the independent mics, we find that at festivals for example. In many instances we aren't very lucky. Currently we operate with two condensors, and since we favor bluegrass w/heavy vocal harmony this is the reason. Long story short, when I'm singing the instrument mic is not near me, whereas when I am not singing it is - and we do that because most of the time I'm not lead vocal. So, what happens is that my mando drops out when I'm singing, in the venues where we're not lucky with sound staff. If I put another instrument condensor on a stand near the rhythm section then the others near me will overdrive it and drown out the vocal - so, the appeal of the small condensor instrument mic.

    Secondly, I was very impressed when I met John Reischman and then saw his band play in BC with the small instrument mic - it was cool for them to be on stage, enjoying the moment, moving around freely, in and out of the best physical positions that vocal harmony or lead required. I would like to achieve that freedom - and I did not have time to get the detail of his equipment, but probably more than I want to spend.

    So as a bias, in the venues where we don't have the pro sound crews we like to run our own stage mix and send one signal to the operator. Then, when we move around we can do so with a bit more confidence as to what the effect is of our different movements. ** I'll check out the Schertler,K&K and LRBaggs suggestions.

    Thank you!

  6. pbouldin

    pbouldin Active Member

    Bob, thanks - might do that if I will have to spend too much money. What would you think about the AKG C1000S as an instrument solution, live (for the money)? We used one the other day at a festival and I was impressed. A bit of feedback but I found out later that you can hook up an adapter to narrow the cardiod pattern. That's not a ribbon, right? But it was very powerful, the fiddle and I could stand back about 3 to 4 feet and clearly be heard.

  7. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    I have the DPA 4099G that will fit a Mandolin . Its very cool. Once its attached to your instrument, set it to its sweet spot and then you can move with it.
  8. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    I've never used the C1000S. ($200) Another small diaphragm condenser in that price range is the Rode NT5. ($220) I have a pair of those and like them. I think you'll find there are more negative reviews of the C1000, but neither of the mics sound as good as their more expensive competitors. If you want to spend a little more for an SDC, the Shure SM81 ($350) is a very good value. Good large diaphragm condensers go for twice that.

    I tend to like the eq curve of a ribbon better than a condenser for high pitched instruments like mando or violin, but no one is going to sneer at an SM81, and you might like the brightness. Condensers are somewhat more sensitive than ribbons (in general), but that's not always good. You don't want to pick up everything that is happening on stage.

    Another negative that I didn't mention is that a mic of fixed stand limits your mobility compared to a mic mounted on the violin. I'm sure that the DPA would be great.
  9. soapfloats

    soapfloats Well-Known Member

    The others are far more qualified concerning live situations, but I must concur w/ Bob on the benefit of a ribbon mic on MOST acoustic instruments.
    I own a cheaper one (Fathead), and it is my first choice for recording mando, fiddle, and even banjo. Plus a host of other sources.

    Of course, there are the aforementioned issues of fragility in a live setting and also mobility....
  10. GZsound

    GZsound Active Member

    I think those of you who are suggesting ribbon mics are talking about in the studio. There are multiple problems with using a ribbon in a live situation including, as suggested, monitor problems and also the problem of global phantom power which can damage some ribbon mics.

    The best method is to use satelite mics with the large condenser mics. They don't have to be turned up so they overpower the vocals and most sound guys worth their salt can turn down the instrument mic if it gets too hot.

    Mandolins, fiddles, banjo, guitar, etc. with installed pickups or mics have one basic problem, their breaks are at the same level as the strumming. Again, the OP wants a volume control to solve that problem, but the addition of a wireless system makes that difficult, although it can be done. Mount the wireless reciever to a pedal board, come out of the reciever into a volume control, out of the volume control into a DI.

    I ran sound for a country western group where the fiddle player did just that. He used an AKG "bug" wireless on his fiddle and had the reciever mounted on a guitar type pedal board with volume and DI. Simply plug in A/C and a line to the mixer..done.

    But in my experience, a satelite mic with a player that knows how to use the mic as a volume control is best. Sounds best, looks best and makes the process much easier.
  11. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    I would look into the DPA 4099 and possibly if you need to be messing with levels, I agree with what Mark is suggesting.
    All the years of using expensive pickups, not one of them did it for me. My Taylor has a beautiful built in system and I wish I never paid for it. If I would have known about the 4099 G, that would have done it for me. Best of both worlds and great for live high end acoustic work. If you aren't into putting a mic on a stand in front of you, the 4099 is the coolest thing going. So simple to tweak it. You are able to play without being forced to stand still. erk.... I move when I play.
  12. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    This is a good point that I should have mentioned. The Cascades are supposed to be "Phantom Power safe" but they still warn against patch bay voltage surges. As I say, we use them live in church every week, but there is no question we are taking our chances. A condenser is a safer choice.
  13. Jeemy

    Jeemy Well-Known Member

    For live situations, I don't use mics anymore. I second the Schertlers - they really are good and compared to all the iZone/blender/whittle/internal spikemike things, and fiddly internal mounts, and whathaveyou, they just tack onto the instrument, work, and sound good. They are expensive but its a case of buy right, buy once, I use mine on classical guitar (another bonus), mandolin, acoustic steelstring and in the studio on violin, doublebass, cello etc. Its a hell of a little workhorse and feedback is hard to come by. For me its never been a regret. And its quite easy to bypass the funky blue one and pick up ones that were designed for internal mounting and use them as externals, which saves a lot of dough. Schertler are very happy to advise and sell spare parts, and as most of the -M, -V, etc codes refer to cable length and socket fitting rather than any kind of pre-input frequency response (though they can advise you on model crossover better than I) its easy to get a bargain too.
  14. GZsound

    GZsound Active Member

    After running sound at bluegrass festivals for the last fifteen years, I would bet I could count the number of mandolins with pickups or internal mics installed on one hand. A lot of the "bigs" seem to make using a mic, either a single LD mic or satelite mics, work with mandolins.

    As I said, there is always the problem with changing volume between breaks and chops..as the OP mentioned. A mic or pickup, without a volume control of some kind doesn't fix that problem. I suggest learning how to work a microphone.

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