recording Bluegrass

Discussion in 'Microphones (live or studio)' started by tripnek, Sep 28, 2003.

  1. tripnek

    tripnek Active Member

    Jun 9, 2003
    I'm thinking of venturing into the Blue Grass world a bit. Looking for anyone who has experience recording this style. Any tips would be good. Particularly what mics you like for what instruments and mic placement on said instruments.

  2. synthnut

    synthnut Guest

    Plenty goin on with Blue Grass instruments...I usually use small condensors and generally point either toward the neck or toward the bridge depending on what mic and what instrument...You really don't want to go right over the sound hole on an acoustic guitar ...Most Bluegrass instruments are easier to setup for recording than to mic for live work...There's a lot of feedback to contend with ....For a generally nice sound, you can also get away with a couple of condensors set up overhead for an overall sound ... You will soon see that pointing the mic in different locations will yeild different results...There are no hard fast rules here....Let your ears be your guide...Jim
  3. synthnut

    synthnut Guest

    You can also put pickups on the instruments , and record those also...Then you have another tone that you can eq and mix with at mixdown....Jim
  4. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Well-Known Member

    Jul 2, 2002
    77 Sunset Lane.
    For the most part, Bluegrass recording is usually pureist in approach. Pickups are not generally put into use as the "clack" of these peizo transducers is considered undesireable. One of the most successful bluegrass groups, "Alison Kraus & Union Station" with Jerry Douglas on dobro has an endorsement with Shure. They have been using the KMS series large diaphragm mics on stage. It looks like they use pickups also in their live performances. I would bet however, they are using only old Neumanns and the like in the studio. Good mics and pres are called for with this genre' ... Kurt
  5. JeffreyMajeau

    JeffreyMajeau Active Member

    Sep 5, 2000
    And I'd venture to say that the Shure KMS series mics ARE good! They don't do that "Neumann thing", but they are very low noise and very versatile. Definitely contemporaries of the Neumann's, IMHO.

    After auditioning the KMS44 next to a TLM 103, the KMS is a much less hyped mic, which would be better suited to bluegrass. TLM103 may sound pretty good on upright bass, and i'd love to try it on kick drum, not that there's much bluegrass with drums...

    Dan Roth
    Otitis Media
    Audio - Video - Film
  6. Davedog

    Davedog Well-Known Member

    Dec 10, 2001
    Pacific NW
    "Old Timey" style Bluegrass will only require a couple of area mics and one centrally located 'solo' mic.This is not only true live, but in the studio too.Typical old school bluegrass players like to stand roughly in a circle and get their insrumental blend through hearing it as well as feeding off of each others licks.This will require a room that has quality sonics to capture this style and still have some separation for mix.Theres not a lot of mixing though, as the players generally do this on the fly.

    Modern Bluegrass is different.This is as much like your standard country/rock sessions as anything.The basic tracks usually go down much as a country tune, with bass,guitars and a guide vocal and drums if there are any.And these days there might very well be.You wouldnt chose to use heavily colored preamps on any of these acoustic instruments.Clean,crisp, and clear is the order here.As for mic selection, good small D condensers on the guitars, a real quick responding LD on the banjo,mandolins sound great with an LD in front and a SD over the shoulder,if theres a drum kit, a minimal setup is all thats needed.A couple of overheads,a snare mic and a kick.The kick doesnt need to be close miced as the boom is desireable.Goboes in the room for some separation might help, but this kind of basic tracks will have "Good Bleed" if properly miced.

    By the way....Bluegrass is one word.
  7. 1511

    1511 Guest

    I only have a few mikes; KM84, AT4033 and a Rode NTK. When I record my dobro, the Rode wins out over the 4033 a little and the KM84 is best as a second mike, when possible.

    I usually place the Rode between the screens and coverplate just below the 1st string; and about 12" away. For more aggresive sounds move the mike toward the bridge and away for more mellow tones.
  8. jeeper

    jeeper Guest

    I've noticed several times lately that the bluegrass folks are beginning to use Neumann on stage for TV etc. I've read, but not seen, that at one time many of them liked the AT 4033 also.

    On the subject of that Shure endorsement, I do not know what Shure is giving acts to use their products but it must be good. Several of their sponsored acts have even had their Shure gear put up on shows that had all real class mics. Not that Shure does not make a good product BUT they are certainly trying to buy a lot of business. Fact is they may have to with the stage mic competition that they face today.

    Don't forget though there are a lot of die hard SM58 singers out there. The kind that say they will have their 58 until someone pries it out of their cold dead fingers. I've recorded some of those types several times in the past. Sometimes you win them over to decent mics sometimes I'm able to at least switch them to a KMS 105. If I get a run at them with another mic they more often than not hear the difference and stay with it. I guess they are like us and work within their comfort zone. We are for the most part either digital or analog people, Mac or PC people, etc.

    I do not envy any engineer that has a class bluegrass act to record. Every note must be reproduced very faithfully to be true to the music. Also if you do not do that you'll have to put up with the wrath of that act.
  9. Richard Monroe

    Richard Monroe Active Member

    Jun 24, 2003
    Framingham, Mass.
    Home Page:
    Most of what Davedog said was spot-on. I would add that there is another school of thought that puts large diaphragm condensers on acoustic instruments instead of SD's. This group favors AKG C414 (any model). AT 4033, a mid-sized diaphragm mic is also very popular with that group.-Richie
  10. bopmachine

    bopmachine Active Member

    Jan 17, 2003
    I've recorded about 10 bluegrass sessions. Almost all were like this (at the request of the bands)

    Band in semi cicle
    U87 in center (sometimes a 77dx)
    SM58 or WE 639 on Doublebass
    (they usually start out demanding a 58, but when they see pictures of BM's boys using the 639, they come around)
    occasional SD on mando if present

    Solo - step forward, then step back when done

    I'd be watchfull about using pickups - most bluegrass players strum the heck out of the guitar, can causes the crystal pickups to sound nasty.

    Also, whatever you do on the doublebass it *needs* to thump. Your typical jazz mid-rangy sound will not cut it.
  11. robchittum

    robchittum Guest

    I just checked out some of your links, and I am interested in hearing your music. I may have to save up and get one of your CD's. I am in Johnson City, TN and really looking to record primarily bluegrass and acoustic music. I am using Oktava MC-012 matched pair for guitar, mandolin, and banjo, and have an AKG C1000S that I use some for instruments and vocals. I am using a Studio Projects T3 for vocals (and love it). I would love your thoughts on must have mics, and equipment for recording bluegrass. I am using Nuendo, Sytek MP4ii mic pre... I am considering buying a matched pair of AKG C414's for stereo recording fiddle, cello, and drum overheads. What do you think of that mic? or others you would recommend.


  12. Davedog

    Davedog Well-Known Member

    Dec 10, 2001
    Pacific NW
    I've been known to rollup an omni mic, preferably a dynamic,in a sock and slide it behind the strings below the bridge on a doghouse for that 'thump'...some will look at you like yer crazed whilst others will smile knowingly.
  13. Will Russell

    Will Russell Guest

    I do tons of bluegrass (for better or worse!) I circle them up and each player gets a Neumann KM84 as an instrument mic and whatever large diaphram vocal mics I think sound best on their voices, U87,TLM103 414, Lawson L47. The 84 0n the bass gets wrapped in foam and stuck between the middle 2 strings below the bridge, facing up.

    Then just let 'em play! 2-4 takes, comp the best, balance, DONE!

    I did an "old school" cd with the boys circled around 2 Earthworks QTC1 facing each other, one up and one down, tips about 1ft apart. Came out like mono with dimension.

    Don't make the mistake of confusing "old time" music with bluegrass. You'll cause a rukus! Bluegrass is all about mother and Jesus, and old time is about corn whiskey and chickens!

    have a blast!
  14. Pez

    Pez Active Member

    Dec 27, 2002
    That's why I'm an old-time fan myself. I love to sip the home-brew and watch the chickens. You forgot to mention the possums, groundhogs, wild hogs and woodchucks though.
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