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Advice on amplifying bluegrass

Discussion in 'Bluegrass [DB]' started by wallawallabob, Nov 1, 2010.

  1. I need some advice on amplifying live bluegrass music. We often play in very live venues with a lot of ambient noise and sometimes get requests to amplify our group of usually at least 5 and up to about a dozen players. The group in general does not approve of the use of electrons for music, and consequently we have pitiful levels of knowledge regarding same! Non of the instruments we use have pick-ups.

    Are there good solutions using one or 2 omnidirectional mics and one or 2 amps or any combination thereof?

    Any advice, especially particular mics and amp makes/models, and probable pitfalls, would be appreciated!

  2. shadygrove


    Feb 14, 2008
    Marysville, WA
    When I play shows with folks from the Old-Time Fiddler's Association it's the same deal... no one uses pickups, but their aversion to electrons somehow doesn't apply to microphones :smug: We've had good results using a small PA such as this one ...
    Usually with two or three Shure SM58 mic's depending on the number of players... we'll go 2-3 people per mic and soloists and vocalists can step in closer when needing to increase their volume over the backup.

    I've never needed to amplify my bass to be heard out front with acoustic instruments in smaller venues such as a grange hall up to around gymnasium size although it is sometimes hard to hear myself. If there are drums or anyone else is using an amp I'll use a pickup or mic to the PA or my amp depending on the situation.
  3. I'm no audio expert but we usually play into a single condensor mic. The trick is learning how to work the mic--where does everyone stand to give a balanced sound? How do soloists move up and back to play solos or sing? Once you work it out, this gives a very natural sound. Sometimes we may mic an individual instrument but this is our basic setup.
  4. Thanks - Is used equipment worth looking at? Back in the day, any used equipment I sold was being sold for a reason!
  5. Jim Carr

    Jim Carr Dr. Jim Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2006
    Denton, TX or Kailua, HI
    fEARful Kool-Aid dispensing liberal academic card-carrying union member Musicians Local 72-147
    This classic single mic approach can work well—up to a point. One thing to watch: it can "evolve" into multiple mics. When this happens, the bass can end up very much under-supported, depending on the system and volume levels.

    For bass, I have found using a preamp/DI and Gage Realist (or other) piezo pickup, or at least a DI and a Gage will give a better result from a PA than a mic, especially when levels go to where you need them when filling a hall the size of an old-style movie theater.

    IME, when an upright bassist is forced to play as loudly as possible due to inadequate or non-existent PA support, the music suffers, and even rugged old calluses are likely to give way to blisters. I have been there several times, and now make certain that if we are going to be mic'ed there will be a reasonable PA for the space. When in doubt, I bring a small but powerful bass amp—which can be left unused if not needed. :cool:
  6. Just a word of caution about using a single condensor mic in a small noisy venue.

    While these mics work very well in a concert situation, they will pick up ambient noise and you could get feedback problems in your situation. If this is the case, you might have to go to individual dynamic mics (like SM57 or 58) for each instrument.

    Also, make sure any fold back is turned off , otherwise feedback will occur.

    As an alternative to putting a pickup on your bass, you might consider a small clip on condensor mic like an Audio Technica ATM35.
  7. As a long time bluegrass bassist, more recently turned to jazz, I can certainly recommend the Fishman Full Circle pick up. I has a very rich and natural sound and eliminates the possibility of ambient noise. You will have to have an ajdustable bridge to make it work but that's not a bad idea, anyway. A good sound is the one of the greatest assets an upright player can have. It's worth it.
  8. Thanks, all.
    I think I'll put a pickup on the bass - for emergencies - I'm leaning toward the Revolution Solo, UB seems to like it.

    We are going to try a single or double mic, depending on how many show up, and run it through a small amp. If we need more, we'll get more! We play at different locations every week, so simple is better.....and we have very little space at all of them!
  9. I also use the Realist transducer connected to my Ampeg Portabass head, which in turn is connected through the PA board. But it will depend on what type of instrument you are using and its individual characteristics. And how you have set up your bass. I like this system best of all because A) I don't have to lug in my speaker cabinet; B) I can turn around and adjust my sound according to each song....or turn the sound off completely. Alternatively, if you can find one, get a small high impedence mic and fasten it between the strings between the tailpiece and the bridge. You can fabricate a mount from a piece of heavy tin, actually, if you are a handy person. Then just run the mic cord into your band PA board. But doing this takes away all control for raising or lowering the volume.
  10. tstone


    Nov 16, 2010
    San Francisco, CA
    In addition to its simplicity, another advantage of the single mic approach is the visual interest it leads to. I saw Bill Monroe and his Bluegrass Boys several times while he was still alive, and part of the fun of his concerts was the choreography of the players quickly ducking under each others' raised instrument necks as they stepped up to the mic for their solos or vocal parts, and all leaning close into the mic together for the harmony singing. Of course, you have to know what the other guy is going to do or you could get conked. Works well for four players. 12, hmm...maybe not ;-)
  11. superman

    superman Supporting Member

    Mar 5, 2007
    Nashville Tenn
    There are lots of ways to go at this,,I'll give you my take on it,,I feel that going DI takes too much tone control out of your hands,,I have too many times had my bass end up sounding like a duck in the mains by DI ing,,wank wank wank,,not at all like a bass,,the best thing I have found and have used now for 10+years is to use my pickup/amp as a stage moniter only for my self,and band,,and for the mains I always mic the bass with a good mic,,most of the times if you can find a d112 kick drum mic they work great,,57s and 58s do not make good bass mics they do not cover the frequeney that a bass produces,,I am sure there are lots of other mics that do work fine on a bass live,,but I useually stop when they have a d112,,it's never let me down yet,,and of you guys that know me I play guts and go for that big round country sound,,I never get any complaints,,except for a sound man now and then that doesnt understand,,thats the guy I tell that my amp di is broken,,lol,,hope this is of some help,Kent
  12. tstone


    Nov 16, 2010
    San Francisco, CA
    Sounds like you've really given this some thought, superman. What amp are you using to mic onstage?
  13. superman

    superman Supporting Member

    Mar 5, 2007
    Nashville Tenn
    I use the GK112,,but i do not mic the amp,,just the bass.
  14. We used to play a noisy bar with bad acoustics that was a trad bluegrass bands worst nightmare. The crowd would get loud, we would turn up the PA, the crowd would start comming thru the PA with us, we couldnt hear and turn up again, and on till we were hanging on the edge of feedback and still couldnt hear. We were six pieces with 3 vocalist. Big condensors were out of the question. With everyone on a mic, that adds up to 9 mics. Even with 57s and 58s, it was still hard to hear yourself.
    After many gigs there , we evolved into each instr either had his own amp or went direct to PA. Set the vols at a normal backup level. We would set up 3 SM58s for vocals and 1 or 2 57s for the lead break player to step up into to boost his solo a little. This way we were down to 4 or 5 dynamic mics. We would use 2 or 3 hotspots for monitors, if any at all cause of all the crowd noise comming back thru.

    We could get a hell of a lot louder that way before feedback.
  15. kg4muc


    Dec 7, 2008
    I have been fooling around with a Nady RSM2 ribbon mic. It's Chinese microphone I'm sure but after a few modifications it works pretty good in the studio.... Anyway it seems to work really well to mic URB straight into the console but it does take some definite low noise pres. It would probably be not anything that could see widespread outdoor uses as it goes around here due to the possibility of wind damaging the ribbon. It does sound fairly good into a Fender Bassman as well. I was planning on micing Fridays's gig but after I got everything dialed in I just used the BassMax and was surprised. But that was probably because I had full reign of the sound otherwise It would have probably sounded like Donald Duck :) After my recent back surgery most of my pickin has been from a stool and my expectations have lowered somewhat to meet my abilities currently :)
  16. bobsax


    Jan 16, 2011
    Southern Oregon
    Great thread.
    I'm also a believer in staying away from amps if possible but I wonder if a mini amp like the Roland Micro Cube YouTube - ‪ROLAND MICRO CUBE BASS RX‬‏ would work for a Bass Fiddle?
    I think it can fit on a mic stand so that it could function as a monitor?
    Also a friend of mine has a few Bose columns that she says work as pa and monitor. It seems like it would work well for a string band but the things are so expensive you don't see a lot of them.
  17. bobsax


    Jan 16, 2011
    Southern Oregon
  18. We use a Bose L1 system at church with a good mixer (can't recall the name) - sounds great but pretty dang spensive at $2000+ apiece - all the instruments used are usually electric. I have mic-ed my upright thru it tho, and it sounded really good.

    We still haven't purchased anything for the group yet. One of our members has a good Marshall amp that we have used with a mic. It works, but we aren't good at ducking in and out.....
  19. Gary Lynch

    Gary Lynch

    Nov 18, 2008
    Sonoita AZ
    I often use a Gallien-Krueger MB150S-112III as my stage monitor and DI out from that to the FOTH. I am using the Full Circle pickup. work great, no hassles. If there is no PA then I use a Euphonic Audio 'Doubler' preamp/amp into the Euphonic Audio 2x10 cabinet and that sounds really great using the Full Circle. No feedback if I use foam between the tailpiece and body. Too many issues with mics on stage and this set up works well for me. Set up is fast and tone is great all things considered.
  20. Can you elaborate?

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