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Best mic for banjo and fiddle
Old 1 week ago
  #1
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Thread Starter
Best mic for banjo and fiddle

I was thinking a Shure SM81 for either but I'd like to hear from the pros.
Old 1 week ago
  #2
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I have a couple of Shure KSM141s that I use regularly in this role with excellent results . . . and I've found the KSM141 and SM81 to be overall very similar microphones. The cardioid pattern gives the performer some flexibility to move around, but if they're highly motile than an instrument-mounted mic (i.e. DPA 4099) is a godsend.

For a "geographically disciplined" (more stationary) player, I have some Earthworks hypercardioids that can deliver substantially higher gain-before-feedback than the KSM141s . . . but they are a chunk more money. I've yet to find a hypercardioid condenser in the price range of the SM81 that I've been impressed with, but I certainly haven't tried them all.
Old 1 week ago
  #3
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I prefer the RE20 dynamic for banjo: during the mid 70s when I was working with JD Crowe we tried many different mics but at that time the RE20 was the best for live performance. More recently JD used an AT4047 that was also very good for concert work. The old U87s (the ones with a battery compartment) were the studio choice for most of JDs recording work. For fiddle I prefer either a Peluso P28 or P67 for both live and studio work. The RE20 also is an acceptable choice if circumstances do not afford the more expensive mics. I have 3 RE20s and 1 SM7: the RE20 has much better off axis characteristics that work very well with a banjo and a fiddle.
Hugh
Old 1 week ago
  #4
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One very good hypercardiod condenser instrument mic that rarely gets a mention is the Peavey PVM 480. Now... you get no bragging rights with these, as most Peavey mics are, to be honest, hardly upper tier - but these are genuinely very good indeed for any live acoustic instruments. They were, I believe, used at the National Banjo championship contests a few years ago. I picked a couple up not long ago, and was surprised by just how well they performed, and I do have quite a good mic collection to compare them with. Excellent off-axis rejection and the overall sound from them is subjectively as good as many much better known options. They are also great on mandolin and acoustic guitar.
Old 1 week ago
  #5
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IMO, for most acoustic music, hyper-card patterns present an unacceptable compromise of sonic stability for counter-productive isolation purposes. Competent session ready pickers need a predictable, dependable pick up pattern to properly shape back-up VxS lead dynamic control. The sharp axis shut off and sonic altering proximity problems associated with hyper-card mics make transparent delivery far more difficult than it needs to be. There certainly are some situations that require isolation beyond typical card patterns: however I seldom have found that need in the Bluegrass and acoustic Americana music I have worked with over the past 40 years.
Hugh
Old 1 week ago
  #6
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Generally, i like most Brauner microphones and can/have used them on almost everything in the studio, and I've had excellent results with the velvet on both instruments in first-class rooms with the microphone up to 3' off the instrument. I've also had good results (in the studio) with the U67 and with the RE20 and MD 421 live on stage...but the no brainer on stage is really the DPA 4099 with the appropriate clamp of course.

I agree with Hugh regarding the use of hyper and super cardioid microphones on especially violin.
Old 1 week ago
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hughshouse View Post
IMO, for most acoustic music, hyper-card patterns present an unacceptable compromise of sonic stability for counter-productive isolation purposes. Competent session ready pickers need a predictable, dependable pick up pattern to properly shape back-up VxS lead dynamic control. The sharp axis shut off and sonic altering proximity problems associated with hyper-card mics make transparent delivery far more difficult than it needs to be. There certainly are some situations that require isolation beyond typical card patterns: however I seldom have found that need in the Bluegrass and acoustic Americana music I have worked with over the past 40 years.
Hugh
It depends very much on the venues, the monitoring in use, and getting used to a specific mic. I find them useful - though not in all situations, every time. In some situations, though - they are very useful indeed.
Old 1 week ago
  #8
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Wyllys's Avatar
 

I carry an assortment of dynamics and condensers in a variety of patterns as well as some clip-ons and wireless to use what makes the most sense for the players and venues on a case by case basis.

If it's a multi-act, multi-day job the rolling mic/DI road case gets loaded with dozens of the "best" mics for both the known and the typically "unknown" applications. To choose one for the OP I'd agree with the 4047 as others mention.
Old 1 week ago
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hughshouse View Post
The sharp axis shut off and sonic altering proximity problems associated with hyper-card mics make transparent delivery far more difficult than it needs to be.
This is overwhelmingly a result of a microphone's ragged off-axis response, not really the pattern itself - cheap SDC cardioids have these issues as well. I'll give you that the engineering compromises are indeed more apparent for the tighter patterns, but a top-quality super/hypercardioid mic can deliver wonderfully transparent results. If you have the budget, Schoeps MK41/CCM41 are examples of supercards that are outstanding on acoustic instruments, and the Earthworks SR40HC will get you in the same ballpark at a little over half the price. I've found the workable sweet spot of both these mics to be at least as large as an average mid-priced SDC cardioid (i.e. Rode NT5) . . . just with far better isolation.

Quote:
Originally Posted by hughshouse View Post
There certainly are some situations that require isolation beyond typical card patterns: however I seldom have found that need in the Bluegrass and acoustic Americana music I have worked with over the past 40 years.
I agree . . . but while I wish that J.D. Crowe and the New South was representative of acts I've mixed that had a banjo and a violin . . . I haven't been so lucky. The combination of acoustic violin and banjo with drums, electric bass, and a pickup on an acoustic guitar is more common in some circles, and even with talented, sensitive musicians it can then be a challenge to put a violin solo in the very front of the mix.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Samc View Post
Generally, i like most Brauner microphones and can/have used them on almost everything in the studio, and I've had excellent results with the velvet on both instruments in first-class rooms with the microphone up to 3' off the instrument. I've also had good results (in the studio) with the U67 and with the RE20 and MD 421 live on stage...but the no brainer on stage is really the DPA 4099 with the appropriate clamp of course.
I did assume that the OP was a string player looking for a single mic that would be suitable for both violin and banjo, in the general price range of the SM81. If it's practical to re-fit between instruments (i.e. not switching back and forth during a set), then stretching the budget to a single 4099 with the required hardware is indeed probably the best way to go for consistent, professional results. I've used the Countryman I2 as a cheaper alternative, and it can work very well, but not in the same class as the DPA.

If it's preferred to use a stand-mounted mic, or budget requires that there only be one re-positioned between the different instruments during the same gig, I'll second the RE20 and MD421 both as excellent suggestions to this end; both are highly versatile mics that will last a lifetime and hold their value. There's a caveat that the RE20 is a bit heavy for a typical on-stage tripod/boom stand when high enough for a standing violin player, and as such might have less than stellar stability. The 421 does have that stupid clip, so gaffer tape is a required setup accessory especially if it's to be re-positioned repeatedly through a set.

I also have a couple of vintage E-V RE18s that work amazingly well for performers that pick up different instruments and want to move a single mic between various roles, including violin, acoustic guitar, banjo, uke, and even backing vocals. They're described as a supercardioid but really are only somewhat tighter than the very similar cardioid RE15, and very smooth off-axis. Used prices are very reasonable. The RE15 itself is also excellent if you can find one, but handling noise and plosive susceptibility is a bit higher (more like an SDC, but not really an issue for instrument use). All of these use the same "variable-D" configuration like the RE20 which really does virtually eliminate proximity effect.
Old 1 week ago
  #10
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I much prefer to use a 1/4" cable positioned near the bridge pickup. Fishman for the fiddle, Shatten for the banjo.

Shatten pickups are particularly awesome, a passive user-installable design specifically for banjos, cheap too.
Old 1 week ago
  #11
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Wyllys's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by AC2SPL View Post
I much prefer to use a 1/4" cable positioned near the bridge pickup. Fishman for the fiddle, Shatten for the banjo.

Shatten pickups are particularly awesome, a passive user-installable design specifically for banjos, cheap too.
Warning: Sarcasm ahead.

As long as you're going to go on a tangent and answer a mic question with a suggestion for a pickup, let's go all the way and just use a synth with banjo and fiddle sounds...
Old 1 week ago
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wyllys View Post
Warning: Sarcasm ahead.

As long as you're going to go on a tangent and answer a mic question with a suggestion for a pickup, let's go all the way and just use a synth with banjo and fiddle sounds...
I can appreciate a classical violinist wanting to leave their instrument unaltered, but last I checked there aren't many concertos for banjo. Not only does using mics where pickups are needed make it harder to sound good, it makes the better sound engineers not want to work with you. If that benefits you then go with grace.
Old 1 week ago
  #13
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Wyllys's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by AC2SPL View Post
I can appreciate a classical violinist wanting to leave their instrument unaltered, but last I checked there aren't many concertos for banjo. Not only does using mics where pickups are needed make it harder to sound good, it makes the better sound engineers not want to work with you. If that benefits you then go with grace.
"Better" sound engineers have no problems using mics instead of pickups...

As both a musician (with banjo, fiddle and a dozen more instruments) and a sound person/recordist/broadcast engineer, I would never assert that a contact transducer comes anywhere near the sound quality of even an average mic. However, if the player is totally clueless about technique there MIGHT be something to be said for using a pick-up as "turd polish". In such cases I still prefer something like the AKG C411 which is a "tweener" sort of between mic/contact transducer.

http://www.akg.com/Microphones/Conde...nes/C411L.html

Last edited by Wyllys; 1 week ago at 08:31 PM..
Old 1 week ago
  #14
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There aren't many instruments for which a pickup manages an acceptable representation but the banjo is certainly one of the few. The Fishman Magnetic
...is robust, unobtrusive and sounds surprisingly good, particularly when matched with a Boss GE7. Not for every style maybe but trad Jazz and trad Irish - excellent.

I carry the c411 and another member of the family (I think it's a c410, might be wrong) and although they are very handy as a last resort for any soundboard instrument the element has too much mass to use on the head of the banjo without damping the tone, IME at least.

Last edited by shufflebeat; 1 week ago at 10:08 PM.. Reason: Fat thumbs
Old 1 week ago
  #15
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I can't agree about the mass of the 411 altering the tone. You mount it so close to the edge of the head or under the bridge that the rigidity of a properly tensioned head at those points means it has nearly zero effect. At least that's the case with my banjos. With a mass of 18 grams (.6 oz) any "damping effect" is negligible.

As is common, placement is everything.
Old 1 week ago
  #16
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I've also had good results with the AKG 414 on both instruments live and in the studio.
Old 1 week ago
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wyllys View Post
However, if the player is totally clueless about technique there MIGHT be something to be said for using a pick-up as "turd polish".
Or the fiddle sucks
Or the fiddle is good but doesn't suit pickups
Or the fiddle is good and suits pickups but the pickup sucks
Or the fiddle is good and suits pickups but the pickup wasn't installed properly

These are all things I'm not talking about. I'm talking about a good fiddle that works well with pickups and has a good pickup properly installed. The ones that players know how to get great sound from. The kind that offers consistency on every stage it's played on.

And btw, they're also the kind you can still mic if you want. If you want to work with fiddle players who think that's not the kind of instrument they should use, you can have them.
Old 1 week ago
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wyllys View Post
I can't agree about the mass of the 411 altering the tone. You mount it so close to the edge of the head or under the bridge that the rigidity of a properly tensioned head at those points means it has nearly zero effect. At least that's the case with my banjos. With a mass of 18 grams (.6 oz) any "damping effect" is negligible.

As is common, placement is everything.
As is often the case, experiences differ. It wasn't me who decided the tone was unacceptably compromised, it was the players involved. I would still consider it for certain instruments/players but other options are usually available.

I have a tiny piezo element hiding in a case with some Schertler putty waiting for an opportunity to sing.
Old 1 week ago
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shufflebeat View Post
As is often the case, experiences differ. It wasn't me who decided the tone was unacceptably compromised, it was the players involved. I would still consider it for certain instruments/players but other options are usually available.

I have a tiny piezo element hiding in a case with some Schertler putty waiting for an opportunity to sing.
You know as well as I do that preconceptions and prejudice will trump reality in many cases. I would tend to give credence to your personal experience, but second-hand reports from random players do not really register with me, the bottom line having shifted from actual performance of the gear to a random subjective impression. The only thing you can say with certainty is that different mics/pickups sound different. You cannot say with certainty that the difference is due to the transducer affecting the tone of the instrument. It might, but you can't be sure without definitive testing.

Still, the player has to be comfortable with the solution...no matter how mistaken they may be. How many times have you had a player comment on the content of the mix in his monitor when the monitor wasn't even on yet?

Last edited by Wyllys; 1 week ago at 05:24 PM..
Old 1 week ago
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wyllys View Post
You know as well as I do that preconceptions and prejudice will trump reality in many cases. I would tend to give credence to your personal experience, but second-hand reports from random players do not really register with me, the bottom line having shifted from actual performance of the gear to a random subjective impression. The only thing you can say with certainty is that different mics/pickups sound different. You cannot say with certainty that the difference is due to the transducer affecting the tone of the instrument. It might, but you can't be sure without definitive testing.

Still, the player has to be comfortable with the solution...no matter how mistaken they may be. How many times have you had a player comment on the content of the mix in his monitor when the monitor wasn't even on yet?
I didn't explain that very well. What I'm talking about is not second hand, uninformed opinions. In both cases I'm referring to I've fitted a c411 at the gig when a mic had been assumed. The folks concerned were not connected and they were separate gigs so it wasn't a case of contagious thinking on the night. In both cases I reverted to mics, a '57 for a more gentle, melodic player who likes to allow the banjo to ring and a Beyer m201 for a more aggressive player. Both worked fine.

As you rightly say, whatever my technical opinion it would have been a mistake to argue the case but, in truth, I felt their reticence was justified.

I have used the c411 in an Irish pub when I was playing along with a banjo playing buddy in a last-minute throw together band and there was certainly no issue.
Old 6 days ago
  #21
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Beyer M160
Old 6 days ago
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by garysjo View Post
Beyer M160
For both instruments in every situation...?
Old 6 days ago
  #23
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Nielsbeard's Avatar
KSM 137 (same as KSM 141 in cardioid) is really great for fiddle. You get every detail and even finger plucking the stings; it really jumps out at you. I prefer it over a sm81 in most cases. Banjo players I've worked with almost always ask for a sm57 (I've learned that if someone asks for sm57, give them a sm57). I used a KSM 109 once (which is a SM137 now) and I would not hesitate to use it again. The KSM 109 doesn't get the fast transients as well as the KSM 137, so that might actually make it better suited for banjo than the KSM 137. More detail than the sm57 but not too much of the fret buzzing and pick noise.
Old 5 days ago
  #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Samc View Post
For both instruments in every situation...?
No, not loud stage but real nice in Americana/folk like setting. If stage too loud I'd probably go to clip on, DPA 4099

The m160 has a great hyper card pattern though and rejects a lot.
Old 4 days ago
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nielsbeard View Post
KSM 137 (same as KSM 141 in cardioid)...
Not quite. I have 32's and 44's as well as 137's and 141's. The single pattern and multi pattern variations are slightly different in response and self-noise. They are not exactly the same. Nit-picky, yes, but true nevertheless.

Quote:
Originally Posted by garysjo View Post
The m160 has a great hyper card pattern though and rejects a lot.
I believe the point was made earlier that there is a distinct trade-off made when going to narrow pattern mics in that the less smooth off-axis response is not as forgiving of player movement/positioning. Generally speaking, I'd go with the safer cardioid pattern most of the time.

Last edited by Wyllys; 4 days ago at 05:25 PM..
Old 4 days ago
  #26
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edva's Avatar
My favorite in this application is 441, especially on Banjo (best I've ever found for my personal tastes), but also sounds excellent on fiddle.
Also to my tastes, I don't want to pick up excessive detail with either instrument, so "fast" mics like 141 (which I like in some uses but not this one) are not my choice here. 421 is too hyped up top for me. RE20 is OK.
I also sometimes use Beyer 160 and 260, if I feel OK bringing ribbons out.
But nothing gives me a sound I like better than a 441, so far.
For live use, my personal preference on banjo and fiddle is for moderately tighter patterns, and fewer condensers. YMMV. Good luck.
Old 4 days ago
  #27
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Aisle 6's Avatar
Although I usually gravitate to a SDC for fiddle, I have had excellent results on banjo with the humble SM57.
Old 4 days ago
  #28
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Nielsbeard's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wyllys View Post
Not quite. I have 32's and 44's as well as 137's and 141's. The single pattern and multi pattern variations are slightly different in response and self-noise. They are not exactly the same. Nit-picky, yes, but true nevertheless
Are you sure about that? I have the 137,141, and 32's as well. The 32 and 44 are totally different mics, different size diaphragms.

Shure has the self noise spec at 14db a weigted and the cardioid response on the ksm 141 is exactly the same as the 137. They both have the same diaphragm and internal electronics. A member on here "Plush" that says he helped Develop and voice both mics. He says the mechanical ring that switches the pattern has no acoustical effect.
Old 4 days ago
  #29
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GZsound's Avatar
I ran sound for a national bluegrass band last Friday and they used a single Audix SC25 for all vocals and three Neumann KSM105's for the mando, fiddle and banjo. They seemed to sound just fine on the instruments and required only a little reduction in high end EQ. Very clear.

I typically use the ubiquitous SM57 on all instruments at my festivals. I leave my SDC's home in the studio.
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