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Live Bluegrass Band Recording
Old 2 weeks ago
  #1
Gear Maniac
 

Live Bluegrass Band Recording

Hey All,

I'm going to record a band tonight at a small venue I mix at frequently. I'll be in charge of FOH, and also recording from the M32. I've done this a bunch with rock bands, but this is a bluegrass-style band, and I'd like to know if you have any creative or standard techniques for capturing the instruments beyond just taking lines from the DI's (which is how we generally do it for FOH).

They usually have upright, mando, fiddle, acoustic and several vocals. Sm58's for vox and DI's for instruments. When I say "bluegrass" I really just mean instrumentation, as it's kind of a singer-songwriter act with a lot of good pop sensibilities. They ask for a LOT of monitor, so there will definitely be some bleed into the vocal mics, and it is definitely more of a direct hi-fi sound than your average old-timey sing-around-one-mic kind of band, and since they move around a lot and aren't used to playing their instruments into mics, I'm not sure how well close miking will work for this either.

I'd like to get a little more to work with than just the DI's and vocal mics. I'll definitely have an xy pair in the back by the board to get the room sound to blend in for some ambience and audience, but is there anything else you would recommend? I can bring some extra mics from home and have access to the venue mics (your average small venue mic locker). This is going down tonight so any advice appreciated!

Thanks!
Old 2 weeks ago
  #2
Gear Guru
 
Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

A lot of the outcome depends on how good the DI's sound. That's kind of a crapshoot, as I'm sure you know.

The move-around aspect makes it tough. You might at least be able to mic the bass -- hard to run around much with one of those.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #3
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn View Post
A lot of the outcome depends on how good the DI's sound. That's kind of a crapshoot, as I'm sure you know.

The move-around aspect makes it tough. You might at least be able to mic the bass -- hard to run around much with one of those.
Yeah. Between that and the loud monitors, I feel like my hands are fairly tied. I've heard about stuffing a 57/58 behind the upright's tailpiece... I may try that in addition to the DI. Not sure what to do about the other instruments.

The venue only has a couple standard Radials and Whirlwinds. Depending on the musicians they could show up with anything from a Grace Felix to nothing at all. I haven't invested in any nice DI's yet but I do have a Little Labs RedEye that I'll bring. Should be a touch better than the Radials and Whirlwinds.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #4
Gear Maniac
 

The good news is they are all incredible players so I'm still optimistic. Just want to see if there are any other tips and techniques I should consider.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #5
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Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by sirjuxtable View Post
The venue only has a couple standard Radials and Whirlwinds. Depending on the musicians they could show up with anything from a Grace Felix to nothing at all. I haven't invested in any nice DI's yet but I do have a Little Labs RedEye that I'll bring. Should be a touch better than the Radials and Whirlwinds.
If they've got active pickups (with batteries) I'd be surprised if a fancy DI made a difference. A lot of bass pickups, on the other hand, are passive and the DI can make a huge difference -- if the DI doesn't have a super-high input impedance, the lowest frequencies of the bass will get filtered out.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #6
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn View Post
If they've got active pickups (with batteries) I'd be surprised if a fancy DI made a difference. A lot of bass pickups, on the other hand, are passive and the DI can make a huge difference -- if the DI doesn't have a super-high input impedance, the lowest frequencies of the bass will get filtered out.
Thanks, Brent. That's a really good point. I have an old active Behringer DI I haven't used in ages. I'm going to test it and if it's working I'll bring it for the bass just in case.

You ever try the mic-in-the-tailpiece thing on upright?
Old 2 weeks ago
  #7
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Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by sirjuxtable View Post
You ever try the mic-in-the-tailpiece thing on upright?
Not with a dynamic, and not live. Done it in the studio with a pencil condenser wrapped in foam, works okay. Live, I've gotten the best results with an EV RE20 at the F-hole -- compared to other dynamics, it cares the least if the player tilts the bass really close to the mic. That F-hole spot can be a problem, though, if the player also plays arco. But that may not be an issue in your case.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #8
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn View Post
Not with a dynamic, and not live. Done it in the studio with a pencil condenser wrapped in foam, works okay. Live, I've gotten the best results with an EV RE20 at the F-hole -- compared to other dynamics, it cares the least if the player tilts the bass really close to the mic. That F-hole spot can be a problem, though, if the player also plays arco. But that may not be an issue in your case.
Thanks - this is extremely helpful. I've got an SM7b maybe Ill try that out too. I don't have to use it for FOH and of all 4 players the bassist usually moves the least. I'll have to ask if he bows at all. If it doesn't work or I get too much moving phase issues I can always just not use it. To that point, maybe I'll throw up some spot mics on all the instruments and call it a learning experience if it all ends up being unusable.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #9
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Brent Hahn has provided expert advice pursuant to the OP's question: there is nothing I can add to his advice. My input to this thread will deal with defining the characteristics that separate the better "Bluegrass Bands" from "Boogie Bands" playing wired acoustic instruments.

1) Dell McCoury, Alison Krauss & Union Station, Ricky Skaggs, Rhonda Vincent, Daly & Vincent, Balsom Range, Doyle Lawson & Sam Bush all pursue quality sonic capture of their performances with mics and not with wired DI delivered instrumentation. Bluegrass music from it's earliest commercial origins in the 50s with Flatt & Scruggs RCA ribbon mics thru today Dell McCoury's AT 4060 tube, that does a magnificent job capturing his guitar and vocals simultaneously, deploy mics on stage. When quality counts mics are the way to go. Sam Bush has always produced high energy boogie grass using high quality sonic delivery with mics and wedge monitoring. IMO there really is no debate here: the best real Bluegrass bands use mics, not DIs.
2) The ubiquitous world of "loud R&R" sound reinforcement, performed by the more me generation of performers it has produced, makes DIs and SM58s a necessity for their bands playing acoustic instruments. Also an integral element of the wired up boogie band is lots of personnel movement on stage that pretty well eliminates micing instruments.

The defining lines of opposing goals are crystal clear: The best Bluegrass bands deploy mics that give them the best opportunity to attain a transparent quality sonic capture. When a loud, active stage show is the goal for the more monitor for me musicians, DIs will be the protocol.
Hugh
Old 2 weeks ago
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sirjuxtable View Post
(...)They ask for a LOT of monitor (...)
THIS will define your approach, as much as the available equipment, time for setup/soundcheck, the room, budget, backline, instrumentation, the artist's ideas, expertise, expectations and willingess (or lack of) to adopt to the situation, your skill level etc.

i've been mixing some of the artists/bands hugh seems to like in places from 200 to 20'000 capacity, with stage levels from low 80's to high 90's (dBA leq), from single ldc to a more classical approach with a dozen of schoeps mics to all close mics (dynamics and condensers) and di's, private concerts with a pair of speakers on sticks to multiple array hangs in large venues to live broadcasts from a truck...

all much different situations, no single approach which would cover them all and equally well! - all direct outputs, desk mix (less efx if you have a matrix out), ambis (preferrably from different places, sl/sr, foh, rear - but of course a single pair might do in a small place).
Old 2 weeks ago
  #11
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by hughshouse View Post
Brent Hahn has provided expert advice pursuant to the OP's question: there is nothing I can add to his advice. My input to this thread will deal with defining the characteristics that separate the better "Bluegrass Bands" from "Boogie Bands" playing wired acoustic instruments.
Yep, I deal with both pretty regularly, and I always have a huge smile on my face when it is the former. "More me" is a good way of putting it.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #12
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by deedeeyeah View Post
THIS will define your approach, as much as the available equipment, time for setup/soundcheck, the room, budget, backline or all acoustic, instrumentation, the artists ideas, expertise, expectations and willingess (or lack of) to adopt to the situation, your skill level etc.
Yep, you can't outrun a loud monitor mix. Although, you can try to limit bleed with mic placement, to a degree.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #13
Gear Maniac
 

Well thanks again everyone. All in all I think I got some useable sounds. Got some surprises thrown at me (band was late, there was a pedal steel and dobro instead of mando), but this was really just a practice run for us. They are regulars at the venue so I'm hoping to use this opportunity to educate them on how their stage volume will affect the final product. Dobro player had his own DI (peterson strobe tuner with a DI out) - sounded really thin. I'll avoid that like the plague from now on. Mic'd the pedal steel amp with a 57. Bass player wanted me to mic his bass cab and take a DI out. After hearing the two combined I really missed a mic on the bass itself, so will do that next time. Fiddle player had a clip on mic and that sounded much better than a DI, so that was the win of the evening. Took a bit to ring it out at soundcheck with all of the loud monitors but we got that sorted. Got home last night and just did some light panning and level adjustments and, well, it's definitely useable. Maybe no awe-inspiring tones to be had there, but a good sense of the band as they played that night. With a little polish we might get a song or two out of it. We'll see.

I really appreciate you guys!
Old 2 weeks ago
  #14
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If there isn't a drummer, you should be able to get plenty of isolation on the upright with a mic, but if the player swings around a lot that'll be tricky too. I recently ordered an "H-Clamp" to mount a Schoeps CMC41 on jazz upright, but I haven't got to use it yet. It's the same thing Larry Grenadier uses:
Attached Thumbnails
Live Bluegrass Band Recording-larrygrenadier.jpg  
Old 2 weeks ago
  #15
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by over-man View Post
If there isn't a drummer, you should be able to get plenty of isolation on the upright with a mic, but if the player swings around a lot that'll be tricky too. I recently ordered an "H-Clamp" to mount a Schoeps CMC41 on jazz upright, but I haven't got to use it yet. It's the same thing Larry Grenadier uses:
Ooo I want one of those. Great share!
Old 2 weeks ago
  #16
Lives for gear
 

If you want to see a perfect Bluegrass bass capture with a mic check out Todd Phillips with the "Appalachian Road Show Band". Upright bass work in any genre doesn't get any better than this! (Their "Broken Bones" video is a stellar example of pristine studio bass work)
Hugh
Old 2 weeks ago
  #17
Gear Maniac
 
ronmac's Avatar
By installing pickups in their instruments and employing loud monitors the band has made a decision on how they want to sound on stage. If it were me, I would honour that and not make it more complicated than need be.

Through up a couple of audience facing mics to get some crowd in the mix and enjoy their show.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #18
Gear Guru
 
Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ronmac View Post
By installing pickups in their instruments and employing loud monitors the band has made a decision on how they want to sound on stage.
Just my take on it, but I think maybe they've made decisions about how how to go about hearing well and singing in tune onstage without using in-ears and looking like twits.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #19
Gear Maniac
 

It's true - they have made a decision about their sound, and it does work in FOH. Very clean direct sound, sharp highs and big bass. Not your old-time acoustic bluegrass band around a single mic or in a room sound.

I think what Brent means is that they are thinking about their stage sound more than they are thinking about a recording, which makes sense, since it was kind of an afterthought (for them).

I agree with both of you though. It's my job to capture their live sound since the show was the priority and that's pretty much what I did. Set up some DI's mics, and crowd mics, set the recording up, tested levels and went to work mixing FOH. I still want it to sound as good as possible though, given the constraints.

I also think they would be great candidates for in-ears, recording live or not. Seriously, for a band with no drums they want their monitors really really loud.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #20
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surflounge's Avatar
only one way to do it.
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