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Mic-ing the concertina


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First off, I've gone to the dark side.

I'm now playing concertina in a band that plays pirate festivals.

Go ahead and hate me, I do too.

Nonetheless the fact remains, and I need help from the infinite font of wisdom that is this forum.

 

So, how to mic an English concertina? And if it can be as unobtrusive as possible that would be great, since I'm also playing fiddle (though not at the same time), which will need a mic, as I don't have a pick-up on it, and singing, which will also need a mic. I'd rather have my little mic-grove be as small as possible, to reduce the risk of claustrophobia. Oh the woes of being a multi-instrumentalist.

 

Anyway, any input on this would be most appreciated.

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I'm getting great results from the Microvox concertina system - a small mic is attached with Velcro to either end of the instrument, they go to a belt-pack about the size of a packet of cigarettes, and from there a single 3.5mm jack lead goes off to the PA. You might need to run it via a DI box for best results.

 

Infinitely better results for a live environment than having a full-size mic pointing at either end of the concertina,

Much more resistant to on-stage feedback (in my considerable experience anyway, others on previous discussions on this topic have reported otherwise),

and whilst the sound quality isn't what you'd use for recording it's plenty good enough for ceilidh band work or pirate festivals, whatever they may be.

 

The only downside is that you do have to have a little bit of Velcro stuck on each end of the concertina; but I'd suggest that if your concertina is that precious an artefact, you probably shouldn't be taking it out into the dangerous hurly-burly of live work anyway!

 

 

Other solutions are available, but that's my strong recommendation based on personal experience ...

 

[Edited to add] - I'd also suggest you spend the little bit of extra money to get the Microvox power pack with the volume control on (the cheaper PSU doesn't have that) - the big advantage being you can turn yourself down temporarilywhilst changing instruments, saving all sorts of amplified bumps and knocks.

 

 

Edited by Steve Mansfield
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So, how to mic an English concertina? And if it can be as unobtrusive as possible that would be great, since I'm also playing fiddle (though not at the same time), which will need a mic, as I don't have a pick-up on it, and singing, which will also need a mic. I'd rather have my little mic-grove be as small as possible, to reduce the risk of claustrophobia. Oh the woes of being a multi-instrumentalist.

 

Hi, Fern,

 

Welcome to the elite circle of the multi-instrumentalists! Being one has its ups and downs, but on the whole, I enjoy the experience.

 

If you're serious about being a pirate wench and playing with amplification, you'll probably want to go in the direction of pick-ups long-term. I've installed pick-ups in a banjo, a guitar and an autoharp, and invested in a cheap mandolin that has a good pick-up. The fiddler in my group has installed a fairly non-intrusive pick-up in his fiddle. What remains to be miked is my voice, whistles and concertina. Obviously, I don't play whistle and sing at the same time, so one mic works for both. (Even when I play a whistle verse between verses of a song - the mic needs to be in the same place for both.)

I sing and whistle standing up, but play the concertina sitting. I usually don't sing to the concertina, so I just sit down and lower the boom of the microphone so that the mic is over the centre of the bellows.

There's only one piece in our band repertoire in which I both sing and play a bit of concertina in a couple of verses, and here I just set the mic for singing, play the concertina standing (accompaniments should be easier than solos, so this works for me) and hold the concertina up under my chin. Voice and concertina mix well in this configuration.

 

In short: with voice, fiddle and concertina, you should be able to make do with one mic, as long as it's on a stand with a nice, long boom that can be adjusted to move up and down when required without slipping while you're playing. (Make sure that you get the same mic and stand at every gig, so that you won't get any nasty surprises!)

 

Hope this helps,

Cheers,

John

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I'm with Steve, as a user of the Microvox system. It works well and is not expensive. There is a 'BUT' though....

 

That BUT is because the sound sources of a Concertina come (mostly) directly from each open hole in the Pad board. These being all around the perimeter of the ends makes finding the best place to fix the microphone almost impossible. At any given point the microphone will be too near some notes and too far from others.

 

Maybe with a Duet or Anglo it would be OK to place the microphone between the hand rest and the keyboard, somewhat in the centre of the end. On the English this is not an option because the keyboard takes up all of the central position.

 

I use two velcro 'stations' for each end, one favours the upper notes and one the lower notes.. neither is ideal but depending on the piece to be played I can move the Mics to suit.

 

A better solution might come from the use of two of those bendy arm Microphones used by Saxophonists ( and Accordionists)

which you might need to screw fix to your EC, but please don't use Posidrive screws, they are so non- traditional and vulgar!

 

If that idea horrifies you then how about using a Midi-concertina, or simplest of all two boom mics.

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I wonder whether a Harmonica mic attached to a ring and worn on the second or third finger of each hand would centre the mics on an English concertina

chris (who doesn't know much about mic'ing instrumentsrolleyes.gif)

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You can call me old-fashioned, but I like the mic separate from the instrument, either as a single mic, or perhaps the luxury of two mics. If you're doing pirate-y things while playing like jumping about or turning 'round the capstan, this will give you much more freedom of movement plus the ability to "work the mic" in unusual ways that you just can't do if the mic is attached and follows you everywhere with an attached cord.

 

With a separate mic you can control your own volume much more easily and work the dynamics, jump over and use someone else's mic for awhile, drop to your knees and sing into it - lots of crazy options here.

 

But, perhaps most importantly for a pirate, you can get a mic stand attachment that holds your grog handy - I've yet to see an attached mic that can do that!

 

Gary

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I have an amp I love. I use it mainly for voice, but that's just because I'm not louder than my concertina.

 

It's battery run, and holds the charge very well. It's... let's see, it's a

 

Crate TX15 Battery Powered Guitar Amp Combo, 15W.

 

 

I love having fewer cords and wires to get tangled up in.

 

That doesn't really solve the mic-ing problem, but it might help, dunno.

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Here's what I wrote in the Concertina FAQ:-

 

Miking Concertinas

 

...is frankly a bit of a bugger. The problem is of course that sound comes from both ends of the instrument, and those ends move around. Usually sound men aim a mic somewhere at the middle of the bellows and hope for the best. A little better is to use two mics, one for each end, but this feels limiting somehow to the player though the sound is improved. In the studio life is much easier as you don't have to cope with ambient sound and can thus use a good condenser mic some way back from the instrument. Use the best mics you can lay your hands on - the timbre of a concertina will defeat cheap mics. My favourite mic for the job is a Rode NT4, which is a stereo condenser that gives you the advantages of stereo miking without worrying about the ends. Plus it sounds really good!

 

There are manufacturers who make a living from devising mics for awkward instruments on stage - some are listed in section 8. As an example we have used Microvox kit. Their system consists of two close mics which you attach one to each end of the concertina using Velcro. Each mic has a lead which runs into a small box you clip on your belt. From this one single lead runs to the DI box. The advantage is that since both mics are held in proximity to the concertina you can move freely, and the sound quality is not bad too (not up to studio standards but that's not the aim).

 

It is worth considering in any situation whether you can get away without miking at all. The tone of a concertina is quite penetrating and sometimes in smaller venues where PA is in use we have used mikes for our voices but not for our concertinas.

 

I asked the concertina maker Colin Dipper whether it would be possible to fit mics permanently within the body of a concertina, but he advised that this would probably have a detrimental effect on the overall sound of the instrument. Having said that, Howard Jones has fitted internal mics to his anglo concertina, apparently without harmful effects, and has put instructions up on the net at www.hjcjones.freeserve.co.uk/music/concertina/mike.htm

 

Chris

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. Having said that, Howard Jones has fitted internal mics to his anglo concertina, apparently without harmful effects, and has put instructions up on the net at www.hjcjones.freeserve.co.uk/music/concertina/mike.htm

 

Although I now use a pair of AKG C416 gooseneck mics, which I attach to the handstraps using velcro cable ties - not as neat-looking a solution, but a better sound and they're quickly swapped between instruments. Unfortunately the C416 is no longer made, and its replacement has a much bulkier mounting attachment which makes it less suitable for concertina (although it's good for melodeon).

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I have successfully used a temporary non marring adhesive known as blue tack or fun tack. The original purpose was to attach posters to walls without puncturing the poster, or a tack in wall. We use it to secure speakers to stands in residential audio projects. Just pull off a small glob, an stick it on the wooden parts of the concertina for the gig, take it off when done. Either the C 416ml, or the newest from AKG a C516ml will work fine with it. The new C 516ml has the advantage of having a detachable, replaceable cable. I still use two sets of C 416ml, with B29l power supplies. Great sound, predictable results and ease of installation. I also like the fact that I am not locked into a seating area, with my entire body covered by mic stands.

 

 

 

 

. Having said that, Howard Jones has fitted internal mics to his anglo concertina, apparently without harmful effects, and has put instructions up on the net at www.hjcjones.freeserve.co.uk/music/concertina/mike.htm

 

Although I now use a pair of AKG C416 gooseneck mics, which I attach to the handstraps using velcro cable ties - not as neat-looking a solution, but a better sound and they're quickly swapped between instruments. Unfortunately the C416 is no longer made, and its replacement has a much bulkier mounting attachment which makes it less suitable for concertina (although it's good for melodeon).

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I'm with Steve, as a user of the Microvox system. It works well and is not expensive. There is a 'BUT' though....

 

That BUT is because the sound sources of a Concertina come (mostly) directly from each open hole in the Pad board. These being all around the perimeter of the ends makes finding the best place to fix the microphone almost impossible. At any given point the microphone will be too near some notes and too far from others.

 

 

Do you think using a compressor in your signal chain would help the weak/strong note response?

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I'm with Steve, as a user of the Microvox system. It works well and is not expensive. There is a 'BUT' though....

 

That BUT is because the sound sources of a Concertina come (mostly) directly from each open hole in the Pad board. These being all around the perimeter of the ends makes finding the best place to fix the microphone almost impossible. At any given point the microphone will be too near some notes and too far from others.

 

 

Do you think using a compressor in your signal chain would help the weak/strong note response?

 

 

Hmmm???? I have no idea... being only a 'mechanical' person myself, but the variation in distance between the closest and furthest notes from the microphone would be in the range of 1/2 inch to 6 inches (for a normal small concertina) and more.

This is quite a range to balance out.

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  • 1 month later...

I've used a Microvox for years, and it has worked fine for me with a few caveats. Big plus on portability, definitely better than 1 normal mic, highly recommend the customer support folks, sound isn't as spectacular as a regular mic, but it's absolutely good enough. About 10 years ago I sent it back because something had come loose and they totally rebuilt it for free. Unbelievable. I recommend them.

 

Not being a hardware guy, there are times when the soundman can't get much volume out of it, even when I have it turned up. I sent it back to the Microvox folks (who are excellent by the way), and they tested it and certified it ok.

 

So I went and got myself a little mini tube amp which I go through on the way to the sound board, and that seems to help, but now I'm dealing with a hum that some sounds guys can fix and some cannot.

 

The other thing is that I absolutely must remember to tell the sound guy to turn down my channel all the way if I plan on turning the microvox on or off. If I don't, I treat everyone within earshot to a sound akin to a lightning bolt striking next to your head. Unfortunately if there is any stray noise or oddness in the sound system, all eyes immediately turn to the concertina player.

 

The absolute best sound I've ever heard come out of my concertina (currently a Morse English), was when I was seated in front of 2 high quality condenser mics on a T shaped stand so they were positioned perfectly on either side, and the sound guy used a compressor. There was little mechanical noise, and the fact that every note spoke equally (volume-wise) was a real treat. I'd never heard it sound so good, it was really exciting to hear. I'm not sure even when you're not mic'd that there is not some variation in volume caused by where your hands are, but boy, a compressor is the next thing I'm going to buy.

 

ed

 

Compression would also have the effect of boosting action noise and rattle, which is something the Microvox is already somewhat subject to.

 

Chris

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