About guitars....mics and such


#1

I have a passive pickup (McIntyre…installed by Carl himself in '95) in my D-28. I’m a new flatpicker from the world of finger-style playing, and I got the pickup installed to sit in on the RARE occasion with a buddy of mine. It worked fine for what I needed, then.

I’m planning on getting an upgrade from my current acoustic amp, soon. Thinking about the Marshall (I forget the letters) 50W (new one) and I want a pair of mic stands and mics for my man cave. Eventually, I’d like to get a set of 4 (2 vocal and 2 instrument mics) in case I have a friend who wants to play here). For the interim, I’d like to use the 1st pair as 1 vocal and 1 instrument mic. Knowing nothing about mics (other than I hear good things about condenser mics), will a decent instrument mic work well for vocals (and vice-versa)? Any suggestions that won’t break the bank? I’d like to get used to playing this way, as the bluegrass jam I’m starting to go to (tomorrow’s my first ever) has this setup at most stations (I’m thinking I’ll stay in the shadows, un-mic’d, until I gain more confidence).

Several questions, I know. I appreciate anyone’s input.


#2

Hey JV,
Sounds like that will be a fun setup.

One thing I can recommend you try out is the Fishman Loudbox Mini amp. I was gonna get one of those marshall amps until I played on this one. I have the fishman and love it. I love the sound of it for a vocal and instrument amp. It has one balanced (mic) channel and one line channel. It’s tiny but doesn’t sound like it. I appreciate that, because as a teen I used to lug around a bi-amped bass rig to get the sound I wanted. It does have a balanced out for feeding a PA. The only downside, the mic channel does not have phantom power (condensers typically need phantom power). I picked up a cheapie ($30) tube preamp with phantom power, and that problem is solved. They have a higher power unit now ($500 range) that does have phantom power, but oddly, I don’t like the sound of the amp as well. Admittedly, I generally plug into my amp when I am using it (typically playing at churches). Micing an instrument, it sounds pretty good when I have tried it and I did play out with it as such once and I thought it sounded decent.

As far as mics, it all depends on how much money you want to spend and what your voice sounds like. As far as a simple vocal workhorse, a Shure SM58 ($100) is staple in many bands. For grass in particular, you usually see more condensers in use such as the AT 40 series ($300 and up) and 20 series as well ($100 and up). I think those might a really good bet for instruments AND vocals as those are better than many condensers for vocals (many that are great for instruments are kind of harsh for vocals). Shure SM81s (about $350) are great instrument mics. I have heard that an SM7 ($350?) is great for many vocalists, but I have not personally used one. If you want to spend more on mics, you can find plenty of opportunities. There are many mics that run into the thousands of dollars. All that said, I bought some extremely cheap condensers (MXL 990 and 991) for recording, and I was blown away by their performance. They aren’t vocal friendly, but they were about $100 for the pair and I am thrilled with them for instruments.

Sorry… that was just kind of a flood of info, but I wasn’t really sure what price range you were looking. Once you give us that info, perhaps I and others can maybe give some more specific help.


#3

+1 on the MXL mics. I have the 992/993 studio package and have been happy with them. I’m no recording expert by any means but they seem to get favorable reviews around the web. Don’t think they make those particular models anymore but you can usually find that package used around the internet for around $150. I think I paid a little less for mine on ebay several years ago.


#4

I love microphones (which is probably why I own so many).

If you are thinking of using your microphones strictly for PA purposes only, then you should consider some sort of cardioid or hyper-cardioid microphones. Dynamic microphones do not require external power and tend to be less prone to feedback. Condenser microphones can either be internally (battery) or externally (phantom) powered and are often more prone to feedback. Most folks prefer the sound of a condenser over a dynamic and condensers tend to be more sensitive when compared to dynamics. Shure 57/58s are dynamics and MXL 900 series mics are condensers.

If you are sure you will not use your microphones for anything but live PA use, then you may want to consider getting a set of good dynamic microphones. If you will be using them for live vocal use, make sure that the microphones have a good built-in wind/pop screen. If you will be using 2 microphones for instruments only, you can consider getting a decent pair of condensers. The diaphragm in condenser microphones are generally more delicate when compared to dynamic mic diaphragms. So using them for instruments rather than vocals (sensitive diaphragms hate moisture and wind from your mouth!), is okay and will also give you the ability to occasionally use them for recording.

So my suggestion is to get 2 decent dynamic microphones (for vocal PA use) and 2 decent condenser microphones (for instrumental PA use and occasional recording).

Which mics? I too have been bitten by the MXL bug and own (2) 4000s, (2) 2001s, (2) 603s and a V900 for a more vintage live appearance (band standing around a single mic).
http://g-ecx.images-amazon.com/images/G/01/ciu/43/cb/507de03ae7a04a6449533210.L.jpg

Of those mics, I really like the sound of the MXL 4000s. They are smooth, warm, clear and can be set up as cardioid, figure 8 or omni-directional. They work very well for recording, but may be a bit too big for PA use (but sound amazing in a PA) and watch out for feedback!

Probably your best bet on the cheap is to get 2 Shure SM58s (or a less expensive quality knock off like the ES58 http://www.speakerrepair.com/page/category/microphones.html ) and a pair of MXL condenser instrument microphones like the 603s http://www.amazon.com/MXL-603-PAIR-INSTRUMENT-MICROPHONE-SHOCK-MOUNTS/dp/B004Y36OSQ.

Whatever you decide, have fun choosing and learn how to use your new mics to their best advantage.


#5

I’d like to have that V900 in my music room just for looks alone!


#6

That V900 is sweet looking. I have been peeking about for a while, thinking of getting a warmer mic for vocal recording. It sounds like the MXL 4000 might be a good bet. Doc, do you use that for close micing, or do you generally back off of it a bit? While I was looking up the 4000, I saw the MXL Genesis tube condenser. If it sounds as good as it looks, that would be one great sounding mic.


#7

You guys are great. But, for future reference, I am NOT close to being a professional musician…lol. All I want is a spot in the man cave where two people can sit and play their instruments through mics…and possibly do some vocals, there, too.

If and when I ever do any bluegrass playing “out”, I’d definitely want a nice instrument mic, anyway.

You gave me great info to get me going.

RE: mic stands, now…is there one that will work standing or sitting (instrument & mic stand)?

Thanks again.


#8

A boom mic stand will do the trick. You can stand, sit, or lay on the floor. They are available at just about any music store. Mics usually come with the clip to hold that particular mic and they just thread onto the mic stand.

If you want to want to put a pair of mics on a single stand (i.e. to add an instrument to a vocal mic stand), you can add a side boom. They are about $10 to $15.


#9

Here’s a typical mic stand like Mike was talking about. It’ll go 6 inches from the floor to 7 feet high and everywhere in between.


#10

— Begin quote from “mreisz”

That V900 is sweet looking. I have been peeking about for a while, thinking of getting a warmer mic for vocal recording. It sounds like the MXL 4000 might be a good bet. Doc, do you use that for close micing, or do you generally back off of it a bit? While I was looking up the 4000, I saw the MXL Genesis tube condenser. If it sounds as good as it looks, that would be one great sounding mic.

— End quote

Sorry for the slow response, things have been busy at home for the last few weeks…

I use the 4000 for lots of different applications (mostly recording applications). While recording, it works very well at any distance from 1 foot to 50 feet. For voice, I keep if far enough away not to cause popping (about 18 inches) and even then I use a pop filter between the singer and the mic. They do a very nice job recording choirs, but honestly are so large as to be distracting to the audience. I would describe the tone as clear, warm, full. The tone is not harsh, brittle or boomy. They sound less bright than my Shure SM81s (standard recording industry small condenser microphone) bit I do not find them lacking in treble or overtone content. Compared to the MXL 2001s, the 4000s have a more honest, refined tone (less colored).

I have used the 4000s a few times for PA use and that can be a bit dicey. They are condenser microphones after all and tend to pick up even slight sounds. In PA use, they work best if your speakers are well in front of you and the area you are playing has no reflecting surfaces (walls) that can throw your sound back at you (and cause feedback). Of course, this sound like outside would be a good choice, but if you are outside the sensitivity of the microphone picks up the slightest wind noise. Again, using these mics for PA use can be quite problematic.

The MXL V900 is an interesting mic. We have used that mic to perform with a PA and it works as long as you have in-ear monitors. Again, it is a condenser and is prone to feedback. But I do not own a full set of in-ear monitors for our band, but I love the way it looks when we perform standing around it.

Both the 4000 and the V900 have pretty wide cardioid pick up patterns.

MXL is making some pretty cool mics these days. A friend of mine, who has been in the recording industry for 30+ years and has a locker full of Neumanns, Shures, AKGs, Sennheisers and much more, recommended I check out MXL mics about 10 years back. He claimed that MXL was coming out with microphones that easily rivaled some of the best sounding mics he had ever owned and used for a small fraction of the purchase price. I think he might be right.


#11

Thanks for the feedback (pun intended). No worries on the timing, things are busy here too. I checked at my local GC, and they did not have a 4000. I think my next move is to try out an SM7 from GC. They said they don’t rent them out, but you can buy it to try it. If it’s not a good fit, bring it back. If the SM7 is a good fit for what I am looking for, problem solved. Otherwise, I’ll probably order a 4000. Even if it’s not a good match for what I am looking for, it sounds like it would be a handy mic for lot’s of applications.


#12

MMMmmmmmm… the SM7.

That is the one mic I have been gassing for over the last 25 years and have not found a good reason (other than I want one) to purchase it. Most of my equipment purchases are funded by the need to have that piece of equipment to make money. I haven’t “needed” an SM7, but I really want one. They supposedly sound amazing when used for voice recording. They are impressive looking and make even gentle voiced radio personalities sound robust. :wink:


#13

As if on cue, I received an email from Guitar Center (GC) this morning. This weekend for every $50 you spend you get $10 on a gift card for use at GC (it has to be used in a certain timeframe and other legal mumbo jumbo). I had a flight student after work, but I got done with that, then I went over to GC and picked up an SM7 and a 3’ mic cord (I just needed something to add a penny to the price to get to the next $50 increment). I just got back, so I haven’t opened it yet… we’ll see how it goes. Maybe it will make me sound like Frank Sinatra. Maybe I’ll sound like Barney Fife. Only time will tell.


#14

First impression of the SM7… it’s a keeper. My recorded voice sounds more like I “hear” my voice, than on any other mic I have tried. That’s not to say it’s more accurate… in fact I think the problem with SDCs for vocals is they are too accurate. The SM7 sounds like an SM58 on steroids, I mean that in a good way. Where it really shines is when you mix it. I made some vocal harmonies against a guitar track, and the harmonies blend real well. I EQ’d and compressed them and they slid into the mix well. The SM7 takes a ton of gain, but my focusrite has enough. Not sure, but I think I like leaving the high pass filter off and maybe the presence boost as well. So far so good.


#15

— Begin quote from “jv nc”

I’m a new flatpicker from the world of finger-style playing, and I got the pickup installed to sit in on the RARE occasion with a buddy of mine.

— End quote

So what are a few of your favorite finger style songs? I play a little finger style here and there, nothing too complex but I enjoy the sound. Even grew my nails out for it a while back but now I use a thumbpick. The Chet sound is so incredible to me…and lately I’ve been listening to Tommy Emmanuel on youtube. Wow…


#16

My greatest influence on the guitar, to date, has been JT. I can play most anything he does…just "maybe :laughing: " not as clean. I did the nails thing for a while, too. One thing I love about flatpicking is I don’t have to deal with that, anymore. I pretty much don’t play fingerstyle anymore. I’ve kind of lost interest in it.


#17

— Begin quote from “jv nc”

I did the nails thing for a while, too. One thing I love about flatpicking is I don’t have to deal with that, anymore.

— End quote

I did the nails thing as well. I am not the king of style and don’t generally worry about such things, but with working on mechanical things, it was hard to keep my nails from looking just nasty. Long nails + black greasy stuff = some grungy looking fingers. I generally don’t grow my nails out anymore. Sometimes now, I will do just my thumb if I am playing some fingerstyle (I did that around last Christmas).


#18

— Begin quote from “jv nc”

My greatest influence on the guitar, to date, has been JT. I can play most anything he does…just "maybe :laughing: " not as clean. I did the nails thing for a while, too. One thing I love about flatpicking is I don’t have to deal with that, anymore. I pretty much don’t play fingerstyle anymore. I’ve kind of lost interest in it.

— End quote

JT as in James Taylor? Nice…I can only play one of his, Fire & Rain. Generic and maybe overplayed yeah, but I like it. It’s a tough one for me to play and sing at the same time though.

I’d like to learn Sweet Baby James, I haven’t really spent a lot of time on it but I think I have a tab or chord sheet in my notebook for it.

One of the best songs in my little mental set is a finger pick version of Country Roads. I love playing that and I can play it much better via fingers than pick. Seems to flow better that way for me.

~Mike


#19

— Begin quote from “mswhat”

One of the best songs in my little mental set is a finger pick version of Country Roads. I love playing that and I can play it much better via fingers than pick. Seems to flow better that way for me.

— End quote

Another JD song that is great for solo fingers and singing is “Sunshine on my shoulders.” It’s a simple way I play with it, but there is a G to C transition thing that makes it kind of nice. It’s an easy song to sing along with too.


#20

Ben must have been trolling around our chatter…I see he posted a finger style lesson! :smiley: