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how to mic a cello
How To Mic A Cello

From time to time, I’m going to share links to articles I’m reading that you might find useful in your musical pursuits.

This one is about how to mic a cello. I’ve never recorded mine, but I was thinking about doing so tonight as I listened to Whitesnake’s ‘Still Of The Night’. I’d love to cover that track, but with real stringed instruments instead of synths.

How to Mic a Cello for Live and Recording

The cello is pure distilled elegance. Its tone is among the most gorgeous and evocative of any instrument. It has the lyrical expression and agility of the violin, in a baritone playing range. Trombone, bassoon, vocalist- nothing would sound so beautiful performing the cello’s definitive melody. The violoncello, as it is properly known, is noteworthy for its emotional range. It can just as easily settle into a classical piece as popsoul, or even hardcore skate punk. While it is often used in emotionally touching settings, it can just as easily be played in a tense, gritty manner; check out the soundtrack from the 1966 version of Farenheit 451 or the arrangement in Eleanor Rigby.

If you are tasked with miking a cello player, you face a heavy task. There is a lot of potential to fulfill. That said, cellos (and other bowed string instruments) are not extremely fussy. They respond well to fairly simple mic technique. The biggest open question is of taste. What sound are you aiming for, and how do you bring that out most effectively. Whether you are at home, in a recording studio, or in a live setting, you can help bring the beauty of cello playing to life…

Read the rest of the article here.

And enjoy David Coverdale’s awesome vocal at the YouTube link below.




Microphone Basics

Eminem, showing how not to hold a microphone

Eminem, showing how not to hold a microphone

For the purposes of this article, the discussion will focus on live microphone technique, rather than studio performance, which I will write about in a later article.

 

Most singers start out learning their craft singing without amplification, e.g. in choirs, at a piano etcetera; some may discover their talent via karaoke nights at local bars. There will come a point when you begin using microphones more and more and it’s good to know your equipment.

 

MICROPHONE BASICS

One thing that is common among beginners, and sometimes with singers who have performed for years, is not holding the microphone properly or failing to utilise it in a way to get the best sonic results from the equipment.

 

Holding the mic round the shell may look cool but impedes sound quality and can create unpleasant feedback. And don’t blow, tap on or drop the microphone, and please please please do not swing it from the cable as this loosens the connecting parts in the end of the microphone (and can also damage the cable). Take note, rappers and cool kids!

 

Singing too close to the microphone creates ‘proximity effect’; a muffled sound which means your voice can get lost in the overall mix by producing lots of bass end. Experienced singers can use this to their advantage, in effect adjusting the tone of their voices while singing by varying the distance and angle of the microphone. If your voice is tired and you’re using an SM58 or similar, singing slightly to the side or above, rather than directly in front will cut out extra lower frequencies, making your voice sound a bit brighter.

 

TYPES OF MICROPHONES

Microphones pick up signals from different areas around the shell (and some in other regions), but it’s safe to say the best position to sing from is directly in front of the microphone shell.

 

Dynamic

If you’ve used a microphone as a beginner, or at karaoke, it’s probably a dynamic one. Designed with a mesh ball cover at one end, the dynamic microphone is used for nearly all live sound (and in the studio it can be used for recording drums, electric guitars and electric basses). Inexpensive and durable, they don’t need a battery or power supply to work (unless wireless models).

 

Dynamic microphones do not pick up high frequencies well and so are rarely used for recording studio vocals. However, they have a warm tone sympathetic to most voices in a live setting and are most effective when working with loud sound sources (so ideal if singing on a small stage in front of a loud drummer).

 

Capacitor/Condenser

Capacitor/condenser microphones are much more sensitive than dynamic microphones, with a wider range of frequencies picked up. Capacitors produce only a small electrical signal (48v) and so require a built-in pre-amp to bring the signal up to a useable level (a factor that makes them more expensive than dynamic microphones).

 

Most mixing desks have a phantom power supply (which boosts the signal by 48v). Because of their relative fragility compared to dynamics and pick-up range, capacitor microphones are not commonly used for live performances (other than lead singers).

 

Capacitor microphones are offered in a variety of pickup patterns (see the diagram below). For a more in-depth discussion about microphones, please visit Sound On Sound.

 

MICROPHONE POLAR PATTERNS

Microphone Polar Patterns

The image above shows the various pick-up patterns of microphones. Most dynamic microphones have Cardioid/Hypercardioid (a unidirectional pick-up), which is ideal for live performance.

 

CHOOSING A BRAND FOR YOUR VOICE

This is all down to personal preference. The two most popular live brands among singers I have worked with are Shure and Sennheiser. I personally prefer Shure microphones for my voice, as Sennheiser tend to make me sound a little hissy and don’t always work well with my natural frequencies (higher spec models aside), but some other singers I know with a clearer tone prefer Sennheiser microphones.

 

When you go to purchase a mic, the store will usually have PA equipment set up for you to try out a few. The Shure SM58, a basic all-rounder is a good place to start, in my opinion. I was also pleased with my Beyer microphone, but found it irrepairable after dropping at a gig, so my experience is that they are more delicate than the SM58.

 

 

In a later article, I will write about EQ on the mixer and how to utilise it to achieve your best vocal sound. We will also discuss the varying mic techniques employed by lead and backing vocalists.

 

Copyright © Emma L. M. Sweeney 2010. All Rights Reserved. No portion of this article may be reproduced without the express written permission of the copyright holder, except as follows: You may repost this article on your website or blog, providing the articles and author are not depicted in a negative manner, and you have linked back to this original page.

Image sources:

Beyonce http://musicinterest101.wordpress.com/2009/12/10/possible-beyonce-300-milli-deal-in-vegas/
Eminem http://www.eminem.net/tracks/lose_yourself/
SM58 http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/SM58/