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FiL
09-20-2017, 07:06 AM
Anybody have experience playing miked ukes in a band setting?

I play ukulele (and a few other instruments) in a number of bands, and I've always used instruments with pickups. But I have a number of instruments without pickups that I never get to play out with. I was just adding up the cost of equipping them all with pickups, and once it got to be north of $1000, I started to wonder if I should just learn to mic my instruments instead.

I don't move around a whole lot, so I think I could live with that particular downside, but I wonder if I will be opening myself up to too many feedback issues, or if I will get lost in the mix when all the other instruments are plugged in.

Anyone care to share their experiences?

- FiL

kohanmike
09-20-2017, 07:39 AM
I add a pickup and preamp to my ukes one at a time, which I actually do myself. Why do you need to do them all at once? Do one, play it for a while, when you're ready, do the next one. Spread out the expense over time.

I've also used microphones, in my case wireless so I don't have to carry long cables, but you don't realize how locked into a position you will be.

FiL
09-20-2017, 08:09 AM
Thanks for your reply, Mike. I don't necessarily need to do them all at once, but whether I do them all at once or one at a time, I'll still be spending the same amount of money.

Most of the time when I play, I'm reading chord/lyric sheets from my iPad, so I'm already a bit locked in place, though not quite as much as I would need to be if I went with a mic.

- FiL

dhbailey
09-20-2017, 10:56 AM
While the possibility of feedback issues is always present, if you read up on micing guitars, ukuleles, violins, mandolins you can gather some great information and then you just have to practice in live situations. Mostly feedback is the result of either of several things: 1) the mic is in front of the PA and amp speakers, so it picks up what the speakers are putting out which is what the instrument is playing to begin with, so you get feedback, or 2) the mic is at a 90-degree angle (i.e. straight out) the flat surface of the front of the instrument. If you have the mic off-axis so it's not straight out from the instrument and you keep it behind the plane of the speakers you should be okay. The third thing which causes feedback is when you have to have the gain and the volume up way high on your amplifier (or the P.A. channel for your mic) because everybody else is playing too loud (usually unnecessarily loud, but that's another discussion entirely).

Contact sweetwater.com and ask their tech support people for advice on what sort of mic to buy for the instruments you use. They're very helpful and knowledgeable.

Booli
09-20-2017, 12:45 PM
Aloha FiL,

If you've not heard of nor thought about the iRig Acoustic Stage, which came out last January, you might find this thread informative:

http://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/showthread.php?125196-NEW-iRig-Acoustic-Stage-99

There also are other pickups and contact mics that are NOT permanent installs, that use 'isodynamic' or 'heterdynamic 'elements and do much better with rejecting feedback, made both by Schertler and Schaller...I will have to dig for the links and then report back...

...also tiny, hyper-cardioid clip-on mics made by DPA, but these can get really pricey....(links coming in another post)...

Tootler
09-21-2017, 05:55 AM
You could try the bluegrass band technique of a single condenser mic set a bit lower than you would a vocal mic so it picks up both the voice and instrument. I first saw it done at a uke festival in the Netherlands about 3 years ago and was impressed how effective it was. I've seen it done a few times since and have played using one myself. Mostly a large diaphragm condenser is used but I've tried it with a small diaphragm condenser and it works almost as well.

I recently had a hot spot at a pub not far from here. I took my LDC condenser mic but the desk had no phantom power and although I have box to provide phantom power in such situations the desk was still not picking up the mic. Fortunately I had taken my SDC as a backup as it has a battery inside as and doesn't need phantom power and it worked perfectly. I set the mic about neck height and pointing to my mouth and stood about 12" - 18" from the mic and it picked up both my voice and ukulele just fine.

You need a condenser mic for this rather than a dynamic mic as a condenser mic is more sensitive.

FiL
09-21-2017, 06:35 AM
Thanks, guys. Booli, that iRig Acoustic Stage looks promising, though it won't work for the banjo-uke. Maybe one of those and a Myers Grip will cover my needs.

- FiL

SailingUke
09-21-2017, 06:37 AM
If I did not already have pickups in my gigging instruments I would go with the iRig Stage.
I played one on guitar and uke and was REALLY impressed. Easy to switch between instruments too.

robedney
09-21-2017, 12:06 PM
I go on about this occasionally when the subject comes up:

There is nothing wrong with under-saddle piezos so long as you take their limitations into account. Here's the thing: A piezo strip under the saddle is getting an overwhelming proportion of energy directly from the saddle (as activated by the strings). That means that very little of the signal is coming from actual body resonance. Yes, you do get some input from the body -- but it's overwhelmed pretty easily by the saddle. So, the sound you are going to get is pretty much the same between a beautifully made and perfectly voiced uke and a 2by4 (or a Risa stick).

A good mic, on the other hand, will capture the full sound of the uke. That's why HMS and others demo their ukes online using a microphone, even if there's a pickup installed.

Also, as Booli frequently and very correctly points out, you can't feed a piezo signal directly into a mixer (or amp). The impedance mismatch is on the huge side. You will get sound, but you won't get accurate, good sound. That means that you need to go through some sort of pre-amp circuit designed to match impedance -- and nearly all of these things include some sort of equalizer. You are subject, then, to the quality of the circuit design and the limitations of the user controls.

An under saddle piezo is extraordinarily practical from a working musician's point of view, but it will never, ever give you a true sampling of what the uke is capable of -- it's a physical impossibility.

I did get mildly excited when the folks at MiSi started showing off a combined under saddle pickup and internal mic all running through their capacitor charged pre-amp. Last time I researched this it appears not to have worked well.

Booli
09-21-2017, 12:39 PM
Thanks, guys. Booli, that iRig Acoustic Stage looks promising, though it won't work for the banjo-uke. Maybe one of those and a Myers Grip will cover my needs.

- FiL

If your banjo-uke has a metal rim around the head, you can place the MEMS mic from the iRig such that it 'clips' and rests on the rim, in much the same way as it fits to the soundhole of a uke or guitar, or the F-holes on a mandolin...

Even if you do not have a rim around the banjo-uke's head, you can fix the MEMS mic to the edge of whatever is there, a retaining ring? with a small pea-sized bit of blue fun-tak, and as long as the mic head has the opening to the banjo skin, you should get a very nice pickup.

You could ALSO place the MEMS mic on the dowel-rod in much the same way, either with the fun-tak or some gaffers-tape. Just aim the holes in the mic to the banjo-ukes skin....

IKMM also sells replacement MEMS mic modules ($40, in their SHOP pages, under ACCESSORIES/PARTS), which comes with the attached cable, and if your banjo-uke has a resonator, and/or is closed-back, you could get an extra mic module, install it inside the banjo-uke, and just have the tiny cord coming out and when switching instruments during a performance, just mute your amp, and move the preamp module over and plug in the mic that is inside the banjo-uke....

I may be able to come up with some other ideas, but you can get a great, hot signal from this little MEMS mic, and with it mounted to the soundboard or banjo-head, it is the closest you will get with a mic that does not have some kind of flexible arm, that you have to fidget with so it is not in the way of your strumming hand...

anthonyg
09-21-2017, 10:22 PM
I perform on stage all the time with microphones but I must admit that I play mostly solo.

Anyway, the feedback problem stems directly from using too much foldback/monitor volume. If you can perform without your ukulele in YOUR monitor , then there will be much less feedback.

The other important issue is stage volume. If the whole band can keep the stage volume down then there is minimal problems. The issue arises when every musician is competing volume wise with everyone around them and then continually asking the engineer to turn them up in the foldback. In order to turn up the monitor volume the engineer turns down the front of house volume. If you keep the monitor volume down then the front of house volume can go up.

It takes discipline within the band to make it work well but most bands are notorious for a lack of discipline.

FiL
09-22-2017, 03:05 AM
The problem for me is that I work in a wide variety of situations, from impromptu open mic collaborations to solo performances to acoustic trios to full bands with keyboards, electric guitar, bass, and drums. In thinking it over, I suspect that going the mic route will end up causing too many headaches. I'm a bit suspicious of the iRig Acoustic Stage's ability to stand up to heavy use, but I may give it a go and see what it can do.

- FiL

RafterGirl
09-22-2017, 08:37 AM
I'm glad I started reading this thread, as I've been debating about getting a pickup installed in my ukes. I'm not sure how much plugged in playing I will do. I'm just a novice of 6 months, and I know things will change as I continue to play. The iRig seems like a good way to try it out without altering my instruments.

Booli
09-22-2017, 08:55 AM
The iRig sounds really nice.

However, similar to the Mi-Si and LR Baggs pickups, there is a bit of a 'thuddy' sound from the initial string attack that can be easily remedied by notching out somewhere between 150hz-200hz on your eq on the amp or if you use a preamp/DI box that has eq functions. The exact frequency and how much to reduce will depend upon each individual instrument.

I've also had pleasing tones during recording with the iRig Acoustic Stage by placing it in a clip-style mic stand, aimed at the 12th fret, and about 8-12" away from the uke or guitar. This gives a much fuller, balanced sound with a small bit of the natural room ambiance.

Not sure if this alternate placement would be useful for live performance as the volume levels will likely create feedback issues unless as said by others, one watches the stage monitor volumes, as well as stage monitor and mic placement relative to each other.

If you want to use the iRig while NOT attached to the sound-hole, the MEMS mic from the iRig is omni-directional, and I would think not ideal for large venues where volume levels might be up around 100 db, and in those larger venues, a cardioid mic, or better yet super-cardioid or hyper-cardioid mics with a narrower pickup pattern will likely work better to reject feedback, such as a Shure SM-57 placed no more than 6-8" away from the uke, pointing at the 12th fret.

Even an SM-57 mic, pointing directly into the sound-hole is likely to cause feedback.

robedney
09-22-2017, 09:21 AM
Used to mic full acoustic bands with a sack full of SM-57 mics. Works great. Durable mics, durable XLR connectors/cables, no skinny or thin bits to break, balanced output, etc. Works a treat in front of a ukulele and can withstand being stuck in front of a guitar amp for mega-concerts. Been around since the '60s and still in wide use.

RafterGirl
10-04-2017, 01:27 PM
I received the iRig Acoustic today. I spent about 45 minutes trying it out on all my ukes. I was plugged into a Blackstar Fly amp. I have the main Backstair Fly unit with the extension unit on order. The piezo fit snuggly on my Islander tenor, but did not fit snuggly on my KoAloha concert or my Bonanza HPL concert. The Bonanza did not surprise me, but I was bummed about the KoAloha. A little piece of poster putty fixed the problem, but I wish it fit without having to use it. The function and sound is 100% better than the other stick-on piezo I tried. The cable on the piezo is quite thin, so I'll have to be super careful with it. Since I'm just a novice, I can't really say whether it's professional quality sound. I'm just messing around with an amp for fun and have no past experience to judge by. It did what I expected, and I can use it on all my ukes. I experimented with the different tone options and found the natural setting to be the most accurate for tone. The natural + nylon setting wasn't bad. The warm setting worked best on my bright-toned KoAloha. I paid $99 on Amazon and it came with an 18 ft. audio cable. I'm happy with it.

Booli
10-04-2017, 02:27 PM
I received the iRig Acoustic today. I spent about 45 minutes trying it out on all my ukes. I was plugged into a Blackstar Fly amp. I have the main Backstair Fly unit with the extension unit on order. The piezo fit snuggly on my Islander tenor, but did not fit snuggly on my KoAloha concert or my Bonanza HPL concert. The Bonanza did not surprise me, but I was bummed about the KoAloha. A little piece of poster putty fixed the problem, but I wish it fit without having to use it. The function and sound is 100% better than the other stick-on piezo I tried. The cable on the piezo is quite thin, so I'll have to be super careful with it. Since I'm just a novice, I can't really say whether it's professional quality sound. I'm just messing around with an amp for fun and have no past experience to judge by. It did what I expected, and I can use it on all my ukes. I experimented with the different tone options and found the natural setting to be the most accurate for tone. The natural + nylon setting wasn't bad. The warm setting worked best on my bright-toned KoAloha. I paid $99 on Amazon and it came with an 18 ft. audio cable. I'm happy with it.

If the clip is too loose on the sound-hole, you can take an old paper-towel or bathroom-tissue carboard core, and cut a piece off, and then place the MEMS mic over it, and trace the shape, and then cut the shape out, and trim as necessary.

Then this new cardboard triangular shape you can use as a shim between the underside (where the rubbery surface is) of the mic and the top of the instrument.

A guitar pick also works well, as does a cut peice from a sheet of craft foam.

I've used all the above, and if you try it, you will not want to use the poster putty again. Just be advised that when you remove the mic, the carboard or other shim is going to fall off, so you need to keep an eye on that....

if it were just for a single instrument you could use a glue-stick putting only a dab on the cardboard, to adhere the shim to the inside of the mic, but for instruments that have different soundboard thicknesses, this will be a problem and leave a gummy residue on the mic, which could get transferred to your instrument's top and possibly interact with the finish or the wood, unless you clean it all off.

Myself, I just use the shim and let if fall off, and if it gets lost, I make another (yes I have a few cardboard paper-towel rolls saved that I use for other things as well)...

I am glad that you like the sound. My iRig Acoustic Stage has served me well at home, used solely for recording when I cannot isolate myself from background noise, for due to it's proximity/attachment method, background sounds are minimized.

Doug W
10-04-2017, 02:55 PM
Used to mic full acoustic bands with a sackful of SM-57 mics.
We don't have a sackful but my wife and I each have one, plus an SM-58 and an RDA86 and a couple of condenser mics. With the 4 or 5 SM-57s that our other band-mate owns we possibly reach a sackful.

RafterGirl
10-05-2017, 01:26 AM
If the clip is too loose on the sound-hole, you can take an old paper-towel or bathroom-tissue carboard core, and cut a piece off, and then place the MEMS mic over it, and trace the shape, and then cut the shape out, and trim as necessary.

Then this new cardboard triangular shape you can use as a shim between the underside (where the rubbery surface is) of the mic and the top of the instrument.

A guitar pick also works well, as does a cut peice from a sheet of craft foam.

I've used all the above, and if you try it, you will not want to use the poster putty again. Just be advised that when you remove the mic, the carboard or other shim is going to fall off, so you need to keep an eye on that....

if it were just for a single instrument you could use a glue-stick putting only a dab on the cardboard, to adhere the shim to the inside of the mic, but for instruments that have different soundboard thicknesses, this will be a problem and leave a gummy residue on the mic, which could get transferred to your instrument's top and possibly interact with the finish or the wood, unless you clean it all off.

Myself, I just use the shim and let if fall off, and if it gets lost, I make another (yes I have a few cardboard paper-towel rolls saved that I use for other things as well)...

I am glad that you like the sound. My iRig Acoustic Stage has served me well at home, used solely for recording when I cannot isolate myself from background noise, for due to it's proximity/attachment method, background sounds are minimized.
Thanks Booli. I'll give that a try.