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View Full Version : HELP re: moving from plugging in ukulele to mic-ing ukulele



DaveY
05-11-2014, 10:16 AM
When I started playing, I held the uke close to the vocal mic and "shared." Primitive, I know. Since then I've been plugging in and appreciating the freedom, and the better sound (because I'm not sharing the mic I realize that a correctly mic-ed sound is more natural).

Now I am thinking of purchasing a uke (spruce top "super concert") whose loudness and price make me reluctant to add the cost of a pickup.

My question is: Has anyone gone from relying on plugging in to mic-ing their uke, and if so, have you had any problems, including being locked in to a standing or sitting position (from not moving the uke, for the most part) . . . or any others?

Also, would a Shure SM58 or Rode M1 (vocal) mic work fine? Or do you recommend another mic for the instrument? I would be using my own sound or (less often) someone else's.

Thanks.

OldePhart
05-11-2014, 10:43 AM
The SM58 or M1 will work but a condensor microphone (large or small diaphram) is generally better. I have a Rode M3 that is excellent for acoustic instruments.

I detest playing live with a microphone - if you are spending several hundred dollars on a nice uke the extra dollars for a good pickup are well spent, IMHO.

Recording - I loves my M3 and rarely use a UST for recording. (I will use the under-soundboard transducer of my ukes that have them for recording though - it's almost as good as a microphone without the extra hassle.)


John

Ukuleleblues
05-11-2014, 11:31 AM
We use Spc-15 condenser mics almost all the time.

spc-15 (http://www.musiciansfriend.com/condenser-microphones/nady-spc-15-condenser-microphone-buy-2-save)

One for me (uke, harmonica, vocals). One for my wife (uke and vocals). If we have a wall behind us it even picks up the bass bucket and there is no need to mic it.

I've used 4 on my friends band, (violin & vocals), (uke & vocals), (guitar), (upright bass). Used them the for open mic ( 1 per performer). I have had a lot of comments how nice the sound is from other musicians.

The down side is they need phantom power & it is tricky to control feedback at high volumes. When using a stage monitor I point it toward my ear from the front side to minimize the required volume to make it effective.

They are relatively sturdy but I did loose one when it did a direct head on hit on concrete while attached to the stand.
Musicians friend sells 2 cheaper than the single price so you can but 1 for $44 or 2 for $39.

I have also used the mxl-990 (http://www.musiciansfriend.com/condenser-microphones/mxl-990-condenser-microphone-with-shockmount)

Howling Hobbit from this forum told me about them.

I've used just one to mic three of us. 2 uke playing singers and one bass bucket. I've used three for a swing band (with 1 spc-15)

They are even more sensitive to feedback. The also need a full 48v phantom power. Seem fairly sturdy, had three do a header off a three foot high stage when wind tore loose a tarp and knocked them over (scared me to death, boom and I am standing there with a uke in hand covered with a tarp telling a story about the history of the ukulele).

I bought 3 on sale for 59 each. It's kind of cool to have one mic and when you solo or sing you just get a little closer. We used this setup a lot this year for Christmas shows.

Although I like using a plugged in instrument and dynamic mic. (Easy feedback control) I perform with 1 GCEA soprano, 1 ADF#B concert, 1 DGBE baritone and Guitar (and occasional lap steel) By the time I get everything hooked up and EQed the stage looks like a wiring closet and it is closing time.

My wife plays a GCEA and ADF#B uke so it's not quite so bad for her.

I've tried mini mixers mounted on the mic stand, ABC switches, multiple pedal EQs to work around it but always come back to the SPC-15s.

I tried 2 dynamic mics on a stand for each of us but with dynamics you have to be right on the mic. Sometimes we play 3 or more hours and is tiring to stay glued to the mic stand.

Long post hope you find it helpful.

DaveY
05-11-2014, 04:19 PM
Thanks to both of you for your responses. I guess it's a tradeoff of feedback problems for a wider pickup pattern, or feedback avoidance for a more limited pickup pattern (and even less freedom of movement).

I think I'm just trying to convince myself that I can get by without a pickup, but I know there'll come a time when I wish I had one. So as John suggests: just get one.

Dan Uke
05-11-2014, 04:21 PM
Definitely condenser mics that need phantom power. I have a pair for stereo recording but if I was performing, I would just use one.

OldePhart
05-12-2014, 02:25 AM
I think I'm just trying to convince myself that I can get by without a pickup, but I know there'll come a time when I wish I had one. So as John suggests: just get one.

Yep...and just because you have it doesn't mean you have to use it in any given situation -- but like many things it is better to have it and not need it than run into that situation where you need it and don't have it. That's why I like the MiSi pickup so well...even though it needs some outboard EQ (at the board is usually sufficient) to really shine on a ukulele. It is the sort of thing you can pretty much forget is there but it is there when you suddenly find you need it.

John

anthonyg
05-12-2014, 03:14 AM
I can't STAND under-saddle piezo pickups. If the only choice I had was an under saddle piezo then I might give up. Rant over/

Anyway I play seated regardless so staying put isn't an issue. I use a K&K Sound Meridian pro microphone system with its battery powered pre-amp. This will allow you some movement if you want as the microphone is clamped to the instrument. I also use a Audix VX5 condenser microphone which is your regular vocal microphone type requiring phantom power. As others have said a dynamic microphone will work but condensers are generally better.

Mind you.

Cheap condenser microphones can be REALLY harsh and nasal. Dynamic microphones generally suffer from being too dull and unresponsive for a ukulele but a really good dynamic thats known for being clear and not muddy such as an Audix OM series or a good EV microphone can be a good choice.

Anthony

peaceweaver3
05-12-2014, 05:50 AM
Yep...and just because you have it doesn't mean you have to use it in any given situation -- but like many things it is better to have it and not need it than run into that situation where you need it and don't have it. That's why I like the MiSi pickup so well...even though it needs some outboard EQ (at the board is usually sufficient) to really shine on a ukulele. It is the sort of thing you can pretty much forget is there but it is there when you suddenly find you need it.

John

+1. I've only been using the Mi-Si for a week. Love that thing, set it and forget it, and less to carry around. I'm the only one carrying stuff and setting it up (amp, uke, stool, CD's to sell, etc), and that's important to me. :o

Ukuleleblues
05-13-2014, 03:09 AM
Hey DaveY,

Check out the Stupid Deal of the Day.

http://www.musiciansfriend.com/stupid?icid=205528

Like I said I've used the MXL990 live, don't know what the differences are between it and the 910. They have a return policy that might be worth checking. Guitar Center might honor this price if they stock the mic.

DaveY
05-13-2014, 07:51 AM
Ukeblues, thanks for the tip -- I saw that in my email today, too. But yesterday I remembered that I already have a condensor mic -- M-Audio Nova -- that I suspect is inferior to the MXL990. I'd be tempted to buy the MXL anyway, except I'm saving for a uke purchase.

phil_doleman
09-04-2014, 09:01 AM
I plugged in my uke, often a solid body electric model, when I toured in 'rock uke' duo. It worked, as we needed to be loud (to compete with rowdy drunken pub crowds!) and it fitted with the image we were trying to project.

Since moving over to playing blues and jazz as a solo act, I've gradually been working on moving over to using a single large diaphragm mic to pick up both my uke and vocal. Why? Well, it sounds better (providing it's done well, of course), it allows you to play with the dynamics by moving in and out of the mic, and I can play ANY uke I own, not just the ones I've drilled holes in and fitted pickups to. Also, my setup is now limited to a mic, plugged in with a single cable, on a stand. Simple, clean, easy to carry, set up and break down.

My mic isn't an expensive one (and if I find that this works for me in enough venues I'll probably get myself a Rode NT-1. They sound good, they're well built, and they're not so expensive that I'd be scared to drag it around all over the place to gigs), but it sounds good to me and I have been able to get it surprisingly loud before feedback (it's a cardoid). I carry my mic with me because most venues won't have a large diaphragm mic in their big box of battered SM58s, and because of the risk that the desk at the venue won't have phantom, I also take a small power supply box, which entails also carrying a mains adapter and another XLR cable.

Downside? A pickup will undoubtedly go louder. Thing is, I don't particularly want to be that loud! I'm a solo acoustic act, after all. Engineers can be terrified/ confused/ furious when you say you're not plugging in. Said engineers will try and mess with your level whilst you are playing and you'll get feedback. You have to stand reasonably still (though a large condenser lets you move around and stand further away than close-miking with an SM57, for example. I stand a foot to 18 inches away from my mic).

As far as how it affects your performance, well first of all you won't have any monitors to hear yourself (if there are monitors, get them turned off, you'll get a much better level if there aren't any speakers pointing towards the mic). You have to get used to not hearing yourself blasting back at you through a speaker. It's much nicer once you get used to it! You also have to learn to project. The more air you move, the less you have to have the mic turned up, risking feedback, so put some energy into it, sing loud, and make some noise! Having been plugged in for so long, this was my main challenge. I'd got lazy and was relying on the electronics to do the work for me.

I heartily recommend you try it, and be patient, give it a few gigs.

It's also worth looking at how other players deal with it. It's become the norm to plug in, but I've done gigs where the other players have simply used whatever mic was handy and sounded great. Ukulelezazza (Remco) often plays vintage instruments that obviously you wouldn't want to drill holes in, and sounds fabulous. Andy Eastwood plays hundred of gigs a year in large theatres and whilst he does often play a banjo uke, he also plays a vintage Martin into a mic. Del Rey plays into a single condenser mic.

NB: Some of my ukes do have pickups in, and I still carry my preamp and cables just in case!

Rick Turner
09-04-2014, 09:20 AM
This is what is possible with good pickups properly installed:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t14DrtAntdI (http:// https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t14DrtAntdI)

ricdoug
09-04-2014, 09:51 AM
Plugged in, when done right, sounds natural and gives you flexibility of movement. I also use a single microphone in some venues to pick up both the 'ukulele and vocals. A strap, like a Uke Thong or Uke Leash, helps you eleveate your ukulele closer to your mouth to accomodate this. Most I've run into do not have the discipline to make their 'ukulele and vocals sound well together with a single microphone. Volume is controlled by moving your 'ukulele and mouth in different proximities to the microphone and maintaining the proper distance once you've found it. Ric

King David
09-04-2014, 09:55 AM
This is what is possible with good pickups properly installed:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t14DrtAntdI (http:// https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t14DrtAntdI)

Who used what pickups in this? I concur, sounded great.


Plugged in, when done right, sounds natural and gives you flexibility of movement. Ric
Thanks Ric, exactly my thoughts, hope all is well.

Steveperrywriter
09-04-2014, 10:06 AM
Nice, Rick. One of your custom pick-ups?

Rick Turner
09-04-2014, 11:03 AM
Yep, both of those ukes have D-TAR Timberline pickups that I helped develop. One of the non-secrets is that the on-board preamps are working on 18 Volts...in this case, two nine Volt batteries in an external box sending power up on the "ring" connection of a stereo cable and the signal back down on the "tip". The higher supply voltage helps tame piezo "quack". The pickup elements are co-axial piezo cable, and in mine, the bottom of the saddle slot is round to cradle the pickup, and the slot itself was routed at a 7 degree back slant.

Disclaimer...or reclaimer...I'm no longer involved in the business end of D-TAR but I still use the products.

I am working on some new amplification gear based on some very special microphone capsules I've discovered and a unique (patent pending) baffling design for the mic element. The first product will be for banjo; the company is Trident Acoustics, and the mic system is the Nautilus 1. We will be trying some things for ukes, mandolins, and guitars next. But first we have to Beta test the banjo system.

Rick Turner
09-04-2014, 11:04 AM
OH, if you come to the Strawberry Music Festival, I'll have examples of all of the above.

Wicked
09-05-2014, 07:13 AM
Rick, do you have any thoughts on Taylor's latest iteration of the Expression system - placing the piezo transducers behind the saddle?

I have yet to hear one in the wild, but as someone who absolutely abhors the piezo pickup sound, I'm hoping it shows some promise.

Rick Turner
09-05-2014, 11:22 AM
As a designer of piezo pickups (and magnetics, and mics) for the past 25 years or so, I do not agree that there is a piezo sound. There's bad electronic interfacing and there's the vibration signature of pickup location, but those are the two issues, and they can be dealt with.

I have no idea what the new Expression system is all about, but it sounds like the location may be similar to what has been done with FRAP and Trance Audio pickups for many years. It's a good spot for that kind of accelerometer based system. Nothing new, and so much for the vaunted Neve dynamic transducers...

I'm back to exploring microphone elements used in some new ways. We're (we are my son, Eli, and myself as "Trident Acoustics") starting with a banjo system, and then we're going to try other instruments. So far, it's as good as anything I've done. We've got them going out for beta testing right now to Bela Fleck, Abbigail Washburn, Alison Brown, Martin Simpson, and other top players. Got to apply for a patent this week!

Wicked
09-05-2014, 03:29 PM
I'm back to exploring microphone elements used in some new ways. We're (we are my son, Eli, and myself as "Trident Acoustics") starting with a banjo system, and then we're going to try other instruments. So far, it's as good as anything I've done. We've got them going out for beta testing right now to Bela Fleck, Abbigail Washburn, Alison Brown, Martin Simpson, and other top players. Got to apply for a patent this week!

Good luck with that. I'll be interested to see how it progresses.

phil_doleman
09-07-2014, 06:29 AM
That's a great little combo you've got there Rick! Swinging along nicely, and a fabulous vocal.