Electric Bassoon strategies

This is a cross-post of my writings at the IDRS forum on methods of amplying the bassoon.  Seemed like a good way to get my blog rolling.  Then I’ll post some hotly political stuff later.

First I will mention the Telex “pickup” as most of us are familiar with by now.  Forrests sells the bocal adapter with the pickup for $125.  They installed the adapter on my Fox *CTC* bocal for $30.  The installation was beautiful and I recommend sending your bocal directly to Forrests if you plan on getting this done to your own bocal.

The pickup itself is actually an earset developed for sound booth announcers, so the intent of the actual “pickup” is to be a loudspeaker.  Because loudspeakers and dynamic microphones are identical in function, just reversed, the earset is able to function marginally well as a microphone when the sound source is close enough.  So calling this a pickup is a bit of a misnomer because it is actually a dynamic microphone placed inside the wind column of the bassoon by way of the bocal adapter.

Here is a recording produced using the Telex pickup.

This was recorded through a small mixing board directly into my computers sound card.  There has been no editing of the sound and the EQ was set at “flat” meaning that I have not altered the sound as it comes clean out of the pickup.  This is the raw quality of the sound produced using the Telex pickup.

The plus of this is that there is relatively little feedback issues with this until heavy effects are introduced, and it picks up every pitch on the bassoon equally in terms of dynamic.  The negative is that the sound is clearly not very “natural”.

If one is interested in a more natural sound the only option is to position a quality microphone (or pair of microphones) at a slight distance from the bassoon to pickup the sound in a natural development.  This is not always possible, and if you are interested in solo amplification you probably want something connected to the bassoon and focused on the sound of the bassoon as much as possible.  Enter the Crown GLM-100 microphone.  The GLM-100 (“Great Little Mic”) is an omnidirectional, flat response lavaliere microphone that comes with a small clamp.  Unfortunately the clamp that comes with it is too small to be of any use to attach it to the bassoon.  Here is an image that shows you, from left to right, the microphone itself, the clamp supplied, and the plug on the other end of the microphone chord that plugs into your sound system.  The reed on the side is for size comparison purposes.  The mic itself clips with the small end on the top of the mount.

My solution to the mounting problem is to use a drum mic mount kit on the bell of the bassoon.  This is the drum clamp that I found that works well with the bell of my bassoon.  It is the Audix D-Vice.

I picked this up at my local drum shop for $25.  For our purposes we will forget about the gooseneck that comes with the clamp and instead use the mount that comes with the GLM-100 as shown:

In the second and third picture you can see how I use the clamp as a way to reduce stress on the mic cable.  The plastic for the clamp is hard but not rough so it won’t scratch your instrument.  If you’re worried about that you can put a little felt on the clamp to protect your horn.  I don’t know how well this will work on a “French” bell, but I expect it will probably work just fine.  I’ll try it out on a colleagues bassoon in a few days.  Because the microphone is so lightweight as is the clamp, it adds a negligible amount of weight to the bell.

Here is the same musical example played with the GLM-100 mounted as I have described above.

The mic is plugged into the same mixing board using phantom powered preamp as requred for the mic.  Again, I have not adjusted the EQ for this sample in any way, only the gain and output levels to match the Telex recording above.  Notice how the sound is pretty much exactly as from the perspective of the player.  The low Bb, B and C come out a little stronger than the rest of the instrument, but otherwise the response is pretty even through the range.  This issue is one that has plagued recording technicians and bassoonists for a long time.  I don’t claim to have found the solution, but this is A solution.

An alternative to the GLM-100 would be the AMT System 1 which retails for about $150 more than the GLM-100.  Also, for those curious, here is my mixer, with the GLM plugged into channel 1 and the Telex into channel 3.  The dials are not how I had them set for the recordings.

Now here is where it gets interesting.  Using the mixing board I can balance the sounds of both the Telex and the GLM-100 to blend the sounds together.  My idea is to create a more homogeneous sound across the full range than the single GLM-100 can produce, but with a more natural sound than the Telex alone can produce.  Here is the same musical example using this method.

Of course, the balance between the two can be tweaked to come up with a more ideal sounding solution with separate EQ on the GLM-100 and the Telex depending on the sound system one is working with to produce a better sound.

I am also working on a non dynamic mic pickup system to go in the bocal adapter where the Telex fits in.  My preliminary studies show a much different sound with this system than the Telex.  I will update this thread with my findings once I complete this pickup.

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2 Comments

  1. A friend

     /  May 5, 2017

    Seems that the audio links are dead 😦

    Reply
    • Sorry about that. The files for this post were all hosted by third party websites, which I either don’t have accounts for anymore or are totally dead. I do not have the original sound files anymore. Such is life.

      Reply

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