Going au naturale

Several conversations with Paul Hanson and one nice little chit-chat with a really excellent sound technician at SubCulture, I have devised a plan for a complicated but I think reliable microphone setup that will amplify the bassoon well, with some amount of isolation, a balanced sound through the register, and maintain the natural quality of the bassoon sound. What follows below is mostly an email sent in private to a few colleagues, that I’m now sharing more publicly. As far as I know nobody has tried doing this yet, so if you read this and have a chance to give it a shot, I’d love to hear how it works in practice and not just theory.

So here’s what you’ll need:
1. Two quality lavaliere microphones like the Shure WL184 or Audio Technica AT898
Now, setup:
Find some kind of tight band and mounting for one mic right at the bell ring, pointed angularly at the bell ring, kind of over the top of the instrument. Not down into the bell, but just over it. Pointed away from you. This microphone gets plugged into channel A of the “Really Nice Preamp”
Find some kind of clip to mount the other mic to your right hand area. Maybe use the crutch bracket as a starting point. You want to point this mic basically at the low E tone hole (the one closed by your low D key). This goes into channel B of the “Really Nice Preamp”.
Now, here’s where the magic happens. The Really Nice Compressor gets plugged into the insert for Channel A of the RNP. Not channel B, just channel A. A small stereo cable is used to connect the preamp and compressor.
Now you have two outputs, A and B out of the RNP – those are your outs.
The idea is to get the full sound of the instrument coming from the two microphones when you’re typically playing, but as you get to the bottom register the compressor balances out the lowest notes, to boost or more importantly CUT when you hit low C, B, and Bb, so they don’t boom out crazily. The RNP and RNC are designed to work together in this way, although usually you’d run both mics into the compressor. You can still do this, but the trick though is that we only want the bell mic to be really compressed, to boost the resonance when you’re playing in the middle and high registers, but to not be overwhelmed when you play a low B. So getting the compression where you want it is tricky, but can be done. Adding much less compression to the boot joint mounted mic can be useful, but not as important.
You’ll need some kind of tiny mixer to output a single mono signal for either routing to effects or amplifier or direct to the sound guy (unless you trust the sound guy to mix the two signals). I found this: http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/PowerMix3 which would match the form factor of the “Really Nice” products and allow you to mix channel A and B into a single signal. You would rack mount all three devices together, wire them up so that you plugged the mics in, and ran a cable out to FOH or amp or whatever. Relatively quick setup considering the complexity of the concept.
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  1. Favorite blog posts, November 2014 | Bret Pimentel, woodwinds

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