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Amping up my Harmonium

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Amping up my Harmonium

Postby Rob R » Thu Jul 05, 2012 5:44 pm

Hi, bit of a rushed post, so hope no mistakes...

I've got a nice three reed portable "indian" harmonium... and til now I've been mic'ing it live, but it's always a gamble with the sound engineer etc.

Anyone recommend an easy to find, easy to set up live, pickup/mic idea? Granted I'll still have the vagaries of monitors & desk levels but I wanted a good solution that cuts down setup and mic requirements!

Sorry if that sounds naive!

Maybe accordion pickups?

Still relatively new to all this playing live lark!

Appreciate your kind responses to a relative live newbie!
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Re: Amping up my Harmonium

Postby zenguitar » Thu Jul 05, 2012 6:39 pm

Hmmm... interesting...

Just looking at my harmonium, not as nice as yours, and thinking about it now. And I can't think of anything else than the accordion pick-up, although never having used one of those I don't know how suitable it would be either. Nowhere to put a piezo really.

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Re: Amping up my Harmonium

Postby Bob Bickerton » Thu Jul 05, 2012 9:40 pm

So I've just dug my Indian harmonium out too! Never had to amplify it, so I'm guessing. Firstly accordion pickups are often just internally mounted omni mics (I think). What I'd suggest is a pair of Audio Technica ATM350 mics (not the cheaper pro35s that look the same but don't sound as good) mounted on the top of the rear wall of the harmonium (that's the bit between the bellows and the reed bank) at the one third/two third points and aimed down at the reed banks.

On mine you can remove the glass cover over the reed banks which substantially increases its volume.

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Re: Amping up my Harmonium

Postby Rob R » Fri Jul 06, 2012 3:43 pm

Yeah I know re: glass cover, do that all the time and they do have good natural volume.
However most of our gigs demand that the rest of the band is amplified despite being all acoustic instruments, so it's usually a non-starter. Next two gigs are small outdoor festivals so have to be mic'd up

Hm... I know an accordion player who works in a folk music instrument shop so might see if he's in tomorrow...
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Re: Amping up my Harmonium

Postby Rob R » Sat Jul 07, 2012 4:57 pm

well I went to see my musician friend Pete and he had two solutions, one by AKG, which looked the canine's bits, but would at the price of it + preamp. So I went with what Pete's got (tho he's not so happy as he clearly wants to upgrade) for his 120 bass accordion.
In the end I used one by Microvox melodeon one as it was 100quid cheaper and fitted in a neat space in the harmonium, and I figured, for my needs, that's fine. 140 with 50 quid preamp. Hobgoblin prices of course.. prob cheaper elsewhere but I want it for tomorrow..

so far sounds OK, does pick up every key movement where I have it mounted so will experiment. think that's the nature of the beast though and can't think of a anything that would filter that out?

fingers crossed! Happy so far though... and I will use it with my footswitch to change between the mandolin and the harmonium, making one less connection out to the desk/marshall acoustic amp - but if that doesn't work well, I have a spirit line mixer which i could use instead, but trying to make this as simple as possible.

Hope this shows up...

Image
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Re: Amping up my Harmonium

Postby shufflebeat » Sat Jul 07, 2012 7:08 pm

Ah, just too late.

I was about to suggest avoiding the Microvox. I've known some accordion players use them and I've never been able to get a decent sound or level before feedback. They seem to be a couple of particularly nasty condenser elements in a plastic box sold for too much.

Perhaps your experience will be better. Keep us posted if you've nothing better to do.
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Re: Amping up my Harmonium

Postby Rob R » Sat Jul 07, 2012 7:21 pm

shufflebeat wrote:Ah, just too late.

I was about to suggest avoiding the Microvox. I've known some accordion players use them and I've never been able to get a decent sound or level before feedback. They seem to be a couple of particularly nasty condenser elements in a plastic box sold for too much.

Perhaps your experience will be better. Keep us posted if you've nothing better to do.


Ah... hm. Well the good news is that I can return if unhappy. It sounded ok thru my marshall acoustic amp. The accordion player I know has been using them for a while now, but he did mention he was thinking of upgrading

Not dismissing anything - hope that I don't come across that way, however I've seen Pete using this setup twice now and he doesn't seem to suffer with feedback.

He's mostly out of sight on this video the band he's in.. sounds OK to me, but I'll give it a go tomorrow with the fallback of an sm58 option. recording lacks bass due to Sony camera I have and its awful onboard mics

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XBhBslOb20o&feature=plcp
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Re: Amping up my Harmonium

Postby shufflebeat » Sat Jul 07, 2012 8:34 pm

As always it'll be horses for courses. You may be perfectly satisfied with the MV system.

For your info we ended up with a Sony tie clip mic which I bought from a closing down PA company. Instead of the severe EQing that had been necessary with the MV system to soften the sound we found we needed little or no EQ. The character of the Sony mic became an intrinsic part of the (piano) accordion sound to the point that we used it for several recordings.

Get thee to a music shop and try loads of stuff. If you can find a decent shop they'll want to know what works as much as you do.
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Re: Amping up my Harmonium

Postby Bob Bickerton » Sat Jul 07, 2012 9:19 pm

The main disadvantage of the tie type clip ons and accordion solutions are that they're omni mics and thus more subject to feedback. Also depending on how you mount them you'll get mechanical transmission of key movements too. A stereo solution using ATM 350 mics or a pair of e614s on a stand would sound better.

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Re: Amping up my Harmonium

Postby shufflebeat » Sat Jul 07, 2012 9:46 pm

Bob Bickerton wrote:The main disadvantage of the tie type clip ons and accordion solutions are that they're omni mics and thus more subject to feedback.


V true. Depending in cases such as this on the volume level of the sound source.

Bob Bickerton wrote: Also depending on how you mount them you'll get mechanical transmission of key movements too.

Bob


4" of wire coathanger mounted on a bed of Blue Tack was our preferred option.
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Re: Amping up my Harmonium

Postby Mike Stranks » Sat Jul 07, 2012 10:46 pm

Can't speak about harmoniums, but I do have some experience of working with accordion players with their own pickups/mics...

The ones with pickups (don't know makes) seem to produce a LOT of key noise as well as a harsh sound which needs some fairly substantial EQ on the desk to get anything like a pleasant sound.

By far and away the best one is an accordionist who uses two mics of the type suggested by Bob, but AKG variants, coming through an AKG B29 combiner and power source. Very natural sound; no disproportionate key clatter and the lightest of touches on the desk EQ.

Just saying...

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Re: Amping up my Harmonium

Postby Rob R » Sat Jul 07, 2012 10:56 pm

Hello all
Well this is the one that was also shown to me today
AKG C 516 ML

I'm not sure how I'd mount it. Is this the sort of thing? I don't need stereo, that's just over complicating for my pub / small stage gigs

It was a good 100 quid more expensive than the MV one.. when preamp was included

You are right, I get key noise, and that is deffo the drawback of what I'm trying at the moment. The main issue will be on our faster numbers.

I am tempted to use it tomorrow all the same. as far as I could tell it sounded OK, but that was thru a marshall acoustic amp
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Re: Amping up my Harmonium

Postby Bob Bickerton » Sun Jul 08, 2012 12:21 am

Yes, that AKG is more like it. If you download the manual you'll see that it comes with mounting plates. You may or may not want to attach these to your harmonium. If you don't, it would be easy enough to make your own rubber or felt lined clip to go over the back edge, onto which you could attach the 516 mounting plate. But the c518 (same capsule) probably has a more practical mount for your purposes. I haven't used this clip myself but it looks like it would fit perfectly. See if you can try it first. Also check out the 519 - just a question of selecting the most practical mount really.

You'll find you will get more gain before feedback and a better sound using something like this.

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Re: Amping up my Harmonium

Postby Rob R » Sun Jul 08, 2012 6:52 am

Bob the last thing I want to do is drill holes in the harmonium so I hope there's something I can do..

But thank you (I'm worried now btw that i"m going to have a nightmare eating precious time today!



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Re: Amping up my Harmonium

Postby Rob R » Sun Jul 08, 2012 6:58 am

Bob just looked at the c518 - on dv247 (no affiliation) the blurb talks of what seems like three power options... what do i do - I am easily bamboozled???!

of the C519 (the one that has the crocodile clip mount) it says "Transducer shock mount for high mechanical-noise rejection" which sounds like a plan, I think it's more than long enough (total 8.4inch) to reach the heart of the harmonium

I'm being a bit dumb cause mics are a whole different world for me... really newbie on them

Cheers
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Re: Amping up my Harmonium

Postby shufflebeat » Sun Jul 08, 2012 8:55 am

Rob, why not just buy your own half decent condenser mic and put it in a normal or mini boom stand? Mechanical transmission of key noise not an issue and I think you'd get a much better and more versatile mic for your money.

The old Rode nt3 doesn't rely solely on phantom power from the desk so will still function with your Marshall amp when required.
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Re: Amping up my Harmonium

Postby Rob R » Sun Jul 08, 2012 9:13 am

shufflebeat wrote:Rob, why not just buy your own half decent condenser mic and put it in a normal or mini boom stand? Mechanical transmission of key noise not an issue and I think you'd get a much better and more versatile mic for your money.

The old Rode nt3 doesn't rely solely on phantom power from the desk so will still function with your Marshall amp when required.

But but they're small and purty them AKG mics

Nah, good call. I have a SE condenser actually - guess if I put it on the same pattern as the AKG i should be good?
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Re: Amping up my Harmonium

Postby shufflebeat » Sun Jul 08, 2012 9:28 am

Rob R wrote:
But but they're small and purty them AKG mics


Oh yes, I'm a sucker for a finely turned internal pop shield as well. Unfortunately I use that kind of money that can only be spent once. Boo-hoo!

I can't comment on your SE mic, I don't have one. I will venture that in spite of the greater propensity of condenser mics for feedback, in sensible situations the right sdc should work well and will be better than the MV system.

You might also consider a simple headphone monitor so you're not relying on wedges onstage. Behringer and ART do something useful.
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Re: Amping up my Harmonium

Postby Rob R » Sun Jul 08, 2012 8:19 pm

weeeeell

played the gig today.. monitoring was non-existent... the vagaries of pub gigging etc, but ...

yeah yer right, the damn thing feeds back very eagerly. I really thought we were ok but yeah, you're all right- i'm not surprised.

But it's hard to tell because feedback is ever an issue with a band that has no electronic instruments... (Vox/drums/dbl bass/acoustic guitar/fiddle and me on mando, harmonium, and er, washboard). I think I'll upgrade. I do like the ease and size of the akg so kind of set my heart on that. Unless folks know of something way better, cheaper & similar in style & ease of setup.

I basically now know that, pre-gig, I need to have the harmonium assembled (it's a portable), set on its stand and a mic installed, so all we have to do is pull it onstage, plug in and sound check, because i've also the mando & vox to soundcheck. so the least time messing about the better for the little festies we're playing. that's why this clip on mic idea appeals.

lazy I know perhaps, but i want as little complication in setting up given my, er, needs, and means i can get on with acting like a total t1t onstage as always

thanks for all your help guys, appreciated.
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Re: Amping up my Harmonium

Postby zenguitar » Sun Jul 08, 2012 10:55 pm

Rob R wrote:(Vox/drums/dbl bass/acoustic guitar/fiddle and me on mando, harmonium, and er, washboard). I think I'll upgrade.

A washboard upgrade.. hmmm... would that be a Mangle or a Twin Tub I wonder?

Meanwhile, I'm sorry you haven't found a solution yet, but at least you are on the learning curve. Good luck.

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Re: Amping up my Harmonium

Postby shufflebeat » Mon Jul 09, 2012 1:25 pm

Rob R wrote:Vox/drums/dbl bass/acoustic guitar/fiddle and me on mando, harmonium, and er, washboard).

The classic lineup.

Depending on what your fiddle and mando(lin?) arrangements are be prepared for complications. It's not just the sound engineer being awkward.

The AKG mics have a nice tight bottom end (oo-er) which will not react with double bass as much as a large diaphragm condenser would (in case that's what your SE mic is).

If you want something that'll fit semi-permanently to the instrument it may be worth checking out the Karma Silver Bullets reviewed a few months ago. A couple of them could be positioned in a way that would maximise your pregain level, making feedback less of an issue.
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Re: Amping up my Harmonium

Postby Rob R » Mon Jul 09, 2012 8:42 pm

eh up

ta for that mate... it was the engineer for the most part
... the sound from another band later was bog awful.

have spoken to the shop, hoping to hear they've got one coming in - but realised i've not mentioned i need the power supply.. right, on the phone again tomorrow!! need it for Sat!

def need something that i need on the instrument ONLY when i need it! we like to play totally acoustically when practicing. and i prefer it not drilled or having things stuck to it permanently.

R
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Re: Amping up my Harmonium

Postby Rob R » Mon Jul 09, 2012 8:43 pm

sorry yes, mandolin. breedlove OF
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Re: Amping up my Harmonium

Postby shufflebeat » Mon Jul 09, 2012 9:59 pm

Where are you at, Rob?
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Re: Amping up my Harmonium

Postby shufflebeat » Mon Jul 09, 2012 11:20 pm

Musings, possibly ramblings:

A rectangular panel of wood or perspex resting on top of the harmonium, over the reed bank. Absorbent material between the surfaces to minimise mechanical noise and prevent slippage.

Two holes in the panel to accommodate 2x Silver Bullet mics (I'd fix them with silicone sealant) are connected by XLR to a 2 channel mini mixer (can also be fixed to the panel). Thence to the PA.

Pros:

All in one unit, just one power connection.
Instant setup.
No stands.
An element of acoustic isolation will reduce feedback, high end at least.
Headphone output on mini mixer can be used for monitor.
Relatively cheap (I reckon less than £60 for the tech bits).

Cons:

Might not be the ideal distance for the mics.
Not the most elegant solution.
I may be completely mad.


Or...


PZM on the panel, no mixer, otherwise as above. PZM can be phantom powered.
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Re: Amping up my Harmonium

Postby Rob R » Tue Jul 10, 2012 4:51 am

shufflebeat wrote:Where are you at, Rob?

from near Bristol

(should you fancy a gander) if you've ever heard of songsfromtheshed.com we're number 200 in their sessions.. the music is sort of gypsy klezmer speed prog folk LOL
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Re: Amping up my Harmonium

Postby Bob Bickerton » Tue Jul 10, 2012 4:56 am

Rob R wrote:But it's hard to tell because feedback is ever an issue with a band that has no electronic instruments... (Vox/drums/dbl bass/acoustic guitar/fiddle and me on mando, harmonium, and er, washboard).


Nonsense! Feedback should NEVER be an issue! I work with mainly acoustic instruments all the time and feedback is simply unacceptable.

Now Shuffle's suggestion about the Karma mics sounds interesting, but I'm afraid I wouldn't recommend it. It would be more complicated to set up than a clip on, and being omnis would require some experimentation before you could be secure against feedback, which actually might not be attainable.

With The AKG solution, I would go for the battery pack option as this would mean you wouldn't need phantom power to drive it and could therefore run it into your amp (assuming your amp does not have phantom power on an XLR). It also means (when you become famous) that you could patch it into a radio mic and run rabid around the stage breakdancing whilst playing the harmonium............ well you get the idea.

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Re: Amping up my Harmonium

Postby Rob R » Tue Jul 10, 2012 4:59 am

shufflebeat wrote:Musings, possibly ramblings:

A rectangular panel of wood or perspex resting on top of the harmonium, over the reed bank. Absorbent material between the surfaces to minimise mechanical noise and prevent slippage.

I wouldn't want to obscure the reed bank as it'll cut down a pretty vital "natural" monitor!!

Two holes in the panel to accommodate 2x Silver Bullet mics (I'd fix them with silicone sealant) are connected by XLR to a 2 channel mini mixer (can also be fixed to the panel). Thence to the PA.

hmm... holes... this is what was suggested by the shop with one of their solutions.. I'm not convinced i want holes!



Pros:

All in one unit, just one power connection.
Instant setup.
No stands.
An element of acoustic isolation will reduce feedback, high end at least.
Headphone output on mini mixer can be used for monitor.
well the harmonium blasts it's sound at me... so no need of a monitor usually!

Relatively cheap (I reckon less than £60 for the tech bits).

Cons:

Might not be the ideal distance for the mics.
Not the most elegant solution.
I may be completely mad.


Or...


PZM on the panel, no mixer, otherwise as above. PZM can be phantom powered.

all very interesting though.. I think I will persist with this more expensive option (tools for the job etc) - the primary reasons are size, not damaging my harmonium and to reduce faff - the crocodile clip idea with its integral shock mount means that, respectively, I can fit it in the space of time it takes to plug the XLRs in, and the shock mount is designed to reduce mechanical noise, and not drill holes.

I know another harmonium player and he just uses a mic on the stand. that's fine, but whenever i've done this, it's somehow proved to be a nightmare for me... one more thing to set up

maybe this is down to the fact I've not played in a band til this year.... !

ta so much for the advice mate!
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Re: Amping up my Harmonium

Postby Rob R » Tue Jul 10, 2012 5:03 am

Bob Bickerton wrote:
Rob R wrote:But it's hard to tell because feedback is ever an issue with a band that has no electronic instruments... (Vox/drums/dbl bass/acoustic guitar/fiddle and me on mando, harmonium, and er, washboard).


Nonsense! Feedback should NEVER be an issue! I work with mainly acoustic instruments all the time and feedback is simply unacceptable.


sorry what I mean by that is that it's a bloody annoying factor lately and feels inevitable!


Now Shuffle's suggestion about the Karma mics sounds interesting, but I'm afraid I wouldn't recommend it. It would be more complicated to set up than a clip on, and being omnis would require some experimentation before you could be secure against feedback, which actually might not be attainable.

With The AKG solution, I would go for the battery pack option as this would mean you wouldn't need phantom power to drive it and could therefore run it into your amp (assuming your amp does not have phantom power on an XLR). It also means (when you become famous) that you could patch it into a radio mic and run rabid around the stage breakdancing whilst playing the harmonium............ well you get the idea.

Bob


ha ha cheers Bob yeah, the B29L batt pack? that was what I had in mind, I note it has independent volume controls... removes the worry that a desk has phantom power channels left for me after the vocal mics - being an ex wedding photographer I don't like equipment risks... yeah I should chill out!

R
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Re: Amping up my Harmonium

Postby shufflebeat » Tue Jul 10, 2012 7:21 am

Rob R wrote:
hmm... holes... this is what was suggested by the shop with one of their solutions.. I'm not convinced i want holes!

Just to be clear, I'm not talking about holes in your instrument, rather in a panel that fits over the reeds.

Let us know how you get on.
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