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Seeking Advice on Old-School (50's & 60's) Mic'ing Techniques

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Re: Seeking Advice on Old-School (50's & 60's) Mic'ing Techniques

Postby CS70 » Sun Nov 08, 2020 4:05 pm

Arpangel wrote:I’m surprised that no engineers can understand what you’re talking about.

They understand it'd be a pain in the bottom..
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Re: Seeking Advice on Old-School (50's & 60's) Mic'ing Techniques

Postby John Egan » Sun Nov 08, 2020 4:15 pm

James Perrett wrote:
ore_terra wrote:No, actually I meant quite the opposite! In gigs with PA only for vocals I find that the 1st thing that gets lost as soon they start playing a bit hard is the kick.

Are you sure that you aren't thinking about this from a modern point of view? The bass drum was less prevalent in the style of music of the era in question and the PA systems of the time certainly wouldn't have been able to handle amplifying the bass drum. Expectations were totally different in those days and I'm not sure that a modern audience would be happy with the sound of a 50's/60's setup.

I agree, James. In those days, in a big hall, the limitations of the equipment tended to mean that a small, 3-4 piece band would be beating the hell out of their gear and that subtlety went out of the window to a large extent.

I remember when we changed our drummer once, we chose a young, very talented replacement who had only played small gigs up to that point. That first month, sustaining the volume necessary to fill a big room and cut through the noise of a large audience almost killed him. Happily, he came through it with flying colours.

Regards, John
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Re: Seeking Advice on Old-School (50's & 60's) Mic'ing Techniques

Postby resistorman » Sun Nov 08, 2020 8:27 pm

In the Florida Keys back in the 90's, my friend had an ongoing Super Bowl/ pickin party. As the years went by, the party became huge as these things do, and it was moved to a park and became just an acoustic jam sans Superbowl. Of course, it morphed into a benefit complete with beer wagons and food carts and now there was an audience. The musicians sat in a large circle in a clearing amongst the trees in the woodsy park and the audience sat around them or even in the trees. There were also smaller groups off in different corners doing different kinds of music, all acoustic. I enjoyed playing at this party quite a bit... lots of traditional and even original music, beer, and not a wire in sight.

One year I was approached by the organizers who had taken over managing the now very popular event and asked if i could run sound for it. It had just gotten too big and a lot of people couldn't hear the music. They had a stage in mind with all that entails and I was not happy with this idea. It would completely ruin the friendly, egalitarian vibe and turn it into a standard show. There were a LOT of musicians participating, many of them amateurs that wouldn't feel comfortable on a stage. Plus there was no place to really put a stage, it was a grove, not a field. So I talked them into trying a scheme I came up with. I would put one microphone in the middle of the circle and run four small speakers out past the first two rings of audience.

I set up an AKG 414 in omni with a windsock ,and a rack with a Grace preamp, a Drawmer compressor, a KT EQ and a KT digital delay. I don't remember the amp I used, but the speakers were four Yorkville 10" Elites with RCF drivers on stands. Once I tuned in the EQ and delays it sounded astonishingly good and very natural, everyone was pleased. There were some serious bumps, though. A late coming and drunk musician who hadn't heard the lecture about keeping away from the mic running up and bellowing into it scaring the bejeezux out of everyone. Likewise a volunteer announcer grabbing hold of it. I wound up barricading it with anything I could find. So the next year I had it sectioned off with police tape, and people became used to the idea. I ran it that way for years until the organizers moved the event to a parking lot with a stage and charged admission. Of course, it only lasted a couple of years after that... the vibe was totally gone.
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Re: Seeking Advice on Old-School (50's & 60's) Mic'ing Techniques

Postby John Egan » Sun Nov 08, 2020 8:49 pm

resistorman wrote: I would put one microphone in the middle of the circle and run four small speakers out past the first two rings of audience.

I set up an AKG 414 in omni with a windsock ,and a rack with a Grace preamp, a Drawmer compressor, a KT EQ and a KT digital delay. I don't remember the amp I used, but the speakers were four Yorkville 10" Elites with RCF drivers on stands.

Interesting. How big was the circle ? And how many people in the circle ?
Regards, John
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Re: Seeking Advice on Old-School (50's & 60's) Mic'ing Techniques

Postby resistorman » Sun Nov 08, 2020 9:39 pm

The number of people varied quite a bit as people came and went, I never counted but there were times we were cheek to cheek so to speak in a 20’ or so circle. The 2nd year we got fancy and people singing or taking a lead would step closer. It was hard for the pros because you really couldn’t hear the speakers and they wanted to crowd the mic to hear themselves, but after a few years most people got the hang of it.
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Re: Seeking Advice on Old-School (50's & 60's) Mic'ing Techniques

Postby resistorman » Sun Nov 08, 2020 9:46 pm

Come to think of it, there was often another whole ring of musicians at times. There were also times when we naturally sorted ourselves into sections... a lot easier if you had 3 or 4 bass players grouping up to hear each other so we could sync up.
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Re: Seeking Advice on Old-School (50's & 60's) Mic'ing Techniques

Postby guildguy516 » Mon Nov 09, 2020 6:14 am

Mike Stranks wrote:

Good vids, but the O/P is interested in the techniques used for performance audio in the 50s/60s rather than how studios worked...

So O/P... you're on the right track. Oh! and welcome! :thumbup:

Typically an audiotorium would have one mic and that would be connected to a fairly basic valve amp through (typically) 100-volt line column speakers each containing several fairly modestly sized speakers. The reason you see multiple people using one mic is because there was only one mic!

Band PA systems as we know them today didn't really start to arrive until the second half of the '60s and the first ones were pretty crude affairs. I recall reading something about the Beatles at Shea Stadium. The sound was appalling - not that you could hear the sound because of the screams - because it was basically the public-address/safety system with a couple of simple mixers lashed onto the front end.

I've just used a well-know search engine and entered 'History of Live Sound'... loads of articles etc.

What's funny is when I posted this I thought to myself "I hope no one links me these SOS videos because they aren't on live sound"... well guess what happened...

Thank you for the warm welcome and good information. My dad saw the Beatles at old Comisky Park back in the day, he said that you could see the four guys bopping around but all you heard was screaming.
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Re: Seeking Advice on Old-School (50's & 60's) Mic'ing Techniques

Postby guildguy516 » Mon Nov 09, 2020 6:28 am

Thank you to all of you posting your experience and good information! My observations of the old performances like Town Hall Party and Grand Ole Opry were that the microphones were not to "mix" the sound, but instead to amplify the already "mixed" sound; meaning the musicians that made up the band mixed themselves and the microphone just amplified it to the audience.

My next question is about gear that I would need to purchase, specifically microphones.

Would I want a ribbon or condenser mic to pick up the two front vocalists and their instruments? Or should we have a hot dynamic mic dialed in and EQed for optimal performance?

If we were to run a ribbon or condenser for the singers to share, would we have to transition to in ear monitors?

Does anyone have any microphone recommendations that would work well for the job at hand, also having a "vintage" appearance?
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Re: Seeking Advice on Old-School (50's & 60's) Mic'ing Techniques

Postby ore_terra » Mon Nov 09, 2020 8:22 am

James Perrett wrote:
ore_terra wrote:No, actually I meant quite the opposite! In gigs with PA only for vocals I find that the 1st thing that gets lost as soon they start playing a bit hard is the kick.

Are you sure that you aren't thinking about this from a modern point of view? The bass drum was less prevalent in the style of music of the era in question and the PA systems of the time certainly wouldn't have been able to handle amplifying the bass drum. Expectations were totally different in those days and I'm not sure that a modern audience would be happy with the sound of a 50's/60's setup.

You’re probably right, James.

In the enf, I was -23 years old in 1960 so I admit I may not really be a qualified witness :mrgreen:
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Re: Seeking Advice on Old-School (50's & 60's) Mic'ing Techniques

Postby Mike Stranks » Mon Nov 09, 2020 10:24 am

I'll pitch in with a 'I agree with James' too. :)

It's not a direct comparison but if you look at archive footage of groups on TV in the '50s and early '60s - including the Beatles - in the days when they performed live and didn't mime to backing tracks, then you'll see drums that are very lightly miked. And the kit is often just a kick, one tom, a snare and a hi-hat. Drums were sometimes covered with a 4038 above the kit and that was it.

... and I was +10 in 1960... :lol:
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Re: Seeking Advice on Old-School (50's & 60's) Mic'ing Techniques

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Mon Nov 09, 2020 12:10 pm

guildguy516 wrote:My observations of the old performances like Town Hall Party and Grand Ole Opry were that the microphones were not to "mix" the sound, but instead to amplify the already "mixed" sound; meaning the musicians that made up the band mixed themselves and the microphone just amplified it to the audience.

Sadly, the physics doesn't really work that way... What a single mic at the front of the stage picks up is not necessarily the same as the the balance the individual musicians perceive... It would be a mix, but probably odd one that is not entirely reflective of the mix the musicians think they are creating.

Would I want a ribbon or condenser mic to pick up the two front vocalists and their instruments? Or should we have a hot dynamic mic dialed in and EQed for optimal performance?

Ribbons mostly have fig-8 polar responses, which can be difficult to use in live-sound situations. And many are relatively fragile which, again, doesn't really suit live sound. As for capacitor or dynamic... it really depends on what you're trying to cover and how the mic will be used.

If we were to run a ribbon or condenser for the singers to share, would we have to transition to in ear monitors?

If you're planning on shared mics and relatively distant placements, then feedback is always going to be an issue -- both from foldback monitoring and the main FOH speaker array, so in-ears would be help.... But I thought you didn't want or need monitoring?

Does anyone have any microphone recommendations that would work well for the job at hand, also having a "vintage" appearance?

I think you would be best served by working with sympathetic live sound engineer with whom you can develop a rig that looks the way you want while still serving the technical needs of the mix engineer and audience.

This is too complicated and involved a topic to be resolved remotely on a forum.
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Re: Seeking Advice on Old-School (50's & 60's) Mic'ing Techniques

Postby John Egan » Mon Nov 09, 2020 12:42 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:Sadly, the physics doesn't really work that way... What a single mic at the front of the stage picks up is not necessarily the same as the the balance the individual musicians perceive... It would be a mix, but probably odd one that is not entirely reflective of the mix the musicians think they are creating.

Ribbons mostly have fig-8 polar responses, which can be difficult to use in live-sound situations. And many are relatively fragile which, again, doesn't really suit live sound. As for capacitor or dynamic... it really depends on what you're trying to cover and how the mic will be used.

For bands in the 60s, using the house PA mics or system was practically impossible. Gigs were mostly one night stands with little or no opportunity to test their effectiveness and often, no opportunity even for a soundcheck. Having your own equipment with which you were familiar was essential to getting a reasonable mix. And if possible it was useful to get reliable opinions from people in the auditorium.

A lot of bands did use ribbon mikes. Among semi-pro bands, the Reslos were very popular and probably outnumbered anything else. Among the pro bands, the Sure offerings of the day were the most commonly seen, I think. Each vocalist had his own favourite. I actually used a ribbon mike, a Beyer M260 (which I still have). I think I had to replace the ribbon twice in about seven years. I preferred the tonality of the Beyer to the Sure models.
Any contribution the vocal mikes made to the overall mix was accidental and unwelcome. We did our best to suppress it as far as possible.

The top bands would have their gear set up by the roadie and usually arrived later and just plugged in and played without any soundcheck whatsoever.

Regards, John
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Re: Seeking Advice on Old-School (50's & 60's) Mic'ing Techniques

Postby Sam Spoons » Mon Nov 09, 2020 12:44 pm

The bass player from "Hatfull Of Rain"* was active on here a few years ago when they were trying to do the same 'one mic' technique but from a folk/bluegrass perspective. They ended up with an 'Ear Trumpet Louise'** mic after using IIRC an AT 4040. He's not been around for a while and I can't recall his username but an email to the contact on the website to ask about their experience might be worth a try?

* https://www.hatfulofrain.co.uk

** https://www.eartrumpetlabs.com/products/microphones/louise
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Re: Seeking Advice on Old-School (50's & 60's) Mic'ing Techniques

Postby CS70 » Mon Nov 09, 2020 1:03 pm

guildguy516 wrote:Thank you to all of you posting your experience and good information! My observations of the old performances like Town Hall Party and Grand Ole Opry were that the microphones were not to "mix" the sound, but instead to amplify the already "mixed" sound; meaning the musicians that made up the band mixed themselves and the microphone just amplified it to the audience.

My next question is about gear that I would need to purchase, specifically microphones.

Would I want a ribbon or condenser mic to pick up the two front vocalists and their instruments? Or should we have a hot dynamic mic dialed in and EQed for optimal performance?

If we were to run a ribbon or condenser for the singers to share, would we have to transition to in ear monitors?

Does anyone have any microphone recommendations that would work well for the job at hand, also having a "vintage" appearance?

Was writing a lengthy reply but Hugh got there first.

The "self-balancing" band is a bit of a red herring - to self-balance, all members must hear the same thing and therefore be huddled closely together. Try to place your guitar amp behind the drummer as opposite to the front and you'll see that you will end up with quite different absolute position of the volume knob to keep "your" relative balance.

And no vocalist or acoustic guitar can compete with a drum kit in most cases, so you need reinforcement for these.. and the moment you do, there goes your balance because the speaker has to point somewhere.

However, something you could go for is one omni mic in the center, feeding well insulating in-ears so that everybody hears the same thing, and having vocals and quiet instruments preamps feed the in ears directly. You first set the level of the pre-amped sources, then you have everybody else self-balance based on the same mix they hear on the in-ears. Your final sound would be the center mic + any pre-amped feed - it would be both the in-ear monitor and the sound the audience hears.

Nothing to do with what they did back then but you would get the "self balancing" thing.
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Re: Seeking Advice on Old-School (50's & 60's) Mic'ing Techniques

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Mon Nov 09, 2020 2:03 pm

John Egan wrote:A lot of bands did use ribbon mikes. Among semi-pro bands, the Reslos were very popular and probably outnumbered anything else.

Ah yes... the Reslo! You're quite right, of course, from the historical perspective...

I was thinking more of trying to use the various modern Ribbon mic options, in an effort to create a vintage stage look.

I'll ignore the Beyer ribbon mics (which look more like conventional dynamic stage mics). Most (although certainly not all) of the current 'vintage style' ribbons tend don't lend themselves well to on-stage vocals IMHO. They typically lack adequate plosive or wind-proofing for close-up use, and tend to have heavy proximity effects, so get very bassy very quickly.

Also, the pickup lobe of a ribbon is inherently quite narrow, so trying to get several people to share the mic means having to get pretty cosy... Moreover, if going for a more distant mic placement approach which is inherent if you want people to share mics -- the rear lobe becomes problematic with stage monitoring and reduces the gain-before-feedback margin on the FOH system too.

In contrast, the vintage Reslo was well protected from blasting and had an early bass roll-off which supported close-in use. It also had quite a prominent presence peak around 4kHz which helped it cut through on the PA speakers of the day.

I know Xaudia refurbish old Reslos, and also perform a number of alterations developed by the BBC (for better performance at distant placements) to improve their suitability for quality recording (flattening the HF and LF responses at the expense of the wind/blast-proofing).
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