I wanna be louder, but still sound like me.
April 9, 2008 10:14 AM   Subscribe

Can you offer any advice on a violin pickup?

I play in a jug band with miked guitars and a few other instruments and just can't compete using the vocal mics we've got. And I'm also pretty hazy on what kind of pickup might be best, so any ideas would be super useful.

- My violin is pretty normal. Slightly above average, the kind played by the pretty-good concert master of a decent high school orchestra.
- I won't have a separate amp, but just plug into the band's general system. I'm confused as to how this all works.
- The saxophony sound of some of the amplified violins I've heard drives me a little crazy. I'm not really looking for any additional effects, just a louder version of what I'm already doing.

Right now, I'm leaning toward an L.R. Baggs, since people I trust have recommended it and it's at the lower end of the price range I'm looking for.

I know there must be more relevant information, but I'm not really sure what it is, so let me know what else you need. And thank you!
posted by lauranesson to Shopping (9 answers total)
You definitely don't want a pickup; you want a condenser mic. With a pickup, which is also way more expensive, you lose tone, range and just plain old great sound. A good mic will, as you want, be louder, but still sound like you.

A dude I was in a band with years ago had a predecessor of this guy from Audio-Technica. Sounded freakin' awesome.

A quick Google brought up this link (obviously from a while back, but still a pretty good primer, from what I can tell).
posted by General Malaise at 10:33 AM on April 9, 2008

A better mic isn't an option? A good mic will always be more audiophile-approved than a pickup, and violins are pretty loud...
posted by tmcw at 10:33 AM on April 9, 2008

A good condenser mic will likely be at least as expensive as a pickup, and it will pickup bleed from the other instruments, require you to stay planted in one place, and be easily damaged. But if you're going to go from the violin pickup into a PA you'll need a preamp as well. The violinist in my band uses a pickup that gives him a perfectly adequate sound, although I'm not certain what kind it is. But he usually goes into my L.R. Baggs acoustic guitar preamp and then into the PA, which works great.
posted by ludwig_van at 10:44 AM on April 9, 2008

Response by poster: This is terribly helpful. I look at sites about audio things and start going a little cross-eyed, since there's just so much I don't know.

I sing with the band, too - the information in the calarts link is great and I'll bring up the possibility of a better mic. I have no idea what they've got me on now, but I'm sure it's not amazing. So it's kosher to sing into a condenser mic, too?

(This is like the elementary school of jug band noise for me, huh?)
posted by lauranesson at 10:46 AM on April 9, 2008

Response by poster: Oh! Also, good point on the possibility of damage. We play bars with people and beer, and ruggedness of equipment is definitely a bonus. Pretty soon we're in Chinatown, even, and you know what Homer Simpson says about that place.
posted by lauranesson at 10:54 AM on April 9, 2008

For convenience, a pickup will be easier, though the sound may arguably not be as great. (Then again, if you're playing bars, you probably don't need Stradivarius-quality sound - you need to be loud enough to be heard over the other instruments and the bar noise.)

Here's a basic guide to making your fiddle electric. As far as pickups go, the built-in bridge pickups are probably the best compromise in quality and sound. You can also get ones that attach to the bridge in various ways; I've got similar one, and for the money, it's worth it.

You'll also need a preamp. I've got the Fishman Pro Eq II, and am pretty pleased with it. Very simple and intuitive to use. You'll also need two standard 1/8" cables - one to go from the fiddle to the preamp, and one to go from the preamp to the amp/soundboard/whatever. Though you aren't planning on playing with effects, I'd suggest seeing if you can borrow a practice amp so that you can get used to playing amplified. (Of course, effects on a fiddle can be lots of fun - if you've got a pickup, you might as well play around a little, and see what it sounds like.)
posted by ubersturm at 12:40 PM on April 9, 2008

You'll also need two standard 1/8" cables - one to go from the fiddle to the preamp, and one to go from the preamp to the amp/soundboard/whatever.

Do you mean 1/4" cables?
posted by ludwig_van at 1:31 PM on April 9, 2008

I use a Fishman violin pickup and a Fishman pre-amp on my fiddle. The Fishman gives a flat, non-distorted natural sound, and you can control that sound via the pre-amp (bringing down high tones if the PA system is too screamy, for example... also volume...) You attach it by clamping the cable jack part next to your chin-rest and then placing a small metal V in the slit above the right side of your bridge. You have to take an Exacto-knife and carve out your bridge slit a tiny bit to fit the metal bit in, but it won't really affect your acoustic fiddle sound at all. And you can easily take the pickup off when you play acoustic gigs. I started using them when I found that most Cajun fiddlers preffered them for the clean sound they give.

Condensor mikes are good, but they also pick up noises like breathing, grunting, and cursing at the bass player for screwing up the chords. Stick-on pickups like the old Barcus Barries tend to sound like electric guitar pickups and leave ugly sticky goo on your violin body.

Oh, and if you are gigging a lot, pre-amps tend to get stolen off of club stages with amazing regularity if you don't keep an eye on them during breaks.
posted by zaelic at 1:42 PM on April 9, 2008

Er, yeah, sorry. I suck at, you know, typing. Not 1/8" cables. Everything I said that doesn't involve numbers, however, still stands.
posted by ubersturm at 3:11 PM on April 9, 2008

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