National Steel
August 22, 2008 12:51 PM   Subscribe

What is the best method of "mic"ing a single-cone National steel guitar for live work?

We tried two condenser mics, but it was kind of boomy. Is the Sure Beta 57A a better option? What about a Rode NT5? Do we need two mics for it? TIA.
posted by chuckdarwin to Media & Arts (6 answers total)
Large Diaphragm condensor mic.
posted by Ponderance at 1:04 PM on August 22, 2008

What's the stage volume going to be like? Nationals *love* to feedback when it's loud. Based on my experiences with my Estrallita and sound systems and sound people ranging from awesomely good to total crap (I'm looking at you, Blue Moon!) Id try the following.

For solo performers in the blues tradition, a 57 at a 45 degree angle to the cone works lovely. That might not fly in a bluegrass situation where higher fidelity is expected, though. In that case, use the aforementioned large-diaphragm condenser and be prepared to forgo stage monitors.

If you're playing an a band with drums and monitors, use a pickup and a Baggs preamp with a notch filter to kill the feedback.
posted by stet at 1:42 PM on August 22, 2008

Best answer: I found this.

The dobro and the fiddle are the only bluegrass instruments that are held horizontally (which accounts for why dobro pickers are always the first to come in out of the rain). In the case of the dobro, the sound goes up, not out. Proper miking means that the microphone must be suspended over the instrument, by a boom stand, pointing downward. You'd be surprised how many sound technicians don't understand this basic fact. I've been given microphones with pole stands many times onstage, as if there was anything a dobro picker could do with one of them. This downward-pointing microphone can easily feed back from stage monitors, however. Because the dobro, along with the guitar, is one of the quietest of the bluegrass instruments, it needs much more boosting by the sound system than louder instruments like the banjo. Sound technicians don't understand that, either.

This dude says two mics:

when confronted with a rather unusual instrument like this, it pays to use two different types of mics (on separate tracks) to cover the anticipated problem areas. the dobro will share some characteristics of acoustic guitar, but is likely to be much thinner in the low end, and will probably need some warming up. my approach might be to use a small capsule condenser, slightly off-axis at the upper end of the instrument and close in, and couple that with a ribbon or small capsule tube condenser also close in on the lower end of the instrument. use a blend of the two mics to get the right frequency balance. frankly, i am using that technique on all kinds of instruments lately with great success, and find i hardly ever need to use EQ to "fix" the original tracked sound, since i can accent the highs by using a little more condenser, or warm it up by blending in a little more of the ribbon mic.

You may also want to try Electrical Audio.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:50 PM on August 22, 2008

Highlander Pickups for Dobros

Mix the pickup with the mic. the Sure Beta 57A should be fine. 2 mics in a live situation could get out of hand, especially on an acoustic instrument, due to phasing or feedback issues.

If it gets too boomy, can't you roll off a little of the low end on the mixer?
posted by chillmost at 1:57 PM on August 22, 2008

Response by poster: Yeah, we managed to get the EQ right, but it was a palaver.
posted by chuckdarwin at 4:14 PM on August 22, 2008

Search around this guitar forum for loads of discussion on everything about resonator guitars, especially good advice on miking. Bob Brozman is one of the moderators of the site, and really knows his nationals: he has a detailed page about how to mike one of these metal acoustic feedback machines.
posted by zaelic at 1:49 AM on August 23, 2008

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