Microphones & Uilleann Pipes

Responses to query posted on REC.AUDIO.PRO

Copyright 1992 by the various authors.

From: darkstar@Larry.Pathology.Washington.EDU Thu Apr 9 13:21:09 1992

Date: Thu, 9 Apr 92 10:21:09 PDT
From: Alden Hackmann
Message-Id: <9204091721.AA01870@Larry.Pathology.Washington.EDU>
To: ddaye@magnus.acs.ohio-state.edu (David C Daye)
Subject: Re: Help miking weird instrument

In rec.audio.pro article

I don't play uillean pipes myself, or have much experience micing them. (I was pressed into sound service on St. Pat's, being the only person in crowded bar who knew how to run a board. It was an experience, but not the height of professionallism.)

With that said, I'd say your best bet would be to buy your own mics and stands, and learn where to place them and how to tell the sound man to EQ them. Then all the variables are at the board/monitor end of things, since you KNOW that you have the placement right and how the mic SHOULD sound through the monitors. Admittedly this has the drawback of having to bring mics and stands with you, but reduces the hassles of figuring out how to deal with each new microphone that's pointed in your direction. As you have no doubt noticed, each mic is different.

From what I know of the pipes, you probably want to avoid internal pickups/close mics/whatever - as you note, the sound comes from a dispersed area, which is much better suited to a microphone on a stand. Remember the inverse-square law: sound twice as far away is one-quarter as loud. This makes a BIG difference when trying to mic a linear source. You would also have interference problems between the two mics: sound from one hole reaching the two mics out of phase, adding together and cancelling each other out.

Re balance and parametric EQ - yes you can, but if the soundman know his job, you should just be able to ask for a bit more bass in the drone mic, or ask for the chanter to be louder, or whatever. It helps to know what to ask for.

I wouldn't worry too much about turning the mic off while changing instruments. You could conceivably come in way too loud or way too soft, and both you and the soundman will compensate...

I am a folkie / semi-pro soundman, so you may get more "professional" answers. I'm just giving you my perspective, and hope it's useful. I may have (God forbid) used some soundman jargon. If so, write me and I'll explain it if I understand it.

I'd appreciate a digest of other responses you get. Good luck.

Alden F.M. Hackmann University of Washington
darkstar@u.washington.edu Department of Pathology

From troby@diana.cair.du.edu Thu Apr 9 12:08:28 1992

Date: Thu, 9 Apr 92 10:08:10 -0600
From: troby@diana.cair.du.edu (Thorn Roby)
Message-Id: <9204091608.AA23514@diana.cair.du.edu>
To: ddaye@magnus.acs.ohio-state.edu
Subject: Re: Help miking weird instrument
Newsgroups: rec.audio.pro
In-Reply-To: <1992Apr8.184325.27524@magnus.acs.ohio-state.edu>
Organization: University of Denver, Denver, Colorado

While I've never had the good fortune to mike uillean pipes (I don't think there's anything but Highland pipers in Denver) I'd risk a recommendation that won't cost much to try and might get you what you want. You can buy cheap lavalier electret mikes from Radio Shack (about $15 or so) and a mixer, and try various locations (both on and near the instrument), feeding the mixer output to heaphones (maybe through a cassette deck for amplification). My guess is that with the disparity in volume from the various parts of the instrument that you might need three or more mikes to cover it. Listen for cancellation effects and sensitivity to position (i.e., you might find that moving slightly, if one or more mikes is not fixed to the instrument, might cause the signal of two mikes to cancel). If, on the other hand, there is a single point in space where the balance and tone quality is satisfactory, then a single very directional mike at that point would be simpler. Nice thing about Radio Shack is you can try this stuff out and return it if it doesn't work.


Thorn Roby troby@diana.cair.du.edu
CARL Systems, Inc. troby@carl.org
3801 E. Florida Ave.,Suite D300,Denver, CO 80210 (303) 758-3030

From mbl@MEDIA-LAB.MEDIA.MIT.EDU Wed Apr 8 15:38:15 1992

Date: Wed, 8 Apr 92 15:39:46 -0400
From: Marc LoCascio
Message-Id: <9204081939.AA25378@media-lab.mit.edu>
To: ddaye@magnus.acs.ohio-state.edu
Subject: mic'ing Uillean pipes

what a great question. at least now i know what Uillean pipes are (i've seen them listed on Kate Bush albums). my guess would be to use a pair of cardioid condensors (Shure SM94's are pretty good for under $200 each) a foot or so away from the melody pipe. are you saying that this would be unlikely to pick up enough of the drone pipes? Shure also makes the SM98 mini-condensor (i don't know the price, but i'd guess around $200), which you might be able to attach to the instrument. alot depends on your group's stage volume. if it's relatively quiet, you could move the condensor pair back a few feet and get a nice, natural sound. otherwise, it'll take alot of small mics. other mini-condensors are the Crown GLM and Countryman (i forget the model number). if you have more than two mics, i'd suggest doing a submix on stage for the soundman (the new Mackie mixers are great and relatively cheap).

good luck! definitely let rec.audio.pro know what you end up doing.

Marc LoCascio (mbl@media-lab.media.mit.edu)

From: kludge@grissom.larc.nasa.gov Wed Apr 8 15:18:04 1992 Message-Id:

Date: Wed, 8 Apr 92 14:09:09 EST
From: Scott Dorsey
To: ddaye@magnus.acs.ohio-state.edu
Subject: Re: Help miking weird instrument
Newsgroups: rec.audio.pro
In-Reply-To: <1992Apr8.184325.27524@magnus.acs.ohio-state.edu>
Organization: NASA Langley Research Center And Storm Door Company

In article <1992Apr8.184325.27524@magnus.acs.ohio-state.edu> you write:

>I play the Irish uillean pipe, a quiet and very rare lap-bagpipe you
>might have seen/heard in the band The Chieftains. If I'm *very*
>lucky, one of you might have worked for them on a tour.

I record for the Atlanta Celtic Festival frequently, and get to deal with the sound reinforcement folks who work there. I am not a sound reinforcement guy at all, but a recording engineer, so I can't speak from serious experience.

>Periodically I find myself on a professional stage, and I'm looking for
>advice on how to deal with the likes of you so that everybody's happy.
>I know of no pickups for these instruments ..... My goal is to have an
>entire audience hear the instrument exactly as I do.

This is a serious problem. You can't mike each one of the pipes individually, with any ease. Vibration pickups (ie C-ducers) are altogether out.

>If I'm providing all my own mikes, does it
>make sense to use an on-stage mixer to relieve the sound man of trying
>to set relative levels for this rare contraption (I'm presuming that the
>relative levels would be constant electronically, as they are
>acoustically, from one gig to the next.)

This is what Rex Garrett does, basically. He's the only guy I have worked with who has done a reasonable job with the instrument. He generally uses an expander and some serious equalization of the high end to tame the problems with close miking. He also uses the Sennheiser dynamics on the top, with a pair of Crown GLMs on the drones. I think the secret is to get a sound guy who has heard the instrument before. If you try to make a submix on stage, it might sound fine to you, but from the point of view of the audience it might be way off. The sound on stage will not be at all like that in the audience. --scott

From: chrisc@gold.gvg.tek.com (Chris Christensen)

Subject: Re: Help miking weird instrument
Keywords: acoustic, folk, Irish
Date: 9 Apr 92 21:59:03 GMT
Distribution: na
Organization: Grass Valley Group, Grass Valley, CA
Lines: 53

In article <1992Apr8.184325.27524@magnus.acs.ohio-state.edu>
ddaye@magnus.acs.ohio-state.edu (David C Daye) writes:
>I play the Irish uillean pipe,

I've not worked with The Chieftains nor ave I see the beast that ya speak of but I'll offer me advice.

Oh I have done a good bit of work with ethnic ensembles.....Including yer regular pipes.

I would suggest that you purchase a nice electret condenser microphone and I will recommend the Shure 849. This is a smooth sounding mic with excellent off asis response. It also has a switch but don't use it without the cooperation of the soundperson. Convince him/her that you will take charge of the on's-n-off's.

I would also suggest that you purchase your own mic stand and modify it for the position that you need. Get one of the Atlas MS-25's. Its a heavy triangle based stand.

I would position the mic in the center of the array of pipes at an equal distance from the spread of the pipes and the same distance from the pipes.

This position will capture the balance of the sound from the pipes. You can modify the position to get the proper balance if the starting point isn't correct.

Because of the distance between the mic and the instrument the ability to get much sound out of a monitor systen will be compromised. The fixed stand position can be tweeked for max level and that is what you'll have to live with. It really shouldn't be too bad unless uou are doing fills for a loud band.......

I am sure that you could wire up the instrument have a sub mixer and do it that way but I am sure that it won't meet your first objective, to have the audience hear it like you do.

Setting yourself up off to the side of the band may help with leakage.

Also you could do what guitarists have been doing. Put pick-ups on the instrument and use that for the monitors and use the stand mic for the house only.

For pick-ups I would consider uni-directional electret capsules.

This is all shooting blind with suggestions. I hope that you can work it out.
Chris Christensen The opinions I express are my own,
chrisc@gold.gvg.tek.com and sometimes they are wrong!
916-478-3419 FAX 916-478-3887 After all, I AM only human.

Return to David Daye's Bagpipe Page.