Field Report–Playing Live

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  • #3317
    AvatarLowboy
    Participant

    Hi,

    Well Last Saturday I played keyboard harmonica with two bands at a microbrewery in Connecticut. The crowd was not into the bands very much. They were there for the beer. However, I learned a lot. The first band was a three piece with standup bass and acoustic guitar. We were amplified. Even though I had my JBL 12-inch, two-way monitor at my feet, I found it difficult to hear myself. Even when I could hear myself, it was not good enough to hear the nuances I like to hear to get inspired. We did not have a dedicated soundman, so my recording made about halfway back in the room indicated my sound was not big and powerful as I imagined, but rather weenie and weak sounding.

    After playing five songs in this format, I played two sets with an electric blues band. Same result only worse. I could hear very little of my processed sound from my own monitor and it was difficult to play with inspiration. My recording indicated that during one set, the keyboard harmonica was too far down in the mix. Even though I was blowing like crazy, you could barely hear the keyboard harmonica. The sound from the PA was not the sound I wanted to project. So back to the drawing board.

    I did not like the in-ear, passive noise cancelling headphone monitors I tried during rehearsals and in my practice room. They were too hard to put on, let the low ambient frequencies through (I want to hear the higher frequencies), and kept backing out of my ear canals. The ones I tried (Shure), did not have sufficient bass response when listening to a flat signal from the direct box.

    So next I will try (again) using my old Bose noise cancelling, over ear headphones as monitors, which seemed to hold promise last time I tried them. It means performing with headphones on, which visually may not look too hot (personally this does not bother me, but it does limit my hat choices), and not being able to hear the stage sound as well. I will have to trust the sound man.

    Any other ideas?

    Regards,

    Lowboy

    #3319
    AvatarMelodica-Me
    Participant

    Hello Lowboy, hope all is well and the gigs are plentiful. It sounds like your biggest issue is actually going to be your microphone. I have yet to get decent amplification or should I say “controlled” amplification with a microphone and amplifire. It’s much different with a decent sound system and decent board man. You need to be able to hear your sound from your amplifier to be able to mix yourself into the band overall mix. I jammed a few weeks ago where we had (2) trumpets, sax, electric bass, guitar, keyboard and drums and I was asked to trim down a bit simply because where I was seated I could not hear the overall mix and I was using a small fender Acoustasonic junior, talk about a lack of power. I heard myself but could not hear all the instruments evenly (no engineer) just a Bose system for vocals and the keyboard and horn solos. Monitors help but you still need to be heard. I would go to a pickup since you have sound holes in the back of your melodica. Unlike your piano 36 that the sound comes out of the keyboad much harder to pickup with a microphone. I would invest on the Myers pick up and run it through your rig. It may work for you. I can not say with 100% accuracy since I do not have a piano 26 and cassotto. It does work great with the pro 36. Sorry if I sound like a salesman.
    Melodica-Me.

    #3330
    AvatarLowboy
    Participant

    Hi Melodica-Me,

    I looked at the Myers pickup again. Nice endorsement by the way. It certainly looks like a high quality microphone and preamp and perfect for many melodica applications. My issues with using it on the sound holes on the back of my Hohner Piano 26s/27s is twofold. First, I often hold the whole back of the piano harmonica against my chest to muffle the sound. I also roll the back of the keyboard harmonica against my chest to produce the “belly wah” effect. And I bang the back against my diaphragm to get a vibrato effect by pushing the air out of my lungs in pulses. So mounting a microphone on the back is not possible in my application.

    In addition, I play my Shure SM57 microphone quite a bit by waving the piano harmonicas around the mic for modulation effect and moving the instrument close to and far away from the mic depending the notes I am playing. For example, when I play low notes, imitating a baritone sax, I get right up close to the mic for proximity effect and to boost the volume. When I play very high notes, I pull back from the mic so the notes are not piercing. While you can modulate volume using breadth control, playing the mic enables me to play soft but still send a strong signal (moving in close), or play wicked, powerful, high chopped chords to get the sound of power, but not overpower the system (by being far away from the mic).

    I think I do have a partial solution to my monitoring problem that I will put to the test and report on soon.

    Regards,

    Lowboy

    #3331
    AvatarLowboy
    Participant

    So believe it or not, I am finding that wearing an old pair of Bose noise cancelling headphones seems to work really well for personal monitoring. The headphones cut down on the stage volume. (I play my studio monitors really loud to imitate a stage environment.) They also provide a really clear, detailed reproduction of my processed piano harmonica signal. I play so much better when I can hear every nuance of my instrument. And I don’t have to carry an amp.

    I take the spare line-out signal from my direct box and run it–using a microphone cable–to a broadcast-quality, battery-powered microphone preamp attached to my belt. Then I plug my headphones into the preamp, which also has a volume control. I have tried this in the past with Shure in-ear monitors, but the headphones did not work well. As crazy as it sounds, I like the Bose setup better.

    The two issues are: First, I will have to perform on stage with headphones on. (I don’t care about this except I will not be able to wear my bluesman hat.) Second, my sound will be in the hands of the sound man (okay) or some band member’s friend–who does not know about music–saying the “melodica is too load” or “too soft” (not okay).

    I will try this out at the next rehearsal to get real life experience with it.

    Lowboy

    #3333
    AvatarMelodica-Me
    Participant

    Lowboy, I forgot about the famous “Belly Wah” (trademark pending) lol. I had a similar problem years ago when I could not hear myself while playing with other musicians live. I used a personal monitor the kind you put on a microphone stand. I dug my old Yamaha monitor and took a picture of it, maybe this will work for you.
    Melodica-Me

    http://i355.photobucket.com/albums/r445/BigPwr/cee58fe6705fc928281c6ca227048e22.jpg

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