Recording Bluegrass Instruments

May 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Blair Jackson



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Paczosa: “Usually, I'll use KM54s or the Royer SF24. I'm leaning more on the SF24 these days, especially if I'm not looking for a wide stereo image in the mix. The SF24s have a little bigger low end than I usually want on guitar, but after I shape the bottom a bit and dig out some top end, it's beautiful.?If it's a more sparse production I'm after, I might head back to the 54s so that I can get a wider image. If it's the 54s I end up with, I love the Mastering Lab preamps, GML EQ and GML compressor. If I go with the Royer, I usually pair it up with the Vintech X81, which has plenty of gain for a ribbon and great-sounding EQ.”

VornDick: “This really depends a lot on the player and the guitar, of course. On Tony [Rice], historically, if he's going to be playing Clarence White's [1930s Martin D-28] guitar, I'll use a Sanken 31 and 32. On someone else I might use KM84s or 184s. Martins can get really boomy when you get to the 35s and 45s. The D-28s are still pretty smooth on the low end; they don't have that thump. I'd normally use an API or Neve [pre], depending on where I'm recording — if I'm going to bring in my racks.

“My mic placement on guitar is a little odd. I have one where the neck joins the body, pointed in the area, looking at the guitar, to the right, between the hole, arch and neck, where the higher transients are. Then I have another one that looks down from where his right shoulder is because most guitar players play to the right ear — and that mic is pointed down to the upper end of the guitar,?covering the area in the middle between the wrist and shoulder. That microphone emulates what the guitarist is hearing, and will be deeper in tonal timbre.?I keep the 3-to-1 rule in mind [if a mic is one foot away from the instrument, it must be three feet away from another mic that is a foot away] and the two mics are no wider in angle then 90 to 110 degrees. They both will be focused to the back of the sound hole.”

Kohrs: “Recently I've been using a stereo pair of Peluso P-28s run through either Telefunken V72s or the Forssell pre's. Placement depends on how boomy the guitar is — if it's a boomy old Martin, Mike and I will either use a Blumlein at the 12th fret to get a lot of punch and what have you, or we'll do an over and under. If it's a finger-picking thing, I tend to mike the guitar left and right wide and get it really close to the guitar to get the fingerpick noise.”

Chandler: “The guitar determines what mics I'll use, but I have favorites. Ricky Watson always comes to the studio with a good Herringbone [a type of Martin D-28 made between 1932 and 1946] because he's got 12 or 15 of them! And, of course, Tony [Rice] has that awesome [D-28], but his right hand is awesome, too, and pulls the tone out of that guitar. Both of those guys like the small-diaphragm mics like KM84s, but sometimes I might put a U87-sized mic or a 47 miking from the center out and then put an 84 or an 86 up around the neck area. For pre's, I stick with Neves and APIs.”


Paszosa: “On upright bass, I have always loved combining a Sony C880G and a B&K 4006.?The Sony has all the top end I need for attack, as well as good low-end definition. I love an omni blended in to pick up some room ambience. I'm not too picky about what preamp I use on the bass, but I love the Anthony DeMaria ADL 1000 compressor. It has the perfect attack and release for doghouse bass.”

VornDick: “For bass, you can't beat a 47 or a 77DX, or a 44. The Shure KSM 44 is really amazing because it has a really tight low end to it. Then there's the [Crowley and Tripp] El Diablo — that can take so much level. Typically, I'll have that lower mic six to eight inches off the bridge, either a little to the left or the right depending on the player. For the upper-end mic, historically I used to use a KM84, but right now I'm loving the new Telefunken 260: I used that on this new Charlie Haden record, and we both loved it. For that upper microphone, I'll go to the center of the upper curve and angle it toward the strings. For a preamp, for ribbons and large-diaphragm mics like that, I'd choose a Great River [Electronics] preamp because you have a lot of options and a pretty fast slew rate.”

Kohrs: “When I'm using two mics, for the bottom mic I'll use a K2 RØDE or Audio Technica 4060 through a [Universal Audio] LA-610 [tube preamp] with mild compression at -2, run through a Natale Audio-modified Ampex 351. For the top mic, I use a Violet ‘Finger’ mic run through a Forssell preamp. I use that for finger noise to get some punch. Sometimes I'll add a third mic to the bass, too, like another 4060.”

Chandler: “For the bottom mic, I like to use an RCA 44 ribbon with a UA LA-610 pre, which gives me more impedance options and a smooth warmth for the low-end tones. I generally like mic placement for this at around six to eight inches from the bridge, depending on the room and instrument volume. For the top mic, I really get good results from U67 or U87s. These mics have good proximity response, which gives you more coverage and ambience.”


Paczosa: “On dobro, it really depends on who is playing. Jerry Douglas makes it really easy. Depending on the dobro and the key that the song is being played in, I will start with a pair of Neumann 582s into the Vintech X81 into the Empirical Labs Distressor. If it's sounding too metallic, then we move right to our Royer options.”

VornDick: “On Jerry Douglas, I use a pair of 67s through a Great River preamp; on his new album, that's what I used. On another session, I used Telefunken 260s — because I was using the 67s for vocals — and that was immaculate. Mike Auldridge likes KM84s, and I've also used KM86s. I'll place the mics six to eight inches off the instrument — one where the hole is on the treble side and one off the resonator, but it depends a little on whether we're talking about a dobro [brand] or a Scheerhorn or a Beard because of the way the overtones work on those particular instruments.”

Kohrs: “Again, I'll use Peluso P-28s run through the Telefunken V72; or the Violet ‘Dolly,’ now called the ‘Black Knight,’ works great, too. Doing tracks with heavily featured dobro, a darker sound sometimes sounds better and I'll go with Royer 121s.”

Chandler: “Dobros are fun, especially when you have players like Rob Icks, Jerry Douglas and Phil Ledbetter to work with, along with good instruments that make mics and placement easier. I like Royer 122s, U87s and C-12s. I always listen for sweet spots before I do any placements and try to get as familiar with the tone of the instrument and player as possible to reproduce the tone accurately.”

Blair Jackson is Mix's senior editor.

Recording Bluegrass—the unedited version

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