Help with recording fiddle tunes

Help with recording fiddle tunes

Anyone have suggestions on the best approach for recording fiddle tracks? I’m using a good quality digital multitracker to record our band and have no problems with any instrument except the fiddle. No matter what microphone type and placement I try, I get too much bow noise, making it sound harsh. I’ve tried everything from large diaphragm condenser studio mics to fiddle-mounted pickups (ugh!) with little success. I’ve also tried various effects, EQ methods, and room configurations, which help a little, but change the quality of the music too much. It’s not a problem for fast jigs and reels, but on waltzes and airs it’s really obtrusive. My bow technique is partly to blame for this, I’m sure, but I’ve tried recording some violinists who have spectacularly good tone with not much better results.

The best arrangement I’ve found so far is a large condenser mic placed 4 or 5 feet above the fiddle in a large, reflective room to get some natural reverb and delay. But the scrapy sound still comes through. Anyone know now the pros record those nice round-sounding fiddle and violin tracks with almost no bow noise?

Scott C

Re: Help with recording fiddle tunes

I don’t know what kind of pickups you’r useing on your fiddle, I should guess they’re piezo. Bowtronics USA make good quality magnetic pickups that sound authentically accoustic. (the quality of these units has to be seen to be belived) That clip onto the ent of your fiddles fingerboard with plastic grub-screws. piezo pickups will only work well with really good EQ that I know nothing about.
I too have had problems with Microphones. and in the end the Bowtronics pick-up is the only solution for accoustic fiddle, (But get a second opinion than mine!) The only other alternative I can think of would be a solid-body electric fiddle, and most people find these offensive.
Hope I have been of some help

PS: I’ll post the bowtronics web address in the links section!

Magnetic pickups

This will probably just show my ignorance, but don’t magnetic pickups require steel strings to work? I thought violin strings were aluminum (or cat gut :-)).

Re: Help with recording fiddle tunes

If you’re recording with a digital multitracker, can you adjust the EQ on the fiddle track to minimize the bow noise? I would think that turning down a specific high freq range would do it without altering the basic tone too much.

Re: Help with recording fiddle tunes

Thanks Dafydd, I’ve not heard of the Bowtronics, so I’ll check into them. I’ve used both the Fishman and Baggs piezo pickups, both with EQ preamps. The Baggs was vastly better than the Fishman, but both were unacceptable to me. I also bought a clip-on condenser mic, but took it back immediately because it picked up bow noise worse than the piezos.

As you suggest, I don’t want to resort to an electric fiddle.

EQ to take out bow noise

To jmmana,

I’m using an Akai DPS 16, which has pretty good parametric EQ. I’ve tried EQ’ing out the bow noise, but it’s basically white noise, a mix of all frequencies, and you can’t get rid of it. I can reduce it by notching out some of the higher frequencies, but that takes out the higher harmonics of the music and makes the fiddle sound really muddy.

I looked at the Bowtronics mag pickup. Looks interesting, may have to give one a try.

Re: Help with recording fiddle tunes

I’ve only done one or two recordings involving fiddles, so this is pretty speculative, but here’s some thoughts on the problem:
1) Does your fiddling just sound that way? It could be that you’re producing a lot of string and bow noise that you’re not aware of. You might ask a third party to compare the recording to the real thing. If your bowing is noisy, you can either learn to live with it, change the way you play, change the bow/rosin, or try to fix it in the recording process. The last is probably the least effective.
2) Every fiddler I’ve ever heard has produced a certain amount of bow noise. Usually you don’t hear it unless you’re listening for that sort of thing. Is it maybe something that you’re only hearing because you’ve put your playing under the microscope to record? Again, a second set of ears will help here.
3)Microphone placement might help. Try things that seem crazy - mic the underside of the fiddle, maybe, or some such.
4) Pickups are tricky to record with as a single source, but you might get some good effect by using a pickup for the "base" of your sound, and mixing in enough mic to give you the flavor of the fiddle, but not enough to get a lot of noise. Might work, it sometimes does.
5) Using EQ for corrective effect will probably affect your sound more than you realize. Tread lightly there. Remember that with the overtone series you’re affecting every note in some way when you notch out "just a little bit here". Solve it with placement if you can.
6) Good luck!

Re: Help with recording fiddle tunes

Glauber
Many people in ITM use fiddle strings with a steel core, often spiral wound, and the E string is always steel. Others use strings with a polymer core wound externally with aluminum or perhaps silver or some other non-ferrous metal for the lower strings. The latest generation of polymer core strings, such as Zyex, give the responsiveness and tone of gut but have the advantages of steel such as stability of intonation under changes of temperature and humidity. True gut strings are only likely to be used by early music specialists or by some classical musicians.

trevor

Re: Help with recording fiddle tunes

Just one or two random thoughts on this topic. First I must say that I’m not particularly competent to chat about pickups and recording techniques in detail because I’ve never made any recordings.

It is a fact that drawing a bow across a string will always generate some bow hair noise. A classical soloist will tell you that when projecting the tone to reach the back of a concert hall without the benefit of a mic there will inevitably be quite a lot of this noise, but it becomes inaudible a few feet away from the player. I don’t think a classical player would use this level of tone projection when playing solo or in a small enemble in a smaller room such as a recording studio.

If a level of tone projection similar to that being used in a live gig or session were to be used in the recording studio then an unacceptable level of bow hair noise may well be picked up by the mic and, as has been pointed out on previous postings, that can’t be filtered out without drastically altering the tone of the fiddle. Perhaps one solution is for the player to use a lower level of tone projection, coupled with mic placement and a minimum amount of rosin on the bow. If a mic is within a critical distance of the instrument it is bound to pick up unwanted noise, so if the mic is placed a little further away then that problem may be solvable. However, this may require screens between the instruments to prevent unwanted pickup from other instruments.

trevor

Re: Help with recording fiddle tunes

Help with EQ -

Scott, It is my firm belief that one Mic can not capture all the sound that is the fiddle. Try Two Mics - Try three. Since you have a digital system, you could mix them stereo onto one track. I believe you will do a much better job of recapturing the warmth. That Microphones rip out of the violin.

The Bow Hair noise is not ineveitable. Depending on your EQ you can start by dropping out the highest frequencies. That channel usually records those terribly high pitched wispy noises that come off the bow. Chop them off.

The next channel down, play with it. I usually position it dead center. The next few channels make the difference. Only bow hair sounds that are left are probably acceptable at this point. You will most likely be the only person who finds them irritating.

The Bass Channels are a waste on my fiddle. I just drop them and any unententional hums (If any) - go away.

Let me know who it goes and what works best for your case.
Mark

Re: Help with recording fiddle tunes

For the benefit of thesession members, bowtronics pickups have correction circuitry that removes the harsh, synthetic effect normally associated with magnetic pickups. most good music shops can supply steel cored strings (most people use these without even knowing that they are steel cored) I am very satisfyd with bowtronics pick-ups, they can even be used with very litle EQ messing around!

Re: Help with recording fiddle tunes

It sounds like the Bowtronics is a very good pickup however I take mild umbrage at their website’s blanket claim that piezo pickups require extensive EQ - this is not borne out in my personal experience and I would encourage a bit of research and asking-around before accepting Bowtronic’s claim at face value.

I

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Re: Help with recording fiddle tunes

I, too, have had good luck with piezos on guitar and bouzouki, but on mandolin and especially fiddle and viola, both of the ones I used needed serious EQ to make them semi-tolerable. The Fishman was shrill, the Baggs was better but boomy. Both needed good close-coupled preamps to get a decent signal into the mixing board, otherwise they sounded thin.

I guess I’ll have to switch to steel core strings and try the Bowtronics.

Dafydd, what holds the pickup onto the end of the fingerboard?

ScottC

BTW: I’ve come close to disaster a few times when band members have stepped on my trailing wires while playing on stage.

Re: Help with recording fiddle tunes

I don’t know exactly how much they cost at the moment, but I’d guess

Re: Help with recording fiddle tunes

Try placing the mic to the side (not top) of the fiddle. This cuts some of the scratchy highs, and is from the position that’s heard by most listeners ;-)

Re: Help with recording fiddle tunes

I’ve been messing with this for a while. I just got great results recording an acoustic guitar for a solo recording, and I did a bluegrass recording a while back where everything sounded great except my fiddle. I’ve been doing a good amount of experimentation and research lately. Here’s what I’ve found:

A Large Diaphragm Studio Condensor or, even better, a small diaphragm, miking the top works much better in an omnidirectional pattern than in cardioid mode. I’m also told the further from the instrument, the better.

If you don’t have a mic that has an omni pattern, a nice and relatively inexpensive one can be purchased from www.sound-room.com. The model is the oktava mc012, but make sure you purchase the OMNI capsule. This helps to pick up the whole room sound rather than just the fiddle itself. Unfortunately, fiddle is the sort of instrument that is very room dependent, so this will help get the whole picture. Also, the larger the room, the higher the ceiling, and the warmer the sound of the room, the better.

As SteveM mentioned, miking the side is a great idea, and miking the back of the fiddle cuts off bow noise even more. It results in a rich, woody tone that might blend well with the sound of other microphones positioned elsewhere. I’ve even heard of people putting a mic behind the FIDDLER, thus cutting off any direct sound waves, and minimizing bow noise.

Also, a dynamic mic like an sm-57 can help some scratchy sounding fiddles, and a ribbon mic like an rca 77-dx is supposed to be great, but you have to find it on the used market and it comes with a price. The royer ribbon mics are supposed to be nice as well, but are also pricey. However the beyerdynamic mics (esp. m160) are supposed to give nice results and they run in the 200-500 dollar range. Unfortunately, just as good fiddles are expensive, so is making a fiddle sound good.

You can also try adding verb and eq after you’ve done all this and keeping the fiddle a little lower in the mix can also help. The worst frequency range on the instrument is usually around 4k, so try to take this out by a decibel or two with your equalizer. I’ve found it helps a bunch. However if you remove too much, you loose some of the character of the instrument. Be careful.

I’m working on two albums right now, and I’m about to make my setup mobile, so I’ll have the option of trying a bunch of great mics in a number of situations and configurations, so as I get results, I’ll try to share and maybe even post examples on my website.

Good luck!
Dan

Re: Help with recording fiddle tunes

I’ve tried loads of things. The best seems to be the SE3 (small diapragm mic, about £120), about a foot above the end of the fingerboard but slanted slightly towards the bridge. The mic seems to be made for fiddle! I don’t seem to need to eq this much, especially in a room with a wooden floor. Dead rooms are HORRIBLE for the fiddle! Sometimes a slight boost at 317 Hz adds warmth though…

An x-y stereo pair in the same postion is nice on a solo fiddle.

Hope that helps.

ooooo - just seen the date - only 2 years too late!

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Re: Help with recording fiddle tunes

Have you tried an SM-58. It’s frequently the mic of choice for live fiddle work, as it’s not as harsh as an SM-57. I’ve also used it for some portastudio recording work. OK, it’s not *studio* quality, but if it’s just a portastudio recording you’re making, it may be fit for purpose (as well as cheap!). Good luck.

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Re: Help with recording fiddle tunes

sh*t slim… It’s an old thread right enough. I was wondering why I hadn’t noticed the thread before, and also wondered what you meant with your 2 years too late comment - serves me right for not paying attention:-)

Someone might be tempted to make a comment about following like sheep now - bah, bah, bah…….

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