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May 19, 2024 - 9:34:19 AM
15 posts since 12/15/2021

I play banjo and dobro in a band where the guitar and bass are plugged in. We use individual Shure 57's and 58's for banjo/dobro and vocals. We play a variety of venues, indoors and out, varying amounts of ambient noise.
The problem: everyone says that I am not loud enough. It seems like I am competing with the instruments that have pickups to get enough volume in the overall mix. We use stage monitors like just about everyone else. I switch between the instruments during the show. If we turn my mic up to where the audience can hear it, we get feedback.

The options, as I see them:

1. Give in and install pickups in my instruments.
2. Learn how to adjust the sound board levels, turn everyone else down a little.
3. Get a better mike just for the banjo/dobro.

I'm sure many of you have experienced this problem and I would be very interested to know the solution.

May 19, 2024 - 10:40:01 AM

Fathand

Canada

12387 posts since 2/7/2008

Are you using the SM57 for the banjo? They usually are a bit feedback resistant. Can you cutback the banjo midrange in the monitor mix? I was told once that helps.

May 19, 2024 - 11:35:39 AM
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65 posts since 9/1/2020

57's are an industry standard, so I wouldn't look at that first.
Maybe try turning down just yourself in the monitor.
Unless everyone else is feeding back through your mic.
In which case, you could try a mic with a super-cardioid pattern.

May 19, 2024 - 3:35:05 PM
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15255 posts since 6/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by HarryHyde

1. Give in and install pickups in my instruments.


I started a discussion today because I came to that realization after a sit-in gig last night. If I'm going to accept their future invitations (which I hope will be forthcoming) I think I need a pickup (and a better one than I've used in the past) to be equal in the mix to their plugged-in acoustic guitars.

I'm leaning toward the type that's not a transducer. They're too percussive and boomy. It might be a Fishman or Hatfield-Jones (or is it Jones-Hatfield?).

quote:
Originally posted by HarryHyde

2. Learn how to adjust the sound board levels, turn everyone else down a little.


That's a possibility. I don't know you or your bandmates or your sound person. So I don't know your sound capabilities.

But I know that I was my band's de facto sound guy because I owned most of the stuff and I had been running sound for years before I learned to my surprise that you can set levels without the speakers on! And that you need to set the gain/trim for each channel separately to optimize the signal coming in before you even start adjusting the main level for each channel (instrument or voice). This is basic stuff of which I was totally ignorant. Once I learned about doing that, I never had feedback again. And every voice and instrument had enough signal in the channel to work with. There's still plenty about sound I still don't know. And now it no longer matters. But getting the input signal right changed everything.

So if your sound guy is as ignorant of this fundamental thing as I was, he needs to learn it and that might take care of your volume problem when playing through a mic.

Or it may not.

quote:
Originally posted by HarryHyde

3. Get a better mike just for the banjo/dobro.


SM57 is as much the standard for instrument mics as SM58 is for vocals.

But you need to know how to work it right. In my experience (yours may vary) the mic pointing to the half of the head below the strings is good. Directly below the bridge even better. Pointing at the head, not the flange holes. And you need to work the mic very close when playing leads. As close as you can get without hitting the mic. For backup you can lower yourself in the mix by backing away and playing loudly.

Or you could consider a condenser mic. Some type of small diaphragm perhaps. I don't know that this particular one is what you want, but the price is good. And it gets 4-1/2 stars on MusiciansFriend.

The same duo I sat in with last night were the vocalists in the last full bluegrass  band I played in. For some of our gigs, the leader put my banjo on a small condenser and the sound was great. I'm sure it was an expensive high quality one because he was some type of acoustic engineer or scientist for a living and so his personal sound gear was always top notch.

But I also played through an SM57 a lot of times with that band. In particular at one venue that provided sound, run by a guy who knew what he was doing. We were five pieces: two guitars, mandolin, bass, banjo. I always came through loud and clear in the PA and heard myself in the monitor.

Several possible problems, several possible solutions.

May 19, 2024 - 5:14:04 PM

15 posts since 12/15/2021

Thanks for your ideas so far, guys. I really appreciate it, keep them coming!!

May 19, 2024 - 6:03:49 PM

2944 posts since 9/18/2010

I played drums in a rock&roll/country/top 40/variety band back in the mid 80s. Just for a change of pace I would get out the banjo and play Rocky Top and Foggy Mountain Breakdown. I was "competing" with electric guitar and bass as well as keyboards through1800 watts of PA and 400 watts of monitors. Pretty much just as Ken said, I would point a SM 57 right at the head below the bridge with about 1 inch clearance, and pick hard. I had no problem being heard and didn't have feedback problems.

May 19, 2024 - 7:44:05 PM
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Players Union Member

LukeL

USA

207 posts since 9/14/2017

You should easily be able a get a banjo loud enough in the house with an SM57. It's likely a combination of issues. Not sure what board you're mixing on, but proper EQ and gain setup goes a long way. Ringing out feedback frequencies in the monitors (and the house) and making sure your monitors are controlled by their own mix is a good place to start. Are you using a digital board?

May 20, 2024 - 5:17:17 AM

794 posts since 11/9/2021

Right - proper EQ of acoustic instruments is critical to getting the volume up there in order to compete with electric guitars and drums. He needs to know which frequencies are giving the feedback and then use various equalization techniques to get that out of the mix. That is what you pay a GOOD soundman to do. A bad one will just start twiddling knobs in the hope of nailing that by chance.

SM-57's are indeed the workhorse of a lot of bands and venues, I've been using them for over 45 years and they are almost indestructible. But they are not perfect for every application. My band has switched over to using DPA 4099 condenser mics for fiddle, mandolin and banjo. These clip on mics are superior and these days almost as much of a workhorse for tricky applications as the SM-57. Down side - they must have phantom power (usually the mixing board has a switch to provide this, if not there are workarounds) and the DPA 4099 is not cheap, like around $700 USD. The upside - they will produce the sound of your banjo perfectly, no piezio pick up quackyness, or sounding like an electric guitar if a more conventional magnetic pickup is used. And they have excellent side-sound rejecting properties. You will see either this mic or one of the Ear Trumpet mics in almost every video of pro groups on stage. The Ear Trumpet mics are not what you need for individual sound reinforcement - cranked up high enough to cover the whole band (a common application), those mics are the wrong one for individual instruments.

May 20, 2024 - 5:51:32 PM

3880 posts since 10/17/2009

quote:
Originally posted by HarryHyde

I play banjo and dobro in a band where the guitar and bass are plugged in. We use individual Shure 57's and 58's for banjo/dobro and vocals. We play a variety of venues, indoors and out, varying amounts of ambient noise.
The problem: everyone says that I am not loud enough. It seems like I am competing with the instruments that have pickups to get enough volume in the overall mix. We use stage monitors like just about everyone else. I switch between the instruments during the show. If we turn my mic up to where the audience can hear it, we get feedback.

The options, as I see them:

1. Give in and install pickups in my instruments.
2. Learn how to adjust the sound board levels, turn everyone else down a little.
3. Get a better mike just for the banjo/dobro.

I'm sure many of you have experienced this problem and I would be very interested to know the solution.


The other option is:

4. Invest in decent In-Ear-Monitors system. It avoids a lot of issues which comes from monitors.

Your post doesn't give much information. Without knowing the exact details of setup, looking at the space/room/stage, placement of mics/speakers; as well as gear, to determine what is causing issues with not being heard vs gain before feedback... would be just a bunch of wild guesses. Your post also doesn't address - how dang loud do you need the sound to be in that spaces, stage and/or FOH?

I would start with focus on along the lines of understanding sound, and sound reinforcement works... IMO is well worth the time.  Just a few basic things can give good bang for buck. Even if doesn't completely solve issue... will still help GBF, and have other benefits to getting overall cleaner sound/mix.

Can observe bands, using ame old SM57, and SM58s (or other mics); and foldback monitors like wedges. Some get can get plenty loud with a lot of GBF headroom. Others struggling with sound, sometimes even with PU/piezos. Difference is often due to understanding and good set up (more than specific gear); can often notice latter, some very fundamental set-up things that could be better and probably contributing a lot.

Before touching knobs (or just any different gear)... start with fundamentals in understanding some of the physical space and placement, polar and dispersion pattern; and optimizing those aspects. Also consider not just direct line of sight, but understanding reflection; will create room modes, hot/weak spots at different frequencies; and just moving mic or speaker a foot can affect that and thus GBF. Pay attention to how many open mics; as these issues accumulate; maybe reduce mics, or think about using a noise gate. How many monitor speakers is also part of equation. Of course, having ability to have separate individual monitor mix is handy and can help resolve some issue.

From there, understanding mixer, gain staging, and EQ across frequency spectrum. Dealing with those room mode, hot frequencies (ringing out). But as well is an aspect of perceived loudness... sometimes why hard to hear in a mix... is too much mud build up (esp in lows or mids)... turning up all the frequencies turns up the mud (and GBF issues); rather might only need to some part of the frequency spectrum stand out more to help give clarity, thus cut and be heard. First, it's a good idea on many instruments to use a High Pass Filter (HPF) or low cut, shelf; as the instrument doesn't itself musically produce those low freq, doesn't need to reproduce em thru PA. (banjo low D is about 142 Hz).  From there, might be a boost of say 2.8K, or perhaps 4K; or conversely might be better to cut the 1200-1600 Hz range. Along that lines, with a lot of stages, it can help to lean the overall monitor a little on thin side (esp in loud contexts); helps cut through. 

These can go long way to improve GBF, and improve overall sound; in some situations still might need use other gear/mic/PU; but these aspects still apply and are useful in those situations.

-------

As far as the other part of #2.  - turn everyone else down a little. Sometimes comes another issue mentioned; "how dang loud do you need to be?" - often avoid discussion with bandmates (or debate) or venue. Esp. some folks that plug in, are loud because they can; part is... it's natural for a player to want to hear themselves slightly louder than the rest... so turn their amp up, causing the other player to turn their amp up; kind of cycle that often just makes it worse/muddier. Of course some kind of have idea of "More Louder is Better"; so play as loud as can. laugh (ironically then complain can't hear others). Sometimes just way too loud for the physical space, size of room... which introduce all those frequency issues (not just feedback). Tends to cause crowd to talk louder. Consider that a lot of venues/bands the music is way louder than was decades ago (folks seemed to do fine with that equip and lower volume). Not saying not to; that maybe it does need to be 110 dB... just pointing out that maybe stop and consider context of gig; if perhaps sacrificing some overall good sounding mix just for sake of being louder, is actually better and worth it?

May 27, 2024 - 7:29:37 PM

braungre

Canada

91 posts since 11/3/2007

I use the K&K twinspot in my open-back and plug into a Traynor K2 keyboard amp. I get no feedback onstage (as long as I'm not going for heavy overdrive) and I'm loud enough to be prominent if necessary over the rock drums and electric guitar/bass. The Traynor replaced a Fender sidekick 65 bass amp, it worked okay but feedback was more of an issue; I also had to work to get a clean tone at high volumes and it was less flexible than the keyboard amp, which is essentially a PA with better modeling etc..

I'm super happy with the keyboard amp and won't ever go back.  Overall:  less feedback; more natural sound due to the tweeter, mid, and bass speakers; keyboard amps usually have preamps built-in, eliminating the preamp or DI box requirement in your chain.  

Edited by - braungre on 05/27/2024 19:31:54

Jun 2, 2024 - 1:55:16 PM

419 posts since 6/15/2006

If you go for an absolutely natural acoustic sound, a mike is the best choice, but if you can go with the next best, I think The Hatfield will be the best choice. I have heard it live a couple of times and if the tone controls on the amp are set right, and the band is playing, and you close your eyes it is hard to tell, that it is not a mike. It will make you feel more free, and you can move about without all the time thinking of the proper distance to the mike. I think you will get a new and happier and more relaxed life wih such one. Dont go with those that take the signal directly from the strings, and use real mikes if you  are recording. Dont know about dobros. Hope you´ll find a good solution. Steen                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     P.s. The Jones-Hatfield pick up is made for banjos with two coordinator rods          

Edited by - steen on 06/02/2024 14:08:22

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