How To Mic Violin Live | Top Tips 2022

Playing your stringed instrument for an audience is not only about how skilled you are. It is also about how the sound reaching your audience complements your violin skills.

Basically, you could be giving your absolute best performance and your audience could still be suffering through sound that is either extremely high-pitched, carrying background noise,  distorted, or so low it can barely be heard.

All this resulting from a wrong choice of mic or incorrect mic placement.

The correct position of your microphone is a delicate act of balance if you want to avoid all undesired extremes, such as your violin sound being overpowered by other instruments or disturbed by unwanted noise, etc. The goal is to produce the perfect blend of sounds emanating from your violin to create a magnificent musical harmony.

Although it can be a tough job to accurately mic the violin considering there is no single perfect way to do it. However, it is not impossible. All you have to do is find the right spot to place your mic so it can catch the beautiful sounds of the strings and amplify them harmoniously.

What is Violin?

Also known as the fiddle, the violin is a wooden stringed instrument with a hollow body and four strings that produce sounds. It is the smallest and the most high-pitched instrument in the violin family that is generally played using a bow drawn across the string in a back and forth movement.

However, it can also be played by plucking the strings with fingers or, in some particular cases, by hitting the strings using the wooden part of the bow.

Violins are deemed as important instruments for many musical genres, especially the Western classical tradition, as both ensembles and solo instruments.

Types of Violin Sounds

From lively to solemn, to extremely sensuous and sweet, a violin can produce a myriad of different and exquisite sounds.

Factors that determine the sound produced include:

  • The pressure applied on the strings by the musician’s fingers
  • Thickness and choice of strings
  • The contact point between the bow and the strings
  • The bowing speed and pressure.

A particular combination of these factors determines the timbre. As such, a violin’s sound characteristics can never be predetermined and are always set by the musicians who choose the timbre that suits them.

Violin Strings with Sound Characteristics:

G string (G3-C5, G5)

Intense, booming, and dark when played in a low register. Leans toward roughness.

D string (D4-G5, D6)

Melodious, high-sounding, and mellow.

A string (A4-D6, A6)

Mellower compared to the D string.

E string (E5-A7, D8)

Metallic and bright. Gets brighter in the upper register. Not very high-sounding.

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Best Microphone for Violin Recording

How to Set Up A Live Violin Mic?

Correct microphone positioning can have a significant impact on your performance. It is important to understand that the location of your concert matters a lot when setting up a mic. Outdoor spaces, indoor concerts, solo or group performances with other instruments, all these factors play a part in determining the kind of sound you need and the miking techniques.

Your choice of miking technique will be influenced by the setting of the concert, the choice of microphone, and the musician. This means that one particular technique can not be applied to every performance and every location.

Types of Microphones used in Miking a Violin

Choosing the right microphone can be a step closer to dazzling your audience with an extraordinary performance. The following are some good mic options you can look for:

  • Condenser Microphones:

The common choice of violinists for a violin mic is condenser microphones. They adapt easily on any violin and, if properly positioned, they can pick up the full range of the violin’s frequencies which is pretty great.

Condenser microphones are also equipped to catch any resonances, overtones, timbre, etc. However, this heightened sense of grasping sound can also be a drawback. For instance, this mic will catch every sound from a musician’s sigh to the clank of their jewelry hitting the instrument.

Condenser microphones come in two types: large-diaphragm mics and small diaphragm mics. The former mic has a low-end response while the latter microphone is known for catching extremely high frequencies accurately.

  • Ribbon Microphones:

Violin strings emanate a warmer sound over ribbon mics. They not only sound great on the strings but can also be positioned closer to the source without catching background noise.

However, ribbon mics lack a fat frequency response. Moreover, they have a low output which means they require a mic preamp that can be quite costly.

  • Omnidirectional Microphones:

These microphones have 360-degree directional pick-up sounds which means they can capture sound from all directions. As such, omnidirectional microphones are the best choice if you want to capture the full sound of your stringed instrument.

You can even maneuver this microphone to adjust its distance.

  • Directional Microphone:

A benefit of using this microphone is that it can be focused to pick up the sound of one key instrument. This allows it to be isolated from other sounds (from other instruments) and emphasize the sound of your violin.

However, just like other close mics, the directional microphone is also affected by the proximity effect. This means there needs to be a lot of experimental adjustments before the right positioning is determined.

Type of Miking Techniques Used in Live Violin Miking

There are two miking techniques that you can use to mic your violin in a live setting: acoustic and pick-up. Each has its own distinct way of amplifying the sound produced by your stringed instrument.

Pick-Up Method

The pick-up technique involves attaching the microphone directly to the violin. The microphone is small and is fixed near the bridge of the instrument so it can capture the sound as soon as the bow brushes against the strings.

This is a suitable method if you want the sound of your stringed instrument to stand out and be prominent. However, this method involves a lot of care on the violinist’s part. Since the mic is very close to the source, it can easily capture any background noise.

Acoustic Method

If you want to catch the natural sound of your violin, there cannot be a better choice than using the acoustic mic technique.

However, even with this method, there is the issue of microphone bleed, or unwanted background noise polluting the elegant sound of the violin. Since this mic is not placed directly at the source, it can capture other sounds in the environment as well.

How Far Away Should the Microphone be For Live Violence Performance?

Miking distance can significantly influence the sound emanating from your violin. There are two different ways of distancing the mic:

Close Miking

This technique involves placing the microphone near the source of the sound at a distance of around 3 to 4 feet. This way a clearer sound is emanated from the sound system, doing justice to the violinist’s skills, and the proximity effect is also eliminated.

When using this miking technique, it is recommended to use the flattest frequency response mic and to avoid using preamps and converters to ensure refined sound quality.

Overhead Miking

The is the most common technique used to record a violinist. Evident by its name, in the technique the microphone is placed 1.5 to 3 feet above the violin and directly facing the f-holes.

The distance can be determined based on the genre being played. For instance, the distance needs to be greater for a classical genre to capture the full sound while a country or folk genre would require a lesser distance so the bowing sound can be captured.

How to Place the Microphone for Miking Violin Live?

There are different microphone placement options depending on the kind of sound you wish to emanate from the stringed instrument.

It is important to position the microphone in a way so that it does not come in the way of the violinist playing the instrument.

One good spot to position the mic is under the bridge, precisely the area between the strings and the deck. This position will allow the microphone to capture the natural sound of the violin instantaneously along with the sound of the bow drawing against the strings.

Moreover, in order to get fine tonal sound characteristics, the microphone can be mounted halfway up the fingerboard. In case the violinist feels they might get distracted, the microphone can always be positioned just above the string and bow area to be away from their line of sight and minimize distractions.

Final Words

The process of making a violin may seem too complex and difficult. There are a lot of factors to keep in consideration for perfect violin miking. However, you just need to figure out what placements and mic choices complement your violin skills and what helps you produce the sound you want your audience to hear. With a little experimentation with the microphone settings and you will eventually find what you like.

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