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Chip Stewart

Banjo Amplification

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Our banjo player is currently using a SM57 microphone on a mic stand to amplify his banjo. What recommendations are there for amplifying a banjo using a pickup with or without a related DI. Thanks for any suggestions.

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I'd rather use a microphone since IMO they sound more natural, but I can understand why pickups are popular with many players. Here's a few your friend might want to look into.

 

 

http://www.fishman.com/product/banjo-pickup

 

http://www.musiciansfriend.com/accessories/fishman-bluegrass-series-rare-earth-banjo-pickup

 

http://www.schattendesign.com/banjo.htm

 

http://kksound.com/instruments/banjo.php

 

http://www.deeringbanjos.com/products/kavanjo-banjo-pickup

 

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A permanently mounted mic with a Preamp that EQ's the signal would probably be my choice. I do have a 5 string I experimented with. I took a Tele Neck pickup and mounted it beneath the head on the rod that runs from the neck to tail then ran a wire to a jack on the rim.

 

I can just plug in and play, but the sound quality isn't nearly as good as it should be. The pickup only picks up the strings (through the head) so the signal doesn't capture the head. Only tones that resonate back up into the strings. It's kind of an interesting sound, but I'd have to say it doesn't exactly sound like a banjo.

 

I think the only way to use a guitar pickup would be to glue some magnetic foil to the head. This way the head vibrates the foil generating a signal in the coil, kind of like a ribbon mic does.

 

Maybe have a second pickup for the strings so you could blend the two. Don't know how well it would work. Its allot like micing an acoustic drum. You can try a piezo contact mic or a piezo bridge but I think it changes the sound allot doing that. Sticking with a mic is still the best option to date. Using a hush pedal might limit feedback a bit too.

Edited by WRGKMC

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I have done many large BG fests. Banjos need a mic, or a mute? ;) The only mic I have seen wrapped in a towel is a 57 stuffed in the bridge of the stand up bass. The best banjo guys I have seen move anywhere from right on the mic to 3ft/4ft back off the mic to control their own mix. I disagree with a pickup on a banjo unless you had a BE on FOH

riding the gain of the banjo. A microphone gives the player control of his dynamics/volume by backing off the mic and playing on the mic for solo time.

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I've tried a couple of the piezo in the bridge type and they are ok, but first I think these bridges, at least the ones I tried, were too clunky feeling, thicker than I like, plus volume and tone controls seem like an afterthought with no real world solution to placing it anywhere ergonomically pleasing. Aesthetically they are ungainly and for me, add another level of something to have to fool with on stage... Give me a mic please.

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Our banjo player is currently using a SM57 microphone on a mic stand to amplify his banjo. What recommendations are there for amplifying a banjo using a pickup with or without a related DI. Thanks for any suggestions.

 

I was at the local Freshgrass fest last week and saw The Punch Brothers for the second time this year, I'm not sure what Noam Pikelny used, but he sounded good. I saw the OCMS a bunch of time and I'm nt sure what they use either. The OCMS has come a long way since there early days.

 

I know for a fact Willie Watson just used a mic on his guitar and banjo.

 

[video=youtube;njGupm7DR4Y]

 

Gillian Welch and Dave rawling never plug in either.

 

I also asked Joe Walsh, mandolin player with the Gibson Bros ( he has left that band since) what he used and he said nothing but a microphone.

 

[video=youtube;ohhmJGDVrxA]

[video=youtube;lwjgskF5Qa4]

 

 

 

 

Just saying lots of people don't plug in. Mics work if you have control and are will to work a mic a bit.

 

 

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When I have to plug-in, I use an old Sennheiser clip-on drum mic into a Focusrite mic pre with the built-in limiter set to just above the sustaining volume of the notes so that the attacks, thumb strikes, etc are still louder but not brutally so. This prevents the phenomenon of sound techs setting their level to the attack peaks and leaving the tones to get lost in the mix. I follow that up with an old Urei EQ to roll off the excessive lows from the close mic placement and notch-out any problem feedback frequencies..That all fits in a little 2-unit rack case I set out of the way near the PA or snake.

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laminator, thats genius! i have a shure drum mic kit that im going to check for rim mounting fit...

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Thanks. :) Banjo hoops are generally shallower than most drum hoops, but depending on the clip design that may be OK. My combo is a hair loose with just the clip, so I secure it with a little ponytail-holder elastic band (bungie-cord-like matereial) strung through the flanges or bracket lugs. That keeps it from rattling.

 

You also get some nice tone-shaping ability this way, as you get a different sound depending on where you're pointing it. You can vary the amount of chiminess, attack, etc with different angles and positions.

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The guy I played with last night, used a Fishman pick on his banjo, Had a built in battery powered pre amp. It sounded very good.

 

 

 

 

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