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Author Topic:  Need Advice re Violin Pickup
Alvin Douglas

 

From:
Prince Edward Island
Post  Posted 30 Sep 2014 10:51 am    
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Hello All,
I know this is a pedal steel guitar forum but the collective wealth of all things music tells me that someone will be able to help with solving a pickup on a violin issue. The fiddle player is a young woman friend of mine who plays with several local country bands. She has a pickup on her violin and plugs directly into the pa system. It works good on some pa's but on others it has a very harsh tone, especially on the A and E strings. She has come to believe that she needs to try a different pickup but there's the problem. What pickup is the right one to buy? Should she be using a preamp with EQ or maybe an EQ such as a boss pedal. Should she be using her own amp with a line out to the PA? She does a lot of cameo performances and needs to keep the amount of equipment at a minimum so adding an amp to the mix is probably the least attractive option. Any and all advice appreciated.
Alvin
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Stephen Cowell


From:
Round Rock, Texas, USA
Post  Posted 30 Sep 2014 11:25 am    
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Baggs para-acoustic DI. We don't know a lot of things, like what she has now, etc.
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Rick Campbell


From:
Sneedville, TN, USA
Post  Posted 30 Sep 2014 11:28 am    
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Most of the serious players I know are using the L.R. Baggs bridge/pickup. It doesn't affect the tone when playing acoustically on most fiddles. I use the Baggs bridge with a Baggs preamp. If you do it this way, you need to plug into the back of the amp and bypass the amps own preamp. Without the preamp, just play into the front of the amp. I use Nashville 112, Nashville 400, and occasionally Fender Twin Reverb. The Baggs pre has an XLR out for the sound man. The main reason I use the preamp is so I can have volume control close to me.

RC
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Roger Crawford


From:
McDonough, GA USA
Post  Posted 30 Sep 2014 11:52 am    
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Listen to Rick, he knows a thing or two about fiddles!
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John Dowden

 

From:
Louisiana, USA
Post  Posted 30 Sep 2014 1:09 pm    
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The Baggs para-acoustic DI has been the standard for a long time with fiddle players because of its parametric EQ but to be totally honest I've personally never been a big fan of the tone they impart on the violin. They're awesome for acoustic guitar though!

I pretty much exclusively play through tube amps these days, but when I'm forced to play through a PA I use a Red Eye DI http://www.fire-eye.com/ I have no personal association with the maker but I vastly prefer the Red Eye to the Baggs. I think the Red Eye has a much higher input impedance, than the Baggs, which is extremely critical and it's a pretty bare bones pedal with not a lot that can get damaged. It's even small/light enough that you can throw it in your fiddle case at the end of a gig.

If she's willing to spend a little bit more she can invest in a good tube direct box (Demeter/Radial Firefly/etc) which seem to help a lot in smoothing out some of the edginess associated with piezo pickups, but that's a whole 'nother can of worms.

Talking about bridges...LR Baggs is what about 90% of all the fiddle players I know are using. The other 10% are using either Barcus Berry, Cross, or Aceto pickups. I've tried em all. Cross has the highest output and most even sounding pickup (Johnny Gimble swears by them) but I've heard from several people that the last pickups they got from him had sound/grounding issues. The one I'm playing on these days is the Aceto Aceto/Violect. They're pricy but are more even sounding than the Baggs and comparable output wise.
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Matt Bush

 

From:
Portland, OR
Post  Posted 30 Sep 2014 2:31 pm    
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My g/f is also a fiddle player and we had a heck of a time getting her sound dialed in when she and I joined an alt-country band.

She started with a Fishman pickup and an LR Baggs ParaAcoustic DI and we were never able to dial in a good sound that cut and didn't sound harsh. We also quickly discovered that 90% of the sound guys we worked with had no idea what to do with a fiddle. It was a source of major frustration for her for the first 6-8 months we were in the band. She never felt like her tone was good enough.

Eventually after much discussion we decided to try to get her a tube amp. We poked around town and scored a Mesa Boogie DC-5 amp for a good price and her sound was instantly better. The harshness was gone and it sounded like a much better representation of her fiddle tone.

Around the time she got the DC-5, she also changed pickups and started using The Band by Headway (it's on musiciansfriend). Both she and I really like The Band, it's very quite and pickups up all the nuances that the Fishman didn't, especially on the G and E strings. Also, she liked that it didn't have to be permanently installed on the instrument. It's easy to put on and take off, so she only has to have it on her fiddle when she is playing a gig.

A few months after we picked up the DC-5, we happened to find a good deal on a 1968 Silverface, Drip Edge Bassman head and cab. When she plugged into it at the store it was amazing, it was as pure of a representation of her tone as we had ever heard. The store owner came up from the back to ask who was playing the 50 ft. fiddle! She bought it on the spot and it was her main gigging amp for two years. We scored a 62 Tweed Champ on craigslist that she prefers to use now, simply for the portability.

So my recommendation for any fiddle player is to try a tube amp, preferably a single channel, clean, Fender type amp (the Fenders both sound worlds better than the Mesa did). There are a lot of options out there, I think a Deluxe Reverb would be high on the list (try a Silverface one, not one of the new 65 Reissues), so would a Bandmaster or a Bassman. Deluxes are expensive, but silverface Bassman heads can be had easily for good prices. A Twin or a Pro would like work as well, but they are quite a bit heavier.

If the amp is too much to manage for the cameo appearances, I'd still go with a nice tube amp for all full set stuff and have a DI of some sort for the sitting in stuff. That being said though, a nice small combo amp is portable enough. The Champ we have sounds great, and is extremely portable, and with a mic on it can be played in any venue. Something like a Blues Junior or one of the new Silverface Princeton reissues would be very easy to carry onto stage quickly.

I know when I sit in with a band around here, I get there for sound check and set up my amp while they are setting up their stuff, that way I can just walk up, plug in and play when it's time to go. No fussing around, taking 5 minutes to get my amp on stage and set up. It makes things a lot smoother.

As far as the guitar EQ pedal goes, she never had much luck getting any to work. We tried several, and they'd do OK, but the frequencies they adjust are geared for guitar, and consequently didn't work very well with the fiddle. We have had a lot of luck with a few reverbs and delays, as well as some light "transparent" type overdrives.

As a side note, if I'm not mistaken, one of the little blurbs on the Milkman site has a fiddle player praising the Pedal Steel Mini as a great amp.

I'll include a video of our old band (even though we aren't with them anymore) playing live so you can hear how the fiddle sounds. I believe the audio we used was just from the camera mic, so the quality isn't the greatest. Go to 1:54 for the start of the fiddle solo.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ndp9ZFzDAN0
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Lane Gray


From:
Topeka, KS
Post  Posted 30 Sep 2014 3:52 pm    
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If she doesn't want to schlep an amp, perhaps s Sarno V8?
The only solid state fiddle amp I've liked was the LTD. Throw a neo in it, and it's not too heavy.
I haven't played fiddle in public, and haven't played one on years, but I've worked with a few.
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Lyle Dent


From:
Little Rock ,Arkansas
Post  Posted 30 Sep 2014 6:18 pm    
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I did use the LR Baggs pickup/preamp. The best thing I ever did was to go to a Zeta electric through my Black Box then into my pedal steel rack. It is a great country sound and you have all of the effects if you want any. The volume is also easy to adjust for any venue. I second the use of a BB or V8 for that tube sound. Heliocore strings also seem to work better for me.
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Michael Haselman


From:
St. Paul
Post  Posted 30 Sep 2014 6:43 pm    
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I've tried many configurations of pickups and pre-amps. Now using Fishman pickup and Red-Eye D.I. for about 3 years now. Done. It does everything I need, seems to be voiced for fiddle. If you're going direct to a monitor board for in-ears, this is the way to go. And it fits in the fiddle case.
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Alvin Douglas

 

From:
Prince Edward Island
Post  Posted 1 Oct 2014 4:51 am    
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Thanks to everyone who posted a reply. I forwarded this thread to my friend. I know it will provide answers to her questions. Thanks again. This site is amazing.
Alvin
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Brad Sarno


From:
St. Louis, MO USA
Post  Posted 1 Oct 2014 5:15 am    
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Another shameless self promotion, but our Steel Guitar Black Box, a 100% vacuum tube buffer, when placed directly after the fiddle and before a Baggs or similar preamp or EQ type DI box works miracles with regards to the harshness fiddles often exibit thru a pickup. We've got many players using the Black Box on fiddle now. It's a huge game changer, a profoundly effective harshness remover, sweetener, smoother. It makes a pickup sound MUCH more natural and realistic.

Famous Nashville fiddle player Hank Singer swears by it. Ask him if you get a chance.

http://www.sarnomusicsolutions.com/products/sgbb.html

I don't believe there's a better tool for this exact situation you describe here.


Brad
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Brad Sarno


From:
St. Louis, MO USA
Post  Posted 1 Oct 2014 5:20 am    
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Thanks to you guys for bringing up the Black Box and the V8. The V8 is also a great option, and it has the DI XLR output. In some cases there's still some need for a more complex EQ like with the Baggs or many others where you can have more surgical control over excessively hot or feedback frequencies. But if the fiddle has a balanced tone and you aren't playing crazy loud, the V8 really sounds killer.

Virtually every time, tubes save the day when it comes to that harsh piezo acoustic pickup sound.

Brad
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Matthew Prouty


From:
Warsaw, Poland
Post  Posted 2 Oct 2014 12:08 pm     Cross Pickup
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This is perhaps the best kept secret out there.

Mike Cross
708 N. Birch
Moran, Ks
66755
913-660-2604

This is an incredible pickup and Mike use to work with Barcus-Barry when they made their first gen. pickup.

http://www.texasfiddlemusic.com/instruments.html
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John Billings


From:
Ohio, USA
Post  Posted 2 Oct 2014 3:18 pm    
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I'm just curious now, I just finished reading Sir George Martin's book. He had no fondness for piezo pickups. He liked to hear what the body of the instrument produced. I would tend to think that those little mics would be desirable, sound-wise??????
Fooch! I'm gonna do it again!
If the fiddle players I had the bad luck to work with asked me which pickup to use, I would have said, "A damp sponge, plugged into the wall outlet!"
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Brad Sarno


From:
St. Louis, MO USA
Post  Posted 2 Oct 2014 4:57 pm    
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Pickups almost always suck compared to miking the instrument when it comes to tone and sound, but the practical realities of live work and the need to be LOUD has forced pickups on us for years. Mic's can only get so loud before they feed back. It's a compromise, but there are better and worse ways to go about it.

B
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Edward Rhea

 

From:
Medford Oklahoma, USA
Post  Posted 2 Oct 2014 7:52 pm    
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"I use the Baggs bridge with a Baggs preamp. If you do it this way, you need to plug into the back of the amp and bypass the amps own preamp."
Rick Cambell, are you talking about the effects loop here? Would you share you're "signal-chain" w/us, more detailed, please? Thanx
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John Billings


From:
Ohio, USA
Post  Posted 2 Oct 2014 8:04 pm    
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But Brad!
We miked everything. We didn't play loud onstage, and we had monitors. The vocals were all miked, as was the acoustic guitar. Why doesn't that apply for fiddles. I would think fiddle players would prefer that miked, "Bluegrass" tone? I had the bad luck to play with a fiddler who used a piezo, and a big Peavey. It was awful! Screetchy, too loud, badly EQ'd on his part I suppose. And he never stopped! After a few gigs, the volatile lead player sprayed WD-40 on his bow, and after laughing his butt off, fired the guy, much to my relief. I do love a good fiddle, as long as it sounds like it should.??????
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Larry Behm


From:
Mt Angel, Or 97362
Post  Posted 2 Oct 2014 8:40 pm    
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I am about to try the kermona , check out the electric violin shop.
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Matt Bush

 

From:
Portland, OR
Post  Posted 3 Oct 2014 2:56 pm    
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John Billings wrote:
But Brad!
We miked everything. We didn't play loud onstage, and we had monitors. The vocals were all miked, as was the acoustic guitar. Why doesn't that apply for fiddles. I would think fiddle players would prefer that miked, "Bluegrass" tone? I had the bad luck to play with a fiddler who used a piezo, and a big Peavey. It was awful! Screetchy, too loud, badly EQ'd on his part I suppose. And he never stopped! After a few gigs, the volatile lead player sprayed WD-40 on his bow, and after laughing his butt off, fired the guy, much to my relief. I do love a good fiddle, as long as it sounds like it should.??????


We tried micing a few times, and while it worked, it just caused a lot of issues in our situation. If the band had been a traditional style bluegrass band, then micing everything would have been the way to go, but with electric bass, electric guitar and drums, micing is very very difficult. The two times we tried it she'd go from not being able to be heard to causing huge feedback spikes. There really was no middle ground the way we were set up.
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John Billings


From:
Ohio, USA
Post  Posted 3 Oct 2014 3:25 pm    
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Sounds like she could have used an in ear monitor. Unless there was too much bass/guitar/drums being picked up in her mic.
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Matt Bush

 

From:
Portland, OR
Post  Posted 3 Oct 2014 4:38 pm    
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John Billings wrote:
Sounds like she could have used an in ear monitor. Unless there was too much bass/guitar/drums being picked up in her mic.


Usually it was picking up too much electric guitar and drums, since she stood between the guitar amp and the drums. She actually hates having monitors on at all. She never had a problem hearing herself, it was all the other noise going on around her that made it hard to manage.

I'd have loved to have an in-ear setup for the whole band. We looked into, and it just wasn't feasible a) from a money standpoint and b) because about 60-70% of our gigs had their own sound system and sound guy and I'd have hated to be "that band" that demanded they set up our in-ears. We actually got a reputation as being really easy to set up and sound check, despite having a hard array of instruments to play electrified (we had a banjo/acoustic guitar, fiddle/viola, acoustic guitar/electric guitar, plus drums and bass). We were never fussy about our stage sound, I didn't realize how rare that was until I started doing sound for other people's bands.
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Paul Honeycutt

 

From:
Colorado, USA
Post  Posted 6 Oct 2014 4:02 pm    
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There are quite a few clip on microphones for violins that I've seen pros using. The best are from a company called DPA out of Denmark. They don't come cheap.

In my former band our violinist got an PreSonus tube preamp to warm up her ZETA five string violin. It helped a lot. PreSonus used to make an acoustic preamp called the Acousti-Q that is a tube preamp/blender with EQ, parametric mids and a notch filter. I sometimes use one for acoustic guitar, but I bet it would help a fiddle a lot. I bet you could find one reasonably on eBay. You could also experiment with different tubes if you wanted to fine tune the voicing.

As far as guitar amps go, Mesa-Boogie is making a 25 watt two channel version of the Mark V that weighs something like 18 lbs. It has a five band graphic EQ as well. It's just a head, you'd have to get a speaker, but a small light cab with a Neo-speaker would complete the outfit.
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Jan Viljoen


From:
Pretoria, South Africa
Post  Posted 6 Oct 2014 6:09 pm    
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I use a Fishman Pro EQ2 acoustic preamp sometimes on my mandolin.
It gives good results.

Wink
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Matt Bush

 

From:
Portland, OR
Post  Posted 6 Oct 2014 9:47 pm    
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Paul Honeycutt wrote:

As far as guitar amps go, Mesa-Boogie is making a 25 watt two channel version of the Mark V that weighs something like 18 lbs. It has a five band graphic EQ as well. It's just a head, you'd have to get a speaker, but a small light cab with a Neo-speaker would complete the outfit.


I would stay away from Mesa for fiddle. When my g/f had her DC-5, it seemed too boxy and bass and low-mid heavy. She never liked how the G string sounded through it. I think it was voiced very heavily for electric guitar and it shows in how it reproduced the fiddle tones.

The Mark V (and the V:25) definitely have a better clean channel, but the other channels would be serious overkill. And I wouldn't be surprised to find that the clean channel does funky things to a fiddle due to the voicing. For about the same money as the Mark V:25 head, you can score a silverface Bassman or Bandmaster and a Neo 1x12 or 1x15 to match with it.

That being said, I do know of a pro fiddle player using a Mesa Lonestar (which is a fantastic guitar amp, btw).
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Henry Matthews


From:
Texarkana, Ark USA
Post  Posted 7 Oct 2014 11:33 am    
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I'm using a Fishman now and it sounds good as long as you don't move it on the bridge. I have found out one thing that on an acoustic fiddle (real fiddle), it doesn't matter which pickup you use, it's not going to make a bad sounding fiddle sound good and almost any pickup will sound good if the fiddle sounds good acoustic. Different story on an electric fiddle, they depend on pickup to get tone and I've never played one I liked.

I really think the best sounding pickups to my ear are the LR Baggs and the old Avarez bridges that you could buy that had a pickup built in. Don't think you can get those anymore but they sounded great, reall acoustic tone.
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