Point Source Audio Sounding Board: Unexpected Ways to Mic a Violin

by Point Source Audio Sounding Board

Many shows these days have musicians onstage, incorporated into the production’s environment, seen playing, often costumed and integrated seamlessly into the performance. They are often even actually part of the narrative, with an actor/musician being a character, at times major roles in the show. Shows like The Band’s Visit, Once, War Horse, and Bandstand all had cast members playing instruments live onstage as did recent staging’s of Company and Sweeney Todd. With a growing number of shows where an instrumentalist is right in the thick of the performance, it is the job of sound designer and the A1 to figure out how to mic that instrument. To help, Point Source Audio has put together some unexpected ways to mic a violin for your consideration.

A helpful guide to choosing between a lavalier, earmount, or headset microphone

Traditionally, lavalier microphones are the go-to mics for mic’ing a violin for recording or in a live performance. Nowadays, depending on the scenario, mic selection and placement can differ. There is an array of microphones that have been used in productions worldwide, and in different application styles. Which is best? That’s hard to answer specifically, but this article will help guide your decision using real world examples when it comes to mic’ing a violin. Please keep in mind that not all sound is equal, and this article provides suggestions only.

Violin Mic’ing with a Lavalier
Our omnidirectional lavalier microphone, better known as the CO-8WL lavalier mic has been a hit in live sound, and recording. This miniature mic has a low profile of merely 4mm in diameter and performs well under pressure.

Our distribution partner, TTT Group – Theater Technics and Technology of Russia frequently stages live violin performances for demonstration using the CO-8WL lavalier mic. For a recent demonstration, violinist Anny Ly performed with the lavalier mic mounted on the strings between the bridge and tailpiece using a string mount. Another example of this mic’ing technique was also used by the Norwegian violinist and composer Henning Kraggerud, known for his musicianship, which, combined with his virtuosity and beauty of tone, has earned him the esteem of his musical colleagues as well as the admiration of audiences worldwide. Point Source Audio’s lavalier microphone, the CO-8WL, proved to set the bar high in recording his beautiful and dark rendition of the Postlude No. 10 in B flat minor.

In the video below, you can see and hear both Ly (during the demo) and Kraggerud (video clip shot by himself in Leeds)

Violin Mic’ing (or not) with EMBRACE™A new option in mic’ing a violin actually requires no mic on the instrument itself. The EMBRACE microphone, or EO-8WL—known for being a custom-fit ear mounted microphone—is small and designed for camouflage.

For a performance by the Grammy award-winning Joshua Bell, the EMBRACE solved two challenges: near invisibility of the mic for the cameras, and leaving his 300-year old, multimillion-dollar violin untouched by mics and mounts. You can listen to the precision of the EMBRACE mic during his performance of Seasons of Cubalive at Lincoln Center in this video:

Violin and Vocal Mic’ing with a Headset
Germany’s sibling violin duo—The Twiolins, Marie-Luise and Christoph Dingler—were intent on finding a microphone for live performances in which some songs included vocals. A headset microphone seemed the best choice to provide optimal placement of the element near the instrument as well as double as their vocal mic.

The award-winning SERIES8 headset microphone was selected. “When performing on large stages we always use two CO-8WD headset mics with our wireless systems,” affirmed Christoph Dingler, violinist and sound prodigy. He further praised, “The frequency response of the entire spectrum of our violins are completely captured and conveyed, and the high linear resolution from the miniature-sized capsule is excellent. The CO-8WD is extremely close to the original sound even without equalization—it is absolutely at the top of its class!”

So, if you’re working on a sound design for a production where there are going to be musicians onstage and you need to mic their instruments, consider some of these mic’ing methods so they can be heard and only their talent will be seen.

The Sounding Board monthly column is presented in partnership by Point Source Audio and Stage DirectionsMagazine. To read the PSA Sounding Board Blog, go to http://www.point-sourceaudio.com/sounding-board/ or visit www.point-sourceaudio.com