Monday, July 24, 2006

UMGF Weekly SUmmary # 10 Jul 17

Is a headstock break a kiss of death (since I have a good guitar that has one, I didn’t vote) but the consensus seems to be that if it’s repaired right, a headstock break needn’t be the end of your guitar.

Interesting discussions about used pricing vs. warranty, learning the fretboard, capo’s and whether the Martin factory works on the weekends. For those performing, thoughts on using just one mic (most people think it looks authentic, but is actually a pain in the a--) and stage monitor recommendations.

1. MTV-2 - anyone ever played one?
2. Vintage vs Aging toner
3. M&T help needed (16 series).
4. 1940's scalloped brace Martins
5. Headstock break - always a kiss-of-death??
6. Used pricing vs Warranty
7. Why do we need frets?
8. How did you learn the fretboard?
9. Sustain
10. Paige Capo
11. Planet Waves NS Capo
12. Quick question regarding the Martin Factory...
14. Lowering bridge?
15. Sustainable Woods?
16. Using one mic? (bluegrass content)
17. Advice Needed for Stage Monitor Speakers

Previous issues are archived at

Did I miss anything? Email me any interesting items you think should be included in the next report.

1. MTV-2 - anyone ever played one?
The back seems to be half EIR and half maple. Is that correct? What do they sound like?

harmonist34: Played one at a GC in Minneapolis. I'm sure the strings were old, but it was about the most "blah" sounding Martin I've ever played.

ScooterD35: My MTV-1 is approaching it's 10th birthday. It sounds fantastic, plays like butter and has had no structural issues whatsoever.

MikeHalloran: By most accounts, the half-hog/half-rosewood guitars were pretty good. I was impressed with them when I played them at NAMM. The combination of rosewood warmth and mahogany bite made for a very nice sound IMHO.

I have only played one of the half-hog/half maple guitars and I thought that it was an interesting tone but I preferred the warmer tones of rosewood.

I am surprised that more builders haven't tried it and that Martin has only done it on those two models. The contrasting center panels on many of the 3-piece backs doesn't really count. So few take into account the tonal contribution of the guitar's sides.

Anyway, most of the negative talk has been the MTV association and the respective bling on the MTV models. I would think that a few limited runs with more traditional trim might convince a few that this approach has some merit.

2. Vintage vs Aging toner
What is the difference between these two toners supposed to be?

dom000: vintage has a very dark yellow/orange hue to it (think Neil Young's guitar, but not quite as dark), and aging toner is light yellow to simulate the guitar growing older, but not quite to that dark stage yet.

Martin Rookie: Aging Toner has a slightly aged look, and will darken further with exposure to UV light.

Vintage Toner looks quite aged right out of the box, and may also darken further. The original "Vintage Toner" (see the older M-36 and M-38 models) turned orange-ish with age, but the new mix is more authentic looking.

While some purists will advise to avoid both, I think they both look pretty nice.

Dadsbones: My '03 D45V has aging toner. It hangs next to a '97 HD-28 that is naturally aged. They look pretty much the same with perhaps the '97 being a little darker. I don't subscribe to the purist "natural wood" thing. If anything the aging toner brings out the beauty of the natural wood. Stain and wood have gone together for a long, long time. If the argument is to keep everything in its natural state our EIR sides and backs would look much different without the black filler.

3. M&T help needed (16 series).
Ok, what I need to know is, can the serial # block on M&T models be easily removed/unglued, is it one thin strip of wood glued on, or is it carved into the rest of the block like a dovetail?

I received my SPOM-16 yesterday and found the serial # block of wood glued to the inside back of the guitar! There is a pickup battery rest screwed into the neck where the serial # block should be.
BucksCountyBob: 's glued on...I've watched them burn 50 (something like 5 rows...10 to a row) or so at a time in their big automated wood burning printer....

Arnoldgtr: The veneer is stuck on with pressure sensitive adhesive. IMHO, it just makes it too easy to alter the serial number of a guitar. If M&T Martins ever get valuable, I predict a thriving black market in fake neck block veneers. Just look at all the Fender neck plates on Ebay.

MikeHalloran: All M&Ts have this. There is a bolt underneath the serial# plate. In the event of a neck re-set, the plate would have to be removed to get to this bolt. Although the neck is glued in, this bolt holds it in place while the glue sets up.

4. 1940's scalloped brace Martins
Does anyone have any input on Martins built in the early 40's ...right up to the switch to non-scalloped bracing ....I am particluarly interested regarding the sound of the these guitars vs. one built in the 1920s-30s

JoD18: I have a '33 0018 & a '41 D18. You couldn't ask for better sound from any two guitars. The D18 is, of course, louder, but they both have that dry, clear tone that makes these guitars so special. Personally, from the few times I've heard - never played - '30's Dreads, I don't hear a difference between them and my '41. I heard a great many prewars about a year ago at Dreamcatcher Guitars in Atlanta in a workshop comparing Martins through the decades, and I remember coming away very, very pleased at how the early 40's models, including my own, stacked up against the 30's guitars.

That said, I subscribe to the belief that it all comes down to each individual guitar. I'm sure there were some 'not so good' guitars made in the Golden Era, just as there were in the '50's, '60's '70's and today. Maybe a difference in the woods used, how much the guitars have been played over time, the individual skills of the craftsmen who created them...who knows?

Are you looking to buy a 40's? Just curious...

Headrc: Yes I am looking at two different smaller bodied 40s guitars ....both 1944 scalloped braced ...but of course different guitars ....a 00-21 and a 000-18

Mac Carter: The bracing on the 1944 00-21 is probably the same as on a 30's 00-21, since I don't believe that the bracing pattern changed in those models during that time frame.

As far as the 000-18 goes, the bracing on the 000's and the D's was moved back slightly in late 1938 or early 1939. But at the same time, as indicated by one commentator, the scalloping was made deeper, so that the bass response on the later models is actually greater than the earlier forward-shifted ones. With a 1944 000-18, I would expect the sound to be very similar to, say, a 1937 one.

Todd Stuart Phillips: A lot of people forget, or do not realize, that the necks were a lot thicker back then. So a 1-11/16" neck does not feel nearly as skinny up near the headstock as the modern, low profile ones do.

66d35: One of the main issues facing you with late 30's/early 40's dreads is the neck width. If, like me, you really much prefer a 1 3/4, then you have to go for something made in mid '39 or earlier. If you prefer the narrower neck, then you are OK with those early 40's models. Most all of these seem to be GREAT sounding guitars. The 39-44's seem to be really, really nice with an exceptional low end.... yet great treble too. Much is made of the forward vs back shifting... too much, probably. You are going to find some EXCEPTIONAL guitars from '34 onwards until they dropped the Red Spruce... so much depends on the actual guitar. They're very individual. You need to play as many as you can find. You really can't generalize too much.

5. Headstock break - always a kiss-of-death??
Played a '73 D-28 in my local GC yesterday that had a repaired headstock break, just above the nut. I've read, on this forum and elsewhere, that headstock breaks can really kill the tone of a guitar, so I was surprised to note that this one played and sounded great! They were asking $800 for it, and were I in a position to buy, I would have seriously considered it.

Fstpicker: Personally, I wouldn't let a headstock repair issue cause me to steer completely away from a particular guitar necessarily. It would have to depend more on how well the break was repaired and how stable it was/is over a period of time. I think there are some headstock breaks that I have seen that were repaired very well and are a non-issue from what I can tell. Some may be turned off by the appearance of the repair...just looking at it all the time.

For $800, if it sounds good, and seems very stable, I would seriously consider it. Is the action good? Does it need a neck reset anytime soon? Those are some other things I would consider as well.

basilking: My experience w/Martins is that tonal consequences of a well-repaired heastock break aren't nearly as potentially mortal as in Gibsons.

johnnywrongnote: My friend's 68 D35 is probably the best sounding D35 I've ever played, and that is over 50 of them. I played it many times before he told me it had a repaired headstock break. If it ever comes up for sale, I'll be first in line to buy it, even without a discount.

6. Used pricing vs Warranty
I've always been curious about how good the warranty is. Seems to me if the warranty has some value, the few hundred dollars for new over used pricing would be worth the price paid?

Dr L J: The warranty is nice, but on the other hand, I have been playing guitar for 40 years and during that time, having owned many guitars, I used the warranty one time. That was for a lifting bridge which would not have been a terribly expensive repair anyway. I would buy the new or used guitar that I felt was the better instrument and not base my purchase on whether there was a warranty or not. A top quaility guitar like a Martin should not need to make use of the warranty very often, if ever. That does not mean that some won't , but I think if you buy a good instrument wisely and take care of it, you are probably not going to be using the warranty anyway.

MikeHalloran: My rule of thumb is that, since a dove-tail neck re-set runs around $650 where I live, a used Martin has to be priced less than 'new - $650' to make it a bargain. M&T necks are a different animal -- I have bought a few new but none used.

If I buy a guitar with the intent of reselling it, then a bargain is at least $200 less than the average selling price on eBay. Frankly, I find that a well written description always brings in more than the average on eBay when I go to sell.

RP89d28: About 6 years ago my 28 was sent to Martin for warranty work. Some of the finish was chiping off the binding and the top of the guitar. When I recieved it back 4 months later they also said the neck was warped and they put a new neck on it. Last year my binding was coming loose and they repaired it under warranty.

Gannet2: I think warranties are nearly always a waste of money. Like any other insurance, it's gambling, and you're betting you will take the loss.

Let's run some quick numbers to illustrate. Let's assume that you purchase, over time, 4 new mid-range Martins with a street price of $1500 each at the usual 40% off MSRP. Let's assume that the near-new used price would be 50% off. That would be a $250 premium on each guitar for the privilege of buying new, or a total of $1000 in warranty "insurance", almost the price of another guitar.

Just to break even you'd have to incur $1000 plus shipping costs (plus the time cost of money) in warranty repairs over the life of those guitars. How likely is that?

The cost of the warranty is not the $250 extra you paid for the one guitar that needs service. It's what you paid extra for that one, plus all the ones that don't end up needing service.

And then, if you do use the warranty, you don't get to choose the way the repair is done, or who does it, or how long it takes to get it done. No thanks. I sometimes buy new because that's what I want, but I never do so for the warranty.

As to the only collectibles being pre-1970, that's just silly. I can remember when the same things were said about '70s Fenders. Priced a '70s Strat lately?

Given the huge ramp-up in Martin production, and the recent downgrading in wood, I expect that most pre-2000 models will soon start to command a premium. They already do, with me. Sorry Martin, if I wanted a "select hardwood" guitar, I'd buy something Chinese. Anybody got a first-year-or-two HD-35 they want to sell?

7. Why do we need frets?
O.K., so it's a dumb question, but still one that needs to be answered for the musically incompetent as myself. How cum a violin and a stand up bass is played without frets even tho it's a stringed instrument just like the geetar? Well, not "just like" the geetar, but hell, they are stringed instruments "like" the geetar. You get the idea. I need to be edycated on this here apparent discrepancy.

basilking: Have ya ever played [or tried, in my case...] a fretless guitar? Addressing intonation on 6 strings simultaneously is waay beyond my personal neuro-motor capacity.

CountrySquire: They make fretless guitars fleiger. Instead of relying on the tempered scale via frets, you play microtones like on a violin, cello etc. Slide guitar is another fretless approach as the frets serve no purpose other than to provide a note indicator (similar to the fingerboard dots on your guitars).

avincent52: To answer the question, the reason why guitars have frets is because they make playing chords possible (or at least practical.)

Notice the way you fret a C chord. On the A string, your ring finger is pretty close to the fret, while on the D string your middle finger is a good bit further away (a finger's width, give or take) from the fret. To play that chord on a fretless guitar, you'd have to depress both the A and D strings at the same point. Not easy.

Violins and basses are single note instruments.

FWIW, slide players get around this problem by tuning their guitars to a chord--usually an Open G or D.

Andrewrg: On a bowed instrument the bow produces the sustain to the note. A fretless acoustic guitar just goes "plunk".
I`ve played a fretless electric guitar made by the French company Vigier. It had a brass fingerboard and was a lot of fun, but you could only play single note stuff-"fretting" an accurate chord was impossible!

8. How did you learn the fretboard?
I'm taking guitar lessons to move past the "Guitar Fraud" stage. My teacher wants me to learn the root, third and fifth of all the major chords (memory work), he wants me to work with the metronome (no problem) and he wants me to know the fretboard. It's the last one that gives me the hardest challenge. Other than just playing notes and saying them out loud, are there some methods that have helped you guys? Well if not, simple encouragement may help. . . .

Player1000: Fretboard Warrior

cheepgtrguy: Gold old fashioned scales.

leehallboy: Reading (relatively) simple sheet music is what worked for me. That way you associate notes on the page with notes/physical location on the fretboard. Using the music keeps it from being so tedious. It also allows you to think about key signatures and how they relate to sound (major or minor for instance). A first level classical book is a good place to start - even if you only work with the melody line it will help. All that being said it took me several years to really "know" the fretboard and I still find surprises on it...

brw: When I was a 16 year old beginner I drew the fretboard on poster paper and wrote the notes in place then tacked said poster to the wall in my room.

thermality: Memorize the low E string notes at the 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th, 8th, 10th and 12th frets -- that's E, F, G, A, B, C, D and E. Now you know two strings, the 6th and 1st.

Move two strings down (to the D string) and two frets up for the same notes (an octave higher). Now you know three strings.

Memorize almost the same frets -- 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 7th, 8th, 10th and 12th -- on the 5th (A) string -- A, B, C, D, E, F, G and A. Move two strings down (to the G string) and two frets up for the same notes. Now you know five strings.

For the 2nd (B) string, slide the A string notes down two frets. That's six strings.

So, by memorizing the whole notes on only two strings, the E and A, you know the whole fretboard.

Practice tip: put your 1st finger on the 3rd fret of the 6th string. Now put your 3rd finger on the 5th fret of the 4th string (2 down, 2 up). Same notes -- G -- an octave apart. Move the two notes up two frets to play A, up three frets to C, etc. Do the same thing with the 5th and 3rd strings.

WmRob: Playing pentatonic scales and identifying the notes starting with the low "E" string as you go along is a pretty good approach. Try it in "A" first then move up two frets, then down two frets. Before you know it you're ID'ing the notes. It's a good rainy day exercise, as far as I'm concerned.

I Strum: use this site ..... its the best out there:

Olav Torvund is from Europe and his site is extremly large. Look for scales areas in the blues lessons. This was the key page for me : Pentatonic boxes in all positions

practice - practice - practice

secondroy: I would highly recommend; "Guitar Fretboard Workbook", Tagliarino. It teaches everything about the fretboard and then some. I got mine at Amazon. I am trying to learn to improvise and to do so well I think you have to know where the notes are and how to build a scale on the spot. This book will get you there if you work at it.

9. Sustain
Is it common for the bass and mid strings to have more sustain than the treble strings? If so, why? Is it due to their additional mass/weight? Are there modifications one could make to improve sustain in the treble strings alone? Different bridge pin materials maybe?

Rod Neep: Yes... especially on a Dreadnought.
The ultimate for increased sustain is to fit brass bridge pins.

But think carefully if that is what you really want. Because increased sustain on chords with open strings can make things kind of complicated when you change chords and have unwanted notes hanging around in the mix.

Dadsbones: I'm not really sure what specific mods can be made to a particular body style to even out the sustain -- maybe someone else will offer some suggestions. A couple of things I have discovered that may help you. The phenomenon of which you write is called balance -- or in the case of your question -- lack of balance.

• Body/style shape seems to have a the most effect on balance. In the Martin line the dread has less balance than the OM, 000 and especially the M. Of the guitars in the Martin line I have played, the M is the most balanced. I have not played a "J" and something tells me that would be as balanced as the M.

• The more balance a guitar has the less character I am able to coax out of it's voice. There are a few guitar manufacturers that build pretty consistently balanced guitars across their model line-up. I find their tone to be lacking complexity and character. They're kind of vanilla to me and my style of play. Important to note that's just my opinion for me. Others opinions will definitely differ.

• Learning how to play a body style that may not be as balanced can "correct" the phenomenon. For instance, I think once you've been around a Martin dreadnought for a bit of time, your style adapts to play the instrument with more balance. One of the great things about a Martin dread is you can really make it sqwonk when you want to by leveraging all that bass sustain/response. Still, you can learn how to lay back and play it very balanced and sweet. I think the techniques you bring to this process is one of the things that helps develop your individual style.

• A bit of expansion/compression in the signal chain when amplifying an unbalanced guitar will also "correct" the phenomenon and give you a great benchmark of what your instrument would sound like if it were more balanced. I learned much about how to play my guitar acoustically from playing it amplified with compression.

Andrewrg: The wound bass strings on a guitar have a wider vibration "envelope" than the thinner treble strings. This, coupled with the increase in mass will mean that they sustain-vibrate-longer. Of course, sympathetic vibration, and harmonic response will occur in the treble strings too.

10. Paige Capo
I'm thinking about trying one of these capo's, anyone here tried one and if so what do you think ?

Mac Carter: I have a couple - they work great. They are mechanically the same as a McKinney capo, but at 15% of the cost.

MAF51: For my money, I have never found anything better than the new Planet Waves NS (i.e., Ned Steinberger) capo.

Cheap, light, effective & minimizes detuning.

I haven't tried the Paige, but I've tried the John Pearse (similar design; horrible); the G7 (a big, heavy, expensive piece of junk); the Sterner (little, light, expensive piece of junk); the Kyser (reasonably effective, but obtrusive and detunifying); the Victor (watch out for rubber backing dislodging); and the Shubb Deluxe (the next best thing after the NS and much better than the Shubb original).

pickin preacher: I use a Paige capo on my D 16GT all the time. If fact, I leave it parked at the nut. I like it because it works great, is easy to store and looks very sleek. I use the Shubb or Kyser on my 28 and Kyser on the old Yamaha. I have thought about getting a Paige for the Yamaha but haven't yet. I'll have to check out the NS, that's a new one for me.

ASC67: After trying the Paige at my local MA and Pa store I decided that I did'nt like it, seemed kind of flimsy.

Marshall, I agree with you on the Planet waves design, I've had one for a couple of months and I think it works great. I was looking for another one for my second guitar but I think I'll just use my old Kyser for that one.

bjewell: The old Paige capos with the blueish vinyl tubing around the capo part were high quality. The newer black ones are really cheap imitations of the former.

I have a McKinney and an older Paige. I like them both...

11. Planet Waves NS Capo
Great capo BUT the package has a warning to the effect that the pad may damage nitrocellulose finishes.
To avoid that I cut a small piece of thin smooth leather and glued it with white glue over the pad.

Fstpicker: Hmm...that is a new warning they are apparently putting on the packaging now. Didn't used to be there. However, I've had no problem with my NS and my guitar's finish.

mattinbeloit: I've seen pictures of were someone left their capo on their guitar for a year strait and it messed it up and kind of pealed the finish off when he took it off. That was a very bad decision on his part, as long as you don't do something extreme like that you should be fine. I guess something like that happened and they are required to say that now, just a guess though, I don't know that.

12. Quick question regarding the Martin Factory...
Is the factory closed on weekends? I don't mean for tours...I mean the actual manufacturing of guitars....

cfmwoodbuyer: The factory is closed to the public on weekends. But, there is limited production on an as needed basis on Saturday mornings. In addition, there is a limited second shift that works Monday through Friday nights.

13. Serial Numbers
My two newest Martins (00-15 and OM-42) are just 500 serial numbers apart. I'm guessing they're just a day or so apart...

Lefty00042: Serial numbers are really a poor way to equate manufacturing dates for Martins since the numbers are assigned when production starts and guitars move through "the system" at varying rates depending on many factors. For instance, my 00-18VS UMGF Custom was released from Martin's hold period and officially "done" on December 18, 2003 (I have the production paperwork). Yet the serial number is something like 18,000 below the "last Martin made in 2003" per those serial number lists. I strongly doubt Martin shoved 18,000 guitars out the door during the last 13 days of the year, especially in light of the holiday season. So take that closeness as a "neat" factor, but as far as dating, take it with a big grain of salt.

14. Lowering bridge?
I need to lower the bridge about 1/32 on my HD 28 and I wonder what would happen if I just slotted it to lower the strings? Has anyone done it and if so how did it sound? What are the negatives?

Buck49: No, no, no! don't slot it. You'll look like someone who doesn't know anything about guitars.

Remove the strings (you can do this at the next string change if you want) and the saddle should pull out. Mark a pencil line across the saddle showing how much you want to remove from the bottom. Put a sheet of sandpaper on a flat surface like a countertop, and slide the saddle back and forth on it. Make sure that it stays straight up and down, or you will round off the bottom of the saddle. When you get close to the line, you might want to restring and try...if you go too far, you can't put anything back on to make it taller.

You don't say what year your HD-28 is, but if it is only a year or so old, you may have a bone, compensated saddle. If not, you may want to get one. The advantage would be greater tone and volume as well as improved intonation. They are not expensive.

There may be a few HD-28's around that have the old style long saddle...but I'm assuming you have the regular drop in saddle. If for any reason you have the long-glued in saddle, the procedure is totally different...but you should have the short drop in saddle.

Here’s a step by step: Loweraction

Hankak: Its a 1994 and I've had the saddle out, a drop in, and it's not compensated. It was very tight so I had to use dikes to get it out and they left some marks as it is some kind of pretty soft plastic! The strings have formed some grooves for a guide to slot it. I will order a bone saddle but in the mean time I curious about slotting it, just like the nut is!

Threadbare Cat: Don't slot it! It will develop buzzes if the slots aren’t cut perfect – and believe me, you won’t be able to cut perfect slots! And yes, I learned these lessons the hard way. If your existing saddle has groves from string pressure then slowly sand away the top of the saddle maintaining the curvature until the grooves disappear. Next very gently sand the top on it’s upper sides to make and inverted ‘v’ so the string only touches on one spot as it crosses over the saddle. Now see if the action is what you want by stringing it back up. At this point if you want more saddle removed then sand the saddle from the bottom. Remember that to lower the action at the 12th fret by ‘X’ amount you will need to remove twice that ‘X’ at the saddle by sanding.

15. Sustainable Woods?
A lady came into my shop looking for a budget classical guitar but would not consider mahogany because of the environmental impact of using mahogany? What are the environmental issues right now concerning one wood VS. another and are any budget guitars using sustainable or less "environmentally offending" woods?

Arnoldgtr: Mahogany trees grow in the rain forest. Unlike the temperate forest, once the trees are cut, it is difficult or impossible to restore the forest. This is because there is very little nutrient value in the soil.
The supply of mahogany from the original forests is rapidly coming to an end. The history of mahogany logging mirrors the decline in tropical American forests. It was first cut in the West Indies, then Cuba, then Honduras, then other central American countries, then Brazil, and now Peru. It doesn't grow anywhere else naturally.

Arnoldgtr: Walnut, cherry, and maple are all viable woods for guitars.

tmansonusa :I just looked at the specs for the SWOMGT on the Martin Page and it said the bridge material was "Sustainable Katalox"

Does anyone care to explain what THAT is???

Rod Neep: Also used for fingerboards, it is an alternative to Ebony. A very hard and dense wood which has a slightly purple tinge.

tippie53: John Arnold , you forgot about Oak. There are plenty of viable tonewoods. At the UMGF meetings in the past , this very question usually pops up. Chris Martins answer has always been that Martin would love to use sustainable wood supplies, however the market appears that it doesn't want them. The Smartwood series never caught on yet the guitars were and are a decent instrument.
The rainforest is indeed in trouble and once it is gone we may not be far behind. Mahogany, and rosewood are the 2 most popular tonewoods and both are running low on supply. Mankind in his typical fashion seldom looks at the result of his actions.
The soil in the rainforest is poor and though they Brazillian government is trying , the tree poachers are winning.

Arnoldgtr: the "big three" domestics (walnut, cherry, maple) already have somewhat of an established reputation in guitar making. Oak has always been considered a plentiful, cheaper wood, even though it can sound very good.
And if you value sound over appearance, there are other domestic alternatives, like black locust, osage orange, birch, ash, and sassafras. IMHO, all these woods are at least equal (if not superior) to mahogany or EIR.
I wouldn't be too concerned about the sustainability of red spruce. There are plenty of small trees growing, and the majority of the red spruce topwood used today is second growth. And the inevitable acceptance of wider grain or four-piece tops will further expand the available supply.

16. Using one mic? (bluegrass content)
My little bluegrass outfit has been doing a bit of recording and we are preparing to start playing out. We've tried recording with a single and with multiple mics and like the feel of the old one-mic approach (we're using a large-diaphragm condenser). I'd love to hear any ideas or advice anyone might have about technique/equipment/problems with using the one-mic setup for an acoustic group (such as one playing bluegrass) in a live setting. Are there any mics you'd particularly recommend (or avoid)?

Our lineup is guitar, mandolin, banjo (all three sing), and string bass.

66d35: One thing almost always overlooked by folks when this topic came up... they used one mic way back when because they HAD to. There was rarely any other way. Most venues had one mic and a single, small (miniscule in fact by today's standards) tube amplifier and some very primitive speakers. No mixer. No effects. No proper EQ (just a 'tone' control if you were lucky). I've actually worked on some of this real vintage PA stuff, and unlike vintage guitar amps, it is not very pleasant. The mics they used back then were not LD condensers either, they were ribbon mics (RCA, etc.). The Beatles used British made Reslo's on their early tours...

I think image has a lot to do with this... and to some extent the choreography of 'working the mic', but in truth, things have moved on - a long way - and I absolutely positively guarantee that you can get vastly better sound from a properly set up high quality modern multi mic system than from a pseudo-vintage system based around one mic. Some of those bands that do use this system swear by AT LD mics (condensers).... it might look 'authentic' (dodgy word around her!) but it isn't.

flatpicknut: The single mic looks cool and allows for a flexible mix as each musician can move back and forth a bit to adjust levels BUT it is VERY hard for a band to sound good with a single mic.

The very worst bluegrass performances I've been at have been single mic setups while the best have been individual mics and pickups. Invariably, feedback is a major problem with single mics because of the omnidirectionallity and the high gain that must be used to try to pick up the various musicians. (The last single mic show I saw was a nightmare of feedback every few minutes.) And though the musicians can adjust the mix, I rarely hear a decent mix with single mics. There's always an instrument or two that just gets lost. And of course, the audience can't SEE what the musicians are doing as well, either, since there a lot of gyrations to try to get to the mic for a solo and getting back afterwards without stepping on somebody else or hitting their instrument.

So, experiment freely, but don't get your expectations up too high.

MartinD GibsonA: We gave up after less than a year because our mic picked everything, and I do mean EVERYthing, that was going on -- kitchen noise, the espresso machine, people at the front table talking ... it was a nightmare. In my opinion, the ONLY way to use a large diaphragm condenser is if you've got a dedicated sound (wo)man who knows how to run that kind of mic through a board making adjustments on the fly and you're playing in a place where you don't have to worry about lots of ambient/reflected noise such as a concert hall or an outdoor stage. Otherwise, individual mics will just suit your purposes so much better.

datzus1: Perhaps use individual mics for instruments, but singing around one large condenser mic is sublime - it's sooooooooo much easier to get the harmonies not only locked in note-wise, but the dynamics and volume of singing together, ear to ear, in a bluegrass format, is a magnificent musical experience. If you're singing trio, put the lead about 6-10 inches directly in front, and the two harmonies about 3 inches away on the sides... if quartet, lead and tenor get the middle, and bass/baritone on the wings. From 5 years experience, I've discovered it's really the only way to sing lonesome... and I was quite reluctant for the first two years of using it. You don't need a lot of vocals in the monitors, because you'll be singing so close together. That keeps feedback issues minimized. Yes, the mic picks up everything, but we've learned to keep our side (snide) comments to a minimum, and if the crowd in a bar gets too crazy, we invite them to sing along... it's not the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, more like the Bourbon Tubercular Choir! Usually they then quiet down and we can perform - having a quality sound technician, which our bass player is, is really the only way it can be done. When we do a festival or show, their sound folks sometimes need more than a half hour to feel comfortable - most sound folks like to tweak and twitch, and with this set-up, once the levels and EQ are set, they can sit there with their hands on the heads, and we can work the insturment mics ourselves.

I suggest trial and error... the key, for us, was figuring out that harmony singing is just what the ancient bluegrassers experienced due to their limitations: almost no instruments and lots of vocal energy. And individual singing mics are fine, but then we have to depend on a great monitor mix, and for me, that gets frustrating after getting spoiled by close-together singing,

Oh, be sure to brush your teeth, use mouthwash... tough to sing that close together when one guy has a bad case of halitosis...

ihearok: I've been experimenting with the single mic technique for awhile and really tried hard to make it work. I was hoping for the simplicity of setup and minimal gear hauling. I have tried many variations, and (IMHO) a single mic just doesn't provide good sound. At our last show we used one AT 4033 for vocals, and individual small diaphram condensors for the mando, banjo, and fiddle. The standup bass has a K&K pickup plugged into a small Ampeg amp. We set up in a half circle. This sounded good out front but we couldn't hear the solos very well. Next gig we have I'm probably going to put up a couple of monitors and maybe even switch to SM57s on instruments. So much for simplicity.

Here's an interesting article I found that we tried. This worked pretty well and was simple for a small band, i.e. 3 players.

66d35: Quote: I was hoping for the simplicity of setup and minimal gear hauling.

I don't think the 'single mic' method is the way to achieve that. Instead, I'd look at using a Class D amp (super efficient, no heavy heatsinking, and switch-mode PSU) you can hold 300-500 watts in one hand). I'd also look at some of the latest speakers. Very potent for their size. Lately, our 'small rig' (apologies to Steve!) is a Yamaha Stagepass 300, and our set-up time is down to 15-20 minutes from an hour or more, and it fits on the back seat of the car with room to spare, never mind the trunk.. fine for gigs of up to 300 or so. Our 'big rig' (which is truly pathetic compared to Steve's!) is 2 X 700W RMS and fills the car by comparison.

17. Advice Needed for Stage Monitor Speakers
I'm looking to buy a pair of stage monitors for a 5 piece bluegrass band. There are 4 people in the front row. Is there anything decent available in the $150-175 per speaker range? Seems like that would get me into the 12" speaker diameter size. Recommendations?

Dadsbones: Check out Community MVP-12Ms. They are slightly above your price. $209.00, but great performers.

[For Bose PAS systems:] A 5 piece could use a mixer to a PAS and eliminate the monitors altogether. The PAS has the volume and projection trajectory that enables it to serve as a monitor for both the audience and the band.

Couple things to keep in mind. Assuming one would just use the single tower and bass unit, the sound spread will be somewhat focused to stage positions. I think optimally Bose recommends having the tower 10 - 12 feet behind the band. The way the pattern spreads there are times that if I'm out on the wing I would like more volume. Mostly to hear my vocal. I can fall flat quickly.

Certainly running a stereo PAS set-up or an individual system for each band member would solve some or all of this. Keep in mind you're still only getting the house mix, however. I can see a five piece band requiring a few different mixes in the monitors. One of the PAS's biggest selling points - you hear what your audience hears --- can also be a disadvantage in certain situations. Many singers want their voice hotter and less compressed in their monitor. The bass players always wants more kick and the drummer may want more guitar and bass. There's no substitute for a board with plenty of monitor mixes and a wedge for everyone.

Buzzard II: Check out the Yamaha SM-12Vs great monitors 12" woofer and 2" Ti horn tweeter.

I've bought 5 over the past couple years from Guitar Center... they lsit them at $299... but I've paid $200. At that price you'll be hard pressed to buy a better monitor. Yamaha SM12V Club Series V

SpruceApple: Not sure on pricing, but there is a Wisconsin company by the name of Sonic that makes monitors and PA speakers. They sound good, are very popular with bands and clubs locally, and I've been told they are a great bargain.

Buzzard II: Have you listened to the Yamaha SM-12Vs? They are beautiful sounding and awesome for vocals. The big difference in these is the 2" Ti horn. Not to mention bullet proof Yamaha durability.

I use three SM-12Vs in my setup with a Mackie 808S to drive them. Two out front on poles and one for my monitor. The sound is great.

I am pretty sure there is adequate margin for a GC sales rep to sell these at $200 each... I have done it 5 times now. I think it could be tough to get two 12" monitors with decent sound for $300.

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