So, I am debating about my live sound setup.

When I first got back into performing at the start of this year, I did the “single mic” approach (one mic for instrument and vocals, a la bluegrass bands), however I had serious issues getting it to work for me. Part of the problem was I hadn’t yet invested in a soundboard (I have a Behringer Xenyx now). At the time, I couldn’t boost the sensitivity enough to pick me up at a good volume for output.

But I’ve been reading a lot in the last few days about the single mic approach, and I’m seriously considering going back to it. It feels comfortable — look at my YouTube videos and you’ll see. All my life I’ve been strictly an acoustic musician — concert band, jazz band, concert choir, quartet, Irish trad bands… we never used microphones. When I performed solely on the Irish flute, I did use a microphone occasionally, but for the most part, it was all acoustic. It’s easier to play with just one microphone in your face as opposed to mics everywhere, pinning you to your stool…

My last gig at the Laht Neppur Ale House, my husband and I set up with two mics, one for my vocals and one for the guitar. He’s a pretty good soundboard operator, so we were able to avoid the feedback issues, but I still had to fight it on a couple of songs I capoed high up. Now, I do have a Duncan Maverick soundhole pickup that I use, but the first one I had failed after only four weeks of use, even despite my efforts to treat it gently, and now I’m a little leary of using it as my main method of guitar amplification. (That, and it put a ding on the edge of Sparrow’s soundhole.)

So I’m reconsidering the single mic approach. I guess bluegrass players use it religiously because it accurately approximates true acoustic playing. (When we acoustic musicians practice, we don’t do it in front of our microphone — we play and adjust how things sound right at the source: our vocals and intensity of playing.) I also found out they use condenser microphones because — I’m guessing — they have a better, more sensitive pickup pattern to dynamic microphones…

I’m seriously considering it. My main issue is that most of the gigs I play are in noisy environs. Bars, alcohol-serving restaurants… They’re noisy. People talk, and I’m just background music — which I don’t specifically have an issue with, it’s just if I go to the single mic setup and I get drowned out, then I’m not exactly background music then, am I?

So, all ye minstrels who are reading this: what’s your preference? Single mic? Dedicated mics for instruments and vocals? Mics plus pickups? I’d like to know, so please give me your opinions in the comments. 🙂

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