Best violin pick-up for outdoor solo performance?

May 20, 2007 at 07:37 PM · Hello all, I need some advice on what type or brand of pick up I should get for my violin for a wedding I'm playing this November. The wedding is outdoors, on the beach, and I am playing solo.

I have searched around a bit and have noticed pick ups that clip to the bridge, ones that screw onto the side of the violin, and bands that fasten all the way around the violin's body, under the bridge.

What are your experiences with different types of pick ups? Any advice on which to seek out for my situation?

We have a local general music shop, but they're never well-stocked for string instruments and there's not a violin store for hours, so I will likely have to buy online.

Replies (25)

May 21, 2007 at 12:40 PM · I have used an LR Baggs which is installed in the bridge itself. You could use that together with a small condenser mike but you would need a preamp for the pick-up preferably an LR Baggs preamp or a decent acoustic amp. This combination will yield a relatively natural sound. But why use a pick up at a wedding performance?

Pickups/transducers are great if your playing with other instruments that are more amplified than the fiddle, eg. horns, drums, electric guitar etc.

Go au natural and use a good microphone-either dynamic or condenser mike will work for a wedding gig. The best small fiddle condenser mike I have found is the DPA which has a great website.

good luck

May 21, 2007 at 03:16 PM · The Schertler DYN would work well, and it's somthing that you can put on the violin in about a minute and take it off in less time. It is expensive but I find the sound better than with piezos and it doesn't need a pre-amp. Also flat EQ tends to work best.

http://www.lnrmusic.com/ carries them at a decent price.

May 22, 2007 at 02:46 PM · If I use a microphone instead, will it present any sort of noise problem since I'm playing outdoors at the ocean?

May 23, 2007 at 07:31 PM · Using a mic on the beach will definitely cause problem with any exposure to wind. You could try to use some type of pop filter that fits over the mic itself, I suppose.

I use a the Baggs bridge pickup, a relatively permanent installation since the bridge is the pickup, running through a Baggs pre-amp if I'm am plugging in to a PA, or else going directly into an amplifier made specifically for accoustic amplification. (Behringer ACX 1000)

All of this, with the addition of a little reverb, gives me a relatively "natural" tone that is still nowhere close to the tone of even a less expensive mic.

So, how many people are going to be at this wedding? Why not play with no amplification as was mentioned above.

May 24, 2007 at 04:57 AM · About not using any amplification: I'm not sure how many people there will be, but I fear the ocean sounds will drown me out regardless. It's just so hard for me to know because the wedding is in Miami and I live in PA so it's not somewhere I am familiar with or can visit beforehand.

May 24, 2007 at 07:35 PM · I have a Fishman Gold,uses a little gold wedge in the bridge cut-out, but I'm not crazy about it. Any little contact problems at the wedge make noise. To me, any attached pick-up seems to affect tone somewhere. Heavy, too,with the extra chinrest mechanism, and then there's that wire down the left arm or shoulder... Playing under a vocal mike is OK, as long as you are good at staying in the same and don't whack it with your bow. I like to look at the guys in my band and sometimes move away from the thing, then realize I'm not being heard. sigh.... Sue

May 24, 2007 at 07:35 PM · I have a Fishman Gold,uses a little gold wedge in the bridge cut-out, but I'm not crazy about it. Any little contact problems at the wedge make noise. To me, any attached pick-up seems to affect tone somewhere. Heavy, too,with the extra chinrest mechanism, and then there's that wire down the left arm or shoulder... Playing under a vocal mike is OK, as long as you are good at staying in the same place and don't whack it with your bow. I like to look at the guys in my band and sometimes move away from the thing, then realize I'm not being heard. sigh.... Sue

May 25, 2007 at 04:22 PM · A guy at my church wired one up for me for free. It has a clamp with clear rubber around it, so it doesn't scratch the fiddle, and the mic is on an inch-long bendable extension with a spring around it for support (so I can bend it to the right position). The clamp goes on the pointy part (does this have a name?) nearest your shoulder it the cutout area-- the side you don't bow on. The clamp is also adjustable with two screw-like things so you don't damage the violin during removal and replacement.

My amp is a nice light colored wooden box with black fuzzy stuff around the sides (it looks very expensive and nice) and has a Panasonic camera bag strap on top (which matches, it's gray with a yellow stripe and a black stripe). I have three knobs, one for volume (although I can never raise it past the third or fourth level, due to feedback), one for treble, and one for bass. I keep the treble turned down at 25% and the bass at 100% for a dark effect (which is what we all strive for, I believe. I've never had the opportunity to see for myself, but I'm told it still sounds like a real violin when amplified. (That's one of those things you can never really test-- ever.)

The guy who made my amp and pickup recently gave me an extension cable because I didn't have adequate length for performance with large bands when I needed to stand in the back (my amp has to go in the front since I can't turn it up as loud as everyone else can). Make sure you've got enough cord length, it's ALWAYS a plus!

May 30, 2007 at 03:12 PM · The problem with any kind of pickup is that it only amplifies the vibrations of the string and you lose all of the natural overtones of the violin. Then you find yourself in a situation where you are adding digital effects to try to get that natural sound.

You will definitely get a much better tone with one of those clip on mic systems that is described above. If you are not playing with a loud band, you should have no problem with feedback and this is more than enough amplification. Generally, the good ones are quite expensive (though still a drop in the bucket compared to what violinists will spend on a beautiful sounding violin).

The simplist thing, if there is going to be some kind of amplification already at the wedding (ie. a mic and PA for the vows) is to set up an additional vocal mic on a boom stand as Sue said. Experiment with mic placement, generally you want it pointed more towards the bass strings, and try to find a place sheltered from the wind.

Good Luck!

May 30, 2007 at 07:11 PM · You might try a Countryman mic. It is a condenser mic similar to what you sometimes see used as a lapel mic on TV. Very flat, smooth response.

June 13, 2007 at 08:56 PM · Look at "The Band" - easy to install & to remove.

http://www.headwayelectronics.com/acoustic_pickups_violin.htm

The above mentioned Schertler sounds better but is more expensive. Piezo bridges (with built-in piezo element) have the best sound, but alter / mute the acoustic sound of an acoustic instrument.

Another possibility: a magnic PU like the Rebo, that doesn't alter the sound of an acoustic, because it doesn't touch body nor bridge of the instrument:

http://www.uli-boesking.de/rebo/

July 25, 2008 at 10:56 PM · Would the Schertler (dyn-v) work with an effects processor?

I need a better pickup solution for playing solo outdoor work (weddings) in addition to indoor work with the band. I currently use a Barcus Berry 3100 (the one that screws on to the bridge) and I can't stand the sound quality.

Can anyone suggest a better solution for me than the dyn-v?

July 27, 2008 at 08:45 PM · I've tried a bunch of different pickups lately, and I've settled on...none of them. Instead, I use an inexpensive adjustable microphone that feeds into a decent pre-amp, which then connects to the amp. It's a much more natural sound with much better nuances. I'd only be concerned about wind noise in an outside gig.

FYI, after trying many different pickups feeding into an amp, I got religion a few years about about the value of using a decent preamp. I can "tune" my sound an awful lot with one of those clipped to my belt, and even a cheap Fishman or Bags pickup will sound appreciably better if it goes through one of these guys first.

July 28, 2008 at 02:39 AM · Realist, FTW! :D

July 28, 2008 at 04:30 AM · In my experiences, pickups have to be matched with great amps/speakers. Without a good amps, none of the pickups sound good to me (oh not to mention electric violins).

I think mic clipped on violin is the best solution so far, a good mic will really capture the true sound of the violin.

I've seen videos like Yanni concerts, all of the instruments are mic'ed up, but imagine how loud these kind of concerts will be. When dealing with mics, all you need is a very good sound engineer to deal with the sound, or if you have a mini mixer with EQ/phase reverse (you'll have to know how to use them, though).

Regarding wind blowing, in my experience it'll cause only those low end booming sound (assume there's already a pop filter on the mic), which can be roll off pretty easily (most instrument mics have this switch on the mic, so as many preamps). Mind you, even pickups will also cause this booming sound if something or yourself tapped the violin (this also apply to mics, so roll off is almost always needed).

July 31, 2008 at 05:04 PM · For a solo gig, a microphone through a decent PA system should more than fine. You don't need the higher volume required when performing with drums and bass. Ask for a mic on a boom stand. Position the mic within inches of the bridge for the highest gain and least ambient leakage. I've done this plenty of times. Ask the host to rent an inexpensive SM58 in a package with the PA.

But know that with any mic, wind can be a real problem. Wind screens won't be effective in the face of strong gusts. So, I would check to see if the performance space is shielded from the elements. (...Salt water spray could not be healthy for your violin.)

Pick-ups won't be affected by wind. LR Baggs pick-up bridge is clean, powerful and reliable. You'll also need a good mic pre-amp. The LR Baggs pre-amp is good for the bread. (always possible to spend more.) Having a bridge cut is an additional cost.

Also, people usually leave the bridge on. So if you're only doing one gig, I dunno if you want to have a pick-up bridge and carpenter jack on your instrument forever.

Good luck!

Jason

February 26, 2009 at 11:11 PM ·

After strongly disliking the Barcus Berry bridge-clamp pickup due to its nasal booming quality, I'm reticent to try any more standard PZT piezos. I'm currently looking into other options, including the Realist/Accusound/Pick-upTheWorld PVDF-type piezo transducers. Has anyone tried these? I need to know if placing the piezo film under the bridge will mute the instrument's sound. Also, are people using preamps with these pickups? David Enke from Pick-upTheWorld tells me that they don't need preamps for impedance matching as they give off a hot signal, but shorelinemusic.com writes that PUTW pickups do require preamps. Any wisdom?

February 27, 2009 at 04:59 AM ·

I've had good success with "The Band" which wraps around the belly of the instrument.  It takes about 1-2 minutes to install and produces an incredibly warm, clear sound even without a pre-amp.  The advantages of a pickup over a mic are ZERO bow noise, and it is not susceptible to feedback, or outside noise such as wind, etc.  Here is a video of a gig I did last month using "The Band."

www.youtube.com/watch

The video quality is not great, but hopefully, you can get a sense of the sound.  The Band runs a little over $100.  Here is a link with more info.

www.headwayelectronics.com/acoustic_pickups_violin.htm

February 14, 2010 at 04:12 PM ·

November 29, 2010 at 09:17 PM ·

Hi,

if you want to play acoustically and at the same time amplified, you'll need a system, that doesn't alter / mute the acoustic sound of your instrument. All piezo systems do this: they are built into the bridge or into the soundpost, are clamped onto the bridge, strapped around or glued to the body (shiver!). Result: a muted acoustic sound.

In our band "Dodecats" our celloplayer and me we're using magnetic "Rebo" pickups: they are clamped to the end of the fingerboard and don't touch vibrating parts of our instruments. These pickups have a relatively natural sound (for really natural sound: use a microphone) and we don't have feedback problems - even at high loudness levels.

http://www.myspace.com/dodecats

August 15, 2012 at 05:24 PM · I have used many and I mean MANY violin pickups and so far I found the best to be the "realist" pickup.

August 15, 2012 at 09:54 PM · For a mic, you can use something like this one.

These are VERY close-mic'ed. This one is a cardioid (heart-shaped), so it doesn't pick up sound from behind. Clip it to your chinrest, crank it down close, and you'll have a pretty good S/N ratio.

At the link above, Shure has a link for making this mic wireless to a pack.

October 5, 2015 at 10:36 AM · Hi friends.

I have a TB38/VSV violin pickup from the TAV PICKUPS company. (http://www.tav.net)

This pickup has a very good sound and respects the natural voice of the instrument. I recommend it.

And it is not necessary to modify the instrument absolutely.

Another web page with lots of technical information about the pickup and the violin is:

www.tav.net/violin-pickup.htm (It is in Spanish but can be translated).

Pierre.

October 5, 2015 at 06:47 PM · Microphone is risky for the beach,

The Band is pretty good for people that just need the occasional boost of volume. It's not the best solution but is the least invasive. Its downside is that you cannot play really high volumes with it before it feeds back. It doesn't have the most penetrating sound but has the warmth of the body sound. The company claim that you can play without a preamp (though with one would be better) so that saves some expense. It all depends what your budget is and what other kinds of gigs you are going to be doing with it.

I use a Baggs pickup myself and I know a lot of people don't like the idea of changing the bridge to something with a wire coming from it or having a plug hanging off your instrument but it's not so difficult to switch bridges if you need to with the aid of a bridge jack:

http://www.violinresearch.com/loudnessbowingchart_028.htm

October 6, 2015 at 01:54 PM · I known nothing about this, but on a ship cruise 10 years ago a visiting violin soloist wore one of those "headset microphones" where the pickup was close to the right side of her mouth. It worked fine when she performed with the rather loud ship's band. The violin sound was very fine.

You see these kinds of microphones on singers all the time. They are wireless, so the amplifier will need an attached receiver.

Andy

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