New band needs help with sound.

Howdy all,

We’ve started a bluegrass band in Fort Collins called Blue Grama. We’ve been playing around town for a few months now and have played some gigs through our PA.

Our sound and energy is much tighter when we are playing acoustic… we can communicate better and everyone can hear.

When we play through the PA it is a whole different animal and it is frustrating that the quality of music we play suffers.

Does anyone have any tips or know anyone experienced in taking a band from acoustic to playing through a PA.

We don’t have much money to invest in new gear and can’t afford a sound person… we are currenlty in need of monitors.

I would also like to buy a mic for my mandolin… any recomendations




The most efficient acoustic system for connecting to a PA is the traditional single microphone placed stage center, all musicians then balance themselves in front of the mic and play. This requires no monitor. I have used many microphones for this kind of show. The best, IMHO, entry level mic is the audio technica 3035, it is a nice condenser mic with high spl that is well suited to bluegrass performance. I have run many shows in a small venue with a small soundcraft folio mixer, an AT3035, and a pair of powered speakers. It is nice to place a dynamic mic on the bass for a little uumph. The recordings speak for themselves. You can put this together for a couple of hundred dollars.

If you want individual instrument microphones you should consult a sound engineer and hire him/her for a sample session. Looking at entry level equipment again, I’d suggest an AKG 535 mic on the instruments and the old reliable and bulletproof shure sm 58 for vocals. A shure sm 57 will work fine for the bass. Get a small Mackie 8 channel mixer and a quartet of powered speakers ( 2 for mains and 2 for mons) and you’re on your way.

Now for the system you should really have !!!
a nuemann tlm-103 with several km 184s. Couple that with some pre sonus pre amps, an allen and heath mixer, EQ, and some Meyer Mica speakers. THAT is the way to go friend … HA HA HA. Wish I had about 20k $ laying around.

Seriously now… Find a good soundperson in your neighborhood who understands acoustic music, work something out with them to get you started. It will be money well spent.

Hope this helps , Good luck

:cheers :cheers :cheers :cheers :cheers :cheers

Hippie gives some super excellent advise. (cept a hate using a 57 for bass hehe :wink: akg d112 makes a great “cheap” bass mic , i got mine for $119 used)

What kind of gear are you using now?

Playing amplified, just like everything else in music takes some practice to get used to.

Playing without monitors can be a nightmare if the mains are too loud to let you hear your acoustic sound on stage. If you only have 2 speakers, Sometimes its better to run one main , one monitor than 2 mains depending on your gear and the size of the venue of coarse… monitors bring the dreaded feedback into the equation, a nice 31 band eq can really help a ton with that though.

I personally think running sound for an all acoustic bluegrass band is about as hard as it gets. When your have 4-5 instrument mics and 2-3 vocal mics on stage things like ringing out the room become vitally important IMO.

Live sound is an art in its self, and you will always be limited by the gear you have available. Dont be discouraged though, its worth the effort and ultimately just as important as how well you play your instruments from the listeners POV.

I highly recommend the book “live sound reinforcement”. It gets pretty technical but also covers the vital basics like ringing out a room and building a gain structure.

If you know a good soundman you can trust, dont hesitate to hire him or ask him for advise.

Also, Im a huge fan of in ear monitors, but they definitely take some getting used to as well.

Good luck to ya! :cheers

Our band does just fine with playing and even better with vocals but struggle with getting the sound right. We have found that having mics on stage for instruments leads to feedback when the sounds loops through the monitors. We have opted to use Schertler contact mics for everything except the fiddle but that approach is still far from perfect, not to mention expensive.

I’ll check out your book recommendation “Live Sound Reinforcement”.

Here is a “quick and dirty” on ringing out a room. This will let you get significantly louder monitors before feedback.

It requires a 31 band EQ or similar. ( ive also seen some “feedback buster” devices that automate this job for you, but they are limited to the number of frequencies they can pull out and personally i like having the control the EQ gives you)

I like to to this an hour or 2 before showtime.

Connect the eq to the monitor signal chain. With all the mics set up (ideally with people standing in front of them). SLOWLY turn up the monitors until you JUST BEGIN to hear feedback. Now go to the 31 band eq and pull down the offending frequency. Continue alternating between SLOWLY turning up the monitors til feed back occurs and knocking down the offending frequency with the EQ. Generally, after removing 3-5 , you will begin to hear multiple frequencies feed back at once, at this point you are done.

What you have done is helped minimize the effect of the rooms resonant frequencies on feedback. Every room will be different.

This will allow significantly louder monitors.

Also something super simple that can help greatly reduce feedback is proper use of your microphones. Every microphone has a polar pattern, cardioid, super cardioid, Hyper cardioid, figure 8, or omni directional. Make sure to point the mics “dead zone” at the monitors.

For example, an sm58 (very common vocal mic) uses a cardioid polar pattern, the dead zone is directly behind the mic, so you want to make sure to place the mic with the back pointed directly at the monitors.

Hope it helps!


Check out the live sound reinforcement book from the library… thanks for the recommendation. Now I’m on the hunt for some used monitors and some mics

This is a great discussion and I look forward to more posts


I’ve been looking for gear on craigs list and pawn shops… we need to replace every thing because our dobro player is moving to Nashville with all the gear.

Found a akg perception 200 condenser mic for $80… has anyone used this for bluegrass?

Also has anyone heard of ADK mics

Ive used and akg perception 200 once in a friends small home studio for vocals and was very pleasantly surprised. For such an inexpensive mic it did the job much better than expected. At $80 I’d call it a bargain for anyone trying to build a home/hobby studio, especially if it came with case and shockmount it was sometimes sold with.

BUT ive never used one in a live setting so I cant comment on its feedback rejection, and thats important live. We generally stick to the old standby, shure sm58s for live vocals for just this reason.

I’ve head of ADK, but thats about it. I have no 1st hand experience with any of there products.

Well… thanks for all the advice… I’ve been slowly aquiring gear for our bluegrass band Blue Grama.

Got a pair of community 2 way main, 2 peavey tlm monitors, an Audio Technica 3035, Crown power amp, mackie 1402 mixer… next is to get that bass mic… there is one on craigs list for $150… does that sound resonable?

We’ve been working hard to get the one mic thing down and its comming along. Although we had an awful experience with feed back and sound issues at the Sustainable living fair this weekend

I’m not sure what the issue was but the sound guy couldn’t get it figured out… he said it was the stage… our bass player couldn’t really play at all with out feed back… he was mic seperatly.

Eventually we had to play in the grass in front of the stage and take the main and subs off the stage in front of us.

The funny thing is we had the same set up the night before and it work out fine

I hope using the D112 will help


:wave You should probably put an equalizer on the monitors and mains. Ring the room during sound check, sound of different frequencies has a habit of bouncing off of hard surfaces in funny ways. Try playing on a rug.

Driving your mon channel too hard can also reek havoc feedbackwise.