Alison Vardy   Solo Celtic Harpist  
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As Simple
Or as Complex
As You Want to Make Them

Do not give up easily, using amplification will double - triple your opportunities to play because you are able to play in almost environment and be heard well. My wife Alison trades amplified sound for booth fees etc to play shows, fairs and various public events where people can hear her playing. This becomes a form of free advertising at selected target audiences. If the public can hear you they will hire you. Sitting at home waiting for the phone to ring just does not work as well nor is as satisfying.

The Celtic harp music has roughly the same audio range as the human voice and tends to disappear amongst conversation. In effect you become moving wallpaper, hence, the need for amplification almost anywhere with more than a quiet audience of modest size. Amplification to larger quiet audiences allows you to use the full dynamics of a harp rather than having to force yourself, your repertoire and the instrument for volume.

The best sound will usually come from the more expensive microphones (condenser instrument mics) but they can be more fragile, harder to find on eBay or second hand, and most importantly they require either phantom power or a battery. Phantom power requires 48 volts to come from the sound system to power the microphone. Most church, older and in house sound systems will not have this feature. This means you have to bring along a special plug in adapter to add 48v to your connection. Alternately get a battery powered condenser microphone.

The next best sound comes from a dynamic cardoid instrument microphone. These are literally plug and play on any sound system that accepts a vocal microphone. This can be your cheapest option. Avoid microphones from your local stereo store. Use a proper instrument microphone.

The next best sound comes from an internal microphone system clipped on the inside of the harp’s sound box. These systems can give reasonably good sound but can be prone to feedback and difficult to place for an accurate well represented range of the harps sound.

The next best sound comes from a pickup and a pickup preamp. This works well in noisy environments but does not necessarily have the sound detail of a microphone.

We use all of the above in different situations with Alison's Celtic harps because no single solution works universally. In concerts with our own sound system we use 2 condensers per harp and in very noisy trade shows we tend towards pickups and dynamic mics. On foreign sound systems we bring all options and depending on the ability of the sound engineer and on the quality of the gear and sound we choose accordingly.

What follows is an amalgam of links (in my preferred order). The microphones/ transducers linked are the products I know will do the job well. Use them as a starting point as there are other microphones that work too. And Remember, you get what you pay for in the sound world. Good deals can be had on eBay for name brand mics if you do your homework.

Different types of mics explained
What Microphones do I Get?
Audio Technica Microphone Users Guide

Microphones Condenser
Audio Technica AT4041
Audio Technica AT3031
ADK A 51s
Rode NT3
AKG C1000S

Microphones Dynamic
Sennheiser MD421/MD441
Shure SM57
Shure Beta 57a

Microphones Inside Harp
Dusty Strings Harp mic

Alfredo Ortiz Barcus Berry Folk Transducer
LR Baggs Para Acoustic DI
Reese Harp Pickup
Pickup The World #30
McIntyre Pickup
Barcus Berry Planar Pickup

Mics Vocal
AKG Elle C
Shure Beta58a
Shure SM58

eMail me with your favourite links you think should be added to this list.

Remember, the best mic for you is the one that sounds the best when you listen to it while someone else is playing your harp. Audition, audition, audition.

I will add your knowledge and experience to the “mix” if it can add to the effectiveness of these articles. The rest of the Celtic Harp Amplification Series is available here.

Stephen Vardy
Harpsound Audio

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