Using Two Microphones
For Superb Sound
Positioning Two Condenser Microphones
Alison has very personal and
intimate style of playing and presenting Celtic harp music.
I try to recreate this effect for larger spaces.
I use two mics with Alison's
Celtic and Paraguayan harps in live solo formal concert
conditions. Sometimes two stage spots with two harps
and two mic pairs at the same time. This method works
best with a relatively quiet stage; no stage monitors
(foldback) and a modest distance away from and behind
the front of house speakers. The sound system requires
some graphic EQ capability (15 to 31 bands per stereo
side) because inevitably there will be a situation where
feedback will occur. The harp is a natural microphone
and combined with the relatively high gain used on the
second mic you will have to notch out frequencies with
the EQ on occasion.
The first mic position
is almost the same as a solo mic position. There is
usually a sweet spot 2/3 down the soundboard (same as
the pickup or there about's). For solo mics use this
spot. Get the harpist comfortably seated with Celtic
harp on shoulder, then rock the harp forward until it
is free standing. Place the mic very close to the sweet
spot (1/2" to 1" away from the soundboard).
Rock the harp back to shoulder. This allows the harp
to be moved off the shoulder without knocking the mic
for a mid performance rest. This mic position will give
you a full sound of the harp sound box. Please note
I said the sound box, not the harp. Single mics, pickups
and inner box mini microphones all capture the sound
box sounds - often very well. Sit by a harpist (don't
play it yourself) and listen carefully. I have found
that a lot of the sensual quality of the harp comes
directly from the strings - the plucking sounds, the
finger sounds the actual airiness of the string vibration
- these all have a different character to the sound
box sound. These sounds are usually not amplified live.
Studio recording engineers crave these sounds.
I try to recreate this intimate
personal sound for most of the audience by using a second
mic on the strings. The first mic I move a bit farther down
the sound board to give more base response. Using the desk
EQ I usually boost the low frequencies approximately 2 - 3
The second mic I place thus.
Have the harpist sit naturally and place the hands in a relaxed
mid string position and freeze with a smile as if their is
an imaginary photographer about to make them famous. With
your mind's eye draw a line from the smile through the right
hand until it reaches the area directly above the right knee.
That is where I place the second mic aimed directly at the
smile through the back of the right hand and the strings.
Make sure that the harp can be rocked forward without hitting
I usually take a little off
the top frequency of the second mic with the desk EQ and a
I balance the outputs approximately 60% bottom mic/ 40% top
Both mics can placed on a single
low stand using 2 short booms.
For the bottom or solo mic
I use an Audio Technica AT4041
For the top I use an ADK
A51s large condenser or on foreign systems with a different
engineer a second AT4041.
Using it this way allows me
to dispense with a vocal mic for small size venues as the
mic at the knee picks up some of Alison's voice. Using headphones
at the sound desk I can clearly hear Alison's breathing during
play and with care it sometimes can be heard from the main
front of house speakers.
For setting amplification volumes
there is a natural point of audio amplification in a room
where the sound is not forced and it is comfortable to listen
to yet is still moderately loud. Set this volume for the second
to third row of the audience. At this point the sound system
"disappears". Literally! I have people ask me if
"is this amplified?". They can see the mics and
speakers but cannot acoustically distinguish the technology
from the real thing.
People become immersed in the
whole sound and the emotional responses flow. The dynamics
right down to the last fingerpad brush of a string are there
for most to hear. It really works and is a real pleasure and
honour to be part of.
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.