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Everything Related to the Steelpan Instrument and Music

I wanted to share what works for me... to bring my pan on stage and not be drowned out by the conventional amplified guitars and the sort.  Also, to dispel the myth that you cannot mic a pan without feedback.

I added a picture of my rig, and yes, I am wearing a Bob Marley T-shirt.  I play lots of his songs, but make no mistake I let my audiences know where pan is from.

Why is feedback such an issue when micing a pan? The pan surface is highly reflective, and we are still experimenting with techniques and mic placement. If you mic a pan from below, and you are near a monitor, reflections off the pan come into the mic quite easily.  If you mic from above, you may be pointed directionally in front of a monitor or driver as well.  Also, it seems that a regular mic needs a lot of gain to get a good signal relative to the rest of the stage, but the more you add, the more unwanted sounds from around you are picked up.  And then there is a question of technique to use when you mic a double second... would one mic work?

When micing a steelband, and there is less need for stage monitors, setting up room mics in front of the band is a good way to go... less chance of feedback.  But what about on a loud conventional stage?

The mics I use are inexpensive Apex 185s (Apex is a Canadian company, so may not be available in the States or abroad), a matched set of pencil condensor mics.  They have a very narrow pickup pattern (off-axis rejection) which allows me to angle each mic towards the bowl of my pan from above, and it will pick up those vibrations from a bit of distance (instead of micing from below with the mic a half inch from the bottom of the pan), while it rejects sounds from the sides.  Feedback is negated as the mic's pickup pattern is focussed on the pan, and not in the signal path of any speakers.

I've also used them with my tenor, and am convinced this style of mic is the way to go.  If you are shopping for mics, look for something that will pick up sound from what you point the mic directly at, but will reject sounds beside the mic.  The guy that demonstrated these mics for me snapped his fingers in an orbit around the mic, and the sound was only picked up in a narrow path directly in front.  It was cool.

What do you use?

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Only God knows Cecil. Its the process not the destination. Just think of what Pan would/could be in lets say April 3012? I am sure Digital will be outdated.

Bertel is the violin complete?

Bugs, I will be in a much better position to answer this question in the year 4093 IF I am back. Nothing is complete! Only the UNIVERSE. We are all parts of a large scheme/scene.

I would be interested in the Amplification for volume more than the E-Pan, and Digital sound.

We quite often have bands with vocalists performing on parade floats.  I believe they run a generator to feed their sound equipment.  Wireless would not be an asset for a parade float.  Same would be true for pan... once you are set, you are set.

I could see cordless mics being an asset for a large orchestra, so you don't have a tangle of cords amidst the racks.

For basses and cellos, those same two microphones that I use (although I have seen others used) would be positioned with a gooseneck from above either side of the pans, high enough to not interfere with sticking.  In western Canada, often bands have fewer bass players, as bands are smaller.  Audio level often needs reinforcement.  I am curious though about a method I read about where bass pans are positioned over a chamber (hollow wooden platform with openings for the bass pan skirts, and placement of a microphone inside.

Hi Corey

Not sure about having the two mics for the bass in a live event, unless you place the bass projection speakers far from the pannist or you have speakers that have a very small sound projection to the rear. If you want depth you may have a feedback problem when you turn the EQ up. But this will work well in other venues.

 

At LEctrapan, a company a group of us started years ago to make electric pickups for pans, we considered but never tested using 4 mics for a 6 bass. One mic would be above as you suggested and each of the three placed close to  between one pair of drums. The latter would be positioned  close to the space between the floor and pan. That space acts like the sound hole on a guitar - its where the bass really resonates. The 4 mics could be pre-mixed (the three floor mics will have a lot of bass kick) with proper EQ before going to the house mixer.  

 

I heard about the resonant platform that was done by a guy in Tunapuna many years ago. I never looked into it as I found it too unwieldy a solution.

 

The LEctrapan concept required that basses be shortened (18", just below the first ring) and pickups used on or close to the playing surface. That system was successfully tested at Carib Tokyo Panyard in July 1987 and I have a test unit sitting in the lab right now. At the point where the R&D slowed, we were talking to tuners about specially made pans for this "direct amplification" method.

 

I mic basses with 1 pzm mic set on the floor, with an insulating pad beneath and a insulated box over the top with an opening facing in toward the 6 pans.. Because of the way pzm mics work, it picks up all the pans evenly even though it is set at one end of the basses.  

I'm struggling to visualize that, but it sounds like you have a real innovation there!  Am googling "pzm", as I've never heard that term.  I'm imagining a great sound chamber though!  Are you willing to share photos?

I will try to get you photos when I have a chance. PZMs work on a very different principle then dynamic or condensor mics!

Now that sounds great... so I guess the box kind of shields the PZM from the closest bass drum? If you listen to the bass alone do you get the definition from the higher notes, even from the furthest drum? The only time I ever used PZMs was with Birdsong in the 80s... we never got it to work well because we were trying to do the whole band with it.

Yes, that is why I use the insulated box. The opening creates a  "throat"  that allows all the basses to be picked up- the characteristics of a pzm mic   mitigates the  distance variation in volume, though there is a  very small difference from the furthest basses. Maybe using two pzms - one on each end of the 6 bass would solve that problem. I am curious when you used the pzms with Birdsong did you attach them to large panels suspended over the band? I have seen choirs recorded that way The pzm turns the panel, ( say a 4' x 8'  plywood panel)  into a pick up area, Of course you could not have canopies over the band. You would probably need to set up the band so that low end pans are being picked up by one set of pzms and the high pitched pans by another set. Were you recording a Birdsong  stageside band or the full panorama band?

Corey most of the events I do are church related and the pan is usually set just in front of the stage monitors so there is no movement from the public there . These mikes work fine for me both in studio and public . Hope this answers your questions . Blessings .

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