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?
Glad to be of any help. The real arbiters of this whole issue are the performers like yourself who pay a lot of attention to how their sound is projected. Furthermore , the whole issue of tone quality is such a subjective thing.
For the lower register pans, the placement you suggested should work. I have NOT actually tested this but I am very sure that as the pan range goes down the musical scale the radiation energy, for the low frequency parts, shifts closer to the bottom of the skirt. On the mixer end you would want to as much of that energy without having to push the gain up too far. I still feel that a combo of mics should be the show stopper. Check the mic strategies for concert pianos ... they use a set fo mics to ensure that capture as much of the sound from different parts of the instrument as possible.