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Author Topic: Electric Harpsichord  (Read 11423 times)

andy craig

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Electric Harpsichord
« on: February 28, 2011, 06:34:29 pm »

I have been asked to provide audio for an orchestral piece.
The original score calls for an electric harpsichord.
It's not possible to locate one locally so the orchestra have asked me to mic up their acoustic instrument.
I intend to have a loudspeaker close to the instrument, so will need to get in close so as to maximise GBF.
Any thoughts on the best micing approach? The mics I have at my disposal are DPA4061, Neumann KM184, AKG C414EB, Neumann U89, U87ai.

Thanks,
andy
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Re: Electric Harpsichord
« Reply #1 on: February 28, 2011, 06:55:40 pm »

I have been asked to provide audio for an orchestral piece.
The original score calls for an electric harpsichord.
It's not possible to locate one locally so the orchestra have asked me to mic up their acoustic instrument.
I intend to have a loudspeaker close to the instrument, so will need to get in close so as to maximise GBF.
Any thoughts on the best micing approach? The mics I have at my disposal are DPA4061, Neumann KM184, AKG C414EB, Neumann U89, U87ai.

Thanks,
andy

Most electric keyboards have a harpsichord patch.  Why not just use one of those?
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andy craig

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Re: Electric Harpsichord
« Reply #2 on: February 28, 2011, 08:33:56 pm »

Most electric keyboards have a harpsichord patch.  Why not just use one of those?

Because the conductor and the orchestra manager want it done this way.
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Mac Kerr

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Re: Electric Harpsichord
« Reply #3 on: February 28, 2011, 08:46:43 pm »

I have been asked to provide audio for an orchestral piece.
The original score calls for an electric harpsichord.
It's not possible to locate one locally so the orchestra have asked me to mic up their acoustic instrument.
I intend to have a loudspeaker close to the instrument, so will need to get in close so as to maximise GBF.
Any thoughts on the best micing approach? The mics I have at my disposal are DPA4061, Neumann KM184, AKG C414EB, Neumann U89, U87ai.

The only electric (not electronic) harpsichord I am aware of is the Baldwin Electric Harpsichord. They have been out of production for over 40 years. I toured with one in the early '70s, but we carried a second one for spare parts since it was already out of production. It plucked the strings like an acoustic harpsichord, but was built in an aluminum I beam frame, with a stereo pickup. It had a unique sound and toured well, but the odds of finding one today are pretty slim. Modern keyboards have replaced this type of instrument.

Since the orchestra wants a real plucked instrument a couple of mics over the area of the strings that get plucked will probably be the way to go. If you have 2 of the KM184, that is what I would use. Treat it like a grand piano, but listen to the advice the musician gives you about mic placement and tonal quality.

Mac
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Tim McCulloch

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Re: Electric Harpsichord
« Reply #4 on: February 28, 2011, 10:34:55 pm »

The only electric (not electronic) harpsichord I am aware of is the Baldwin Electric Harpsichord. They have been out of production for over 40 years. I toured with one in the early '70s, but we carried a second one for spare parts since it was already out of production. It plucked the strings like an acoustic harpsichord, but was built in an aluminum I beam frame, with a stereo pickup. It had a unique sound and toured well, but the odds of finding one today are pretty slim. Modern keyboards have replaced this type of instrument.

Since the orchestra wants a real plucked instrument a couple of mics over the area of the strings that get plucked will probably be the way to go. If you have 2 of the KM184, that is what I would use. Treat it like a grand piano, but listen to the advice the musician gives you about mic placement and tonal quality.

Mac

In addition to Mac's microphone suggestions, consider a Barcus-Berry piano pickup if you need higher levels in nearby monitors.

Mac, I had no recollection of the Baldwin... I have seen one, heard it but never played it.  Thanks for the memory jog.

Tim Mc
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Rick Earl

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Re: Electric Harpsichord
« Reply #5 on: February 28, 2011, 10:53:37 pm »

Quote
Treat it like a grand piano, but listen to the advice the musician gives you about mic placement and tonal quality.

I have had to mic Harpsichords only twice for live concerts, but the nature of the instruments and how they are built  makes them much more unique from each other than most pianos would be from each other.  I find the musicians are really passionate about their instrument and can offer a lot of advice. 

The fist one I used  2 KM-84s and the second I used  a pair of DPA 4061s on the underside of the lid as a boundary mic,  although I started with a pair of KSM-137s in a similar set-up the first time, it just didn't sound good in that instrument. 
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Bennett Prescott

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Re: Electric Harpsichord
« Reply #6 on: March 01, 2011, 06:41:34 pm »

I have been asked to provide audio for an orchestral piece.
The original score calls for an electric harpsichord.
It's not possible to locate one locally so the orchestra have asked me to mic up their acoustic instrument.
I intend to have a loudspeaker close to the instrument, so will need to get in close so as to maximise GBF.
Any thoughts on the best micing approach? The mics I have at my disposal are DPA4061, Neumann KM184, AKG C414EB, Neumann U89, U87ai.
Andy,

Believe it or not, I am somewhat of a harpsichord expert, having built and maintained many in a past life.

You'll probably want three mics, two near the quills high and low to get the (often unfortunate) plucky sound of the harpsichord, and a third midway down the bed, near the resonance hole.

The KM184s will probably be perfect for this. If you need more SPL than that you're going to have to go with a magnetic pickup. Fortunately the Harpsichord is a less resonant instrument than you might believe, aside from a relatively broad boost at the tuning frequency of the body.
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Lee Brenkman

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Re: Electric Harpsichord
« Reply #7 on: March 03, 2011, 12:06:42 pm »

I too have some ancient harpsichord history having both assisted in assembling kit instruments and touring with a band, The Solid Muldoon, in the 60s who used one of the Baldwins as their sole keyboard instrument.  It DID cut through  ;).

The Baldwin was a refinement of an I beam frame harpsichord built by Caleb Warner in the late 50s.   I "googled" his name and got this.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caleb_Warner

Kind of cool that his father was one of, it not THE, inspiration for Indiana Jones.

Back to audio now...

I too would go for the two KM184s, high and low over the quills.  When more body and/or gain is needed I can slip a small, flat, omni condenser over the resonant hole on the soundboard.  I use one of my vintage Countryman EM101s.

Here's a picture of a Baldwin Electric:


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Bennett Prescott

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Re: Electric Harpsichord
« Reply #8 on: March 03, 2011, 03:01:24 pm »

Lee,

Is that a sustain pedal on a harpsichord? Yikes! At least there's a volume pedal next to it!

(I am being somewhat tongue in cheek, I actually like the harpsichord sometimes, but most players aren't very good. It requires an almost robotic style that is unlike any other keyed instrument)
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Mac Kerr

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Re: Electric Harpsichord
« Reply #9 on: March 03, 2011, 03:34:18 pm »

Lee,

Is that a sustain pedal on a harpsichord? Yikes! At least there's a volume pedal next to it!

(I am being somewhat tongue in cheek, I actually like the harpsichord sometimes, but most players aren't very good. It requires an almost robotic style that is unlike any other keyed instrument)

That pedal set looks like the one I remember. That could be our instrument except we never had a handbell choir, which apparently this one did.

Mac
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Marsellus Fariss

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Re: Electric Harpsichord
« Reply #10 on: March 05, 2011, 03:37:28 am »

Is this a touring act? How can a touring act request backline for something that rare rather than put one on the bus or at least sample one and load it on a keyboard or just request a traditional acoustic? Are these request some type of game to see who actually turns up with one? Ive never understood that. I could go on a rant about people being picky about backline but I'll save it for another thread.  :)
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Marsellus Fariss
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Mac Kerr

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Re: Electric Harpsichord
« Reply #11 on: March 05, 2011, 08:45:55 am »

I have been asked to provide audio for an orchestral piece.
The original score calls for an electric harpsichord.
It's not possible to locate one locally so the orchestra have asked me to mic up their acoustic instrument.
I intend to have a loudspeaker close to the instrument, so will need to get in close so as to maximise GBF.
Any thoughts on the best micing approach? The mics I have at my disposal are DPA4061, Neumann KM184, AKG C414EB, Neumann U89, U87ai.

Thanks,
andy
Is this a touring act? How can a touring act request backline for something that rare rather than put one on the bus or at least sample one and load it on a keyboard or just request a traditional acoustic? Are these request some type of game to see who actually turns up with one? Ive never understood that. I could go on a rant about people being picky about backline but I'll save it for another thread.  :)

Read the OP.

Mac
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Lee Brenkman

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Re: Electric Harpsichord
« Reply #12 on: March 05, 2011, 02:23:12 pm »

Read the OP.

Mac


as in when he wrote when already asked why they just didn't use a keyboard with a harpsichord patch:

"Because the conductor and the orchestra manager want it done this way"

And the player would, I'm sure, rather have the acoustic harpsichord to play.  The "touch" of a plucked string keyboard is VERY different than an electric keyboard or an acoustic piano.
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Marsellus Fariss

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Re: Electric Harpsichord
« Reply #13 on: March 05, 2011, 04:51:56 pm »

Nevermind... I wasn't quite understanding the situation and had just had a long day with a bad tour manager regarding backline. I was tired and it was a touchy subject.
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Marsellus Fariss
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Robert Lunceford

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Re: Electric Harpsichord
« Reply #14 on: March 05, 2011, 11:20:34 pm »

I used to own a harpsichord. The best method I found was to mic it from underneath. There should be an opening in the bottom of the instrument. There is a cavity between the bottom of the instrument and the underside of the sound board. Place the mic inside the instrument. Same approach as an internal mic in a guitar.
I think you will get the most GBF with this method. It still isn't that great as the harpsichord is a fairly quiet instrument.

Robert

« Last Edit: March 05, 2011, 11:26:27 pm by Robert Lunceford »
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andy craig

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Re: Electric Harpsichord
« Reply #15 on: March 06, 2011, 03:31:49 pm »

Thanks for the replies everyone.
Rehearsals start on Wednesday and I have 3 days to experiment before the performance.
The piece in question is "Sinfonia" by Berio.

Chur,
Andy.
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Re: Electric Harpsichord
« Reply #16 on: March 07, 2011, 12:43:40 pm »

Thanks for the replies everyone.
Rehearsals start on Wednesday and I have 3 days to experiment before the performance.
The piece in question is "Sinfonia" by Berio.

Chur,
Andy.

For those who might be interested:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sinfonia_(Berio)
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Re: Electric Harpsichord
« Reply #16 on: March 07, 2011, 12:43:40 pm »


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