04 April 2012

Microphones for violin

Wether you are performing on stage or recording in the studio it is good to acquire some basic knowledge about the different microphone types and their uses.
The right choice of microphone will save you from waisting a lot of time trying "fix" your sound and good sound makes you perform better.

Microphones come in 3 different types: capacitor, back-electret and dynamic - these three types has different properties but can all be brought to good use on bowed instruments.
The first two types requires some powering to work (phantom power). Tube capacitor microphones come with separate power supply and do not need phantom. Dynamic microphones does not require phantom powering either - be aware that phantom power can in some cases damage dynamic microphones, for instance ribbon microphones.

Another thing to consider is the (polar) pickup pattern of the microphone: Cardioid (rejects sounds coming from behind them), Omnidirectional (picks up sound equally from all directions), figure of eight (pickups up in front and behind but rejects sounds coming from the sides).

The pickup pattern has a lot to do with the character the microphone imposes on the sound coming from the instrument.
When playing on stage it is important to choose the right pattern in order to keep feedback (whining and howling) and bleed down.

Microphones come in different shapes and sizes. Often the shape and size is determined by the size of the diaphragm .
Large-diaphragm microphones are mostly side-adressed (you play into the side of it). Small-diaphragm are mostly end-adressed (you play into the end).

Some microphones are so small that they can be placed directly on the instrument and work well for live use or in the studio if you move around a lot. But often larger microphones sound best when recording in the studio.

Placement is important when trying to pickup the sound of violins or other bowed strings for that matter.
Bowed instruments radiate sound in all directions and the same instrument can sound very different depending on where you place the microphone or microphones (stereo setup).

In a upcoming post I will go into microphone placement options for bowed instruments.


  1. I'm looking for this specific kind of microphone to add in my recording studio. A violin player approached me and asking for this kind of stuff.

  2. The link you posted shows a variety of microphones. Could you be more specific as to what kind of microphone you are looking for?

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