Miking the Bassoon

Here’s my question: Do you ever use a PA system? And if so, what do you do about microphones? I’m playing in an electrified band (lots of guitars, full drum set, etc.) At present, I’m amplifying my bassoon with a voice mike on a stand, aimed near the top of the boot joint. Someone told me once, years ago, about a mike that could be dropped down inside the bassoon. So far, I haven’t been able to locate any information on anything of that type. I would be interested in knowing what you use, and any tips on where I might shop for such equipment.

Dyanne Fry Cortez
Folk & Country Bassoonist
Austin, Texas

Dear Dyanne,

I play electric bassoon which you may or may not know. I have a bocal with a Vox pickup. Others like Paul Hanson and Michael Rabinowitz (jazz bassoonists) us a Frap. These are no longer made but are out there used. Neither type sounds like a bassoon. The contact type mikes do not work well as they pick up too much key noise, Barcus Berry types. If you want to play into a P.A. mike, I always used a Shure SM 57 (a very commonly used mike) place at the low C tone hole–the one that closes when you touch low B. This is a great sound. Only problem is when you hit low B or Bb, it doesn’t pick up. Yes, it is possible to drop a mike down the bell. A guy here in Portland found one that worked really well. After searching and trying to duplicate it, I gave up. It was an old hearing aid mike. The problem with a mike down in the bore is that it has to be small, not feedback, and “balloon” in sound when you get down to the low notes. I couldn’t make any that I tried work. I also found that a very small lavalier type mike clamped or taped over the bell is OK, but sound off the bell is a bit harsh. The SM 57 sounds better, but your are always stuck at the mike which should be right on the C tonehole. So having a small mike clamped to the horn let’s you move around. I think some of the newer sax clamp on mikes would work for you, but I have not been experimenting with these. I think you can try different placements to get the tone you want, probably off the bell or low C tonehole and tweak the tone on the amp to get a good sound. I hope this helps. Take a listen to my Jimi Hendrix’s Purple Haze on our Captured CD. Available on amazon.com. This is the pure electric sound with wah-wah an distortion effects. Folk and country bassoon sounds great. I did some new age stuff a while back with a guy named David Michael who has several CDs out there. Recorded the trax in San Francisco. Thanks again for your question.

Regards, Mark Eubanks