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  #1  
Old 12-30-2016, 07:00 AM
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815C 815C is offline
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Default Anyone playing an unplugged acoustic archtop in a band? How do you mic?

I've been listening to Freddie Green live recordings. He didn't have a pickup on his guitar, but it came thru. Was he really that loud, or was he mic'd? Any of you guys playing unplugged in a band? If so, how to you mic your archtop?

Listen to him on this recording...

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Old 12-30-2016, 08:48 AM
Hot Vibrato Hot Vibrato is offline
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I'm pretty sure that Freddie Green was never close miked. They say his guitar had high action and plenty of relief.

...but not everybody is Freddie Green. If your guitar needs help being heard in a live setting, I think that just about any cardioid or hypercardioid mic would do the trick, even an SM57, but probably a condenser would work best - or a hypercardioid ribbon like a Beyer M260.80 would sound really sweet.

In my honkytonk band, our former singer/ rhythm guitarist played an old Kalamazoo acoustic archtop, and I just stuck a hypercardioid condenser (Sennheiser e614) in front of his guitar, and in that context it sounded infinitely better than any kind of pickup could ever possibly sound. This guy really drove the band with his rhythm guitar playing, and we managed to get plenty of his guitar in the monitors without any feedback issues. If he broke a string, the whole bottom fell out of our sound. We had it choreographed that when he broke a string (which happened at least once every show), I'd turn down the volume on my archtop and step up to his mic and start chomping chords, which would enable us to limp through the remainder of the song.

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Old 12-30-2016, 09:49 AM
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I have a trio with a double bassist and a violinist, we call it BLT. In rehearsal I do not amplify, though for most gigs I do. The guitar is easily heard on the bandstand, but the other two instruments carry into the room better when Soloing. I use a very close action, being a wimp, but bluegrass style action would make the guitar considerably more powerful.
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Old 12-30-2016, 11:41 AM
Wyllys Wyllys is offline
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I would think there's a recording only spot mic on the guitar. I often provide monitors for big band vocalists and if there is recording being done there are quite a few spots in use...or at least tracked for "just in case" in post.
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Old 01-19-2017, 11:43 AM
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I actually just posted a whole long thing on another thread about just this type of thing: http://www.acousticguitarforum.com/f...9&postcount=23
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Old 01-19-2017, 04:20 PM
Steve DeRosa Steve DeRosa is offline
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I played rhythm in a '30s/40s-style big band briefly with a period-authentic '47 L-7, and had no problem whatsoever making my presence known without miking/amplification; although a combination of high action and ultra-heavy strings (14-60/15-62 - often with a wound B) were standard comp box fare back in the day, what many players don't realize is that your biggest ally is the chord voicings you choose. If you're playing with a piano, bass, and 20-piece horn section you don't need to play every note in a Bb13b9b5 chord: you just need to fill the sonic space between the bass and piano, without clashing with the horn section - a talent aspired to by many and genuinely achieved by few, requiring a solid command of both theory and fingerboard knowledge - and keep a steady groove (some players, myself included, lock in with the snare drum and ride cymbal, others with the bass - do whatever works for you). I'd also recommend scoring a copy of Mel Bay's Rhythm Guitar Chord System - this has been the comper's bible since 1947, and it'll give you a solid foundation in how it was done back in the day...
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Old 01-19-2017, 04:36 PM
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Steve's certainly right about using the proper voicings, focusing on the D and G strings, and using a loud acoustic archtop with heavier strings. And I do what I can to preserve the natural acoustic balance of 1930's-1940's music. I actually don't play anything except 30's and 40's stuff, so I really aim for a pre-bop feel for everything, rhythmically, harmonically, sonically, etc.

That said, unless I'm playing in a really well designed acoustic space, I need a little help. Plus, not everyone has sidemen with similarly period correct gear, and as Michael at www.FreddieGreen.org has written, the sonic properties of amplified bass and modern cymbals and drum heads are just not the same as old ones. Almost all of my gigs involve bass players with gut strings, vintage drum sets and cymbals with calf or at least calf-substitute heads - and it's a whole different thing. You might not be so lucky. And even if you are, you might still appreciate a little boost.
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Old 01-20-2017, 07:31 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by campusfive View Post
Steve's certainly right about using the proper voicings, focusing on the D and G strings, and using a loud acoustic archtop with heavier strings. And I do what I can to preserve the natural acoustic balance of 1930's-1940's music. I actually don't play anything except 30's and 40's stuff, so I really aim for a pre-bop feel for everything, rhythmically, harmonically, sonically, etc.

That said, unless I'm playing in a really well designed acoustic space, I need a little help. Plus, not everyone has sidemen with similarly period correct gear, and as Michael at www.FreddieGreen.org has written, the sonic properties of amplified bass and modern cymbals and drum heads are just not the same as old ones. Almost all of my gigs involve bass players with gut strings, vintage drum sets and cymbals with calf or at least calf-substitute heads - and it's a whole different thing. You might not be so lucky. And even if you are, you might still appreciate a little boost.
Slightly off-topic here, but I'm wondering if you could tell me a little more about drums and bass from that era. Were the basses all strung with gut strings back then? Was amplified bass even a thing back then? Calf or calf substitute heads? Where would one obtain those? The cymbals is the primary thing to my ears that makes the drums from those swing era recordings sound so much different from a modern kit. Are there modern offerings that can get that sound?

Of course, this is a guitar forum, so maybe you could simply steer me to a place on the internet (or a book) where I can learn more about the instruments of that era. Thanks

P.S. I really dig your blog (and your playing)
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Old 01-20-2017, 07:59 AM
Dirty Bill Dirty Bill is offline
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I have a sound tech loudspeaker.I have a small mixer I can plug two mics into one for voice and one for guitar. It works pretty well.

Crate CMX 32. Soundtech amplified loudspeaker. 100w.
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Old 01-20-2017, 08:01 AM
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There is a good article written on Freddie Green's technique by Matt Butterman as a thesis for a Master of Music degree. He delves deeply into the subject for over 100 pages, with photographs, notation, interviews etc. You can find it here http://www.freddiegreen.org/techniqu...man_thesis.pdf

A couple of points stuck out for me. Freddie played large guitars - 18" and 19" Strombergs for a long time, then a replica of them made by Gretsch. He used very heavy strings and the action was 1/2" at the 12th fret, or higher. He played one and two note chords, and focused on the third and seventh of the chord only, and would select those notes to compliment what the bass player was doing. The bass player (Walter Page) emphasized the root and fifth in his playing, hence Green emphasized the third and seventh, and between them they had a chord. He placed his fingers in the normal chord pattern for a four note chord and damped all but one of the notes - but he could select which note to play instantly. The damped strings would have projected a percussive sound. He held the guitar at a steep angle, almost flat to the floor, so the sound projected up over the band, and the back of the guitar was undamped and could resonate freely.

I'm still reading the article, it is quite long...
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Old 01-20-2017, 09:54 AM
Steve DeRosa Steve DeRosa is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hot Vibrato View Post
Slightly off-topic here, but I'm wondering if you could tell me a little more about drums and bass from that era. Were the basses all strung with gut strings back then? Was amplified bass even a thing back then? Calf or calf substitute heads? Where would one obtain those? The cymbals is the primary thing to my ears that makes the drums from those swing era recordings sound so much different from a modern kit. Are there modern offerings that can get that sound?
Speaking strictly from my own experience here - YMMV:
  • When I played standup bass in HS I used a '40s Kay that was still strung with the original gut strings; there are also copies of period ads online that allude to the use of gut strings as standard (or available) equipment
  • There were several attempts to make an amplified upright bass starting in the 1930's (including at least two solidbody instruments), but the first semi-successful realization was Everett Hull's circa-1950 "amplified peg," an endpin fitted with a microphone that went inside the body and was then plugged into an external amplifier; as suitable units did not exist at the time, Mr. Hull began to build his own "amp-peg" amplifiers - soon abbreviated to "Ampeg," and later to evolve into the legendary B-15 and SVT
  • Calfskin heads were standard fare until sometime in the mid-1950's, when Remo developed the first synthetic drum (and banjo) heads, and while calfskin heads are still available they're not only in low demand (due to tuning issues) but very expensive; if you're after a skin-head tone there are several options, the best-known being Remo's Renaissance and various Fiberskyn formulations
  • The construction techniques, and to a lesser extent the alloys, used in vintage cymbals give them their distinctive tone and response characteristics; although there are a (very) few custom makers who can/will duplicate older designs they come at a price, and most drummers I've known go with the Zildjian A Avedis Series in the name of both cost and ease of replacement - wonderful as it may sound, you don't want to crack (and they do crack, FYI) an authentic '40s cymbal any more than you'd want to do a Pete Townshend on that similarly-irreplaceable, dead-mint-with-tags '59 LP
Hope this helps...
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Old 01-20-2017, 10:17 AM
campusfive campusfive is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hot Vibrato View Post
Slightly off-topic here, but I'm wondering if you could tell me a little more about drums and bass from that era. Were the basses all strung with gut strings back then? Was amplified bass even a thing back then? Calf or calf substitute heads? Where would one obtain those? The cymbals is the primary thing to my ears that makes the drums from those swing era recordings sound so much different from a modern kit. Are there modern offerings that can get that sound?)
Bass was not amplified at all until the 1950's and the birth of the solid body electric bass, but in jazz, not until a bit later than that. Gut strings were standard until about the 50's - although technically some gut strings actually gut core, with metal wrap, but those are still "gut" for the purposes of what we're talking about. The switch to metal allowed much longer sustain, and more legato walking jazz bass sound. Then, once the upright bass began to be amplified, it really allowed players to play as lightly, and legato as possible, and that completely changed the time feel and sound. I had a recording engineer friend tell me about the time he tired to mic the upright bass of a guy who always played with an amp, and even in studio, with decent isolation, he couldn't get a useable acoustic sound from him, and just had to use his pickup.

As for drums, the modern mylar head has more frequency spread and a lot more volume than a calf head. Calf-style heads, stuff like Remo Fiberskyn, Renaissance, Skyntone, etc., or Aquarian's Vintage line, are intended to get more of the tone of old calf heads. Also, old drums weren't meant to be as loud as modern ones - think about it: a modern tama or whatever is designed to stand up to marshall stacks and fender twins, and drums are still the last thing to get mic'ed up. Cymbals, likewise have gotten way wider and heavier as volume needs increased. In the 30's 10"-12" hi hats were standard, now 13"-15" are standard. What we now call a splash cymbal (10"-13") was used for cymbal crashes, and the modern crash cymbal (14"-18") was what people used for a ride cymbal. Sure there are also modern alloys, but even among the "vintage"-style cymbals, there's not one maker producing a cymbal as lightweight as the set of 11" Zildjians that came with my 1941 Leedy Drum Set.

Just like with guitars, there are modern people making things that are similar to vintage ones, but just like with guitars, it's not quite exactly the same thing.

A modern Loar LH-700 is no 1928 Gibson L-5, but in many ways its a better substitute than a Benedetto-styled luthier built guitar. Those calf-substitute heads aren't the same as calf, but it's definitely closer than mylar.

But again, even if you manage to assemble a period correct collection of instruments, you'd still need a reasonably acoustically responsive space. And people playing them with the sensitivity to balance to an acoustic piano. And you'd need an audience that was WAY quieter than people now. Back then, ambient noise just wasn't as intense as it is now, and people were far quieter in public. Sure, they did have a Mic for the singer in late 30's-40's, and occasionally some soloists, but you have to imagine that Charlie Christian was revolutionarily loud by having a barely 15-watt, open backed cab placed on a stool, and without being completely fuzzed out.

Proper playing technique is important, and the voicings and time-feel are all inherently related to playing what is still an acoustic instrument. But, even when trying to preserve the style as much as possible, the practical realities of the modern world mean that throwing a clip-on mic into something like an AER is a very valuable possibility.

Finally, one of my heroes, a guy named John Reynolds (an amazing amalgam of pre-war, pre-electric banjo guitar jazz, who's been doing only that since the 60's) took some lessons with George M. Smith, and also talked quite a bit with Roc Hillman who played guitar for Tommy Dorsey in the 30's and 40's, and both said the same thing: they were ALWAYS desperate for more volume, even then.
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Old 01-20-2017, 11:02 AM
campusfive campusfive is offline
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One last thing....

Freddie Green is the "Kleenex" or "Xerox" of rhythm guitar, in that he's become synonymous with "four-to-the-bar" swing-style comping. However, it should be noted that he was not the only practitioner, and that the most distinctive version of his playing which came through starting in the 50's was not exactly what was done in the 30's.

Listening to people like John Trueheart with Chick Webb in 1934, or Danny Barker, that they were playing 4 and 5 note chords, more like gypsy jazz style players still do. Charlie Christian can be heard playing similar voicings as well, even as late as 1941. It was probably George Van Eps (who played with Goodman '34-'35) who started to spread the three note voicings on the E D and G strings we know as Freddie Green-style. He taught Allan Reuss (who played with Goodman '35-'38) who perhaps perfected the style.

There is a story in Steve Jordan's book about Freddie taking a lesson from Allan when he came to New York in 1937 and joined Basie's band. The Green family doesn't think that happened. Either way, I think it's probably fair to say that Reuss's Van Eps-derived voicings may have been an influence, whether there was a formal lesson or not. Given the number of personnel overlaps between Goodman and Basie members in various jams, recording sessions, etc., it seems unlikely there would not have been some interaction.

But, while Allan Reuss was keeping time and holding together a band featuring the thunder god Gene Krupa (whose time was not exactly metronomic), Green was playing with Jo Jones, whose much lighter, flowing style was one of the things that made bebop possible. Between Basie, Green, Jones and bass player Walter Page, they developed a less chunky, less thumpy, more flowing sound.

With the New Testament Basie era started in 1952, Green continued to evolve that flowing style with a what was basically a straight-ahead jazz feeling rhythm section, rather than the dance-band style one from the 30's-40's. He continued to smooth out the pulse, and start "walking" his voicings more like a "tenor line" to the "bass line", and pairing down to just one or two notes.

As great as Freddie was, it isn't necessarily the only way to do it, and it can sometimes be the wrong feel for the music. The video I posted is of a whole evening of Chick Webb tunes we had transcribed from scratch, and it's probably the first time 80 years all but about 3 or 4 of those arrangements have been played by a live band. I kept trying to throw in a more flowing, Green-style, walking rhythm feel, and it just did not fit. That band was far more thumpy and chunky, and so a less smooth style was what was needed.

Personally, Allan Reuss is my favorite, as is Goodman generally, and there's nothing like the heavier pulse of the 1937 Goodman band. You can hear Allan quiet audibly on these airchecks from 1937 - dig:
https://youtu.be/E8JT-1jLCzk ("Ridin' High" - fast)
https://youtu.be/eKs31YzgP20 ("Sugar Foot Stomp" - medium up)
https://youtu.be/VYqxVr8RZtk ("You Turned the Tables on Me" - low medium)

Allan is definitely not hitting the B string, unlike Django or Charlie or John Trueheart. And most of what you can hear is the projection of the D and G strings. But it's not as "linear" as what Freddie would've done.
Allan never played an 18" guitar, and what you're hearing is a '36 or '37 Epiphone Delxue, because he didn't switch to an L-5 until late 1937 (he had one at Carnegie Hall in Jan 1938, though), and he apparently kept playing the 17" L-5 the rest of his career. He also played a 16.5" Epi Deluxe until 1936 or 1937. It's hard to tell when he changed, but he definitely had a white-guard 1934 Deluxe when he joined Benny in 1935, but by the 1937 movie "Hollywood Hotel", he was playing a 17" Deluxe.

And the last thing about Allan to note, is the he was one the very best swing-style chord-melody soloists ever, and he DID take solos. Unlike Freddie who almost never soloed (see https://youtu.be/fVwB7_CS6rk at 4:30), Reuss was called on regularly to do so. He couldn't exactly play with Freddie's famously high action, but then again, Freddie probably didn't have action that high in the swing era either. And I doubt that in 1957 it was as high as it was in 1977.

Compare Freddie here at 2:25 from 1940: https://youtu.be/ynRXK8Lv_Fk
It's not quite as punchy, and the band is far smoother. Jo Jones hats are smoothing out the pulse rather than bouncing it.

And then compare 1956: https://youtu.be/VBTSoLzZ3-U
The bass WAY more legato and sustainy, and there's no feeling of the bass drum pounding out time. And Freddie's pulse is NOTHING like the 30's or 40's stuff. Now the older stuff would still appear, in say this faster tune from the same 1956 record: https://youtu.be/VBTSoLzZ3-U
During the head you can hear thumpy, distinct quarter note pulse form the bass, and Freddie is pulsing right with him. But once the solos start, and the drummer moves to the ride, it completely smooths out into legato striaght-ahead jazz.
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Last edited by campusfive; 01-20-2017 at 11:12 AM.
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Old 01-23-2017, 12:52 PM
jdmulli jdmulli is offline
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campusfive, thanks for the interesting posts. I really enjoyed reading them.
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Old 01-23-2017, 04:51 PM
Hot Vibrato Hot Vibrato is offline
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Yeah - what he said! Thanks Jonathan! You too, Steve! I appreciate the insight.
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