I've written before, briefly, about microphone position but it's a subject always worth coming back to. I suppose it's a bit of a "holy grail" type thing for harpists; like wind players in the search of the perfect reed! Every harpist will have their own preferred set-up with microphones.
There is a really good article online from DPA microphones about miking up a harp. Definitely worth a read, despite it being about selling their particular brand of microphones.
I haven't done any CD recording sessions lately, but I have been miked up a lot on stage for live gigs.
Interestingly, the only microphones I'm given by sound guys now when I turn up on stage, are the small omni directional DPAs, the likes of which you see singers wearing on stage either in their hair, or just discretely on the side of their face.
Unlike the image above, (from the DPA website), I wrap (carefully) the lead around that strut (?) of the harp and then use a bit of gaffer tape over the wire to hold it in place on the inside of the harp so that it is held dangling about one inch inside the harp.
When I work with the NSO on the Katherine Jenkins gigs, the whole orchestra is miked up. For those gigs we use the small DPA above, wrapping the mike inside the harp, with the addition of an AKG pencil mike (or similiar) on a stand sitting on the right hand side of the harp and pointing to around middle C.
I HATE IT.
It picks up every finger noise on the string. It's fine when playing tutti and playing high in the harp. But playing completely solo below middle C is a nightmare. You get that FUTT noise as you place your fingers on the string, and you have to do LOADS of damping just to play a single solo line without it sounded rubbish through the PA.
On the latest KJ tour, during the sound check one of my strings snapped whilst I was miked up. That was interesting!
Since I got my lovely Camac Little Big Blue last year, I've been using the Camac harp all the time on solo corporate gigs, plugged into a battery powered Roland amp.
WHAT A DIFFERENCE playing on a harp where every string has it's own individual pick-up. A really round and gorgeous amplified proper "harp" sound.
I didn't use the Camac on this years KJ tour, as it's still sounding a bit "new", and although it's fine for solo corporate gigs it's not quite ready for taking out on pro orchestral-pops gigs yet.
However, next time, I will take my Camac and see what the sound guys make of that.
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Lauren Scott is a harpist & composer and has been blogging for over 10 years.
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