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Old 01-06-2019, 08:17 AM
psychonaut psychonaut is online now
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Frumpy: Why two microphones for vocals?

In this 1971 performance of "How the Gypsy was Born" by Frumpy, the singer, Inga Rumpf, has a microphone stand where two microphones are mounted (with duct tape, no less) one atop the other. Both microphones seem to be plugged in, but she sings into only the top one. (For the impatient, here's a direct link to 60 seconds into the piece, which is when she starts singing.)

I'm curious about this arrangement. Why use two microphones placed one above the other, and why sing into only one of them? I've seen people giving speeches into two microphones before, but in those cases the microphones were always mounted beside each other and some distance apart, so I assume it's for a left–right stereo recording. I suppose in Rumpf's case, maybe it was discovered on short notice that the lower microphone wasn't working, and so a working one (for which no stand was available) was hurriedly taped onto it. But maybe both microphones are actually working, and the audio engineer deliberately placed them that way to get a particular effect? If so, what sort of effect were they going for?
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Old 01-06-2019, 09:18 AM
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The mics for the rest of the band (in front of the amplifiers and the drums) appear to be single, and the same as lower mic in the jerry-rigged setup for the singer. My first hypothesis is the same as yours - the original mic for the singer didn't work and so the sound engineer slapped something together. My second hypothesis is that the top mic for the singer goes to a stage monitor; the bottom mic goes into the recording set-up. My guess is that because the amplifiers are behind the band, everyone could hear them (and the drum would be loud enough for the band unamplified). The singer would need a monitor however, so perhaps the top mic is going straight to that. I tried to actually see a monitor in the video, however, but didn't. I don't have time to watch it all the way through, though.
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Last edited by D18; 01-06-2019 at 09:19 AM.
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Old 01-06-2019, 09:20 AM
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I've seen this in older live recordings.

One mic goes for the PA, the other is direct to the recording desk, is my guess. That sort of routing is easy now, but live sound was a lot more primitive back then.

ETA: Mic clips, however, worked perfectly well back then. There's zero chance that anyone would tape a working mic to a dead one; the cable attaches to the mic, if the mic is dead then you just take it off the cable and plug the cable into a working mic.

Last edited by Shakester; 01-06-2019 at 09:22 AM.
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Old 01-06-2019, 09:32 AM
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Also, you might want to do an image search on "mic clip" if you're unaware that mics clip onto mic stands.
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Old 01-06-2019, 09:34 AM
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Originally Posted by Shakester View Post
Also, you might want to do an image search on "mic clip" if you're unaware that mics clip onto mic stands.
I am aware of mic clips, but I figured that a clip that fit the bottom microphone (which is very fat) wouldn't also fit the top one (which is very thin), and that's why they used duct tape instead.
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Old 01-06-2019, 09:38 AM
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Originally Posted by Shakester View Post
ETA: Mic clips, however, worked perfectly well back then. There's zero chance that anyone would tape a working mic to a dead one; the cable attaches to the mic, if the mic is dead then you just take it off the cable and plug the cable into a working mic.
I'm just guessing here, but it occurs to me that, at the last minute, the sound dude had trouble with the original, lower mike, but didn't know if it was the cable or the mic. Without time to test, and faced with an intermittent problem, he may just have taken the first solution he thought of.
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Old 01-06-2019, 10:37 AM
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I did a lot of A/V work around that time for the college I attended. For important events, I would always place two microphones (though I didn't use duct tape). If there's a problem with the mic or cable, you can easily shut one down and switch to the other. Nobody wants to be the A/V guy stopping the celebrity commencement speaker in mid-speech to swap out a mic or try to replace a cable. I had a cable fail once, and one time the speaker adjusted the mic and managed to turn it off. (Some of the AKG D190E series had switches on them.)

You can also do some tricks with the mic inputs, putting them in-phase or out-of-phase to achieve better recording, limit feedback, and reduce background noise, but this was not the norm.
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Old 01-06-2019, 10:56 AM
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In 1974 the Grateful Dead used their Wall of Sound PA system, in which a huge array of speakers was set up behind the band facing the audience. Since both the singers and the PA system were facing the mics, it was a challenge to eliminate feedback. The solution they came up with to have two mics on each stand, one above the other, run 180 degrees out of phase. The singer would sing into the top mic. Any ambient sound (such as from the speakers) would go into both mics and be removed from the mix. The singer's voice, going only into the top mic, would be all that reached the speakers. Here's a photo.

However, I doubt that this is related to the Frumpy performance. With a standard PA system like Frumpy was using, there would be no need for the out of phase mics.

Last edited by markn+; 01-06-2019 at 10:59 AM.
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Old 01-06-2019, 11:15 AM
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Well this is a good thread to ask more or less the same question about the video for "Got You" by The Flys.

In the video the singer is holding two mics. I figured the purpose of two mics would be to add some sort of different effect for each one. I'm no sound tech, but maybe it sounds like there is a just a tiny delay on one??

But the question remains...why bother holding two mics to film a video? Except for it looking cool, I guess.

Now that's gonna be my earworm for the day, too.
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Old 01-06-2019, 12:28 PM
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Maybe he's a Tuvan throat singer and each mic is for a different overtone.
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Old 01-08-2019, 11:48 AM
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In the video the singer is holding two mics. I figured the purpose of two mics would be to add some sort of different effect for each one. I'm no sound tech, but maybe it sounds like there is a just a tiny delay on one??
Can't say this is the case here, but that's definitely done. One of my favorite singers (Dessa) does this on a live tracks, with one mic giving a clean signal the other having echo. If she did a music video for that track, I'm pretty sure she'd include the dual mics because it's a pretty notable visual element of how she performs that song.
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Old 01-08-2019, 01:22 PM
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The same thing is going on in this very early Rush performance, and I've always wondered why.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ndjCXG_c9kk
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Old 01-08-2019, 01:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by markn+ View Post
In 1974 the Grateful Dead used their Wall of Sound PA system, in which a huge array of speakers was set up behind the band facing the audience. Since both the singers and the PA system were facing the mics, it was a challenge to eliminate feedback. The solution they came up with to have two mics on each stand, one above the other, run 180 degrees out of phase. The singer would sing into the top mic. Any ambient sound (such as from the speakers) would go into both mics and be removed from the mix. The singer's voice, going only into the top mic, would be all that reached the speakers. Here's a photo.

However, I doubt that this is related to the Frumpy performance. With a standard PA system like Frumpy was using, there would be no need for the out of phase mics.
This is what I came in to post. I read about this in 1974 when they were doing it. They would also use a pink noise generator to calibrate their graphic equalizers.
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Old 01-08-2019, 02:49 PM
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Great pic of a young Jerry.
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Old 01-09-2019, 03:11 PM
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Early on, they didn't have mic splitters - which were eventually either passive transformers with one pair of input windings and two pair of output windings. Later on, with the invention of op amps, they could take one microphone in and produce two microphone level outputs cheaply.

Back when microphones were being taped together, they didn't have much in the way of mixers. People used Shure or Altec MX-10 mixers with only 4 inputs and would have to link multiples together. It wasn't until Bob Heil started using modified recording consoles (modified by a just out of college Tomlinson Holman - the TH of THX) and Jenson started making quality microphone splitting transformers around 1972 that people stopped taping microphone together.

It is still common to see redundant microphones. Talk show hosts will often have two microphones going to two different belt packs, and Presidential podiums will always have two microphones just in case something happens to the first.
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Old 01-09-2019, 04:55 PM
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I was going to guess the out-of-phase thing. Even without a Wall of Sound behind you, there's still going to be some ambient noise, which you might want to eliminate.

Or it could have been any of the other possibilities others have suggested. Especially given the duct tape, which does not reflect careful planning.
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Old 01-09-2019, 05:02 PM
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I was going to guess the out-of-phase thing. Even without a Wall of Sound behind you, there's still going to be some ambient noise, which you might want to eliminate.

Or it could have been any of the other possibilities others have suggested. Especially given the duct tape, which does not reflect careful planning.
The reverse phase thing requires a specific distance between the diaphragms, and you're unlikely to get that with duct tape. When the Dead used it, the two mics were mounted to two sides of a Bud Box.

Also, they have to be identical for it to work, and in the video example, they are using two very different microphones - a Shure 525 and a Sennheiser 421.

Last edited by gaffa; 01-09-2019 at 05:04 PM.
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Old 01-09-2019, 05:07 PM
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Originally Posted by psychonaut View Post
In this 1971 performance of "How the Gypsy was Born" by Frumpy, the singer, Inga Rumpf, has a microphone stand where two microphones are mounted (with duct tape, no less) one atop the other. Both microphones seem to be plugged in, but she sings into only the top one. (For the impatient, here's a direct link to 60 seconds into the piece, which is when she starts singing.)

I'm curious about this arrangement. Why use two microphones placed one above the other, and why sing into only one of them? I've seen people giving speeches into two microphones before, but in those cases the microphones were always mounted beside each other and some distance apart, so I assume it's for a left–right stereo recording. I suppose in Rumpf's case, maybe it was discovered on short notice that the lower microphone wasn't working, and so a working one (for which no stand was available) was hurriedly taped onto it. But maybe both microphones are actually working, and the audio engineer deliberately placed them that way to get a particular effect? If so, what sort of effect were they going for?
Given the time, it's most likely that one microphone is for the house sound reinforcement system and one is for the broadcast. This predated the mic splitter.
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Old 01-09-2019, 05:12 PM
gaffa gaffa is offline
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Originally Posted by Shakester View Post
I've seen this in older live recordings.

One mic goes for the PA, the other is direct to the recording desk, is my guess. That sort of routing is easy now, but live sound was a lot more primitive back then.

ETA: Mic clips, however, worked perfectly well back then. There's zero chance that anyone would tape a working mic to a dead one; the cable attaches to the mic, if the mic is dead then you just take it off the cable and plug the cable into a working mic.
The clip for a Sennheiser 421 is unique and no other mic will mount to it.
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Old 01-10-2019, 08:17 AM
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Originally Posted by gaffa View Post
The clip for a Sennheiser 421 is unique and no other mic will mount to it.
Mic clips, including that one, are not usually built onto mic stands. They screw out and are interchangeable. It's still much more sensible if, for some reason, you only have one mic stand, to swap clips. And even if you couldn't, for some reason, you'd still take the unused mic off the clip before taping another clip on top of it.
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Old 01-10-2019, 05:15 PM
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Mic clips, including that one, are not usually built onto mic stands. They screw out and are interchangeable. It's still much more sensible if, for some reason, you only have one mic stand, to swap clips. And even if you couldn't, for some reason, you'd still take the unused mic off the clip before taping another clip on top of it.
That's why I thought it was that they needed two mics as they didn't have a splitter. Or possibly they had the second mic running to a processor, like a Leslie cabinet for another song.
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Old 01-10-2019, 11:26 PM
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I don't know if this is the case here, but as some mikes are better for certain kinds of vocals than others. For example a ribbon mike is great for light vocals, but would be blown by a rock singer. Since some singers do both light vocals and rock, they would turn off the one not suited to the song.
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