HomeNotes on Amplified Fiddles

Introduction

Clark Huckaby on Fiddle, Austin, TX, 1997As mentioned on my Home Page, and as the photo to your right proves, I've been known to play a little fiddle. (Or violin; by the way, when asked, "what's the difference between a fiddle and a violin?" the best reply is: "the same as the difference between a car and an automobile.") Many of my bands have been on the loud side, but I've always managed to use acoustic fiddles and have yet to switch to a solid-body electric instrument. Aware of my experience as an audio engineer for both studio and stage, my one-time fiddle teacher and band-mate Stacy Phillips encouraged me to write a series of articles about amplifying fiddles on the live sound stage. I eventually complied.

There are four brief articles (Parts 1-4). The first three are aimed at the acoustic fiddler who is starting to play in bands where sound reinforcement (i.e., amplification) is required. The gaol is to arm that player with vocabulary and basic knowledge that will be helpful when selecting appropriate mics, pickups, and amplification systems. (No specific product brands are endorsed.) A major theme is that amplification involves trade-offs--your amplified acoustic fiddle may not sound exactly like it does "unplugged"--but that does not necessarily mean it will sound bad.

The fourth article covers a somewhat advanced topic, but I've tried to write it in a way that everyone can understand. My goal is to convince you that it's more than just an interesting bit of trivia that the polarity of a bowed instrument's sound flips when bow direction changes. Although this phenomenon occurs when you play acoustically, it is more likely to have audible consequences when you are amplified.

These four articles can be considered the belated follow-up to an older piece, in which I talk about home-studio recording of the acoustic fiddle; it is still available at http://archive.fiddlesessions.com/aug05/recording.html.

Here are links to the four new articles, along with a very brief summary of each:
Acknowledgments: Many thanks are owed to virtuoso fiddle and dobro musician, teacher and author Stacy Phillips. I also thank John E. McLennan at the Music Acoustics Department, University New South Wales, Australia, for reading and making comments on an early version of Part 4.

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