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When does 'acoustic' become 'electric'?

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Steve Parkes 11 Dec 00 - 08:52 AM
GUEST,Roger the skiffler 11 Dec 00 - 09:08 AM
GUEST,Sarah 11 Dec 00 - 09:15 AM
Troll 11 Dec 00 - 09:22 AM
Midchuck 11 Dec 00 - 10:00 AM
Rick Fielding 11 Dec 00 - 10:21 AM
GUEST 11 Dec 00 - 10:43 AM
GUEST,Sarah 11 Dec 00 - 10:58 AM
GUEST,Sarah 11 Dec 00 - 11:01 AM
GUEST,Sarah 11 Dec 00 - 11:02 AM
Steve Latimer 11 Dec 00 - 11:04 AM
RichM 11 Dec 00 - 11:05 AM
A Wandering Minstrel 11 Dec 00 - 11:40 AM
Stewart 11 Dec 00 - 12:50 PM
Rick Fielding 11 Dec 00 - 01:04 PM
GUEST,Russ 11 Dec 00 - 01:28 PM
Grab 11 Dec 00 - 02:44 PM
GUEST,MTed 11 Dec 00 - 02:53 PM
Bernard 11 Dec 00 - 02:54 PM
MMario 11 Dec 00 - 03:06 PM
Bernard 11 Dec 00 - 03:10 PM
McGrath of Harlow 11 Dec 00 - 03:13 PM
Llanfair 11 Dec 00 - 07:19 PM
Bill D 11 Dec 00 - 07:42 PM
Grab 12 Dec 00 - 09:14 AM
GUEST,MTed 12 Dec 00 - 11:08 AM
MichaelAnthony 12 Dec 00 - 11:58 AM
Hamish 12 Dec 00 - 12:30 PM
GUEST,Art Thieme 12 Dec 00 - 04:33 PM
bec 13 Dec 00 - 01:00 AM
blt 13 Dec 00 - 02:00 AM
GUEST,Paddy R 13 Dec 00 - 02:16 AM
GUEST,Sarah 13 Dec 00 - 03:33 PM
M.Ted 13 Dec 00 - 03:37 PM
mousethief 13 Dec 00 - 04:20 PM
GUEST,Marcus Campus Bellorum 13 Dec 00 - 07:02 PM
Llanfair 13 Dec 00 - 07:02 PM
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Subject: When does 'acoustic' become 'electric'?
From: Steve Parkes
Date: 11 Dec 00 - 08:52 AM

Some friends of mine went to a pub which advertised live acousrtic music. What they actually found was: an elctric bass, two electro-acoustic guitars, two mics, a mixing desk and big speakers; the net result was uncomfortably loud. At what point does "using a p.a. system" turn into "becoming an electric band"?
?
OK, htat's a silly question: there isn't a point where it magically happens. But should acoustic only apply to completely unamplified sound, or (at a pinch) to modest use of a p.a. so the folks at the back can hear well enough?

Steve (strictly non-electric!)


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Subject: RE: When does 'acoustic' become 'electric'?
From: GUEST,Roger the skiffler
Date: 11 Dec 00 - 09:08 AM

Well, Steve, mate,you know I'm pig-ignorant on these matters but I think I'd call an instrument non-acoustic if it can't be heard unless plugged in (like a solid body or a keyboard). Where you draw the line beween playing an acoustic instrument into a mike or with a pick up I don't know. Once they start using effects pedals I think you can safely call them non-acoustic!
I agree with you on volume, in general PAs seem to be set at the threshold of pain
RtS


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Subject: RE: When does 'acoustic' become 'electric'?
From: GUEST,Sarah
Date: 11 Dec 00 - 09:15 AM

Steve,

IMO that the best PA is a campfire, but I'm getting old and tired: my second question, when buying sound equipment, is "What does it weigh?"

But to give you my tuppence-wor' on acoustic/electric: Although I'm inclined to forgive an electric bass as a cost-effective beginner's instrument (I'll probably get in trouble for that!), and will happily listen to a plugged-in acoustic guitar if I can't hear it over a microphone, I draw the line at blasting me out of the building with equipment so loud I can't hear the music.

It may have simply been inexperience, though -- with the room, the crowd (some crowds, after all, are more interested in mating rites and the pool table than the music; and sometimes the band turns it up so they can hear themselves...I have played in these dives), or even their equipment. One relies on listening audience members in new and untried situations to be helpful here. I know I want to know if the viola is drowning the vocals or if the people in front are getting a headache while the folks in back can only hear mushy sound. It takes a bit to get that electronic junk to balance across a room.

Which may be why I prefer campfires.

Sarah


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Subject: RE: When does 'acoustic' become 'electric'?
From: Troll
Date: 11 Dec 00 - 09:22 AM

Good Question.
When my wife and I worked as a duo and later as a quartet, we used a PA . She has a soft voice, mine is loud. My guitar is relatively loud, her dobro playing tends toward softness.
Trying to balance all these variables without sound reinforcment was near impossible. With two vocal mics, a soundhole mic and a mic for the dobro, we were able to get the balance that we needed.
We always tried to keep the volumne down to an acceptable level.
Later when we added fiddle and bass, the same rules applied. There is nothing inherently "wrong" with an acoustic-electric guitar or electric bass. With todays amps and effects it can be hard to tell the difference sound-wise.I'll get argument on this I know. Save your time. Everyones ear is different.
My point is that the end result is what is important. If a PA is used, it should be used tastefully.
If the problem is aesthetics, I can't help you . You have to decide.

troll


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Subject: RE: When does 'acoustic' become 'electric'?
From: Midchuck
Date: 11 Dec 00 - 10:00 AM

Three points:

1) You can't sing well if you're yelling all the songs.

2) People under 50 or so have been listening to loud amplified music their whole lives, and most of them haven't the slightest concept of shutting up and listening, and letting other people listen. They expect to talk - not whisper, talk loudly - while the music's going on, and to be able to hear it over their own conversation. God damn them all for selfish slobs, but that's the way it is.

3) A guitar "plugged in" never sounds as good as a guitar played into a decent quality mic. Many manufacturers of acoustic guitar pickups claim they can produce a true acoustic sound. They are liars. If the room is really noisy, though, it probably doesn't matter.

In terms of sound quality, an unamplified guitar is best, playing into a good PA through a good mic is second best, a pzieo pickup is next, and a magnetic pickup is worst. In terms of being heard in an large, noisy, acousticly bad room, the above order would be exactly reversed.

Peter.


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Subject: RE: When does 'acoustic' become 'electric'?
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 11 Dec 00 - 10:21 AM

Hi Steve.

I think the lines got blurred a few years ago. These days, the vast majority of Festivals, folk clubs (bars) and open stages that feature "Folk" or "acoustic" music, mean acoustic-electric singer songwriters. Simply the way it is.

I often have guests come on my radio show with amplifiers and various sound-processor pedals. They simply DON'T play acoustically, and seem to be lost if asked to. I just go with the flow even though it seems a bit silly to have amps in a tiny studio.

Even on workshop stages, most "folkies" plug in. The ones who don't are the Dinosaurs. It'll swing back. Always does.

Rick


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Subject: RE: When does 'acoustic' become 'electric'?
From: GUEST
Date: 11 Dec 00 - 10:43 AM

I am interested to know where Sarah gets this idea that the "electric bass as a cost-effective beginner's instrument" from.

What does cost effective mean ? Cheaper than an acoustic bass guitar ? Cheaper than a double bass ? Cheaper than a tea chest bass ?

Of course it depends on the quality of the instrument but I would not describe an resonable bass and amp setup as cheap.

What does a beginner's instrument mean ? Are Dave Pegg (Fairport), Ashley Huchings (Steeleye, Albion etc) et al beginners ?

To play the bass well requires restraint and musical sensitivity more than probably any other instrument.

Having said all of the above in defence of bass players I personally think that 9 times out of 10 just adding a bass player (guitar or double) to a traditional acoustic group doesn't work.

Ian


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Subject: RE: When does 'acoustic' become 'electric'?
From: GUEST,Sarah
Date: 11 Dec 00 - 10:58 AM

Ian,

I said I'd get in trouble for that...

To avoid too much drift here, a small clarification: I've known a lot of upright bass players who start by buying an electric bass because they 1) can get one of moderate quality for less than an upright, 2) can't find the notes without frets when they first start, and 3) plan to buy only one upright and want to wait until they know exactly what they want when they do.

Yes, there are plenty of good, excellent, experienced bass players who use electric.

Okay?

Sarah


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Subject: RE: When does 'acoustic' become 'electric'?
From: GUEST,Sarah
Date: 11 Dec 00 - 11:01 AM

Ian,

I said I'd get in trouble for that...

To avoid too much drift here, a small clarification: I've known a lot of upright bass players who started by buying an electric bass because they 1) could get an electric of decent quality for less cost than an upright, 2) couldn't find the notes without frets when they first started, and 3) planned to buy only one upright and wanted to wait until they knew exactly what they wanted when they did buy.

Yes, there are plenty of good, excellent, experienced bass players who use electric.

Okay? May I prefer uprights, anyway?

Sarah


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Subject: RE: When does 'acoustic' become 'electric'?
From: GUEST,Sarah
Date: 11 Dec 00 - 11:02 AM

SORRY, I hit the button before the edit...

Sarah


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Subject: RE: When does 'acoustic' become 'electric'?
From: Steve Latimer
Date: 11 Dec 00 - 11:04 AM

Midchuck makes a good point. I'm always amazed at the number of people who talk over performers. I saw Dylan this year and was surrounded by about a dozen people who knew each other, they didn't shut up the whole time. Our seats weren't the greatest, so the sound wasn't getting to us to begin with. Man it was annoying.

I think given the size of most clubs it is necessary to use P.A.s. It's amazing how a good sound person can capture the acoustic sound. A case in point would be when I saw Rick at Greenbank and at his CD release party. But then again, at these venues the sound didn't have to be cranked up because the whole audience was respectful and listened rather than talk through the performers.


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Subject: RE: When does 'acoustic' become 'electric'?
From: RichM
Date: 11 Dec 00 - 11:05 AM

This thread seems to be about 2 separate camps of musicians; Those who play for themselves and those who play gigs....

I do both. I prefer the sound of my guitar unamplified when I am at home or in an informal jam. But I use the Baggs pickup/microphone combo thru the PA system or a guitar amp in a gig.

This weekend our celtic band (10-12 instruments) played a very noisy pub. The PA system was necessary. Even then, the crowd sometimes overpowered the band. Playing for noisy conversationalists is not my favorite kind of gig!

All instruments in the band are "acoustic"---but most of us have pickups or built in mics. We have found they are the most reliable way to get a good sound without PA feedback. -And it's the easiest way to set the tone and levels to give a reasonably good balance between instruments.

Rich


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Subject: RE: When does 'acoustic' become 'electric'?
From: A Wandering Minstrel
Date: 11 Dec 00 - 11:40 AM

ans to original question.....

about 1/100th of a second before someone asks "where's that £!"%^$*&)*&^)ing feedback coming from!!

If people talk when I'm playing I stop and draw everyones attention to the reason. seems to work in most cases...


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Subject: RE: When does 'acoustic' become 'electric'?
From: Stewart
Date: 11 Dec 00 - 12:50 PM

As a classically-trained singer, I was taught how to project in an accoustic hall (no electronic amplification) and have confidence in my voice even though I might not have any feedback (monitors). I find singing in front of a microphone unnatural, although I am getting used to it. A good sound system with a well-trained sound person can do wonders and create an almost natural sound. But singing unaccompanied in a live acoustic hall is one of my most pleasurable experiences. Last summer at Fiddle Tunes I performed in their open mic (sans mic) in the old auditorium -- what an experience! There was no need of any amplification, as the acoustic hall supplied all the necessary amplification. That was real acoustic music! IMO, the less electronic intervention necessary, the better it is.

Cheers, S. in Seattle


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Subject: RE: When does 'acoustic' become 'electric'?
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 11 Dec 00 - 01:04 PM

Merle Travis once said (when commenting on the number of folk clubs and festivals who'd asked him to leave his electric guitar behind)

"Electric or acoustic, it's all the same to me. My electric guitar just has the microphone built into it. I don't know why people worry about such things".

He had a point. But how many folks could play as subtly or with as much skill as Merle?

Rick


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Subject: RE: When does 'acoustic' become 'electric'?
From: GUEST,Russ
Date: 11 Dec 00 - 01:28 PM

I agree with RichM. I would be astounded if I attended any sort of "performance" and there were absolutely no provisions for electrical amplification.

I remember a performance by Major Contay and the Canebrake Rattlers years ago. The person who booked them had forgotten to also arrange for sound. The venue itself had no sound equipment. They put on a great purely acoustic set. Probably one of the few groups who could have carried it off.


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Subject: RE: When does 'acoustic' become 'electric'?
From: Grab
Date: 11 Dec 00 - 02:44 PM

Ideal is a smallish room with good acoustic properties and everyone being quiet, then you don't need any amplification at all. Change any one of those three requirements, and you'll need amplification. If the guys at the back can't hear you, they'll get pissed off and either start talking or just bugger off to the bar - either way isn't achieving what you'd like.

Grab.


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Subject: RE: When does 'acoustic' become 'electric'?
From: GUEST,MTed
Date: 11 Dec 00 - 02:53 PM

I think Rick's point is a good one? What difference does it make? Why do people worry about such things? Truth be told, there are only a few, performance styles that work without amplfication, and contemporary audiences aren't much interested in them anyway--they might like to see someone holding an acoustic guitar, but they like it loud!


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Subject: RE: When does 'acoustic' become 'electric'?
From: Bernard
Date: 11 Dec 00 - 02:54 PM

I agree.

Acoustic is ideally exactly that. Once the audience or room is too big for comfort, electronic assistance is needed - both from the listeners' and the performers' points of view.

The point where it becomes 'electric' is where the 'sound' has priority over audibility - in other words, the P.A. isn't there to help people hear, or to avoid sore throats, but it is needed to obtain a specific effect.

That doesn't necessarily mean it has to be loud, though...


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Subject: RE: When does 'acoustic' become 'electric'?
From: MMario
Date: 11 Dec 00 - 03:06 PM

I remember several years ago attending a concert - the venue normally has microphones and amplifiers all over the place, and the sound is lousy. This particular night was a chanteyman - unamplified - and he filled the whole room. Not the slightest problem hearing him over several hundred attendees and in any portion of the room. it was heaven


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Subject: RE: When does 'acoustic' become 'electric'?
From: Bernard
Date: 11 Dec 00 - 03:10 PM

Exactly! It's very rare that I resort to amplification - and I'm a full time P.A. engineer!

I learned to sing properly (project, dahling!), so it's not an effort to make myself heard. I'm often told I'm too loud without P.A.!!


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Subject: RE: When does 'acoustic' become 'electric'?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 11 Dec 00 - 03:13 PM

"When my wife and I worked as a duo and later as a quartet" - cloning!

One thing that amplification does it make it possible to bring together impossible combinations of instruments - a brass-section together with a mountain-dulcimer, for example. Whether that is a good idea I'm not so sure.

In a big room or with a noisy crowd or on stage amplification is necessary of course - but when you get singers who get too used to murmuring into mikes to the extent that they can't cope with singing without one in a small room , you've really lost something. The heart of folk music is the unamplified music. And the heart of singing is the unaccompanied song. And when the heart is sound, you can add on all the other stuff.


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Subject: RE: When does 'acoustic' become 'electric'?
From: Llanfair
Date: 11 Dec 00 - 07:19 PM

Jim has been searching for a long time for a totally accoustic bass that can be heard. No success so far, and most are semi-accoustic with prices to match.
He will continue to use his "cheap alternative"(sorry, couldn't resist!) Rickenbacker, and is working on a battery- powered amp, so we can play anywhere.
Cheers, Bron.


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Subject: RE: When does 'acoustic' become 'electric'?
From: Bill D
Date: 11 Dec 00 - 07:42 PM

I'll tolerate using mics to make acoustic instruments heard in a large room or at a festival...and I'll tolerate 'some' pick-ups for special circumstances...(I've seen fiddlers that simply couldn't stand still when they played!)...but once you start plugging in instruments that were designed as acoustic, you are probably playing music that I don't like anyway, so I'll stay home.

(Fortunately, I know some nice musicians who play in living rooms, and go to several festivals where there's lots of jes' plain playin'....)


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Subject: RE: When does 'acoustic' become 'electric'?
From: Grab
Date: 12 Dec 00 - 09:14 AM

Some instruments can naturally fill a room without amplification - any instrument used in orchestral music (violin/fiddle, flute, voice, etc) will do that. But guitar and upright bass don't, so unless you've got perfect conditions then it'll be drowned out. Remember that in jazz and big-band in the 30s and 40s, where you really needed to fill a noisy dance-hall with purely acoustic music, guitar and bass were merely percussion. They just had to hit the strings in time, and whether the notes were right or not was incidental. Of course there were exceptions (Django for one), but not many. I'm sure this'll get me flamed ;-) but listen to those jazz standards and see if the bassist is actually doing anything more than random notes...

Llanfair, I've seen resonator basses advertised on the web, and was very tempted. Have you tried those? and if so, what do they sound like?

Grab.


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Subject: RE: When does 'acoustic' become 'electric'?
From: GUEST,MTed
Date: 12 Dec 00 - 11:08 AM

Most of us are familiar with tradtional and folk music primarily from recordings, which means of course, that it has been miked and is really amplified and electric--I've done a a little bit of recording, and it strikes me that generally, the "natural acoustic sound" requires much more processing and electronic manipulation to achieve than the electic sound--


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Subject: RE: When does 'acoustic' become 'electric'?
From: MichaelAnthony
Date: 12 Dec 00 - 11:58 AM

I think that the pickup makers that claim to get "acoustic" sound are like the restaurants that claim "fine dining".

Man, all those built-in-pickup guitars sound the same to me--the ol' direct sound...I'm amazed that a lot of the players don't seem to care...or notice.


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Subject: RE: When does 'acoustic' become 'electric'?
From: Hamish
Date: 12 Dec 00 - 12:30 PM

Are we talking about the difference between reinforcement and amplification?

hamish http://www.lombardy.clara.net


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Subject: RE: When does 'acoustic' become 'electric'?
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 12 Dec 00 - 04:33 PM

Acoustic becomes electric at just about the same exact point where it becomes obvious that the 'loser' is about to become the 'winner' of the U.S. presidential election. All those who value the right to vote in a Democracy must demand that their ballots (votes) be counted!

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: When does 'acoustic' become 'electric'?
From: bec
Date: 13 Dec 00 - 01:00 AM

Hmm...

I guess I'm lucky I've discovered the smaller Jazz clubs in Melbourne, where they have a hard and fast rule that is no talking during a performance. The ones in Sydney though don't seem to have that sort of rule and I can definately understand the noise for a decent PA system when a hundred or so people are yelling at the top of their lungs. Some people have no appreciation.


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Subject: RE: When does 'acoustic' become 'electric'?
From: blt
Date: 13 Dec 00 - 02:00 AM

I tossed around the idea of having a pick-up put into my 1974 Martin D-28 but in the end, I gave up. There just wasn't any way to make the Martin sound better (or even decent) through a pick-up. I've played through a mike for years or I've chosen to play in small enough cafes where a PA of any sort was meaningless. When I was doing a lot of open mikes, I was impressed by the fact that most every guitarist would plug in (which, in my misplaced desire to fit in, is why I thought I needed a pickup), and then the sound guy would go crazy trying to make the sound palatable. I think there can be a judgement made that playing without a pick-up is somehow less "professional," which is only useful if one is worried about that sort of thing. For me, that gets in the way of simply standing on stage and playing, singing. I love the sound of my guitar and want others to hear it as it is, not as a pick-up manufacturer would like it to sound. Maybe that's my definition of the difference between acoustic and electric.


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Subject: RE: When does 'acoustic' become 'electric'?
From: GUEST,Paddy R
Date: 13 Dec 00 - 02:16 AM

Great to read the many comments in this thread. It is a topic dear to my heart.

I recently sent a message to the organisers of the Woodford Folk Festival, here in sunny (except during the festival!)Queensland, suggesting that the performers' sound needs to be amplified to the extent that each person in a venue should feel that they are embraced by the sound and energy of the performance. No one should feel that they are listening in. Equally, it is quite inappropriate that the sound becomes a physical barrier with the force to actually repel the audience! Many years ago I was involved with a semi-acoustic band (one acoustic guitar and one electric). We did a gig at a Working Man's club somewhere in Oxfordshire. After a fairly rousing, and not very acoustic, opening song (Donovan's 'Season of the Witch' - if I rightly recall) one of the working men approached me with the request:

"Would you mind turnin' your amplificators down?"

That was my message to the organisers of the WFF. I'll find out whether they have taken any notice on 27/12/00, I guess.


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Subject: RE: When does 'acoustic' become 'electric'?
From: GUEST,Sarah
Date: 13 Dec 00 - 03:33 PM

Llanfair,

Yeah, the problem with those old Rickenbakers is you have to keep restringing your bow...

(ducking and scuttling away) Sarah


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Subject: RE: When does 'acoustic' become 'electric'?
From: M.Ted
Date: 13 Dec 00 - 03:37 PM

The big problem is that, no matter how small or inconpicuous it may seem, a PA takes on a life of it's own---and it there has to be someone listening from the audience perspective who has control of the sound levels--and it has to be someone with a good ear--

I was once in a band that played Scandinavian music, and we featured two fiddles who played in harmony--On one job, we played a stage outside with an independently booked "professional" sound set up, complete with a rock concert type sound technician--We carefully explained our set, did all the set up--about half way through the show, we discovered that the techie had decided that the harmony fiddle was the soloist and miked her up, and mixed the melody player into the background--


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Subject: RE: When does 'acoustic' become 'electric'?
From: mousethief
Date: 13 Dec 00 - 04:20 PM

For Bob Dylan, 1965.


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Subject: RE: When does 'acoustic' become 'electric'?
From: GUEST,Marcus Campus Bellorum
Date: 13 Dec 00 - 07:02 PM

All recordings are electric (in the last few decades or so, at least).

So, even acoustic music, when played on a CD or on vinyl or on tape is electric.

This makes your walkman, your boombox, your HiFi system, your "stereo", a PA system.

So, PA systems are not really the problem. And they do not make music "electric".

Again, its not PA systems, or drummers, or electric guitarists that kill music, PEOPLE DO.


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Subject: RE: When does 'acoustic' become 'electric'?
From: Llanfair
Date: 13 Dec 00 - 07:02 PM

Jim has tried all the alternatives, Grab, and doesn't seem to like any of them. He does limit the volume sensitively when we play, so I've no complaints.
Late in the evening, when he's had a few alcoholic beverages, he does turn it up to do "psychokiller", or "lil'red rooster"!!!!!!
Sarah, I had to confiscate his bow!!!!!!
Cheers, Bron.


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