accordion

Miking an accordion is tricky but a lot of fun when you can get it just right. Over years of constant trial and error, engineers have developed a few tips and tricks to help you get started with your accordion sound; whether it is for live or studio performances.

About the Accordion

Understanding how an accordion works and what type of accordion is being used is important so you can accurately place your microphones to get the best sound. With today’s modern folk, polka, and other types of music there are three different types of accordions that are mainly used; Piano, Chromatic, and Diatonic. While all accordions have sound coming from both sides, each accordion type has their own unique features that give them drastically different tonal qualities.

Different Types Of Accordions

  • Piano Accordions
    • Piano accordions are the most common among accordion players today. They have pianos keys on the right side with buttons on the left side. This makes it easy to create quick pickups and bass chords for delicate bass lines.
  • Chromatic Accordion
    • Chromatic accordions are built to provide an excellent treble note with 12 bass buttons, 20 to 160 treble keys, and 6 treble strings. You can either purchase one with a type B or C system, the B system is better for complex music while the C system is better for melodic and intricate music.
  • Diatonic Accordion
    • Diatonic accordions are built with only one row of 10 buttons that can change as the bellows are pushed or pulled. This type of accordion is best for folk, Celtic, or dance music with its wide-ranging tones.

Distant Miking Technique

If you have a floor mic that is close up you will only be receiving the heavy bass tones. This is known as the proximity effect which is the phenomenon of increased bass as you move closer to a sound source. When using a floor stand, it’s best to use two cardioid condenser microphones with a flat response at about 12”-18” away from the instrument pointed at either side in an A/B pattern; this is when two microphones are placed equidistant from each other and the same distance away from the instrument. For instance, the microphones are 1 ft. away from each other and each are 3 ft. away from instrument.  Play around with the distance until you find the sweet spot of the accordion as these are not exact distances. This technique is better for studio recording but can be used for live sound as well.

Microphone choices for this technique:

 

Close Up Lapel Microphones

For live sound or if you do want a close stereo image sound in a recording, many engineers use lapel microphones either on the performer or on the actual accordion itself. An important thing to remember with these techniques is that when you go to mix, do not pan hard left or hard right. This will make the instrument sound unnaturally larger than it is. If you want to pan, pay attention to how far you’re panning and you will hear the difference in your stereo image.

There are a few different ways you can apply this technique:

  1. You can place the microphone on the shirt or collar of the performer(s) and position it as close to the middle of the accordion as possible. This will give you a mono sound, capturing the middle of the instrument with little distinction.
  2. Take two lapel microphones and place them on the performer’s shirt or collar more towards each side of the instrument (one on the left and one on the right). This will give you a rich stereo image and a clear distinct sound.
  3. Use two microphones that can either clip onto your instrument or have the means to attach into your instrument and place them both on either side of the accordion (one on the left and one on the right). This will give you the best stereo image possible while also picking up some of the actual key-playing/button-pushing as well.

Microphone choices for this technique:

Inside the Accordion

This is a bit of a difficult technique as you have to open up the accordion and place either a lapel microphone or a lavalier microphone inside the instrument itself.  It can be done by physically taping the microphone to the inside of the accordion and positioning it closer to either the keys or buttons to capture the true raw sound of the instrument. This is a very convenient way to place a microphone during a live performance; but is ultimately not going to give you the best sound. The problem with this technique is that it picks up not only the extra vibration inside the accordion, but also the mechanical sounds that you do not hear on the outside of the instrument. This is more of a last resort technique or if you want that mechanical sound for an effect.

Microphone choices for this technique:

 

These tips and tricks are used by many audio engineers around the globe to produce great accordion sounds. But, remember these techniques are not set in stone, things are always subject to change especially in the audio industry. We here at Sam Ash dare you to push the limits with these techniques and find what sounds best fit you.