No-Pickup pickups for Vibraphone

16 Jun '14

A few years ago I was really interested in finding ways to augment the vibraphone with computer music sounds, particularly ways that could fit in my backpack since I was travelling a lot and using other people’s vibes!

I wrote this post about an array of small mics and a preamp that I made myself to use with the RjDj app on my iPhone (also my master’s thesis). It worked pretty well for the time, but soon after I put it together lots of iPhone music accessories came out that made my home-made monstrosity obsolete. So here’s my modern “no-pickup” setup:

What's in my bag.. for a vibraphone and computer music gig.

What’s in my bag.. for a vibraphone and computer music gig.

Mobile Computer Music setup for Vibraphone:

  • Microphone: Behringer C-2. This mic sucks and is part of a pair, but I don’t mind leaving it around in my bag and it’s small and light so it works for this setup. Any other condenser mic would work fine, most would work better.
  • Velcro cable ties: I use these to attach everything to the vibraphone securely without marking the frame. I put a bunch of sticky-backed velcro on the mic clip so that I can attach it somewhere underneath the bars.
  • Microphone Cable: I have a short mic cable that doesn’t weigh me down or get tangled.
  • Preamp: IK Multimedia iRig Pre, one side is an iPhone headphone plug, other side is a mic input. 9V battery, seems to work. I think there’s a new version that uses the Lightning connector..
  • To the PA system: I always bring a 3.5mm stereo jack to 2x 6.5mm mono jack lead and a DI so that I can plug into any PA system. Sound guys never have enough DIs. Never. The Behringer DI20 is cheap and light and stereo, works for me.
  • Phone: iPhone 5 with an OtterBox Reflex case - I just leave it on the vibraphone rail. Haven’t hit it with a mallet… yet?
  • Apps: I usually use my Nordlig Vinter app which has effects and background sounds for my own pieces, IK Multimedia’s Vocalive app could be fun for trying out different effects.

(BTW, this setup really only works on a quiet stage, not in a loud band situation.)