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In a while I will have to play a gig with my band outdoors. We have our own PA system which is certainly well enough to be able to have good sound quality outdoors. However, there will also be playing a small band with an accordion. I am not sure how I have to amplify that. Does it need amplification in the first place? Will a standard SM57 be enough to amplify that? Should I provide the mic for an accordionist that will play in my backyard?

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closed as primarily opinion-based by JCPedroza, Meaningful Username, MrTheBard, Shevliaskovic, Pat Muchmore Jul 6 '14 at 13:07

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

You should have specified that the question was "should I provide the mic for someone that will play in my backyard" and save everyone's time. This was never about accordion or amplification, and the accepted answer makes that clear. The current accepted answer is useful only to you, and only to that gig. Terrible question and answer for a SE site. – JCPedroza Jul 5 '14 at 13:38
Any questioner has the propensity to choose any answer s/he deems to be the best.That is subjective, but that's the way it is.That is purely their choice, as it's their question.Let the Community decide, based more on the OP's question. – Tim Jul 5 '14 at 15:13
Someone edited my question. It is not a small gig in my back yard. At least 300 people will be there... – Valentin Grégoire Jul 5 '14 at 15:15
@Tim I know, and it's fine. I'm only saying that this question is not about accordions or amplification, this question is about "should I provide a mic for a guest group?", which is reflected in both the accepted answer and the question. The accepted answer redefined the scope some of us gave to the question. I edited the question to reflect this scope explicitly so we can have both this question and one about actual accordion microphoning and amplification. It's just about scope, nothing more and nothing less. – JCPedroza Jul 5 '14 at 15:35
@ValentinGrégoire The accepted answer doesn't talk about accordions or amplification. All it says is "let them use your SM57, you don't have to provide a mic for them, maybe send them a mail". You don't want to know how to amplify an accordion, which is made obvious by the accepted answer. – JCPedroza Jul 5 '14 at 16:28
up vote 5 down vote accepted

Since it's not your band, and you're alerady kind enough to provide a PA system, don't do anything. Let the accordionist make do with what you have (e.g. mic stand and SM-57) or else bring his or her own equipment (such as clip-on mics and a pre-amp) to plug into your PA.

Musicians have to be responsible for this kind of thing themselves, if they want the best possible amplified sound in any situation, as well as more control over that sound.

If that band is not experienced in amplified performances, maybe send them an e-mail ahead of time to warn them that you don't have specialized amplification solutions for their instruments, and that they should "gear up" if they want the best possible live sound through a PA system (such as yours, or any other).

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+1 As much as I disagree with Kaz's comments on the other answers here regarding accordion amplification in general, for this specific gig this is pretty much the most reasonable answer. Not your band, not your accordion, not your problem. If the small band has trouble with their accordion not being loud enough, then said small band has just learned a lesson re: what equipment they need to own and take to a show. – Jason C Jul 5 '14 at 5:17
Exactly what I will do! – Valentin Grégoire Jul 5 '14 at 8:39
It's the principle that counts! Great answer !+1 – Tim Jul 5 '14 at 10:58
@JCPedroza I don't think that "the best way to record an accordion" is topical for this site anyway; it is not music performance, but an audio engineering question. This answer is practical musician advice: how to deal with other musicians who hang off you for support. That's not music performance either, but at least relevant to working musicians rather than working audio engineers. – Kaz Jul 5 '14 at 14:42
@JasonC I agree with the advice, but going out of your way to provide equipment, or not, is still heavily opinion-based, and it's not about actual accordion amplification. It's not a big deal, the question was just poorly formulated and had the incorrect title and tags. – JCPedroza Jul 5 '14 at 18:00

Since there's a lot of bickering about it, I'll give you the three best solutions. ("Best", as in, this seems to be the sentiment of everybody who has posted so far.)

High budget solution

The only very effective way to amplify an accordion is with multiple microphones attached to the accordion itself. On this picture you can see three, but I've usually seen people using four microphones (two on each side):

enter image description here

Remember that the sound of an accordion does not come from one central spot; each note comes from a different place in a fairly large area. I used to be the accordion player in a very amateurish band, where we used a Shure 57 microphone to amplify it. The very high and low notes were too far from the mic, while the middle range ones were amplified too loudly. With one single microphone, there is no good way to solve that.

Additionally, using one microphone limits you to the right-handed notes only; the bass notes are all off limits, as they come out from the left side of the accordion. Additionally additionally, a microphone on a stand is quite difficult to work with, since the accordion is typically an instrument that doesn't stay in exactly one place.

Sadly, since you're talking about two to four microphones per accordion, this can be a little too pricey for your particular situation. Nonetheless, for the sake of this question's usefulness (which SE is about), I am going to state that this solution is the only really good one.

Low budget solution

In case you want to save a lot of money, you can simply hire these things for this one day. I do advise you to test the system before trying to use it on stage though; the more complicated your microphone system gets, the more can go wrong.

Very low budget solution

Lastly, if you are really not able to spend any money on this, simply use your Shure SM57 microphone. In this case, try to make the accordionist aware of how to play when using a microphone on a stand. Here's a picture of yours truly, where you can see what I mean. (Please do ignore the awesome hat -- let's just say that this is part of some traditional Belgium dress-up culture.)

Microphone on a stand

Firstly, you'll notice that the left hand notes are not being amplified, so there's no use in even playing them. On this picture, I seem to be doing a good job at pretending I am, though. Secondly (and just as importantly), the high notes come out from the lower end of the accordion, and the low notes come out from the top. On the picture you can see that I'm playing high notes, so I'm holding the accordion up a bit higher, aligning the lowest end with the microphone. If the accordionist does not do this, you'll have a very hard time giving every note the same amplification.

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Nice answer, however, we don't want to invest in such a device since it is only for a one time use... Good to know that the SM57's are not that good for it. – Valentin Grégoire Jul 4 '14 at 12:17
Don't get me wrong -- if your only option is a microphone on a stand, then indeed the SM57 is probably a good option. It is, after all, a microphone with amazing price-quality ratio -- arguably the best, even. I would just advise to get a set like the one in the picture if your budget allows for it. – Lee White Jul 4 '14 at 12:25
@LeeWhite - +1 for a far better answer than mine ! Just didn't feel he'd want to shell out for a 'one shot' mic system ! Rough cost ? – Tim Jul 4 '14 at 15:13
@Tim You can always rent. Renting that mic should be pretty cheap, and will have a huge impact in the performance. – JCPedroza Jul 4 '14 at 15:18
@Kaz 3 - 4 mics in an accordion are very common in live settings. It is not about how renowned a performer is, but what the instrument needs to be accurately captured. – JCPedroza Jul 4 '14 at 22:38

The problem with accordions (as with some other instruments) is that the sound comes from multiple places and at least part of the sound source is always in motion. That makes getting consistent results from fixed mics difficult.

Mics strapped to the instrument, as in @LeeWhite's answer, are indeed the best solution, akin to other instrument pickups.

If you can't do that, stepping back and doing zone/area micing can be a viable alternative. It does make isolating the accordion from other sounds/performers difficult, and it can sometimes be tricky to manage for feedback. But as the mic moves back, the distance/direction variations become less significant. Close mics are not the only answer!

[Apparently my keyboard was moving too; a few words vanished. Corrected now. Sorry.]

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Typically you use two mics for accordion. The right hand end of the instrument is the treble end and stays still (is strapped to the performer) and the left hand end is the bass end and moves about more as the bellows open and shut. The right hand mic therefore can be placed quite close to the instrument and the left hand one needs a bit more space.

If the accordionist frequently plays in bands they may have dedicated mics built into the instrument or clipped somehow to it.

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SM57s are industry standard for instrument amplification. On a stand will be good, but it could depend on how animated the player becomes ! Put beside the holes where the sound emanates is best. If the guy wants to be more mobile, you could gaffa tape the mic to the accordion, but that may not go down too well with the owner. The best way of course is to use an electronic accordion, but you probably won't have that privilege. If you do, it can be D.I-d into your p.a.

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I am sorry, but this is just completely incorrect. A microphone on a stand is not a feasible solution for accordions at all. – Lee White Jul 4 '14 at 11:44
Accordion's dynamics make a SM57 on a stand a terrible choice for accordion mic. SM57s are not the industry standard for accordion amplifications. Do not use a SM57 on your accordion unless you have no other choice. Check the other answers for details. – JCPedroza Jul 4 '14 at 11:52
@LeeWhite The solution certainly satisfies the definition of "feasible". It's perfectly feasible to get the accordionist to understand that, here is the mic, and so try to stay in one place, and play into that mic if you want to be heard. The word for what the solution isn't is "ideal". – Kaz Jul 4 '14 at 20:37
@JCPedroza Who cares what the industry standard is for accordion amplification? I don't see where in the question it calls for an industry-standard accordion amplifying solution. The SM57 is a perfectly workable mic for this. It's almost identical to the SM58, which is a vocal mic. People have these mics laying around, so it's a cheap solution, compared to going out and buying some industry-standard accordion mic. If the accordionist is that serious, then they should own the mics and bring them to the gig. If they don't, they get stuck with a 57 or whatever there is. – Kaz Jul 4 '14 at 20:40
@Kaz, as I said, I have experience with this solution, and it is not feasible at all, since every single note will have a different volume this way. In fact, I ended up moving the accordion up and down along the microphone to adapt to which notes I was playing, so that the result would be somewhat acceptable. Point stands: this solution is far from feasible, but is better than no solution at all. – Lee White Jul 4 '14 at 22:12

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