IF YOU PLAN TO USE A REAL LESLIE LIVE, YOU’LL NEED TO MIKE IT, UNLESS IT’S
a high-powered model (like the 3300 of today) and/or you’re not competing with
other loud instruments. Vintage models almost always need help. Here’s what I’ve
learned about cutting through clearly and without feedback.
Two Up, One Down . . .
The classic technique angles a mic on either side
of the treble rotor, barely sticking into the opening
left by removing the Leslie’s top rear panel.
You can pan these hard left and right, but try a
more moderate pan like nine and three o’clock.
One mic (often a larger-diaphragm model than
the treble mics) points at the bass rotor below
and is panned center.
. . . Or Not
As sexy as stereo is, every open mic onstage increases
the chances of feedback. On especially
crowded stages, try just one mic up top. You can
still pan it and the bass rotor’s mic subtly in opposite
directions for a bit of widening.
If the bass mic is facing directly at the rotor (if you
can draw an imaginary straight line between the
top of the mic and the rotor’s spindle), you may
hear exaggerated volume modulation in the form of
a wub-wub-wub quality. Since this isn’t dubstep, try
angling the mic off-axis to smooth out the sound.
To minimize bleed and feedback, EQ the mics to
pick up only what they need. The crossover point
between a Leslie’s bass and treble is 800Hz. If your
mixer has a parametric mid-band, you can zero in
on this. In any case, I turn the treble EQ almost all
the way down on my bass mic and the bass EQ down
on the treble mics. A low cut at 20–50Hz will reduce
rumble and noises conducted through stage flooring.
Put the Leslie as far from drums, amps, and monitors
as possible. If there’s a place you can put it
off stage, do so (be prepared with a long Leslie
cable) and rely on your monitors. If that place is a
corner, store gig bags there to act as impromptu
bass traps. Always orient the Leslie so that the
mics aren’t pointing at other instruments—don’t
use the Leslie as a baffle between mics and stage.
Primacoustic Crash Guards (shown above) are
meant to reduce cymbal bleed into snare drum
mics, but help out on Leslies as well.
Live, you need to get close to the drivers, so
again, you’ll be pointing mics in the top and bottom
openings of the “ugly side,” not outside the
louvers as you might for recording. Those rotors
displace a lot of air, especially at fast speed and
especially if the bass rotor is missing its fabric
covering (it really should have one). ’Nuff said.
Forget studio condensers for live use. Look for
dynamic mics with cardioid or hypercardioid
patterns. Though marketed for kick drum, the Audix
D6 (center) is a great choice for the bass rotor. The
Audix i5 (left) or new Lewitt MTP-440DM (right)
work well on the treble. A tried-and-true combo are Shure SM57s up top and
a Sennheiser MD-421 down below. See a full list of mic choices, and videos of
Leslie miking techniques, at keyboardmag.com/august2012.