Flutetree : Flute Playing Tips & Techniques :

Electric Canyon

Stairwells and parking garages may seem to be a strange place to play flutes, but the acoustics of such places can enhance the sound of a naked flute. Not everyone lives near a narrow canyon or natural amphitheater, so stairwells, parking garages can be a convenient substitute. Recording studios commonly add such reverb through devices called digital effects processors. The price of these devices have been steadily declining over the years. Many guitar amplifiers now have them built-in. The Roland Micro-CUBE is one such amplifier and it can also run off batteries which allows you to take it practically anywhere. Although its rated power output is only 2 watts, this is plenty for quite venues such as ones living room or small flute circle gathering. Basically, if the venue didn't require amplification in the first place, the Micro-CUBE is loud enough to add the reverb to the flute.

To build your own portable electric canyon, you will also need a microphone with a stand and some cables to connect it all together. The following part list suggests some proven products that can be found at many musician stores.

  • Roland Micro-CUBE - battery powered amplifier with effects processor ($125)
  • Shure SM58 Microphone -
    unidirectional (cardioid) dynamic vocal microphone designed for professional vocal use in live performance. Many artist use them on stage. ($100) Cheaper microphones exist, but they are not built as rugged. The SM58 should last a lifetime.
  • Impedance Matching Transformer -
    adapts low-impedance microphones (XLR connector) to high-impedance (1/4" connector) inputs of guitar amplifiers. ($15)
  • Standard Lo-Z Microphone Cable -
    6 to 10 feet should be adequate. ($15) More expensive cables would be overkill for this setup.
  • Tripod Microphone Stand with a Boom - a tripod stands has the advantage that it will fold up for travel. The boom allows the microphone to be pointed down to the flute while keeping the stand out of the way of the flute. ($30)

Micro-CUBE Setup:

  • Before you start, the Micro-CUBE should be switched off.
  • Connect:
    MicrophoneMicrophone cableTransformer adapterMicro-CUBE


  • Adjust the Micro-CUBE knobs as show below. This setting is a good starting place. Once you become familiar with each knob, you may prefer other settings.
  • Make sure the microphone and amplifier are pointing in the opposite direction, otherwise you may encounter the squeal of feedback.
  • Then turn-on the Micro-CUBE with the power button in back.
 





Electric Canyon with a guitar amplifier

If you already have an older guitar amplifier that does not have an effects processor built-in, you can add an external processor. This can be advantageous in noisy environments, because most guitar amplifiers have a lot more output than the Micro-CUBE. The Alesis NanoVerb is an inexpensive effects processor, that is flexible and easy to use with flutes. So instead of the using the Roland Micro-CUBE, you would add the following items to the electric canyon.

  • Alesis NanoVerb 18-Bit Digital Effects Processor. ($100)
  • Guitar cable - 3 to 6 feet should be adequate to go from the NanoVerb to the Guitar Amplifier. ($8)

NanoVerb Setup:

  • Before you start, the amplifier should be switched off.
  • Connect:
    MicrophoneMicrophone cableTransformer adapterinput NanoVerb
    NanoVerb outputGuitar cableinput Guitar Amplifier

  • The NanoVerb and Guitar Amplifier do not run on batteries, so you will have to plug them into a wall outlet or a power strip. Plug the NanoVerb in first.
  • Before turning on the amplifier, you will want to set the input level into the NanoVerb. First turn all the knobs to pointing up. Speak into the microphone and see if the signal light occassionally flashes green. If it does not, then adjust the input knob.
  • Turn down the volume of the amplifier before switching the amplifier on.
  • After switching on, adjust the volume/gain on the amplifier. Too much volume can lead to the squeal as having the amplifier and microphone pointed at each other.
  • The Mix knob controls how much effect is added to the signal. Straight up is 50% microphone and 50% effect.
  • Hall 1, 2 and 3 are the most commonly used effects. The Adjust knob controls the length of the reverb.


Electric Canyon with PA system

Instead of driving a guitar amplifier with the NanoVerb, it can be used to drive a public address system, church sound system or a stage sound system. This is necessary when you are at a really noisy or big venue. This requires adding one more item to add to your the electronic canyon.

  • Passive Direct Box also known as a Passive DI Box. ($40-80) Models priced twice this are of value when it is a professional investment or for a recording studio. Do your own research and understand your venue needs.

Direct Box Setup:

  • Connect:
    MicrophoneMicrophone cableTransformer adapterinput NanoVerb
    NanoVerb outputGuitar cableinput Passive Direct Box
    Passive Direct Box outputMicrophone cableinput Mixer or PA system.

  • The protocol for adjusting the NanoVerb and Mixer is the same for this setup.
  • It is best to place the NanoVerb near your reach when you are on stage, that way you can control the reverb on your microphone. One easy way is to attach the NanoVerb to a sheet music stand that can be next to you on stage. This is especially useful if you are going to both speak and play through the same microphone. You do not want the reverb on when you speak, because you will sound like you are speaking from inside a tiled bathroom.