Melbourne, Australia – April 2010… Make no mistake… miking a drum kit is both a science and an art. If you cut corners here, you inevitably find yourself listening to someone pounding on trashcans. While mic placement is crucial to achieving a musical sound, so is the selection of the microphones. If the microphones can't handle the instrument's sharp attack transients, the best frequency response in the world means very little. As James Taylor and Carole King kick off their whirlwind tour, they can rest assured the drum sound that accompanies them is well under control—thanks to the knowledge and experience of FOH (front of house) sound engineer David Morgan and his Earthworks DFK1 Drum FullKit microphone arsenal.
David Morgan is a seasoned FOH engineer. During his more than 30 years of service to the professional touring side of the business, Morgan has mixed for the Doobie Brothers, Paul Simon, Bette Midler, Lionel Richie, and Steely Dan to name but a few. Further, he's received eight TEC Award nominations and has won once. With credits like these, he can use any microphones he wants. When it comes to miking session drummer and producer Russell Kunkel's drums on this tour, however, there is really only one serious choice: the Earthworks DFK1, which includes four DP30/C DrumPeriscope mics, one DP25/C microphone, two SR40 High Definition Microphonesâ„¢, and two SR25's.
Morgan discussed the difficulties of live miking a drummer. “Close miking drums is always a challenge,” Morgan says, “and it's easy to lose the natural sound of the drum to the coloration of the microphone, since much of this is the result of proximity effect and/or skewed frequency response in an effort to tighten up the polar pattern. When I first started using the DP30's on toms, I was pleased to discover that the microphones' response to off-axis information actually made the drums sound far more natural than mics that rely on rejecting everything around them. By opening the pattern of the microphone to the surrounding ambient field, you achieve a far more realistic sound. If the mic's frequency response is true—as it is with the Earthworks mics—across the entire 180-degree pattern, dead on everywhere, the result becomes the illusion that you're actually listening to a drummer playing right in front of you as opposed to coming through a PA system.”
“When I first heard the Earthworks mics through the PA,” he continued, “I thought, â€˜my God, we just lost the box and we are listening to drums.' For any engineer who hears these mics, I believe that will be their first reaction. In terms of their ability to handle the sharp attack transients characteristic of a drum, I think these are the most accurate and natural sounding mics you're likely to find for sound reinforcement use.”
Morgan reports that he has the Earthworks DP25/C placed on the snare drum, positioned roughly three fingers above the instrument's top head, with the two SR40 High Definition mics serving as overheads and placed about two feet over the drum kit. He also has one of the two SR25 microphones underneath the ride cymbal and the other stationed at the hi-hat.
“We love the sound from the DP25/C's wide cardioid pattern on the snare,” says Morgan. “Russell plays a lot with brushes and sidestick and this mic picks up those sounds beautifully. We get so much detail out of the snare with this mic—we're very, very pleased.” Morgan is equally enamored with the performance of the Earthworks SR40's. “We're extremely happy with them,” he says. “They are amazingly good drum overhead mics and we couldn't be happier with their performance. There is a depth and realism to their sound that I have never experienced with any other product in this application.”
While the James Taylor and Carole King tour is just getting started—it kicked off in Melbourne, Australia on March 26th and comes to the U.S. in early May—Morgan described Russell Kunkel's reaction to the Earthworks mics during the rehearsals. “Ultimately, we judge everything by how happy the drummer is with his sound,” Morgan explained. “Russell was initially skeptical about using microphones other than the one's he's most familiar with, but after hearing about them from his friend Steve Gadd (an Earthworks endorser) and other engineers and producers, he became more open to the idea. But the real change came during the second or third day of rehearsals, during which Russell came up to me and said, â€˜You gotta come and hear my in-ear mix. These mics sound amazing. You gotta hear this!' He was so excited. At this point, I knew he was a full-blown believer.”
Before getting ready for the next show, Morgan offered this closing thought, “With ticket prices being what they are these days, the ticket buyer deserves the best possible concert experience, and my job is to deliver on the sound portion of that. These Earthworks microphones help me deliver on that commitment.”
About Earthworks, Inc.
Earthworks is a New Hampshire, U.S.A. based manufacturer of High Definition Microphones that is dedicated to quality and sonic excellence. Each Earthworks product is handmade with great care, meticulous attention to detail, and a strong emphasis on quality. Earthworks prides itself in making only the very best in professional audio equipment intended for mission critical sound applications. For additional information, visit the company online at www.earthworksaudio.com.
Photo info: Image of David Morgan, seated at Russell Kunkel's drum set with DP30/C DrumPeriscope mics positioned over the toms.