The task of miking an acoustic piano is never easy and the issue only compounds itself when it comes to live sound reinforcement. Duct tape never seems to hold throughout the performance while mic stands get bumped and, in the process, so does the piano sound. Add in ambient noise from the crowd, stage, and surrounding instruments and, from there, it’s frequently a downhill slide. That’s precisely why Andrew McMahon, pianist and lead vocalist for Jack’s Mannequin, relies on the Earthworks PM40 PianoMic™ System to capture the true essence of his piano sound.
Originally hailing from Orange County, California, Jack’s Mannequin is a rock band that was formed in 2004. The band began as a side project of Something Corporate frontman Andrew McMahon, and comprises guitarist Bobby Anderson, bassist Jon Sullivan, and drummer Jay McMillan. Having recently finished a headlining tour in the United States as well as a few one-offs, the band recently made stops in Kingston, RI, Oneonta, NY, and Kutztown, PA. Further, McMahon continues his activities with Something Corporate, with whom he performed at the Bamboozle East in East Rutherford, NJ, Bamboozle Midwest in Chicago, IL, in addition to a solo appearance at the Hoodwink Festival, also in East Rutherford, NJ.
With a schedule this hectic, McMahon was searching for a means of miking the piano that would provide greater consistency of sound while being easy to implement. Since February, when he started using the PM40, the challenge of getting the right piano sound has become far more manageable. “I’ve been traveling with uprights and grand pianos for nearly ten years,” McMahon said. “It has always been a struggle to find quality miking solutions for the piano—especially considering regular nightclub gigs where the backline (supporting instruments/equipment) tends to be fairly close to the piano.”
In addition to a vastly improved sound that evenly presents the piano from the lower octaves all the way through the highest notes, McMahon reports that the PM40’s specially designed telescoping bar, which spans the piano over the strings and is supported at the ends by the piano case, beats anything else he previously encountered. “The ease of installation is huge.” he says. “The PM40’s ability to really capture the true nature of the piano is without equal.”
McMahon’s piano sound is unique and is not easily duplicated, as he explained. “We use a combination of miking elements as well as MIDI to create the entire piano sound,” McMahon reports. “With that said, it was the final addition of the Earthworks PM40 that really left me and my sound crew feeling like we’d finally tamed the beast!”
In addition to his enthusiasm for the PM40, McMahon’s front of house engineer—known affectionately as Quake— was also complimentary of Earthwork’s PM40 PianoMic™ System. “The fact that the PM40 really doesn’t require tech support may be the best compliment of all,” Quake notes. “The system couldn’t be easier to install and, once you angle the two mics the way you want them, you’re pretty much done. If you want, you can close the lid for better isolation and, if you need to move the piano around on stage, you don’t have to mess around re-positioning mic—stands because there are none. The PM40 is a great sounding, easy-to-use piano miking system that never gets in the way.”
As he prepared for his next performance, McMahon shared one final thought about the Earthworks PM40. “The addition of the PM40 to my piano sound has, without a doubt, solved so many of the problems that my sound team and I have battled for years on the road. It’s so nice to hit the stage knowing that my sound will be consistent and true.”