Amy Ray and Emily Saliers, who together form the folk rock duo the Indigo Girls, are on tour again. With a busy schedule that includes appearances in venues such as the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts in Santa Rosa, CA, the Lincoln Center Performance Hall in Fort Collins, CO, and the House of Blues in Dallas, TX, this is one act that requires every last piece of equipment to perform dependably and deliver consistent results. When it comes to miking their acoustic guitars, nothing is left to chance. That’s precisely why they rely on their Periscope™ Series P30/C microphones from Earthworks.
Brian Speiser, who serves as the Indigo Girls’ FOH (Front of House) Engineer, is tasked with ensuring the duo’s unique sound comes through everywhere they perform. Speiser, who over the years, has mixed for They Might Be Giants, Brandi Carlile, Ryan Adams, and Common Rotation, also recorded and mixed the Indigo Girls’ 2008 DVD release Live at the Roxy, as well as their forthcoming Live CD. He discussed the challenges of miking the Indigo Girls’ instruments.
“The Indigo Girls play some of the most beautiful sounding Martin and Gibson acoustic guitars,” Speiser said. “Their records are known for not only having bone shivering harmonies, but pristine guitar sounds as well. The problem I faced, as all engineers do, was making the pickups in their guitars sound like the front of their guitars, as recorded when they make their albums. I experimented with placing different boutique condenser mics in front of their instruments—clamped to their mic stands—but this was quite unsightly from an audience perspective. Even worse, I rarely had enough gain before feedback that would enable me to get the warm wood sound I was looking for.”
“We used to rent various pencil condenser microphones and clamp them to the vocal mic stands,” Speiser continued. “The girls did a show in Alaska a couple years back and the house had a pair of Earthworks SR30’s. While they were too big for our purposes, I tried them and was absolutely blown away by their capabilities. Their cardioid pattern provided so much headroom that I could turn the mics up louder without picking up as much crowd noise or much of the sound from the stage monitors. This discovery led me to investigate what Earthworks options might exist that would deliver comparable performance, but with a low profile form factor, and this led me to the Earthworks P30/C’s.”
Since discovering the Earthworks Periscope™ Series P30/C microphones, Speiser finds it much easier to capture the sound he had been searching for. These days, he clips the P30/C’s to the middle of the vocal microphone stands and keeps them very close to the stand so as to maintain an extremely low on stage profile. He bends the P30/C’s gooseneck to position the mic at a spot on the front of their guitars that sounds its best.
“With the tight pattern and full range sound of the P30/C,” Speiser says, “I’m able to get a lot of clean guitar sound with very little bleed from other stage or crowd noise. These mics can barely be seen and with their goosenecks, I’m able to position them closer to the instruments than I’ve ever been able to in the past. I then blend the sound acquired with the P30/C with the sound coming from the guitar pickups. By combining them, I’m able to achieve a guitar sound comparable to those on their recordings.”
In addition to his praise for the microphones themselves, Speiser was equally complimentary of Earthworks’ customer/technical support services. The Earthworks folks have been extremely supportive in helping find mics that suit my specific requirements,” he said. “They’re even custom-fitting a pair of P30/C’s with the heavier goosenecks found on their drum mics to alleviate the rare, but occasional, bump of the mic when they get nudged by the neck of a guitar.”
Before re-focusing his attention to the business of the tour, Speiser offered this closing thought, “The Earthworks mics have become a huge part of how I mix the Indigo Girls show. As long as I’m mixing them, we will continue to travel with our P30/C’s. Since we started using these mics two years ago, we haven’t done a show without them.”