Drummer Queen Cora Dunham, currently on tour with Beyoncé, is utilizing a Sensaphonics 3D active ambient IEM system.
“I started using the Sensaphonics 3D in 2007 when I was with Prince,” Dunham notes, “and I’ve been using them ever since. It’s an amazing system, so versatile and comfortable – much better than regular in-ears.”
The 3D IEM system uses embedded microphones to capture the on-stage sound surrounding the performers, allowing them to hear everything around them while their ears remain safely and securely isolated. Dunham finds that she uses a variety of ambience settings, depending on the situation.
“There are certain things I have to hear, like audience response,” she explains. “Other times, I like having the option of complete isolation. So I experiment with it and use different settings for different shows. Usually, I run about 25 or 30 percent ambience along with my full mix, so I’m hearing my drums straight from the 3D mics.
“I also use the Full Ambient mode on solos so I can hear myself, just pure and acoustic, which sounds fantastic. I love that about the 3D.”
Dunham got her music industry start in Los Angeles after graduating from Howard University in Washington, DC. “I had gone to the IAJE jazz educators conference and met some A-list drummers like Ricky Lawson and Ndugu Chancler,” she recalls. “They talked me into staying for the NAMM show, which made me appreciate L.A. even more. After not getting into Julliard’s Jazz Studies program, I just decided to go for it and worked on establishing myself in L.A. until it didn’t matter where we lived anymore. Now Josh (Prince bassist Josh Dunham) and I are back in Houston.”
She raised her U.S. musical credentials in the 2002 national Guitar Center Drum Off, winning the grand prize of a Jeep Liberty over 5,000 other entrants. “That was quite a thing,” she says. “I had no vehicle at the time and was actually renting cars to get my drums to gigs around L.A. So that was the motivation. The competition was really strong, so to actually win… It was really a specific prayer being answered. I still have that jeep, and I will always be thankful for it.”
The Queen also carries the unique distinction of being the only drummer to play the Super Bowl twice – with Prince in 2007 and Beyoncé in 2013. “As far as I know, I think I’m the only drummer that’s played it twice,” she notes with a grin. “And I was using the 3D system both times. So Sensaphonics is a part of my little claim to fame.”
Beyoncé’s all-female touring band, the Suga Mamas, all wear Sensaphonics earphones. “It’s nice to work with someone who is that cutting-edge, always pushing the envelope for creativity,” says Dunham. “Beyoncé is committed to creating positive role models for young girls, which is something I definitely advocate. It’s an honor to be playing with such talented women.”