Country music artist Blake Shelton is presenting a recorded concert simultaneously at 300 drive-in theaters in the U.S. later this week (July 25), with the audio crew deploying Sennheiser vocal and instrument microphones joined by the company’s Digital 6000 wireless system technology in capturing the performance.
The set includes Shelton’s best-known music performed with his six-piece touring band, including drummer Tracy Broussard, as well as special guest appearances by Gwen Stefani and Trace Adkins. Monitor engineer Brad Baisley was also on hand for the recording.
Baisley utilized a combination of the Sennheiser MMD 935 capsule and SKM 6000 handheld transmitter for vocals. “Whenever we do a show, everybody uses Sennheiser,” he says. “We had Blake, Gwen Stefani, and Trace Adkins all featured prominently in the show, and we used MMD 935 capsules on everybody. Having each performer on the same mic ensures that we’re starting from a level playing field tonally.
“We love these capsules because they have a high-fidelity sound, but they’re not as feedback prone as some other mics with that characteristic,” he continues. “They sit really well in a mix.” He adds that team Shelton transitioned to the Digital 6000 three years ago.
Crafting a contemporary country drum sound is key for Baisley and drummer Broussard, with a selection of Sennheiser and Neumann microphones facilitate it. Kick drum is handled with the combination of a Sennheiser e901 inside the drum and an e602 outside. “I gate and compress it such that I’m only getting the click from the e901, and then I use the 602 for subs,” Baisley says. “This gives me the option to easily dial in different sounds for everyone’s monitors based on their needs.”
Broussard likes to use a medium-toned snare, with baffling to drop its tone further for a fatter sound when necessary. With a vintage Sennheiser e905 on snare top and an e604 on snare bottom, Baisley has access to the tone and sensitivity he needs for Broussard’s monitor mix. “The e904 on bottom captures the attack and sizzle, while the e905 on top gives me the body of the drum,” Baisley notes. “The snare drum needs to be fat for modern pop country, and those mics give you that while also making sure all the ghost notes that I do are well represented.”
Another e904 captures Broussard’s rack tom, while an e902 helps translate the deep lows of Broussard’s floor tom. “The e902 on the floor tom is pretty amazing,” Broussard says. “Of course, it’s great on a kick drum, but having a mic like that on the floor tom is something that I’ve really enjoyed.” Baisley agrees. “It gives you that real big bottom out of the floor tom, and clear attack, too,” he says.
A pair of Neumann KM 185 condenser microphones capture the sound of the cymbals. “Cymbal definition is very important for our instrumentalists to hear in their monitor mixes,” Baisley says. “We use a pair of KM 185 mics under the cymbals because their super-cardioid polar pattern is very effective at rejecting the rest of the drums.” For Broussard, the KM 185 microphones also effectively capture the full tonal range of his carefully chosen cymbals. “They’re truly representative of what the cymbals sound like,” he says.
Cymbal definition is further enhanced by a pair of e914 microphones on hi-hat and ride respectively. “Those mics are important for bringing out the full tone of the hi-hat and ride cymbals,” says Broussard. “With my ride cymbal, I get all different tones from it depending on where I hit it. The e914 represents all of it, whether it’s the washy sound on the edges or the bell right in the middle. And it’s great to be able to ride in that extra presence from the hi-hat when needed.”
Additional Sennheiser mics include the e906 for guitar amps and on the Leslie horn as well, paired with an e602 for the low-end. For pedal steel guitar, however, Baisley turns to the MD 421-II, stating that it’s “the best pedal steel guitar amp mic there is. Pedal steel guitar has such a wide range, almost like a piano, so the full-spectrum response of a 421 works really well for it. And of course, it’s great on bass amps, too.”
With two weeks to pull everything together, Baisley was impressed with his team’s performance. “Blake and the band had just one rehearsal together for the show after 110 days off,” he says. “But it really came together quickly once they got going. Having everyone return to all the sounds that they’re accustomed to with our Sennheiser mics definitely helped them give their best performance.” For Broussard, while the microphones help him feel connected to his performance on-stage, he also appreciates connecting with Sennheiser off stage. “It’s been great getting to know everyone at Sennheiser, and their product support is amazing,” he concludes.