On Stage: What’s In The Mic Box Of Pete Plympton & Pink Martini?

Pete Plympton has worked with Portland, Oregon-based Pink Martini since 1997 when he helped them record “Sympathique,” the first of their four studio albums.

Their eclectic mix of world music has steadily grown in popularity, especially for “pops” shows with symphony orchestras.

Plympton also works with other Portland favorites such as the Oregon Trail Centennial band and Quarterflash.

The vast majority of Pink Martini’s shows are fly-ins and Plympton doesn’t like to carry anything he doesn’t have to, so local providers are asked to supply many of the Shure and AKG microphones.

Lead vocalist China Forbes prefers a Shure Beta 87A, and Plympton religiously has a spare Beta 87A for line check, replacing it with a second mic exclusively for Forbes just prior to sound check and show to avoid germs.

Musical Director Thomas Lauderdale uses a locally supplied Beta 58A for occasional between-song banter with the audience, as does the backup singer. A small-profile Audio-Technica Pro 37 pencil condenser is mounted to Lauderdale’s mic stand just below the boom arm for the guiro and other hand percussion that he plays.

For grand piano, a stereo pair of DPA 4021 miniature condensers is mounted in an X-Y clip 6 inches behind the piano’s action over “middle A.” Often a first choice for violin and cello, DPA 4061 miniature condenser lavaliers – with the company’s unique MHS6001 rubber appliance for mounting the mic below the instrument’s bridge – are also used by many symphony organizations on all strings for pops shows.

Additionally, a pickup is provided for the cello soloist to help out with the low end because she is located downstage, often near the main loudspeakers.

A Brazilian surdo marching drum is used on a few of the Latin songs, so a Sennheiser MD 504 is conveniently clamped to its rim. An Audio-Technica Artist Elite AE5400 captures percussion from overhead, where it also doubles as a vocal mic on a couple of songs.

The bongo player, who also plays hand percussion, is supplied with a beyerdynamic M 20. A Shure Beta 57 is used on congas as well as the Roland JC-120 guitar amp. Pink Martini’s trumpet and trombone players also double as vocalists on a couple of songs, so their beyerdynamic M 88 hypercardioid dynamics are a great choice for this dual application.

On the drum kit, Plympton likes a Shure Beta 91 on kick, a Beta 57 on snare, an AKG C451 for hi-hat and an AKG C414 for overhead. For non-symphony shows, the input list expands and the toms are mic’ed with Sennheiser e904, which use the same convenient MZH 604 rim-mount as the e604.

Plympton carries a Countryman Type 85 active DI for the upright bass bridge pick-up for consistency night-to-night because the bass and piano are the main source of low end in the show.

A Radial Pro48 compact active DI handles acoustic guitar. For symphony harpists, he brings a Barcus-Berry 4000 piano pickup that is mounted on the soundboard’s rib for ultimate isolation, and this is joined by a recently introduced Countryman Type 10 DI.

Mark Frink is Editorial Director of Live Sound International.

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