Wayne Pooley has served as Bruce Hornsby's recording/mixing engineer and producer since 1991. The architect of all things technical for Mr. Hornsby, Wayne handles everything from engineering in the studio to mixing FOH (front of house) when on tour. As is well known in professional audio, miking a piano is one of the most challenging tasks all audio engineers must routinely wrestle with. On that note, Pooley discussed the circumstances that led to his deployment of the Earthworks PM40.
“Miking a piano can be very difficult,” Pooley acknowledged. “The point of origin for the instrument's sound is very broad, so any microphone is challenged by the fact that some of that sound is direct while some of it is off axis. The instrument's sound reaches the microphone's capsule from all directions and this further contributes to the complexity of the process. Reflective sound and proximity effect play huge roles in the overall mike'd piano sound. While small diaphragm condenser mics frequently have good transient response, many lack a full bodied character. By contrast, large diaphragm condenser microphones may offer greater fullness, but they frequently lack the presence, or clarity, of a small diaphragm condenser mic.”
What's so unique about the PM40,” Pooley continued, “is that it exhibits excellent transient response for a more articulate sound from the piano's top end while also possessing the warmth and full bodied character of a large diaphragm condenser mic. Just as important, you don't get that overly â€˜boomy' proximity effect typical of many large condenser microphones. The PM40 is a very well balanced microphone that does an excellent job of accurately presenting the piano's acoustic footprint.”
When he first encountered the Earthworks PM40 in the fall of 2009, Pooley was initially looking to improve the piano sound for Bruce Hornsby's studio efforts, but quickly discovered its potential for the touring side of their efforts. “Miking a piano for a recording project is very different from live performance,” he explained. “In the studio, the piano lid is usually open, whereas in live performance, the lid is more frequently closed as a means of better isolating the instrument's sounds from its surroundings. The PM40 strikes a great balance between both studio and live applications, so I envision us using it—or more likely, the new PM40T touring version—on many of our future projects, both live and studio.
Pooley emphasized one of the PM40's advantages in live sound applications, “Bruce frequently appears on early morning TV shows or other programs where there's very little time to prepare the piano. For events such as an NBA game, where he performs the National Anthem, we frequently have less than a minute to be ready. By having the PM40 installed inside the piano, we can roll the piano into place, make the cable connections, and be ready to go. If we had to place microphones on stands, we'd never make it. Having the microphones pre-positioned is a huge benefit that ensures we'll get the sound we want.”
As he prepared for several upcoming events, Pooley offered this parting thought about Earthworks and the PM40. “I've been using an Earthworks M30 High Definitionâ„¢ Measurement Microphone for several years, so I was well-versed with the company's excellent reputation in the industry,” he said. “When I first inquired about the PM40, Earthworks National Sales Manager Mike Hurwitz was extremely responsive and answered all my questions. Though I'm a relative newcomer in terms of my experience with this particular microphone, I'm very optimistic about the PM40's attributes and am confident it will be an invaluable tool for capturing the sound of Bruce's piano for a wide range of projects. In my opinion, Earthworks has another winner on its hands.”
For additional information about Bruce Hornsby, visit his website at www.brucehornsby.com.
About the Earthworks PM40 PianoMic System
The Earthworks PM40 incorporates two random incidence, omnidirectional, 40 kHz High Definition Microphones with a frequency response ranging from 4 Hz to 40 kHz. With their extraordinary impulse response and extremely short diaphragm setting times, they are ideally suited to perform within the piano's highly diffused sound field (multiple direct and reflected sound sources). Equally significant, these microphones exhibit no proximity effect (change in LF levels), regardless of their distance from the piano strings or soundboard. The result is a remarkably consistent piano sound across the entire range of the instrument.
About Earthworks, Inc.
Earthworks is a New Hampshire, U.S.A. based manufacturer of High Definition Microphones that is dedicated to quality and sonic excellence. Each Earthworks product is handmade with great care, meticulous attention to detail, and a strong emphasis on quality. Earthworks prides itself in making only the very best in professional audio equipment intended for mission critical sound applications. For additional information, visit the company online at www.earthworksaudio.com.