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.”
For additional information about the Indigo Girls, visit them online at www.indigogirls.com.
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.
Photo info: Image of Brian Speiser with his Earthworks P30/C microphone.