With a one-day-only drive-in performance screening planned to take place simultaneously at 300 participating drive-in locations across the US, Country music artist Blake Shelton made the most of Sennheiser mics during the recording of the performance.

Blake Shelton’s drive-in concert screening‘We knew from the beginning that we wanted this drive-in concept to feel like a real Blake Shelton concert, so it was great to have the mics that we use on tour,’ says Brad Baisley, who has worked with Shelton as a monitor engineer for eight years. ‘We recorded it at the joint PRG (Production Resource Group) and VER (Video Equipment Rental) warehouse space outside of Nashville without an audience. They set up a real pipe and drape area to create the ambience of a big venue show. It was a seven-camera shoot, and we ran the whole show down in one take.’

The hour-and-a-half-plus show features many of Shelton’s hits performed by his six-piece touring band, as well as those of special guests Gwen Stefani and Trace Adkins. For the vocal performances of Shelton and his guests, Baisley turned to the combination of the Sennheiser MMD 935 capsule and SKM 6000 handheld transmitter.

‘Whenever we do a show, everybody uses Sennheiser,’ Baisley 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.’

For Baisley, the MMD 935 capsule has long distinguished itself with both its sound quality and external noise rejection. ‘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. They sit really well in a mix.’

Those qualities have been heightened since Shelton’s team adopted Sennheiser digital wireless. ‘We transitioned to the Digital 6000 three years ago,’ Baisley says. ‘That took the sound of the MMD 935 capsule to another level.’

In addition to sound, the RF flexibility and stability of Digital 6000 is another plus: ‘We don’t need gear to get in the way of what we’re doing from an entertainment point of view, we need gear that works all the time, every time, and the Digital 6000 does just that,’ Baisley says. ‘And with today’s spectrum situation, having a digital system that can navigate even the most challenging RF environments has really been a life saver.’

Crafting a contemporary country drum sound, Baisley and drummer Tracy Broussard used a selection of Sennheiser and Neumann microphones. For kick drum, the combination of a e901 inside the drum and an e602 outside the drum provides depth and flexibility. ‘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.’

Blake Shelton’s drive-in concert screening makes heavy use of Sennheiser micsBroussard, meanwhile, loves how the mics handle any bass drum he chooses: ‘No matter what kit I put up there, the e901 and e602 sound amazing,’ he says.

The drummer likes to use a medium-toned snare, with baffling to drop its tone for a fatter sound when necessary. With a vintage Sennheiser e905 on snare top and an e604 on snare bottom, Baisley has access to all the tone and sensitivity he needs for Broussard’s monitor mix.

The result is a contemporary sound that fits Shelton’s music and feels great for Broussard. ‘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,’ he says.

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.’

A pair of Neumann KM 185 condensers capture the cymbals. ‘Cymbal definition is very important for our instrumentalists to hear in their monitor mixes,’ Baisley insists. ‘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.’

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.’

Elsewhere on stage, Sennheiser mics are ubiquitous. ‘The e906 is incredibly versatile,’ Baisley says. ‘With the 3-position roll-off, you can always find the right sound for guitar amps, and we use them on the Leslie horn as well paired with an e602 for the low-end.’

For pedal steel guitar, Baisley turns to another classic: ‘The MD 421-II is the best pedal steel guitar amp mic there is,’ he says. ‘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 it’s great on bass amps, too.’

With only 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.’

Broussard is happy to once again share the excitement of live music with Blake Shelton fans. ‘As a performer, you learn to give the same show whether there’s 1 person in the room or 60,000. Working with Brad and our Sennheiser microphones helped give us the confidence and comfort to go out and play our best for the taping. And when Blake’s fans show up to the drive-in, they’re going to feel that energy.’

More: www.sennheiser.com

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