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Ryan Pickett Brings Lauten Audio Snare Mic to "My Morning Jacket" Tour

FOH Veteran on Delivering Clear, Powerful Mixes with Hybrid Technologies and Proper Mic Choice

Live sound engineer Ryan Pickett has been the main man behind the boards for a diverse range of touring acts including Leon Bridges, Ray LaMontagne, and Flight of the Conchords, but for the past two decades he’s perhaps best known for his work with experimental roots-rockers My Morning Jacket. Pickett’s approach — which emphasizes live power and energy without sacrificing detail — has evolved alongside the band as they have taken on an increasingly diverse range of influences throughout their career. To keep pace with an ever-expanding musical palette while also streamlining the band’s live sound setup, Pickett has made strategic choices in gear upgrades over the years. The latest change has been his adoption of the Lauten Audio Snare Mic for MMJ drummer Patrick Hallahan, giving him more control of Hallahan’s commanding drum presence in the mix than ever before.

Patrick Hallahan's Drumkit

Opening up the sonic palette with new tools Although his initial approach to front of house for My Morning Jacket was firmly grounded in analog equipment, Pickett’s approach has evolved over the past two decades alongside the band's discography as it has embraced new sounds and influences. A hybrid approach that emphasizes the best of both the old and the new has allowed him to deliver powerful live mixes that seamlessly tie together the band’s ever-increasing catalog. “The Z album [released in 2005] had already opened up the doorway for a more diverse sonic palette,” Picket explained. “Between that and the additions of [keyboardist] Bo Koster and [guitarist] Carl Broemel, the musicianship in the band quantum leaped, and it drove me to do the same behind the boards and evolve alongside them.”

“When we started out, it was an all-analog, straight-forward rock n’ roll thing with occasional acoustic songs here and there,” he continued. “We went digital in 2008, and I jumped into that headlong — creating snapshots and being surgical for every song — but even then, we’ve kept some analog inserts in there to keep hold on a certain ‘earthiness’ in the delivery. That combination of tried-and-true approaches alongside interesting new gear that streamlines the workflow has allowed me to create the perfect baseline for what I’m doing without having to scramble at every show.”

When it comes to upgrading the onstage sound of an experienced band, choices must be made carefully to balance the needs of the performers as well as those of the touring mix engineers. For Pickett, this means choosing equipment that feels sonically comfortable to the artists while balancing the needs of versatility and durability that he requires to create a powerful, energetic mix reliably every night. “My whole career has been to make the live shows sound bigger than the recordings, and a lot of that comes down to making good choices in microphones and gear that captures the energy of the performance,” he said. “That being said, keeping the wheels on is incredibly important. Dialing in new gear takes time, so I have only really replaced things when other things break — which is typically a good time to take advantage of something new and better.”

“I’d been talking with Lauten Audio for some time, so when the opportunity came to update how we’d been miking Patrick’s drums, the band was game to try something new. I’m always eager to work with good companies that support you, and Lauten has been great about finding real solutions to some of the challenges in my line of work.”

Hallahan's Snare mic'd with a Lauten Audio Snare Mic

Precision miking for an explosive sound In preparation for the band’s most recent tour, Pickett made several changes to the band’s onstage miking, including adding a Lauten Audio Snare Mic to Hallahan’s kit. The difference in sound quality was immediately apparent. “Patrick prefers a thicker snare sound with more ‘thud’ in it,” explained Pickett. “It’s a great sound — very ‘rock n’ roll’ — but if you put an average dynamic microphone on it, it can struggle to project or work in a mix in different venues.”

“What was immediately great about Snare Mic is it’s a large diaphragm condenser with a huge soundstage, so you can capture what he wants to hear for onstage monitoring while still providing me with the frequency detail around the ‘crack’ of the snare exactly how I needed it. It sounded amazing from the moment we set it up and made snare intelligibility that much easier to achieve.”

Hallahan has a reputation as a passionate, heavy-hitting drummer who provides a lot of the live power that MMJ is known for. Given this and his densely packed kit, his drums can be challenging to mic in terms of achieving isolation, and long-term durability of microphones. Snare Mic immediately gave Pickett more precise control over the situation. “The rejection factor in Snare Mic was a game changer for us,” said Pickett. “It’s got better rejection than anything else on the market, so it really gives you a fighting chance as FOH to keep the integrity of the sound while molding it to what the day’s mix requires. The reduced spillover between the mics has allowed for tighter control of what’s going on and allows me to focus on delivering the energy and power in his playing.”

“The fact that it’s so small was an added bonus too. His kit is tightly put together so having that tiny footprint means that he doesn’t hit it nearly as often which means it’ll last much longer.”

While his approach has continued to evolve alongside MMJ, Pickett’s core goals have always remained the same — delivering a moving, powerful mix that is true to the music being played on stage. With time and experience, achieving these goals has become a more streamlined process for him as he has learned to make smarter choices, and know when to be hands-off and let the performance breathe. “At this point it’s all about delivering what the band needs and getting out of the way of things as much as possible,” he said. “I’m very much of the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ school of thought, so when I add something to the process it’s intended for the long haul.”

“Snare Mic has been a lovely addition to the setup so far and it’s really given me an edge in what I’m trying to achieve, and I’m looking forward to keeping it there for a long time.”

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