Capturing the Afro Cuban Sound With Audix Microphones

Raul Pineda’s journey to becoming one of the world’s most innovative Latin drummers has taken him from growing up in the meager streets of Old Havana, Cuba to the international stage. Along the way, Raul has garnered three Grammy nominations and a 2000 Grammy Award for Best Latin Jazz Performance with the Chucho Valdés Quartet album, Live at the Village Vanguard.

As a young boy, Raul scoured his Havana neighborhood for anything that could be used to create drums. He used metal rods driven into the ground to support used cooking oil cans and formed drum sticks from the branches of orange trees. Raul was influenced by the local rumbero street bands, and at the urging of his musician grandfather, Nefer Miguel Milanés, Raul went on to study classical percussion for several years. He then immersed himself in Afro-Cuban music.

By age 19, Raul was performing and recording with some of the leading Cuban ensembles and bandleaders, including Sentisis, and pianist Chucho Valdés. Over the next several years, international tours and Grammy-nominated recordings brought Raul to the music world’s attention as one of Cuba’s most influential young drummers.

Raul has been an Audix Artist for over 10 years. “Of all the microphone brands and models available, I chose to go all Audix. The very first time I used Audix mics, the transparency and natural sound really caught my attention and made me an instant fan whether I used them in the studio or for live performance.”

Afro-Cuban rhythmic styles blend drum kit and percussion, and Raul covers both with his complex, integrative style. “I am a drummer,” Raul hastens to say.”I inherently play percussion styles due to my upbringing in Cuba, but I don’t refer to myself as a percussionist.” This might explain Raul’s unusual inclusion of a cowbell in his kit actuated by his left foot. Raul admits, “Okay, the left-foot cowbell allows me to add an additional layer of independent poly-rhythms!”

To accurately capture and reproduce Raul’s large and diverse kit is definitely a challenge. “My mic list includes a wide variety of Audix’s drum and percussion microphones; 12 mics in all!” Raul relies on the industry-standard D6 and i5 dynamic mics for kick and snare, respectively. An ADX51 condenser mic covers his hi-hat, another ADX51 covers the ride cymbal, and a pair of overhead ADX51s capture additional cymbals and a stereo image of the entire kit. A full rack of four toms plus floor tom is covered with a graduated selection of Audix D1, D2, D3, and D4 dynamic mics. One more D2 dynamic mic is dedicated to the cowbell.

Raul places as much care into miking his kit as he does in selecting his drums, cymbals, and percussion instruments. “My intent is always to project a natural sound. It’s crucial to familiarize yourself with the characteristics of each mic so you know exactly where each should be used. I always gravitate towards an accurate reproduction of what I hear. Every drummer has a particular sound they’re going after while tuning their drums. What I like about Audix is that I can rest assured that the drum sound the audience hears is as true as what I intended it to be.”

Raul’s attention to detail for live performances continues with his studio sessions. He notes that the faithful reproduction with Audix mics requires very few adjustments. “I make very minor changes in terms of positioning the mics from live to studio. If I’m looking for a fatter sound, I sometimes bring the mics closer to the heads, and conversely, if I want the sound to breathe more, I’ll separate them a little more from the rims.”

In addition to attending to all the details of close-miking his kit, Raul is also aware of the overall drum sound he projects. “In the studio, I sometimes add a room mic behind the drum set or at each corner. Of course, this is all subject to the room’s acoustics.”

Raul stays busy playing and recording with several bands and artists. Since 2000, he has focused on playing with Lao Tizer and the Afro-Cuban-jazz-funk-rock band TIZER. In 2012 the group toured Dubai, Barbados, Aruba, Santiago de Chile, South Africa, Russia and South Korea. 2013 tour dates will take Raul and TIZER through the US and Asia. Raul will also be on tour with Latin superstar Juan Gabriel this summer at stadiums and arenas in Venezuela, Colombia and Mexico.

Raul’s mic setup:

D6 – Bass drum
i5 -snare
ADX51 -Hi Hat
D1  -8″ Tom
D1 -10″ Tom
D2-12″ Tom
D3-14″ Tom
D4-16″ Tom
ADX51-Ride cymbal
ADX51-Left OH
ADX51-Right OH
D2-Left foot cowbell

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