Waldo Madera started his career as a professional drummer at the age of 15 with the Dominican-Brazilian groups Maguey and Irka & Tadeu Con Trabanda. Between 1987 and 1991, he studied at the Manhattan School of Music in New York City, and soon thereafter, he was given the opportunity to play with great Latin jazz artists such as Paquito D’Rivera, Rafael Cruz, and Dave Valentine, to mention just a few.
Waldo plays drums, bass, guitar, and percussion instruments, and by now, he’s worked with some of the greatest exponents of jazz as a whole: Paquito D’Rivera, Rafael Cruz, Michel Camilo, Dave Valentine, Víctor Mendoza, Arturo Sandoval, David Sánchez, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Giovanni Hidalgo, Sheila Escovedo, Cachao, Tom Scott, Anthony Jackson, Wynton Marsalis … and the list goes on and on.
Waldo has also been hired to tour and/or play recording sessions with a long list of top Latin pop and rock artists including Ricky Martin, Juanes, Carlos Santana, José Feliciano, Ricardo Arjona, Alejandro Sanz, Miguel Bosé, Ricardo Montaner, Cristian Castro, Pandora, José Luis “El Puma” Rodríguez, Celia Cruz, Juan Luis Guerra, Emmanuel, Raphael, Edith Márquez, Francisco Céspedes, and Sin Badera. And when he’s not touring, he also works as a composer, arranger, and producer for various other Latin bands and artists. You can listen to Waldo’s session work on more than 200 albums plus 6 DVD/CDs with Ricky Martin and 2-time Grammy Award / 20-time Latin Grammy Award winner Juanes.
We recently got a chance to talk with him about his latest projects and his experiences with LEWITT microphones.
[LEWITT] What are you doing these days?
[Waldo Madera] I’ve been working on a very big production for an artist called Juan Gabriel, who passed away last year. We wanted to do a tribute to him. He’s one of the major composers in Latin American history, probably the most important at all. I was lucky enough to be called for that, and it’s a really nice production. It’ll be our first time doing a concert with a hologram: they’ll project Juan Gabriel, and it’ll include 16 very important artists from the Latin community. It’s a very big production, with the stage a hundred yards wide and audiences of 30,000 or 40,000 people, so I’m really excited about that! I’ve also got another thing coming up with Diego Torres, who’s a fellow multiple Latin-Grammy-Award winner, and I’m playing a lot of jazz with my Latin jazz project, as well.
[LEWITT] With all the stuff you’ve done, you’ve had just about every possible choice of microphones and other gear – and we know that you use LEWITT. So tell us about which LEWITT mics you use and your experiences with them…
[Waldo Madera] I’m very blessed that I found out about microphones by LEWITT, since they’ve made a big difference in my sound. Drummers are usually very picky about sound, you know; all of us try to get things as clear as possible … after all, sound is personal! I’ve already toured all over the world with my LEWITT mics, and they work really good. I’ve also done lots of award shows where I’ve been able to bring in my LEWITTs, and they’ve been pleasant surprises for the engineers in that scene, too. You know, sometimes it’s hard to get people who’ve been working for a long time with whatever microphone brand they work with to try something new. So it was great to see how they tried out my LEWITTs and fell in love with them: I’ve been using the DTP Beat Kit Pro 7 drum mics, and I actually have two sets of those for my drums, since I sometimes mic them up pretty heavily to get more sound on the big stages.
On the overheads I use the LCT 240’s, because I like to set up my drums so I can feel the sound being picked up like I’m standing on top of them … you know, like when you hear the overheads with your own ears. With the LCT 240’s, that’s definitely what I get: a nice, warm sound and the whole picture.
The DTP 640 REX, with the dynamic and the condenser capsule in one housing, is amazing because you never have any phasing issues with it. And on the other hand, you get the nice warmth, the attack, and the air – you get the whole, full range all at once, because you have the condenser and the dynamic mic working together, and that’s actually fantastic. It’s a great-sounding mic!
All of these mics hold up really well. You know how it works when you’re on the road, travelling from one city to the other: when they break down your stuff, they usually try to do it real fast, and the mics kinda get thrown around … they’re not careful, like when you’re in the studio. But the LEWITT mics are really sturdy and keep sounding beautiful!
On snare, I use two MTP 440 DM’s – one for the top and one for the bottom. And you know how, when you use your regular snare mics, you usually position them close to the edge, pointed a bit toward the drum head in a steep angle? With the MTP 440 DM, you don’t need to do that. You can safely put them a few inches away from your drum heads, pointing more towards the center: they pick up everything perfectly, like your harmonics and the whole body of the snare drum, and that’s amazing.
I like to use the LCT 340 pencil condenser mics on the floor toms. I put each of them two and a half inches away, pointed more towards the center of the drum. It’s really amazing how they put up the low end of the toms – they sound really big! And the engineers I work with live or at these award shows don’t even use EQ on the mics, which really makes me happy. It means that the sound I’m getting from the drums is being perfectly translated.
The DTP 340 TT tom mics are great, and I actually use them in more than one way. Of course I use them on the toms, but sometimes I do session records as percussionist, as well, and then I use timbales or congas … and the mics work really good for them, too. The tom mics have a special characteristic to them that I really enjoy! And here, again, I don’t have to do any EQ or compression on them – I just put each one there with the right mic placement from the right distance, and the DTP 340 TT’s just do the work by themselves and pick up exactly what I hear from the toms!
[LEWITT] Ok, so that’s your live setup – do you use these mics in the studio, as well?
[Waldo Madera] I use the same microphones in the studio for these parts, but I do add a room mic. That’s the LCT 550, which is also the mic I use when I’m doing vocals in the studio – and it’s a beautiful microphone that pics up rooms in an amazing way. This mic has really helped me a lot on my recordings. Back when I started using LEWITT, I got really good feedback from my mixing engineers: they thought I was recording in a larger room than I actually was, and they asked me if I’d switched to a bigger studio. I told them it was still the same place, but different mics. The room I record in isn’t all that big, you know, but I found out that in my room, with the LCT 550 pointed towards the corner five feet above the ground, I get this amazing depth. You could actually just use the room mic, and it would already sound great – it gives you that raw, rock ’n’ roll tone or also more of the big band situation if that’s the sound you’re looking for.
Any final comments you’d like to make about LEWITT?
I’m very happy with the LEWITT mics, and I’m glad they’ve been really addressing the whole area of drums and how to make a mic for each part of the drum set. For me, it’s all about making your personal sound come across – and not something that’s colored or pre-equalized according to someone’s idea of something that sounds good but isn’t your sound. The LEWITT mics are totally transparent – and I love that!