NILES, IL - Drummer Steve Ferrone doesn’t claim to be an expert on audio. “I’m not much of a tech-head, but I know great sound when I hear it,” says the long-time stickman for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. “My sound is all about kick drum, snare, and hi-hat. That’s where the groove comes from, and it’s always the most pleasing to my ears when I’ve got Shure mics in those positions.”
Ferrone began his professional career in the 1970s and has built a discography that includes such legendary artists as Average White Band, Chaka Khan, Duran Duran, and Eric Clapton, among many others. He has been drumming for Tom Petty since late 1992, when he was asked to work on the classic Wildflowers album. “Whether I’m out with the Heartbreakers or in my home studio, the Beta 52®A is just a perfect match for my kick drum sound,” he declares, “especially when you combine it with the Beta 91™. It’s nice and round and warm, just the way I like it. Every time I try something else, it just doesn’t sound right.”
It’s no surprise that Ferrone has similar feelings about the SM57 that’s always positioned above his snare drum. “What can I say about that mic? The 57 is a workhorse that’s been around forever,” he states. “In my mind, it’s comparable to a DW bass drum pedal. Everyone uses it because it sounds great and it always works. It doesn’t matter whether I’m in the studio or on stage, the SM57 has been there for me my whole career, and I expect it always will be.”
Petty’s front of house engineer, Robert Scovill, agrees. "You know, there are just a handful of mics that I seem to regularly gravitate to,” he notes. “Regardless of how many mics I try to replace them with, I always come back to the Beta 52®A and Beta 91 on kick and SM57 on snare for the work I'm doing with Tom Petty.” In addition to this classic kick/snare combination, Scovill also uses the Shure KSM137 condenser microphone on Ferrone’s hi-hat and two ride cymbals.
Like many longtime musicians, Ferrone has invested in a home studio, where he records his own material and produces young artists. “It’s just a little Pro Tools set-up, basically rigged up for drums,” he says. “But I do manage to do some live tracking in there as well. I’ve been fortunate in that a lot of great engineers and producers have come through and helped me set things up. They give me a sort of template. so I do the same thing again on my own.”
Ferrone’s current recording project is Malik Pointer, son of Ruth Pointer of the Pointer Sisters. “I had producer Eric Thorngren in there with me and we needed a vocal mic, so I brought some in to try out,” he recounts. “Now, my approach is just to listen and go with what sounds good, and the Shure KSM44 is the one that both ‘E.T.’ and I fell in love with. The vocal sound was nice and warm, and Malik had a great experience with it. We’ll definitely be using that one again!”
Over the course of his career, Steve Ferrone has developed an artistic approach, based around groove and tone. “I like to talk about sound in visual terms. Capturing the sound of a drum kit, to me, is like taking a photograph or painting a picture,” he states. “Like a photographer, it’s really the engineer’s job to capture what I’m playing and really make it pop. It’s my job to give them something good to start with. For instance, I play Gretsch drums because it’s so easy to pull great tone out of them. And I know from experience that mics like the SM57 and Beta 52®A bring that sound out better than anything else I’ve used. I really don’t want to hear anything else in my monitors.”