I'm a multi-percussionist & drummer equally versed in orchestral, world and jazz styles. Featured artist at the Berklee College of Music Percussion Festival, on stage percussionist for The Lion King Musical tour of Australia, instrument consultant and performer for the Baz Luhrman Elvis movie and touring with Diana Krall & Neil Finn.
I'm highly experienced and efficient when working as a remote session musician in many contexts through previous collaborations with Bluey composer Joff Bush and video game composer Mick Gordon amongst many others. I have a large studio tracking space (4 metre ceilings) with all instruments setup with dedicated mics ready to record at a moment's notice. All instruments can be either close miked for an intimate feature solo sound or distant miked for a concert hall sound; or a combination of both. I also have a dedicated isolated Drumkit room and seperate mixing control room with full acoustic treatment.
How Many Instruments?
Generally $70 is per larger orchestral instrument (eg Timpani, Marimba, Glockenspiel) each playing for longer than 1 minute. One shot style recordings or short sections on auxiliary instruments (eg tambourine, hand cymbals) can also be included at no extra charge. Tracking a full song of up to 5 minutes duration on drumkit is generally $80. I'm happy to discuss your requirements so a custom quote can easily be provided before any agreement is made
How Many Tracks ?
All stems of close and distant/room microphones of each instrument are provided or a fully mixed stereo track can be supplied.
How Many Revisions ?
Usually up to 3 revisions for whole takes. Retakes and edits of smaller sections are easily accommodated.
Would love to hear from you. Click the contact button above to get in touch.
7 Reviews - 1 Repeat ClientEndorse Dave Kemp
Dave is a world-class percussionist. He's easy to work with and goes that extra mile to make sure you get what you're looking for. Dave actually recorded the best sounding tambourine tracks I have ever heard (and I've heard a lot). I'll be back for more!
Dave was very easy to work with; he made sure to understand exactly what I wanted and took the time to provide several options for me. The final recordings I received were of very high quality and also included a few extra recordings on top of what we had discussed!
I will definitely use his services again in the future!
Real percussion adds so much warmth and feel to a song. Dave was a pro all the way, making sure I got exactly what I needed. I definitely recommend working with Dave.
Amazing job! Dave created the perfect timpani arrangement and I couldn't be happier. Would definitely work with him again!
true professional musician and fantastic player to work with!
What can I say! The resume speaks for itself! Dave is a man of his word. The advantage of being down under is a huge help becuse while Im sleep he's getting things done. Very proffesional and courteous! Im looking forward to our next project 8 stars!
The percussion was amazing, it really accented the song in a great way. Highly recommended.
Interview with Dave Kemp
Q: Tell us about a project you worked on you are especially proud of and why. What was your role?
A: I was the on stage percussionist for The Lion King Musical tour of Australia. This was a dream gig for a percussionist and as the show was mainly playing to a click on my in ear monitors it was like a live recording session in front of hundreds of people every show. This absolutely honed my skills for studio work and the level of precision needed to nail takes first time.
Q: Is there anyone on SoundBetter you know and would recommend to your clients?
A: Sean Foran is an Australia based jazz pianist whom I've worked with many times both in live performance together and in the recording studio. His trio is Trichotomy and I can highly recommend Sean. I know Alex Toff, a drummer in London from our touring Australia with Patrizio Buanne in 2006. I can highly recommend him for session work.
Q: Analog or digital and why?
A: I mostly have a signal chain that is digital in order to get the cleanest, most neutral and highest quality sound possible for a client. If they then want to subsequently run my recordings through their own analog equipment in order to color the sound or add some more harmonic distortion then they are doing so from a position where they're completely in control of shaping the sound, rather than having any preconceived sound decisions imposed on them by me. On occasion, I do run my recordings through some outboard analog equipment when a client requests a "vintage" or "old school" tone which really help place an instrument sonically into a byegone era.
Q: What questions do customers most commonly ask you? What's your answer?
A: I commonly am asked questions like "Is this possible on the xylophone", "Is this in the correct range for the glockenspiel", "can all of those notes be covered on the timpani over that rhythm" ? Generally these are all questions specific to percussion instruments that unless you're a percussionist yourself will understandably be very difficult to find an answer to. My answers are always to advise clients realistically about what they are wanting to create on any given instrument and together we find a solution to achieve an outcome they are happy with.
Q: What's the biggest misconception about what you do?
A: Possibly that mallet or keyboard percussion can only be used in a melodic sense rather than as a harmonic instrument. I have a highly developed four mallet technique so can play chords just as easily as any guitarist or pianist can.
Q: What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?
A: Look at the experience of the provider, genuine feedback from past clients and the quality of their gear list.
Q: If you were on a desert island and could take just 5 pieces of gear, what would they be?
A: 1. My Gretsch Round Badge Kit 2. My Akg 414 pair of mics 3. My vibraphone 4. A computer/interface studio setup 5. A power generator to run it all ! That way I could keep recording and providing for clients on Soundbetter from my desert island !
Q: How would you describe your style?
A: My style is quite simply to offer the best recording I can for a client to match their vision for their music. I can be a chameleon in terms of style which I think is the sign of a good session musician - being adaptable and able to play what the song requires.
Q: Which artist would you like to work with and why?
A: I would have loved to work with Miles Davis ..... when you see the profound impact he had on so many great musicians over the 20th century you realise he must have been a very special musician plus he worked across so many styles .... and pretty much invented his own genre with Bitches Brew. Also a huge influence on me has been the work of Michel Camilo in terms of his compositions and improvising - I would love to play drums or percussion with him and feed off his energy in live performance or recording.
Q: Can you share one music production tip?
A: Always have a master fader track in Pro Tools !
Q: What type of music do you usually work on?
A: Lately, there's been more demand for timpani, but not so genre specific as there's been a film soundtrack, a hip hop track and a Christmas themed pop ballad. As percussion and drums are essential to so many styles and my playing can be adapted easily across so many styles, there's not really one specific style that I specialise in. I suppose the most rare service I offer is as a jazz improviser on vibraphone and marimba.
Q: What's your strongest skill?
A: My strongest skill is my abilities as a percussionist and drummer along with recording knowledge. I can very quickly analyze a track and match a sound or groove to suit it along with the best way to capture it in recording.
Q: What do you bring to a song?
A: I bring a 20 plus year performance career that has seen me perform alongside artists such as Neil Finn and Diana Krall, regularly perform in professional orchestras such as the Qld Symphony Orchestra, be the on stage percussionist for national touring productions such as The Lion King musical and also play drums in indie rock bands such as The Lovers of Modern Art. All of this extremely broad performance experience gives me a distinct edge in terms of matching my instruments, recording approach and microphone selection with particular musical styles and a client's musical vision. I'm also a trained composer (masters in composition from University of Sydney) so I can very quickly recognise the building blocks of a piece of music and know how my recording will contribute best. Alongside my music performance career, I have also had a very keen interest in studio recording and music technology starting with buying an original Motu 828 way back in 2001. Over the years my gear collection has grown considerably in both size and quality along with my knowledge and exposure to recording techniques as I've been hired for sessions in some of the top studios in Australia. In 2015, I purpose built a recording studio for my recording work as the shift from large commercial facilities to remote sessions gathered more momentum. This is a beautiful space, purpose built for drums and percussion with a balanced natural reverb. Lastly, I'm a person who when taking on a project will see it through to the very end to make sure that the client is absolutely happy with the results - I take on the responsibility of providing a service very seriously and feel I owe it to the client to give 100% in my commitment to their music.
Q: What's your typical work process?
A: Along with obtaining the tracks from the client I am to record alongside, I will gather as much information as possible from a client at the outset and discuss the kind of overall sound, instrumentation and micing approach they're after. I will then do some initial test recordings and send them to the client to ensure they are happy with the sound and approach. After discussion, I will then go ahead and record complete first versions and send them to the client for feedback. Following this, I'll continue recording takes with any revisions requested.
Q: Tell us about your studio setup.
A: I have a large studio tracking space (4 metre ceilings) with all larger instruments (including Gretsch 1960's Round Badge 4 piece Kit (12,14,18), set of 5 Ludwig copper timpani, 4.3 octave Marimba, Vibraphone, Xylophone, LP Congas) setup with dedicated mics ready to record at a moment's notice. All instruments can be either close miked for an intimate feature solo sound or distant miked for a concert hall sound; or a combination of both. I also have a dedicated Drumkit room with a made in Germany Sonor S Class Maple 6 piece kit (8,10,12,14,16,22) including double kick and a huge array of cymbals. This kit is miked up with top of the range Audix mics including a D6 on the kick running into Focusrite preamps. This drums room is fully acoustically treated for that real studio close miked sound. My mixing room also has full acoustic treatment and I run an RME interface along with Sceptre S8 Monitors. My DAW of choice is Pro Tools but I also have Logic Pro, Ableton Live and Reaper.
Q: What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?
A: For drumset, I've always been inspired by Dave Weckl's approach to tuning and attention to detail in attaining the highest quality sound from his drums for fusion and latin styles. For more acoustic jazz, Bill Stewart is a huge inspiration and why I have a genuine Gretsch 1960's Round Badge kit in my collection. When more hard hitting drums are required, I look to the sound of Danny Carey, Josh Freese, Jimmy Chamberlin, Kenny Aranoff and Butch Vig for inspiration when using my 6 piece Sonor S Class Maple kit from the 90's. Closer to home in Australia are also great drummers such as Dave Atkins and Kram (Spiderbait) to model my approach on. For my orchestral percussion recordings, I aspire to provide a sound quality that places these instruments in the great concert halls of the world such as The Berlin Philharmonie - which I have had the fortune to experience in live performance for myself. One of my teachers during undergrad was the great Alan Cumberland who was timpanist for the London Philharmonic Orchestra through the 70's & 80's - it's him on timpani for all of the blockbuster film recordings of this era including Star Wars and Jaws. As such a direct influence on me during my formative years I am hugely inspired by his approach to timpani playing and capturing a full and resonant sound from the drums. For my jazz vibraphone and mallets recordings, I've always admired the fantastic work of Dave Samuels (who I studied with at Berklee in Boston) and the slick studio sound of his playing with groups such as Spyra Gyra and Caribbean Jazz Project.
Q: Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.
A: Most of my work is as a session musician providing recordings of various percussion instruments I own from my huge inventory. Lately timpani has been the most in demand. This often involves creating parts myself that complement the existing elements of a track using my informed musical judgement and drawing on the wealth of experience I have across multiple genres and styles. It's common for me to provide alternate versions of parts so that a client can try out different ideas in a mix to choose what they deem best.
Q: What questions do you ask prospective clients?
A: At different stages of a project I usually ask the following: 1. A brief explanation of the composition and what you need my contribution to be addressing; The music style e.g. Jazz, Pop, larger orchestral, chamber orchestra, film soundtrack. The specific instrumentation along with the sonic or timbre characteristics for each e.g. close miked vibraphone with hard mallets, distant marimba with reverberant sound I am also happy to discuss your project via FB Messenger, Skype, Facetime, What's App etc. if that's a better option for you. 2. Sheet music if available or a cue sheet with specific timings in the session for each instrument. Alternatively you can place markers in your session file at the points you would like certain instruments. I am very comfortable improvising if this is more appropriate provided I have some guidance through a description of the kind of thing you're after e.g. "high pitched fast descending melodic runs for 10 seconds" or "spaced out single notes gradually getting slower with longer pauses between each" or if it's more emulating a certain jazz style or musician. 3. Complete session file with all necessary audio files or stems included if available or a stereo bounce down of your composition. I have a cloud collaboration account for Pro Tools if you would like to share your project via this method and see the updates to the session in real time. Alternatively any standard file sharing service is fine for providing the session or tracks like Dropbox or Google Drive. I have the following DAW's - Pro Tools, Logic Pro, Ableton Live, Cubase, Reaper, Adobe Audition. I have also improvised to video often akin to a foley artist so this is a viable option should you require it. 4. I encourage you to observe the recording sessions if this is possible via the streaming webcam in the tracking space. I have often found this to be the quickest and most effective method for consultations with clients on mallet choice, dynamic levels etc and for any arrangement changes in real time. It usually means that you get the end result you want sooner and have more producer control of the session. 5. A copy of your finished project if possible. It's always fantastic to hear the end result!
Q: What are you working on at the moment?
A: I am currently arranging and recording all the instruments for promotional videos and materials for the company "Experience Wellbeing" who specialise in songwriting retreats. I'm also an instrument consultant and specialist musician for the Baz Lurhman Elvis movie project.
Q: What's your 'promise' to your clients?
A: I will always work with you to achieve the very best outcome for your project.
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: I like the range of music styles I'm involved in, being a part of the creative process of fellow artists and personal contributions that I can make to help clients achieve their musical visions.
Q: What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?
A: I initially studied orchestral percussion at the Qld Conservatorium of Music in 1999 and soon came to the attention of the Qld Symphony Orchestra, where I've remained a regular section percussionist ever since. Increasingly drawn to jazz, I received an Arts Qld Professional Development grant for a summer jazz intensive course at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, USA. There I studied vibraphone with masters Ed Saindon and Dave Samuels resulting in being selected to perform at The Berklee Percussion Festival. When I returned to Australia I wrote, developed and taught the first ever curriculum for vibraphone as a jazz major study instrument at the Qld Conservatorium of Music as well as in Percussion Pedagogy. I was also appointed Percussion Lecturer at the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane. A move to Sydney in 2012 to accept the offer to undertake a research masters degree at the Sydney Conservatorium led to my involvement with the Lion King Musical national tour of Australia as the on stage percussionist. In the past year I've played or toured with Neil Finn, The Whitlams, Katie Noonan, and the Australian Ballet along with being a finalist at the 2019 Qld Music Awards for a recording with the band Soul Mechanics which I engineered, mixed and produced in my own studio. I'm also an AMEB examiner and my works are featured in the Percussion Syllabus.