Track You Down
This month I’ve decided to take a crucial
side trip into an area that is extremely
useful for discovering exactly how you
sound to both yourself and your respective audience. What it is you ask? The
answer is the art of recording. The importance of this to your self-discovery cannot
Before the emergence of the good old
two-track cassette reel-to-reel tape recorder there were all kinds of hassles involved
in making any type of multi-track recording.
Most of us were challenged in this department because at the time a standard
consumer quality two-track tape deck
was quite expensive – fetching even more
money than a good Gibson or Fender electric guitar.
Fortunately, things are much different today
– you can now create decent recordings of
yourself, even on a budget. Several of the
most important tools you should own in
this day and age of high quality, bang-for-the-buck multi-track digital recorders are a
few decent quality microphones, such as
the Shure SM 57 and the Sennheiser e609
S Silver model. Both are dynamic mics,
ideal for close mic’ing an amp’s speaker.
You will also want a decent condenser
microphone for distant mic’ing, such as
the Audio-Technica AT4040. The Shure and
Sennheiser should cost approximately $89
to $110, while the condenser mic can be
found for around $300.
So why are we talking about microphones?
I’ll admit that I got into recording very late
in the game – I should have had a simple
four-track machine 20 years earlier than I
did. However, this turned out to be a blessing in disguise. When I finally stumbled into
multi-track recording, I first tried to capture
myself as I truly sounded. I had a unique
opportunity to review microphones beforehand, so I took my time in listening to
about 20 different models of both dynamic
and condenser mics, and then chose the
DEAN FARL EY
models that sounded the best to my ear
– in other words “like me.” This early multi-microphone experiment was the critical
glue that eventually led me to discover that
everything matters in the reproduction of
what we refer to as sound. Chances are
if I hadn’t done such extensive listening I
wouldn’t be writing this column now.
The Audio-Technica AT4040
Your objective should be to simply observe
what happens any time the signal chain
gets altered, and it just so happens that
the very best way to find out how these
alterations change the soundscape is to
record them and then compare the differences side-by-side. There are huge benefits
on many levels to trying this. First, you’ll
get an honest glimpse at how you sound
at that moment. And second, you’ll be able
to experiment to your heart’s content until
you tweak everything to where it sounds
how you want it to sound.
There are two basic components I want to
concentrate on right here: tone and style.
The second component – style – is the
direct result of the first element – tone.
These two components will co-exist and
flow into each other as long as you pay
attention to how your playing evolves from
any tonal changes that have been made to
your signal path.
Let’s use a simple fuzz pedal as an
example. There are a ton of fuzz boxes on
the market today and they all have their
own sound to offer. However, all of them
will severely affect how you play the guitar,
partly as a result of their sound, but more
importantly in the way the pedal feels.
Have you ever noticed that some players
sound incredible playing a particular model
of fuzz, while others will sound quite bad
using the very same fuzz?
This is one of those things that may take
some time, on a few levels. There is generally a learning curve where your mind will
have to completely surrender to and accept
the given effect in order to properly adapt
your fingers and touch for getting the
optimal results with any given fuzz pedal.
Remember, touch includes your picking
This is just one example of how you can
use the technique of recording yourself
to see whether something really works
for you or not. Any way you look at it,
this technique will immensely increase
your ability to weed out any component
that isn’t “you,” while at the same time
giving you ample opportunities to find
the things you need to create your own
personal stamp. The key issue here is to
be open-minded and flexible, as you can
never know what will give you what you’re
looking for. But most importantly, have fun
is the chief designer of "Snake Oil Brand Strings"
( sobstrings.net) and has had a profound influence
on the trends in the strings of today