sensational. I’ve heard great things about
[Digidesign’s] Eleven. It’s certainly a viable
way of recording guitars, and in the right
hands, in the context of a band with bass,
vocals and drums, lots of times you can’t
tell the difference if you tweak the sound
up right. The tough part of the equation is
in between sound. [Vox] AC30 sounds are
matchless, the crystalline tube breakup, but
depending on the setting, I’ve come close on
a virtual amp and it works.
On a budget home record, and also if you
want to stay in your relationship, you can
do that through Amp Farm. It’s staggering
what these guys have done. And past that, it
comes down to music. A humbucker guitar
and a single-coil guitar—to me, P-90s are
almost the most usable sound in recording—it’s between a humbucker and a single
coil. I tend to live in that world, but again, it
depends on your music. Do you need a Vox?
A Marshall? A Fender? That’s big coin. That’s
why I suggest virtual stuff.
How do you keep from overstepping your
boundaries while tracking?
How do guitarists get themselves into tech-
nical trouble in the studio?
Usually the problems start in the EQ, not
knowing sometimes that certain frequencies
you would think are bad frequencies, like
midrange, are very important to have and
not lose. A lot of the presets on gear and
newfangled stuff we talked about is the smi-ley-face curve. They take the ugly mid-range
frequency out and it sounds lush and hi-fi,
but in a drums/bass/vocals setting the sound
disappears. In ensemble playing, somebody’s got to take up the midrange frequency, and they end up being the defining part
of the sound. Midrange is a wild and wacky
world in itself. The core of guitar sound truly
is in midrange—it’s a battlefield, but in the
context of a band it sounds great. Part B to
that is over-effecting things, learning how to
play to the palate and realizing that a sound
that you got on your own at one place…
that doesn’t mean it’s applicable in another
setting. It has to be flexible.
Within the context of the music, what
should the guitar solo do, and how many
guitarists really understand this when
they’re making records?
Boy, that’s beauty in the eye of the beholder. I tend to like any kind of guitar solo as
long as it serves a higher purpose in the
song. A big part of the equation is finding
out if the solo is necessary. In a band, part
of the musical identity is the guitar solo,
but I find that solos come at a point when
you need a break from the lyric. It all comes
down to composition. I don’t like a solo
to sound notated. I like it to be musically
independent, stand alone, like a thought-out
piece but played like it was improvised, like
it just happened. People put preeminence
on “Was it improvised? Was it one take?” I
don’t put importance on that. Whether it’s
one take or one week, the question is, “Was
it effective? Do you want to hear it? Can you
sing it or hear it in your head as a melody
you don’t zone out on?” If non-musicians
like it, that’s my definition of a good solo.
Play less for impressing of other guitar players. If you play a solo for other guitarists,
you’re probably missing the boat.
The important thing is that you want people
to feel ownership in something. Based on my
own experiences, if people cut into quality,
I felt handcuffed. If you listen long enough,
you find something useful in everyone’s
interpretations. I try to be as noninvasive,
creatively, as I can. With artists it goes back
to partnership. I don’t dictate. I do a lot of
suggesting, and I find it helpful to sit in close
proximity and hand the guitar back and forth
to each other. Guitarists have their own language that involves nods and grunts. You
throw ideas back and forth and find the spot
where it becomes effective.
What are the biggest or most common mis-
takes guitarists make in the studio?
Turning themselves up too loud and not listening to anybody else. You have to listen in
context. That’s the biggest mistake any musician makes. Most studios now have listening
capabilities with mixers, and it’s like every
musician has a board mix for themselves.
It’s helpful in certain situations, but back in
the day there was only the studio cue mix.
Everybody had to listen to the same mix and
it was all in context. No one had the ability to
turn down the vocal, keyboards or the other
guitar player, and it led to more ensemble-type playing, which ultimately is what you’re
doing. Music is about relationships. Great
single parts are just that, but if the whole is
not moving in the same direction, you tend
to not listen to that music again.