guitar parts that were brushed or dragging. I
punch in Pro Tools the same as I would tape.
For the guitarist’s home studio on a bud-
get, where should he invest his (or his
I recommend a Pro Tools rig. I would say,
“What’s your guitar sound?” Get your
sound worked out for starters. For demos, I
can’t remember the last time I didn’t use a
Shure SM57 to record guitars. I always have
that. There’s no huge secret or magic. Have
good gear for the sound you want and get
a good recording. A lot of times the 57 just
works. Sometimes I blend another one in
for a clean recording, a Neumann U87 fade-in for ambience. It depends. Royer 121’s
are great guitar mics. If I use two mics at
once, maybe a Sennheiser 421 with it. I’ve
used a host of different mics.
What are the biggest or most common
mistakes guitarists make in the studio?
I see a lot of guys who play live come into
the studio and they’re used to jamming, so
they fret hard and pull strings out of tune.
The left-hand technique gets polluted by
playing live, or they have no studio experience, so when they fret that chord you have
to make sure they fret it straight. A fair
number of guys stretch their strings, and
if they’re playing fast it becomes difficult
to fret straight. If you make them aware
of that, it helps. Tuning: there are little
nuances in keeping your guitar in tune.
Tune down. I’ll use heavier strings. It makes
sense theoretically so as not to go out of
tune, but if the nut is not adjusted to fit the
gauge, the string sticks in the nut and goes
out of tune. A nicely setup instrument is
important for tuning.
A lot of guys, depending on the music, will
turn the gain knob up all the way, regardless. Sometimes the amp feels better with
a much nicer blend between the master
knob and the gain and will give a warmer,
crunchier sound that won’t get in the way.
I record with less gain than bands are
accustomed to using, and in some cases
they question me until they hear the track.
On some amps the gain knob adds fizz
that I don’t want, and I have to move the
mics a little more. Using your ears, listening and knowing how to adjust is the trick.
Do I turn down the gain or move the mics?
If gain gives a nice full bottom, I would
move the mics around or bring two mics to
the cab instead of one, to reduce the high
end and give a nice midrange. If there’s
too much fizz, it gets in the way, and then
the mix sounds crowded and the guitar
sounds aren’t clear.
Let’s talk about tracking a two-guitar band.
That’s a good question, because it’s always
very different from one guitar to two
guitars. It depends on how they relate. I
look at a band and I like seeing them play
before we record. I study the way they
play together. Plain White T’s have been
together a long time and complement
each other, so tracking live they make a
conscious effort not to step on each other’s
parts. One guy plays lead and the other
plays rhythm and they have it together. If
it needs more, we do more. Big Bad World
was a very simple production. One guy
played his part, the other played his, and
there was a lot of room. With Finger Eleven
I set up in different iso rooms and run
takes of them together face to face until
that magic locks between them. In some
bands, one guy is a better player and tracks
first, and the other guy tracks over him. In
Staind, Mike is a more technical player. It
also depends on who wrote the song and
the feel for it. I record the better guy first
and add the other guy’s parts. With Staind,
if Adam wrote the song, I got his rhythm
parts first because he’s feeling it a certain
way, and then I make sure Mike is locked in
with that. It can get hairy with some bands
because sometimes it’s, “You’re dealing
with my part.” I try to figure out the relationship between the guys, work with it and
decide whose part to track first.
What should the guitar solo do, and how
many guitarists really understand this
when they’re making records?
The solo should do whatever the song calls
for and the artist wants to express. It’s your
time, and let’s hope you do something
cool with it, not regurgitate a scale you
learned in music school. I love a fast, blazing, shredding solo, and a nice part, too.
Play within your abilities. There’s no point
in playing fast when it sounds like garbage.
I stop and say, “Play so that I can hear the
notes clearly, or simplify it. I need to hear
the definition.” I don’t need fancy moments
with the left hand and fluttering the pick. I
need to hear the solo. I need to hear what