Parsons’ recording advice for guitarists: “Never be frightened to add bottom end.” Electric guitar can sound hard and thin, he says, but accentuating the
bass frequencies can help smooth it out.
Stereotomy), and touring the world to sold-out crowds along the way. He is an accomplished vocalist, keyboardist, saxophonist,
flautist, bassist, guitarist, and songwriter.
These days, Parsons maintains a busy
schedule as a producer, and performs
around the world with his Project. His latest venture is educating a new generation
of engineers and producers with his Art and
Science of Sound Recording series of DVDs,
web videos, and master classes.
Needless to say, after working with axe
slingers ranging from George Harrison
to David Gilmour, Alan Parsons knows a
thing or two about tracking great guitar
tones. Premier Guitar recently sat down
with Parsons to discuss his guitar-recording
secrets, as well as how he captured the seminal sounds on Dark Side of the Moon.
You’ve captured some of the most
iconic guitar sounds of all time—David
Gilmour’s “Money” tones being one
example. Mics are obviously crucial to
that. In the past, you’ve said you always
use condenser mics on guitar amps, never
dynamic mics. Why?
Dynamic mics tend to accentuate what I
would call “hard” top-end frequencies, like
3 or 4 kHz—and that’s just the area you
generally don’t want to accentuate on an
electric guitar. I’ve always had better luck,
in terms of smoothness, using condensers.
Do you tend to use large- or small-dia-phragm condensers?
I’m comfortable with either, actually.
Historically, I’ve used large-diaphragms
most of the time, usually a Neumann
U 87 or U 86. Somehow, I’ve always
favored Neumann over AKG condensers.
I favor AKG for dynamic mics, but I favor
Neumann for condensers. People often
ask me if I’ve noticed how many new mics
there are out there lately—new condenser
mics, new ribbon mics. I have, but I still
come back to the old faithfuls. I’ve not been
excited by a new mic in a very long time.
You’ve also said you avoid close mic placement on guitar amps. Is that still true?
That’s absolutely true, because if you mic a
speaker of an amplifier in a certain location,
you’re just hearing that part of the speaker,
you’re not hearing the whole speaker. So I’d
say, generally speaking, you’re not getting
the full picture. I think there’s this separation paranoia that people have with guitars.
They go, “If I don’t stick the mic right on
the cabinet, I’m going to pick up drums.”
The simple truth is that you won’t. It will
be fine—because the guitar is adequately
loud, and anything else is adequately quiet.
It’s not going to be a problem. Even on a
live take, you can go as much as a foot away
without problem. Live sound engineers just
don’t seem to get it.
Is about a foot away from the cabinet
where you start?
Live, I probably start eight to nine inches
away. In the studio, I might even start a
foot and a half, 18 inches away. And I