This one is for the real gearnerds and features detailed explanations of the rig(s) used for the recording of the next Minor Giant album! Yay!
There are a few things that really set this recording session apart from most other sessions I’ve done. The biggest difference being that for the acoustic, distorted and lead parts the other bandmembers came over at A Different Tune studios to give live feedback (and shoot various funny ‘making of’ clips that should see the light of day when the promotion for the album kicks in). Usually I live inside my own cocoon when recording and people only hear the results, not the process. It was really fun and informative to work this way and although I don’t think this would work with every other band, in this case it really helped to taste their vision and go with them on the same wave.
Because we rented two beautiful AKG C414 mics we recorded the acoustics first. Our drummer Roy suggested to use the ‘mid-side’ technique. We put one mic right in front of the 14th fret (the sweetspot for most acoustic guitars) and the other on top of it at a 90 degree angle facing the body of the guitar. We recorded the top mic twice and the idea is to put one of those tracks out of phase. When you turn the regular mic up the sound should get more stereo to spice up the mono-parts. I must admit that I only heard the left side getting louder, but I might have to experiment a bit further during mixing. We recorded all acoustic parts with the mid-side technique, even the dubbed ones. This gave us an opportunity to decide during mixing to just use one guitar instead of two if the mix gets clouded up.
As for guitars: I used my 1978 Ibanez J-542 for most 12-string parts as it’s sound is just the prettiest. We used the 1969-1971 Eko Ranger 12 for some parts that needed to sound slightly more rough and less brilliant or glossy. I used my Ibanez AJ307CENT for all regular 6-string parts as my Morgan wasn’t around at that time. My Kumika nylonstring was used for 2 tiny passages. All guitars were tuned down a whole step except for the kumika and the AJ307 on one song.
We came up with a slightly complex method of recording the distorted rhythm and lead parts. My guitar would go into an active DI, that would run straight into the interface and split out to the input of my Line6 Helix. In the Helix I would use a few different preamps (mainly the ANGL Meteor, PV Panama, Plexi BRT and Cali Rectifi) with maybe a boost, overdrive or EQ in front of it. That signal ran into the interface and into my Marshall 9200 poweramp which went to a Box of Doom holding a Celestion V30, a Shure Beta 57 and a Superlux R102. Both mics went into a PreSonus Bluetube preamp and into the interface again. This gave us 4 guitartracks per performance: a dry signal, a dry preamped signal and 2 different mics. This gives us all the flexibility we need when mixing the album and leaves all options open in terms of reamping.
All main rhythm tracks were recorded with my 7-string SGH Performer tuned to Drop A. Most solo’s and leads were played on my Ibanez RGR320DX except for a few lines where I grabbed the Bo~el MC-7 or my brandless Telecaster to get a different sound. The same Telecaster also got used for some layered crunchier sounds using this rig. For more extra parts I used my Pacifica 12-string, my SGH Performer with sitar saddles and my SGH Performer with a Fernandes Sustainer.
We tracked all the above mentioned parts in just two days. With all our agenda’s (and especially mine) it made most sense to record the remaining clean parts by myself. Once again I came up with a rather complex singalroute.
My guitar went straight into my Helix where I made a patch with various effects and a preamp that would chance per part. I used Fender, Hiwatt, Silvertone and Vox ampclones for most parts. After the preamp the signal went to the interface (for reamping purposes) and into my Marshall 9200 which was still hooked up to the Box Of Doom. This time I only used the Superlux which ran through the Bluetube back into my Helix for some delay and reverb sounds. The stereo outputs of the Helix went back to the interface, giving me 3 channels per guitar part.
Effect-wise I only used a tremolo, a Univibe and some vibrato. All from within the Helix. Collectively we were trying to achive a more organic sound for the clean parts. A lot of ‘clean’ parts are actually quite crunchy to add to the atmosphere of the album. Chorus was definitely a no-go. 😉
The guitars I used for the clean parts were the Telecaster once again, my old golden Vintage Les Paul and my wife’s Ibanez SA160FM. The Les Paul was used least, the Tele probably most, but to me the suprising star was the SA for providing the most gorgious strat-like tones I think I ever produced.
I only need to record one secret ingredient: the so-called ‘Sparkle’ guitars. It’s something I used al lot with Equisa, solo albums and Joost Maglev. I will most definitely use my first SGH Performer and the Helix with the US Double Vib amp model for it. And maybe….dare I say it…..a touch of chorus?
As soon as everything is recorded, mixed, mastered and the release date has been set we’ll be ready to tease you with tiny snippets. Until then you’ll just have to use your imagination that has just been fed by this article. You’re welcome.