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«Tales From the LabRecording Diary #39 (or, it’s hard to record when the weather gets nice.) »


Is that even a word?

Well, it is now.

As a new song unfolds and becomes a living, breathing entity of sorts, it sometimes whispers in a musician’s ear about what it wants – what it needs – to survive and flourish. Sometimes it’s a tweak to the arrangement, a suspended chord here or there, a change in key or time signature, and sometimes a song just cries out… just begs for a particular sound.

For months now, a song that was being developed under the title “Black Hole” (now called “Atari U.S.A.”) was whispering in my ear that it could really use a dose of rotary speaker from the vintage Cordovox that’s been sitting quietly in the corner of Badvision Studios for some time now. At first i wasn’t sure… i’m usually more of a “chorus” effect kinda guy when it comes to giving a spatial or modulation effect. But something in my instincts told me this might work.

Tonight was my long-awaited opportunity to lay down my tracks for this song. We’re actually recording two versions of it… a normal version and a “quiet” version. I initially thought i might use the rotary speaker on the normal version, but i felt there was maybe too much already going on sonically, and it might make the track too busy.

So i plugged my Agile T-7 Texan (a seven-string Telecaster copy) into my Mesa F-30 which we mic’d up in the Badvision kitchen (Badkitchen?). I plugged straight into the amp… no boost, no effects, nothing. Didn’t even use the amp’s reverb. Just the sound of the amp pumping through a Mesa Thiele 1×12 cab and reverberating off the hardwood floor, the walls, and various large and small appliances. I pushed the gain of the clean channel pretty hard until it was giving a nice thick “purr” with a bit of breakup when i really leaned into the strings. Then i backed off the volume a bit on the guitar. Amazing dynamics from this amp. The tone was just spectacular, and it sits really nicely in the mix against Steve’s guitars.

When it came time to record the quiet version of the song, Ed and i hauled the Cordovox up the stairs into the kitchen and hooked it up to my F-30. We then set about mic’ing it up with a pair of Shures (one on either side) and his trusty Zoom H4 in the middle of the room as a stereo room mic to fill in the middle of the mix.

Now, i’ve played digital Univibe modelers that simulate the sound of a rotary speaker, and it’s an interesting sound that definitely has its uses, but the sound of a pushed tube amp driving the real thing and picked up with stereo microphones is nothing short of jaw-dropping. And the Tele was the perfect guitar for it, too. It has a clarity and punch in the low end, a sweet midrange and bell-like chiming highs that cut through with just a hint of twang. Combine those attributes with the swirling, pulsating rotary speaker, and it’s, well… a tonegasm.

Another song is whispering to me about Ed’s accordion… but that’s another story.

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Posted by darren under recording diary
«Tales From the LabRecording Diary #39 (or, it’s hard to record when the weather gets nice.) »

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