The last nine months have been unusual to say the least with the covid 19 lockdowns and travel restrictions. Fortunately, just before all this happened I was smart enough to upgrade my home studio, not knowing how long this period would last for. Usually I would by now have travelled to Europe, USA and Asia, but of course none of this has been posible.
Recording strategies in the studio
One of the benefits of having a home recording studio is that it can be permanently set up for work. I record on a daily basis, often to sketch out initial ideas. I’ve realised the value of letting ideas develop and not to engage in editing too soon. Sometimes some musical ideas will appear and the key is just to get these sketches down as soon as possible. This is one of the tips I learned from my good friend Tim Booth the lead singer in the band James who talked about his writing and recording strategy in the studio. As a signed artist he would have to deliver material to deadlines set by the record company. If I ever had any aspirations to be a signed artist, these soon disappeared when hearing about record company demands!
Sometimes a song will develop from a set of lyrics that inspire a melody. Since March most of the material has been inspired by musical sketches that often come from just letting ideas appear. In the great songwriting tradition I look for a main verse, a chorus and a middle eight. I never really know what will appear, during this sonic explorations. The Dr Rhythm unit has been invaluable in setting up percussion loops that can be developed into full fledged songs.
The sonic tool kit, guitars and pedals
I’m a massive fan of UAD equipment and plugins. I initially bought a UAD Arrow unit which has been terrific. I recently added a UAD quad satellite which has massively increased the processing power available during the recording process. I have found the UAD plugins to be of the highest quality and the unison plugins which are unique to UAD are described as
“Unison™ technology is an audio processing breakthrough that starts right at the source — the input stage — allowing UA audio interface mic preamps to sound and behave like the world’s most sought-after tube and solid-state designs.”
These plugins used in combination with the ear trumpet mics are really excellent sonically.
One of the benefits of having more time than usual is that I have time to explore instrument and pedal options in some detail. I’ve already blogged about the superb Zen Drive 2 pedal that I have used on many tracks. I have recently added two Jetter pedals to my go to units and am especially pleased with the Jetter 124 Gold unit which is one of the best sounding overdrives I have heard to date. There are hundreds of guitar pedals on the market, but in my experience only a very few really excellent ones.
In terms of guitars I am using my Dan Ranson custom telecaster with Tom Holmes pickups, my Warmoth strat with a Moses carbon fiber neck and my Collings I35 deluxe which is also fitted with Tom Holmes paf pickups. Tom’s pickups are in my view the very best and he’s now at the age of 72 doing his last run. These are all made by hand and are hugely in demand by many guitarists with a nine month back order! Its been quite an experience switching from mostly acoustic instruments in recent years to all electric instruments.
This material will be released across four different projects, each with a different style of music