It’s been a crash course in recording solo guitar to be in the studio working on the new Michael Jackson fingerstyle guitar album. The studio has officially kicked my butt, but I am a fighter. Next week are rounds 4 & 5.
Recording solo guitar (or solo anything) is an entirely different challenge from recording a multi instrument track. There’s just nowhere to hide.
Imagine a dish like a stew with 30 ingredients vs a gourmet dish with 3 ingredients. The dish with 3 demands much more care and precision. Any aspect of it being off can throw the whole thing off.
I have practiced and performed this music for a while now – played it on tour, etc. The biggest issue I have dealt with in the studio so far is tuning and intonation.
Coated Strings…Fool Me Once…um…never get Fooled Again!
My bad. I had the information and tools needed to do it right, yet I didn’t. Randy Hughes – master guitar repair, setup and fret guy warned me – coated strings do not intonate well.
Even if your open strings are spot on pitch, notes get weird as you creep up the neck. Ouch. Boy did that G string go flat as I went up the neck. I didn’t realize the cause until after the session.
I like Elixir Nanoweb coated strings, basically. They never sound as good as Martin SP phosphor bronze strings, but they last longer. If I am not on the road, I’ll use Elixirs.
I also have noticed slightly less “left hand squeak” from Elixirs so I figured, what the heck – how bad can it be. So I recorded.
Additionally…I had with me a Peterson Strobostomp tuner…but used my little Korg tuner instead.
My bad…on 2 counts on string & tuner choice…
Long story short…the lessons we learn are often ones that are expensive and exasperating. I need to re-record a bunch of tunes – and I had the information and tools to avoid this, but just got a little lazy.
I repeat, fool me once…um…never get fooled again…
Other Aspects of Guitar Tuning – Your Fingerings
Tuning a guitar really well is not so simple. Some tuning problems can be avoided by changing the arrangement! That’s right – even on a totally in-tune guitar, one fingering can sound more in tune than another. This requires an insanely high degree of listening.
On my version of “Rock With You” I do melodies across the top 3 strings. Now when I play D on the 3rd string 7th fret and open B together and really listen – OUCH!!! It just sounds terrible. Yes, it’s the right notes, but listening deeper, there’s a problem. New fingerings will come to the rescue.
The same applies for squeaks. Listen for them as you practice, and you may find that there are other fingerings which don’t squeak.
So often we’re just happy to get through a piece and we don’t listen to ourselves on this level until we are in the studio and it’s too late!
When you record, try using fresh uncoated strings. Stretch them well.
Before you record – listen for tuning and squeaks at home. Adjust the arrangements to minimize tuning issues and squeaks, and then go record.
Before recording a take, play different spots in the song and listen. Each song may require a different adjustment in tuning. Oh – and remember to have the patience to tune with a tuner before every take. Check out the Peterson Strobostomp!
JUST ADDED: Peterson has their strobe tuner technology in clip on tuners and even has a strobe tuner iPhone app: https://www.petersontuners.com/
Gang, my first 2 solo efforts were “commando” style – at home, with mics, background noise; music with warts and all. This time I want to give you and all my listeners the most excellent, sublime recording I can.
Ok, coffee cup is empty and post is written…time to practice.