I recently recorded an acoustic guitar for a cover version of Brothers in Arms. I used two different microphones – a large diaphragm condensor Audio Technica AT 4050 near the bridge and a small diaphragm condenser Schoeps CM 64 over the neck. I had seen pictures showing Mark using a similar approach from a radio promo recording he did a few years back.
I recorded both mics to separate channels of a stereo track into Cubase. When hearing the result I was pleased with the broad stereo sound and left it as it was. Of course you can mix both sources with different panning and volumes to be much more versatile.
I made a sound file for you for demonstration, you can hear the mix of both microphones but also both individually (in the mix and alone) to judge about their different sound capabilities. The old (1962) Schoeps is a great mic. It has a tube circuit and a nice treble boost for that warm and crisp high end. Of course there are many other great ways to position two microphones, this being just one.
The guitar is a 1976 Gibson MK 81 by the way. It will be featured in a future article.
Today I want to feature a little software that was available as a free dowwnload on the official Mark Knopfler site some years ago. It is a flash mixer with individual tracks of the song Sailing to Philadelphia, in other words, a software mixer that does not only allow to listen to the individual instruments but also to adjust the volume of these. For this reason it was described as “Anatomy of a track”.
You only need to download one file (mixer.exe) and simply start it on your computer (it requires flash), the individual sound files for each track are already included. Unfortunately the sound quality is not very good due to a heavy compression, and it is only the first two minutes of the song. You will see individual mixer channels for drums, lead guitar, vocals (both Mark Knopfler and James Taylor on the same track), acoustic guitar, bass, and another track for both keyboards plus pedal steel guitar.
It is fun to mix the tracks as you want, and it is very interesting to hear the tracks alone. As effects are already included for each track, you can hear details like the reverb or delays on the lead guitar. And of course it is great to figure out what Knopfler actually plays. Unfortunately the tool does not allow fast forward / backward, so you always have to start from the beginning again.
A real gem is the acoustic guitar, a fingerpicking played by Knopfler that was later overdubbed. Note how his unique way of playing adds so much rhythm and groove to the song, something that unfortunately was never recaptured on live performances of this song. I also tried to play a similar picking on the video I made for another article of this blog, so you might want top check out this one again to see the fingering.
The lead guitar was the white ’64 Stratocaster that Knopfler played also on stage during the Sailing to Philadelphia tour. You can clearly hear reverb, compression and delay on this track, also note the deep bass, and the percussice attack.
One of the last articles was about how to record a clean guitar, and the POD and the Tubeman have already been mentioned there. This time it is about what these two devices were mainly built for: a distorted guitar sound. You will hear the same track first recorded with the POD (lead and rhythm guitars), then with the Tubeman, both devices were connected directly to the mixing desk. Here is some background information on both devices.
The POD by Line 6 was one of the first commercial devices to emulate the sound of different tube amps. You can choose between different Fender, VOX, Marshall or boutique amps. In addition it features a variety of built-in digital effects. Like with most digital devices, the number of different sounds and options is astonishing. You can switch between a Fender Bassman and a Marshall JMT in a second, and you can save all sounds as presets. Due to the headphones output it is also very nice for practising.
This is the original Tubeman by Hughes & Kettner. It is all analog and features a 12AX7 tube for distortion. It can be used a a floor effect before any guitar amp, or as a recording solution in the studio. Three tone controls plus a mid boost allow different sounds, while the amount of distortion is adjusted with the gain control and a selector switch to choose one of four different gain patterns (rock, blues, funk, jazz).
There is no headphones out, but outs for the mixer (with speaker simulation) or to the guitar amp (without speaker simulation). As it is anaog, you cannot save sounds as preset of course, and there are no effects available. Although a tube requires high voltage, it is powered with only 9 V which are internally transformed.
To me the winner is the Tubeman, its throaty sound has a certain warmth that I miss with the POD but maybe your taste is different. And of course a lot depends on the setting on both devices. And don’t forget that the POD is an early digital device, later ones might sound better. I might compare more recent devices against a vintage tube amp in a future article.
What are your thoughts? Use the comment function to let us know.