Probably one of the most important decisions I’ve made early on in the music creation process of Melodic Dirt, as a solo recording artist, was to record the guitar tracks clean into Pro Tools recording software. By utilizing software plugins after the fact, I was able to create while hearing distortion, but not obligated to the distorted sound, while the raw recorded guitar tracks were clean. Sounds a bit confusing but let me explain why this was so important.
Before recording the guitar tracks for this project, I hadn’t picked up the guitar in about 3 years prior to this. Though a little rusty at first, I had all this pent up kinetic creative energy that was waiting to be unleashed on the guitar. This energy and excitement was all captured once the record button was hit. Basically, the guitar track recording process was:
- pick up the guitar and plug it in
- jam out a guitar riff and develop it a little
- hit the record button and hope for the best because I was always open for ‘things to happen’ that were unplanned, a kind of improvisation that was always welcomed because sometimes that’s where the really cool stuff is at
So what’s the deal with recording clean while listening to the software plugins distortion? Well, I did not have all this really cool analog hardware gear at the time of laying down the guitar tracks. At the time I was all about having bragging rights to not spending lots of money on pro audio gear and getting the biggest bang for my buck with software. But after realizing that the sound was not really all that great, though not too bad, I realized that I needed to up my game. Most importantly, that my guitar work justified the extra added expense. I felt that it was worth it. I was really getting into what I was doing and believed in the results of the ideas I was recording. I knew that there was something there, and it would be a solid foundation for laying down some of my best work ever.
I used a decent monster cable, and the EMG’s were sweet. The strings, funny enough, were strings that I strung onto the guitar about 3 years prior, but I hadn’t really played them at all since. They remained rested nicely, loosened up a bit with the guitar while in storage in the guitar’s hardshell case, because I knew I wasn’t going to be playing it for a while. I guess the strings could be considered as old but new. So with the story of resurrecting my Schecter 7 string Hellraiser from it’s coffin now disclosed, let’s keep on point with the re-amping discussion.
After I had 7 tracks recorded with the guitar and was stoked with the results, well… the playing and the ideas anyway, is when I realized that I needed to up the ante with regards to the guitar sound. But did you think I was going to forfeit the energy and excitement of the original recordings? Hell no! That’s when I discovered the genius invention of re-amping guitars through nice pre amps. Thank effin’ god!
I truly believe this was a major factor in the end result of why Melodic Dirt sounds the way it sounds. I played my ass off on lesser quality software distortion but was then able to re-amp it through nicer sounding gear. That was part of the reason for calling this ‘Melodic Dirt’. I liked the quality of my ideas and playing but not so much the quality of the sound.
I did re-amp over and over again to dial in just that right sound. It definitely was trial and error with regards to the Mesa Boogie Rectifier anyway. And though I’m not completely sure, I may record the same way in the future. Because hey, what if I record through this hardware gear but realized after the fact that I wanted the knobs to be tweaked slightly different after the fact than how I recorded it? I mind as well record clean using software distortion plugins after the fact just in case. So maybe I could record clean through the Great River MP-500NV pre-amp initially, then re-amp through the Rectifier after the fact to fine tweak the sound later on.
I also used the Great River MP-500NV pre-amp for laying down the vocal ideas also.
Rupert Neve’s tape emulator also yielded some really nice analog vintage warmth and silky saturation to the overall sound of Melodic Dirt as well.
I intend on writing more about the music production in future articles. For now this should provide insight into the how and why’s of what was done and when.