Thursday, July 16, 2009

Post #201


Welcome to Post #201! What is it? A VFW?


Wow, I just looked. The Doghouse is 200 posts strong as of this writing! Thanks for reading.
It confirms popular suspicion - I talk a lot.

So, I feel extra-compelled to say something of substance today. Something that is useful, pertinent, and profound.

I got to entertain the cub scouts! That was pretty fun. I even signed a few autographs. I drove by their camp today to drop off some business cards, and one of 'em said "hey, that's the rockstar!"

OK, all joking aside, here's a cool lesson:

I'm a subscriber to EQ magazine. Nope, it's not a fashion for horses (Equine Quarterly.) It's a recording magazine, and it's pretty cool. They're always hollering about mic placement.

The principle is this - not only does it matter what mic you use to record, it matters where it is in the room in relation to the amp. Dead center in front of the speaker cone, touching the grille cloth is the norm. But you can get "room" in the sound by putting it a few feet back, tone down the highs by placing it off-axis of the speaker, add sparkle by putting it in a bucket in the back of a '57 pickup, etc etc. (Just kidding about the last one, but that being said, doing crazy stuff will yield nifty sounds.)

One thing that guitarists often fail to realize is that this applies to live playing as well. For those of us who either a.) aren't blessed to have a ten-foot tall wall of amps, or b.) are snobbish like me, and spend way too much on vintage sounding combos, the amp is usually trying to chew our ankles off.

The amp's on the floor, good people.

Physics will tell us that sound waves will refract (bend) around objects smaller than the wavelength. This can explain why the bass guitar, with it's very long wavelength of the low frequency, will find it's way everywhere in the room. But the guitar, with a higher frequency, has a tendency to be easily blocked.

This, in turn, creates a "beaming" effect from our amps. If you're right in front of it, you'll have to locate your ears - they'll be blasted off. But stand up, and you'll just hear a dull roar.

For starters, get that amp off the ground. If you're playing a gig with a combo amp, try putting it on a chair. Better yet, get an amp stand that tilts the unit back. You'll be able to hear things way better, and so will the crowd.

My good buddy and recording guru Mike has told me many times to listen directly in front of the speaker to hear your tone. Every time I record, I'm taken aback by the harshness of the sound. While it's in part the mics and preamps I'm using, it's also that I'm used to listening from a different perspective. So listen to in at the source!

If the opposite is the problem, and management isn't happy with the earsplitting highs that your JCM six billion mega stack is throwing off - turn the amp so it's facing the wall.

If your bass cab in your home studio is lacking in oomph, put the sucker in the corner. Corners amplify low frequencies, and can be a real headache for acoustic engineers. But for us fellas looking to make cheap speakers sound kickin', give it a shot!

The point is, folks, is experiment, and see what new sounds ya get. I guess you could almost say it's like the ancient practice of Feng Shui - The Chinese Art of Placement. (Sorta like a cosmic interior design - put the picture of Hendrix over the door to ensure the spirit of Rock is always welcome.)

Rock on!

- Josh

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