It’s The Musicians….Not The Recording Gear

Brandon Drury —  October 28, 2007

It’s not the recording gear, it’s the musicians. I ran into a video on NoiseMakerNews where a kid was doing semi-sort / okay Zakk Wylde style pinch harmonics. Then I ran into a video where a Zakk Wylde was doing REAL Zakk Wyle pinch harmonics.

I sometimes get asked asked how I got this sound or how I got that sound. I keep trying to explain to people that usually I don’t “get” sounds. They are given to me!!

I’m always looking for ways to properly illustrate this to my readers. It’s usually very tough to put into words. Well, I’ve got a perfect situation that illustrates perfectly why recording gear is NOT NEARLY as important as the musician.

Let’s Take Amateur Zakk Wylde Fan:

Let’s Take The Real Zakk Wylde:

Make sure you listen at the 0:30 mark.

I’m not knocking Mr. Amateur Zakk Wylde Fan. I don’t exactly have Ozzy beating down my door to play guitar on his records either. In fact, Mr. Amateur dude doesn’t seem to be a bad guitar player at all. However, he simply does not have the feel that the real deal Zakk Wylde does.

You may be saying, “What do you expect from a kid in his bedroom?”. The answer is simple. I expect a kid from his bedroom to sound like a kid from his bedroom. I don’t expect him to sound like a REAL mega mega mega musician.

When it comes down to recording quality, everyone wants to sound incredible but both the musician and the engineer need to understand that the “incredible” part and the “magical” part occurs long before the mic. It’s the players hands. I think these crappy Youtube videos illustrate this as well as anything. Forget the preamps, room acoustics, and everything else if you don’t have the magic before the mic!

I want to point out also that the Zakk Wyle clip sounds pretty horrible while the guy in his bedroom sounds noticably better from a fidelity standpoint. However, even though the real Zakk Wylde video sounds horrible, I can’t help but get EXCITED when I hear that wicked vibrato and absurd pinch harmonic power. This intensity is totally obvious even with terrible video camera sound on Youtube.

I think all of us home recording guys are actually looking for THAT intensity. You won’t find it in knobs, capacitors, and resistors. You’ll find it in the hands of a human being…or at least in the hands of a super-human being.

Brandon Drury

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Brandon Drury quit counting at 1,200 recorded songs in his busy home recording studio. He is the creator of and is the author of the Killer Home Recording series.

2 responses to It’s The Musicians….Not The Recording Gear

  1. I had been recording my own material in my small project studio for probably 3 years before I had this 20 year old come in to record with me and blow my frickin’ mind. I had always struggled to achieve “WOW!” in my recordings. Well, when this kid came it was like this light came on. I had realized that the whole time it wasn’t my gear, it was me. He was so easy to record. The tough lesson I had learned was that I sucked as a singer! My songs were pretty good, but in comparison I wasn’t singing them very well. Everything was in tune, and on time but lacked the tonal qualities of greatness. This kid had ‘it’ as a country singer or even as an R&B singer. I tried him on a rock recording but it didn’t work. Turns out I sound a lot better too when not singing the heavy rock stuff I was writing at the time.

    Think about all the great songs recorded back in the fifties, and sixties. Most of my favorites sound like crappy recording. Johnny Cash comes to mind. With Johnny it wasn’t the engineer behind the artist, it was the song. It was the voice that made it timeless. So get real about what you’re actually good at and you’ll find that “WOW!” sooner than later. Get real about the importance of musicianship and arrangement and you might even make money at it one day.

  2. Zak’s wrong about what causes the harmonics. It’s his hand and picking technique, not volume. Sure, a big stack might help resonate the frequencies, but it starts whith getting the string to vibrate against itself. Concentrate on your talent. The record companies are more than happy to supply the state of art equipment to someone who can pack a room with people with untrained ears.