As many of you know, I use my guitar fort to drastically knock down the volume of my electric guitar cabinets. I do have to admit that the need for my guitar fort was much higher when I was using a 4 x 12 cabinet. Now that I’m using a THD Hotplate and a single 1×12 cabinet, the need to knock volume down is reduced. However, just to make it easier to hear exactly what a guitar sounds like in my studio monitors, I still use the guitar fort. I find the isolation makes it better for me to hear the performances, get the exact tone needed for a given part, makes it easier to record long sessions, and gives the peace of mind knowing that the cops aren’t coming.
With all these benefits, there is one things that isolation really sucks for in electric guitars: FEEDBACK! A big part of the sound of electric guitar is the guitar being pushed to the limit. As the guitar’s wood and strings vibrate from the tones crushing out of a cranked guitar amplifier, something exciting does happen. I kind of consider this the icing on the cake on certain guitar parts. I’m not convinced that every rhythm track needs the guitar being pushed to the point of feedback, but there is no doubt that there are times when feedback is extremely important or even required.
It happens from time to time when tracking electric guitars. The guitarist will be sitting or standing just a few feet from me and the studio monitors and they’ll go for this big sustain thing. As fast as possible, I’ll reach for the studio monitors volume knob and crank them up in an effort to get the guitar to feedback. In almost every case this simply doesn’t work. Even if I wanted to push my studio monitors (Mackie HR 842s) harder, I’d probably blow them up from the loud kick drum in the mix.
Today we encountered a situation with a band called Fists of Phoenix. They absolutely needed feedback for some parts. I had to get creative. We were going for high gain distorted guitar sounds. We ran a PRS guitar (I forget the model) into a MXR EQ subtly boosting 1Khz and killing everything under 100Hz or so into a Rivera Knucklehead into a THD Hotplate into a Celestion G12H30. I mic’d that in the guitar fort with with a Royer R121 into a Vintech 1272 into a Mytek AD96. (It’s weird how we don’t realize just how much $$ we have invested in this whole recording thing.. We were just having fun making noise!)
Anyway, we needed feedback. I could have opened up the guitar fort and attempted to get feedback that way, but this would waste a lot of time and still may not work. While I didn’t use too much power tube distortion on this session, messing with the volume would certainly change the tone and I didn’t want to mess with that.
So I got to thinking. My Rivera Knucklehead has a Line Out. I had never used this before and in fact I never really knew why an amp of this magnitude with come with a Line Out. As you may have read in a previous blog, I just bought myself of a Fender Bronco guitar amp (which I still LOVE!). We brought the Bronco into the control room and set it on a table in front of the guitar player. I ran the line out of the Rivera Knucklehead into the Bronco, but first we ran this through the volume pedal in Mr. Guitars Digitech Whammy. The Bronco is a very low volume amp when compared to some of the amps I’ve owned or used. However, in this situation, the Bronco proved to be the perfect volume. When Mr. Guitar wanted feedback, he just pushed down on the volume pedal and Bronco blasted the control room. I cranked up my monitors so he could hear what he was doing. To my surprise, he could still hear the drums just fine during this infinite sustain parts with amp cranked in the control room.
If a person were sitting in the control room, they would see that this was a very crude way of working because the guitar does jump out fairly loud when the Bronco was engaged, but when we listen to the recorded guitar tracks, the trick worked without a hitch.
I was initially considered about the performance. I didn’t think the guitar player would hear what he was doing while tracking. It turned out that cranking up the monitors was enough. I didn’t realize that in most cases, situations with infinite sustain don’t require too much of a performance in terms of timing. In these cases, they are simply holding a note out to get some cool noise and therefor a person can get away with cranking up a guitar in the control room.