I just returned from a trip to Melbourne, Australia,
where I produced an incredible
emerging singer/songwriter from
Perth. Unfortunately, when we
started recording, we noticed the
intonation on his favorite guitar
was inconsistent. Believe it or
not, we had to stop tracking,
retune the guitar for each individual
chord, and start recording
again. Needless to say, he
was a bit frustrated his guitar
was not up to snuff, and the
malfunction disrupted the flow
of his playing, as well as taking
up valuable studio time to deal
with what should have been
an avoidable problem. Lesson
learned—prepare your gear for
Guitarists must view the recording
studio as one big, unforgiving
microphone that will
reveal every sonic gremlin produced
by your favorite guitars
and amps. And wasting precious—
and often pricy—studio
time due to gear-maintenance
issues robs you of all the good
stuff, such as actually making the
music! Don’t get caught unprepared.
Here are four easy rules for
ensuring your gear is in tip-top
shape before the session starts.
New Strings =
Sounds dumb, huh? Change
your strings. Duh. But how
many guitarists actually do it?
For the clearest sound at the
source—which obviously affects
the signal chain all down the
line—put new strings on every
session guitar the day before
or the morning of the session.
Make sure the strings are
pulled, snapped, and warmed
up to settle in and stay in tune.
Carry extra sets of strings in all
the right gauges for each guitar
should you need to replace any.
Get a Setup
Set your intonation carefully—
or have it done by a professional—
before the studio date. Guitars
necks need to be free of any
bowing. Adjust your trust rods,
check your bridges, inspect all
hardware, and make sure tuning
is true up and down the necks of
every session guitar. Almost every
producer and engineer will tell
you that great tone starts with a
meticulously set up instrument.
A fantastic amp won’t make up
for wobbly intonation.
De-noise all your pots and toggle
switches by spraying them
with a good-quality cleaner.
If spraying the pots does not
prove effective, you may need
to bring your guitar to a professional
repair person to seek
out problem areas and fix them.
Listen to the Cabs
Don’t pack up your amps for the
session until you have checked
them for any cabinet rattles and
speaker noises. Listen critically.
You likely won’t hear rattles
and buzzes on stage or in the
rehearsal room, but the studio
microphones will bring those
noises front and center, and
bring a quick halt to the session.
An Ounce of
These four tips come under the
heading of “Obvious and Simple
Fixes that Many Guitarists Don’t
Do.” Don’t be that guitar player.
Heed this advice, and get the
guitar tracks you were hoping
for—as opposed to feeling frustrated
about your gear sounding
like crap, while also getting
the stink eye from all the other
participants involved in your
Scott Mathews is a record producer,
composer, vocalist, and multi–
instrumentalist whose music has
sold in excess of 20 million units,
and has generated more than 30
RIAA Gold and Platinum Awards
in the pop, alternative rock, R&B,
country, blues, and dance genres.