Our goal was to get a very Zeppelin tone on the way in and to focus on getting good takes with a good vibe, rather than just note for note renditions of the actual recordings. We wanted to lay down rhythm tracks, double track the heavier parts and add harmonies based on the reference tracks, with the intention of doing all the solos and more experimental stuff once the foundations were laid down. This also tied in with our plans to start the vocals because we only needed rhythm tracks down to get started on the vocals.
Our set up for the guitars consisted of an SM57 on access for brightness, an MD421 off access for warmth, a C414 on access for grit and clarity and the Slate VMS as a distant mic which will allow us options later. We also took a DI just in case.
Mic set up on the amp.
Gibson Les Paul, Sonic Wave Theremin and Pedal Board.
I think we picked a good blend of microphones and set them up in, consistent positions over the several sessions. We took pictures and referred back to them. We spent time playing with the amp settings, choice of pedals, the positioning of microphones and the balance of tones to get a Zeppelin sound. We overdrove the gain stage of each of the mics to see if it added anything we liked. We decided that the C414 had something we liked when overdriven, so we recorded it just liping the red on the desk.
Daniel Cox is an incredibly talented guitarist who knows his stuff. He had sheet music for all the Zeppelin albums and could sight read the music, but was more concerned with getting the feel right. He was very good at double tracking rhythm and he played exceptional solos in the vein of Jimmy Page, Eddie Van Halen, and Randy Rhoads. We recorded the rhythm tracks quickly and efficiently over 2 short sessions and spent the 3rd session on solos and theremin, we also spent 2 more sessions with dan comping lead takes.
A quick video of Dan laying down some guitar for Black Dog.
A quick video of Dan laying down some theramin for Whole Lotta Love.
There's a few things we could have done better. I feel as though once we settled on a guitar tone we just used it on all the tracks when in actual fact the tracks each have quite different guitar sounds. We really should have checked our reference and adjusted our sound on each song. As a plus though we do have a DI we can retreat and a number of ways to mix and blend what we have in order to get the tone we are after. So I have faith we will still be able to achieve the right tone.
Dan at the helm for some comping
Another really big issue we had was our daw management. When we came into the first session with the whole band we had sessions organised for the 4 songs we'd agreed on and the band wanted to start with 2 songs not on the list. This is definitely one of those cases where I believe we let the situation get the best of us and we just went along with it. The main problem is that we recorded all 6 songs in one session. This was perfectly fine when we were just tracking the drums and initial scratch tracks but when we started using playlists to layer guitar takes this became a complete nightmare to navigate. The positive to all this is that we learnt a valuable lesson and we were forced to split the tracks into 6 separate sessions and learn how to remove all the unused audio files to tidy things up. Adam and I jumped on two computers together and tidied up the sessions, which made navigation so much easier.
We learnt a lot about guitar tone, mic placement, and we got more comfortable using the neve custom 75. We learnt the importance of having a separate session for each song and thanks to Dan’s ProTools wizardry we got more versed on using tab to transient and on comping takes together. This has been an invaluable learning experience and the vocals and mixing session are sure to bring even more challenges.
For more info on this project check out my previous blogs.
Pre Production Plan
Session 1 Reflection