‘Zed Leppelin 6 song demo’: Guitar Tracking Reflection

With the drums, bass and scratch track in place it was time to record the guitar parts for our 6 song demo for ‘Zed Leppelin’. The bands guitarist Daniel Cox is a real virtuoso and takes his role seriously. He is the former lead guitarist of ‘9 sons of Dan’ who in 2012 secured a deal with Atlantic Records (ironically the distributor of Led Zeppelins catalogue), but dropped the ball by changing their sound from American College preppy rock to something harder; turned out to be not exactly what Atlantic was seeking. What Atlantic wanted is encapsulated in ‘Diamond Skin’, (listen below) mixed in Nashville by J.R. McNeely (Dead Letter Circus, Anberlin). Gouda, Mozzarella and Camembert dripping off the white picket fence!

With a solid history of playing tight, succinct riffs and his 10,000 hours served, Dan arrived early, sheet music in hand to lay down his remaining rhythm and lead parts to the bass and drums already recorded. His performance was seamless with the double tracking sounding like a single guitar. Gotta’ say it is a real delight to work with an artist so dedicated and on top of his game. Unfortunately, Shay and I had made a rookie mistake (under pressure and worn squarely on my shoulders as producer), in our first recording foray by tracking all 6 songs in one Pro Tools session (read more here). This now wreaked havoc with our workflow at this stage as we were play-listing quite a few takes, particularly with the solo parts. After this tracking day, we spent the time separating each song into its own session which solved our problem, but the mistake proved costly, frustrating and messy. A hard lesson well learned and not to be repeated going forward. A snippet of Dan tracking ‘Black Dog’ below:

The most enjoyable part of this session for me personally was experiencing for the first time the use of a ‘Theremin‘ (the worlds first electronic instrument). This instrument was used in the original recording of ‘Whole Lotta’ Love’ by Zeppelin and Dan has been playing around with it for some time. The device was patched through his effects rack and into the amp where we used the same combination of SM58, MD421 (off axis), C414 and distant Slate VMS as positioned for his guitar. Man, the theremin was wild! We had the amp gained up near max and the sound was ethereal and disturbing at the same time. The funny thing was, as we were recording I had some film students knocking at the door asking us when we would be done as they were performing a sound check down in the void and all they could hear was the Theremin in their cans! They were not upset and excitedly asked ‘what the heck is that thing’, it sounds insane! Fortunately for them, we only had one take to go so all was good in the hood. Have a listen to one of the Theremin takes below:

Due to the consistency of Dan’s performances, we were left with some time to do some initial comping of the takes and got two of the six songs’ guitar parts worked out. Dan Cox is himself an ex audio student, owns pro tools and actually taught us some techniques we had not used proficiently before, which was great. Happy to recount that we taught him a few things too! All in all, we were extremely happy with how our guitar tracking went. We had used the mics well and got a consistent sound over the two recording sessions ensuring congruency of positioning throughout. In retrospect however, we did not pay enough attention to our reference tracks as the guitar sound is a little different in each, but we are hoping to rectify this in the mixing stage. It was an easy oversight as what we were hearing sounded amazing (over-driven Marshall and Gibson combo)!

Dan returned for two four hour sessions where we as a team decided upon which takes would make the final cut. He has left the manic theremin playlists up to our discretion and is excited to hear what we come up with. The next step of our journey was the vocal tracking which would prove to be our greatest challenge of the whole recording experience…

Our guitar tracking mic setup with the Slate VMS out of picture to my left…





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