Pro Audio Files

Reamping, It’s What’s for Dinner

Today was a snow day here in NYC.

[Editor’s note: we are embarrassingly late in publishing this article …]

We took advantage of the opportunity to feel like kids, stay in and make some hot chocolate.

Snow days feel like a free day. It’s as if you’re given a gift in time that allows you to indulge in things only you want to do…but, in your own home. It’s enough to make you West Coasters with your sea breeze, sunshine and weed dispensaries jealous. I don’t see you getting any free days from the weather.

Warm and Cozy

On this snow day, we decided to use the time to work on Abby Ahmad’s new record. We haven’t had a lot of down time to track some of the parts we’ve been discussing.

We’re gonna make some food in the crock pot, heat up some hot chocolate (which will turn into wine in the evening) and record some tracks.

Couple Too, T’ree Ukes

Abby wrote a new song on the ukulele that doesn’t sound very ukulele-ish. We’ve been experimenting with finding ways to make the ukulele sound less like… a ukulele. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but we’re both a little burnt out on the cutesy ukulele thing.

One of the neat things about a ukulele is it sounds great when you arpeggiate chords as opposed to strumming chords.

Abby wrote a song based around a creepy arpeggiated line called “The Count”. When I first heard it, I knew I wanted some kind of spacial effect on the ukulele.

Sometimes, we run the ukulele through a guitar amp to make it a little dirtier. But, that wasn’t the vibe for this track. I wanted a hi-fi/lo-fi delay blend.

The Reveal

Here’s a snippet of the Song “The Count” by Abby Ahmad.

Let’s Go Shopping

Going through my library of effects, I realized the Strymon El Capistan delay could be a cool match. I thought that cutting off the high end on the repeats combined with tape warble would sound great against the cleaner DI track.

There is also a hidden spring reverb in the pedal which is very cool. I have a couple of real spring reverbs that I love, but sometimes the El Capistan’s spring reverb does something special.

Routing

It’s a plus that the El Capistan is a stereo pedal. I’ve been recording in mono a lot these days, but that’s been project specific. Abby’s recordings benefit from stereo elements.

I had a mental image of the sound. I wanted the clean DI in the middle with the effected delay panned left and right.

When I say clean DI, I simply mean I didn’t run it through any pedals. I did process the signal with the 610 unison preamp, Fairchild 660, and Studer A800 plugins.

On the Fairchild, I set the threshold to 10 and the time constant to 4. I set the Studer A800 to 7.5ips, the noise off, and GP9 tape.

From there, I routed the output from the console to Line 8 which is where my reamp box is. The reamp box then fed my Strymon El Capistan.

The El Capistan came back into the Apollo on channels 1 and 2. I placed an API 550A on both channels cutting a few dB at 400Hz

I also added the Studer A800 plugin on each channel with the default setting, but with the noise turned off.

But Wait, There’s More

I should mention that I set up a mic for the strumming sections (and blended in the verses). In general, I’m not the biggest fan of DI stringed instruments, but using the DI to augment the signal can be fun.

With that said, you don’t need a DI to create creepy sounds. You can send any signal to the reamp box and process it. Either in real time or post.

Got My Finger on It

This is great news if you like to tweak tape delays and other analog effects in real time.

I will always take these extra steps if I feel like there are effects that aren’t captured in the box. Tape delay is one of those effects. I’ve used most of the delay plugins. I’m not saying they don’t sound good; I’m just saying they don’t do what a real delay does.

And yes, I do realize the El Capistan is a digital pedal, however, they spent a lot of time and effort to emulate all the elements of a tape delay. It has its own sound. I own a real tape echo that I also use a lot, but in my book, they don’t cancel each other out.

This is often why we collect so much gear in a studio. A piece may sit there for a year collecting dust. But, when its number gets called, it’s worth the shelf space.

For instance, I have similar feelings about phasers. In the box phasers feel anti-climactic. I still reach for my Jam Pedals Ripple when I need a nice swoosh.

Pull some effects off your shelves and experiment with augmenting sounds from acoustic instruments.

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Mark Marshall

Mark Marshall

Mark Marshall is a producer, songwriter, session musician and instructor based in NYC. More at guitaristmarkmarshall.com


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