Off the record

Each month, LA ses­sion ace and Su­per­tramp gui­tarist Carl Ver­heyen of­fers well- cho­sen words of wis­dom on life as a gui­tarist. This is­sue, it’s all about ‘ Frank’!

Guitar Techniques - - Intro -

I’ve been a ses­sion player in Los Angeles for 34 years, and in that time I’ve played on hun­dreds of records, jin­gles and tele­vi­sion and movie sound­tracks. I’ve also been a mem­ber of the Bri­tish pop- prog band Su­per­tramp since 1985. But my most cre­ative and soul- sat­is­fy­ing ca­reer has been the CDs and per­for­mances I’ve done with my own band since 1988.

Through those many years in the stu­dio and count­less record­ing ses­sions I learned a lot about record­ing gui­tars, and I al­ways try to in­cor­po­rate those tech­niques into my own CDs. With the cur­rent state of the art in gui­tar records be­ing much more about tones and tex­tures than about shred­ding, my goal is to make records that bear re­peated lis­ten­ing. I have to ad­mit that al­though I buy those shred­der records, I tend to check them out once and file them.

It’s the records that have depth and mu­si­cal­ity that I play again and again, and that’s the record I al­ways try to make for my­self. I start with a few ba­sic prin­ci­ples. The first one I call the ‘ Frank Si­na­tra prin­ci­ple’.

If your par­ents played Si­na­tra at home and you can re­call any of those record­ings, they sounded great. The big band comes storm­ing in, in all its swing­ing glory. You get the im­pres­sion noth­ing could be big­ger, but when Frank comes in singing, he’s even more glo­ri­ous! Frank is on top, al­ways. So I de­ter­mine which gui­tar and sub­se­quent tone is go­ing to be ‘ Frank’ on my track. I then des­ig­nate all other gui­tar sounds as

Play­ing all your parts out of one amp won’t yield a rich har­monic tex­ture, so try 6V6s or EL84s in the cho­rus and EL34s for the solo.

sup­port­ive. So the big tone, whether it’s a Strat, an ES - 335, a Les Paul or any of my other gui­tars, is given the ‘ big mic’ing treat­ment’. Close mic’ed and dis­tance mic’ed with some de­lay and the right amount of re­verb usu­ally gets it done.

The im­por­tant thing is to make sure the lis­tener can tell who Frank is! If I need power chords for the cho­rus, but I don’t want to over­power Frank, I’ll get two small amps like a Fen­der tweed Deluxe and an old Gibson Fal­con amp, crank them up and dou­ble the part. Small amps and dou­bled parts sound huge when panned left and right, while still giv­ing Frank some breath­ing room.

An­other idea I pay at­ten­tion to is the har­monic prop­er­ties of tubes. Out­put tube types all stack up their har­mon­ics dif­fer­ently, so us­ing EL34s for the lead tone sounds great if you don’t also use it for the rhythm tones. Play­ing all your parts out of one amp won’t yield a rich har­monic tex­ture; so try amps with 6V6s or EL84s in the cho­rus and use amps hav­ing EL34s for the solo or melody. Then you can switch it around for the next song. You can also com­bine pickup types by us­ing dif­fer­ent in­stru­ments. Sin­gle- coils, Fil­ter’Trons and hum­buck­ers com­bine beau­ti­fully in a track. And the P- 90s on my 1954 Gold Top are a ‘ se­cret weapon’ that brings char­ac­ter to any part. I re­alise that af­ter 40 years of col­lect­ing great- sound­ing gui­tars and amps, I have an ad­van­tage here. But if you ad­here to this one rule, you will, too. The rule is: If it sounds good, don’t sell it! There are many won­der­ful tones to be lay­ered and savoured for many years af­ter your record­ing is fin­ished. Carl tours the UK in Septem­ber and Oc­to­ber– see www. car­lver­heyen. com for info.

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