31 Oct AC/DC’s “Highway To Hell”, The Schaffer Replica™ Series (SoloDallas cover)
With this one I wanted to do something slightly different than the previous two songs: use the TSR™ the whole time. Would it be accurate, fair and sound good all at the same time? I don’t know, let’s evaluate it together item by item.
1. Accuracy in the use of the TSR™ for rhythm parts
Isn’t it true that the original SVDS – The Schaffer-vega Diversity System – was used by Angus Young for studio albums mainly on solos? Yes, it is true. So why use it on rhythm parts as well – for studio album sounds? Because. Because it was also used on some rhythm parts! In fact, I want (I’d like) you to try an experiment.
And let’s use this very song here, “Highway To Hell”. In order for you to try this experiment you have to have some sort of audio processing software and the original studio track Highway To Hell. So prior to reading further, go find both (hint: you can download for free the excellent Audacity, available for both Windows and Mac platforms; regarding your copy of Highway To Hell, please purchase it, don’t go downloading it around!).
Now that you are set up on both accounts, open your software – I am making the assumption you have Audacity, but ProTools – just as an example – has the same simple function, too – and load the song into it. What we are going to do is to “mono” the left stereo channel – that would be normally Malcolm’s channel – as I want you to pay attention to one thing.
In order to do this, you have to click on the track tab to the left, and then look for “split stereo track” (or something like this). Once you did split the track, mute the right channel (Angus’) and click on the left channel tab onto “mono” to make it mono (i.e., won’t be all panned to the left, but a comfortable, natural “centre” position).
If you aren’t able to do it, ask me in the comments will try and do it together.
If instead you were able to, now please click play and listen.
You should be listening to Angus repeating his rhythm track in the centre position of the stereo spectrum. This is a “third” rhythm guitar! Angus started adding these since the times of Let There Be Rock, and probably even earlier. It was a trick used by the production so that the guitars sounded bigger, fatter. Usually he copied his rhythm part on the right, but differences occurred in time (one example that comes to mind is “You Shook Me All Night Long”).
In short, you are precisely listening to Angus playing a rhythm track – until the solo breaks in – played with… the Schaffer-Vega Diversity. In fact, Angus laid all of the additional parts from the control room – once the main rhythm backing track had been recorded off of the floor with the whole band.
This was – once again – pretty much a formula that worked (and still works.. they are still doing it this way!) so they simply stuck to this. He was comfortable playing from the control room over the band’s backing track. He’d lay down a few solos, at times guided by the producer (especially for the best albums) and that was that. Now, in the early times, he did play with a cable from the control room. This is simply something that is relatively easy to accomplish.
But since August 1977, Angus was owner of the Schaffer-Vega Diversity, and he liked much the way it operated and sounded. So he used simply that in the studio.
WHY not with the band “off of the floor too”, then?
I don’t know precisely, but I know I can guess.
– Short cables. It is a known fact that if you want your guitar to sound at its best – i.e., leveraging to the most the instrument and amplifier tonal qualities – you have to have short cables. So, in order a great rhythm tone (Angus) they probably connected him most of the times with cables with the rest of the band.
– Hiss. The SVDS (and partly, the TSR™) are hissy.
2. Sound Good. You be the judge. I think it does sound good, “this sound” being an average version between the right channel sound you hear on the song – and that was without the SVDS much likely – and the centre channel sound (with SVDS). My version is in between them, since I still wanted to be on the right – rhythm – but wanted to use the TSR™ on rhythm parts as an experiment.
Settings were very, very mild as always. Presence 0, Bass 4, Treble 6, Mids 5. Master Volume was on 5 and Pre amp was on 5 or 6. The TSR™ was 50% companding and 50% boost. Guitar volume 10, guitar tone 5.
Please note: I think one more or less constant component of the rhythm and at times, solo sounds for Angus on this album is the tone knob of the bridge pickup set at 5-ish.
It might sound not right to you if you listen by ear, but once you shove a microphone in there, you will change your mind. It is also one of the “defining” aspects of the movie Let There Be Rock Angus’ tone side. The closed tone knob. Angus was not at all new to this “studio” trick. Something very common with him (and many, many more guitar players of the era) to close the tone knob mostly for soloing. Reason being the usual one: without the SVDS (or other boosts), a Gibson hum bucker on a Marshall amp can be real thin and harsh when on 10. So you do get more drive, but also a very penetrating sound than can sound thin as heck. Did I mention it can be harsh sounding? So what they did usually was to close the tone knob some, and you’ll get more of the body of the sound. And you’ll still get the high frequencies! But without lots of those HMF (mid high frequencies) that can really be a pain. It’s an equaliser basically, in its own right. Use and experiment with it!