AC/DC’s “Back In Black” (Studio) New Series

23 Jan AC/DC’s “Back In Black” (Studio) New Series

Well, how could this one miss from the lot of the New Series? It couldn’t, is your sincere answer [sarcasm].

So I did it for you. And for me. And probably it won’t be the last time either. No secret, this is my number one, favorite song of all times across any musical genre. This is it, it’s the one that rings my bells.

An outrageous amount of work went into this one. Days studying (again!). Most of all, it took me days to feel ready again for the solo. When I felt I was, I went for both takes, that happened within a day of recording.

The microphone positions (micing) was as close as what Platt’s describes of his general technique on Back in Black (that is, of using two large diaphgram condenser microphones per cabinet) as it was possible. In the sense that, I kept trying to do what he described until it sounded decent. And I think you may agree with me, this one sounds probably the closest I have ever done ever. Both the solo and the rhythm parts, I guess, sound close.

The two microphones were set one on the edge of the upper left cabinet speaker, outer edge of the speaker cone, facing slightly towards the center, let’s just say in the general direction of it, as I went tilting slightly both of them until they sounded how I wanted them to. I was specifically looking for sounds that I hear on the album, and now I know what to look for. It’s impossible to describe, as it’s a resonance of some sort that in decades of listening, I have learned to recognize. And still, I wasn’t able to catch it, because I think it is an integral part of the room they played in Only partially I did, but I win’t desist.. It was easier for me to capture it in my studio than in this room here. Probably since there is no wood and there are glasses and mirrors here, I will never be able to grasp it wholly until I play in here (which won’t be long, since we have plans to move elsewhere). Still, I was able to capture a decent “Back in Black tone type”, definitely mellow overdrive, but cripsy, cracking. You literally have the feeling that the drive melts on its own, while  being on the verge of exploding. Amazing sound. God how I love this. I also followed indications that stated that the rhythm parts were recorded with a 1959 head, so did I. The solo instead  – Malcolm says this – were recorded with one (or more) 50w amp, so I used the 2204. I also tried the 1987 for a few takes, but the 2204 sounded better. I have spent hours trying to simulate the solo sound on the 1959, boosting it with an MXR EQ 10 band pedal and a couple of other volume boosts I have here, but it never satisfyed me. Then, on the verge of desperation, I remembered that maybe they used a 50w for solos. And thank God (or the Universe as a self creation) for the existence of the internet and its documentation, because as soon as I plugged in, it sounded like IT. Or a lot closer than the 1959. These amps are really different.

The 50w sounded more glassy, it was easier to make it glassier than the 1959. And also, it would overdrive (2204) just as much as I needed it to, without any boost, so much that the guitar volume was on 8-9. Definitely not on 10, where the tone becomes – you know it – harsh. And there is NO trace of it being harsh on that record, never. So the trick of lowering the volume knob on the guitar both for rhythm AND solos must be really something to look into sistematically. The 2204 head volume was therefore at 10 and the pre-amp at 8.

Treble probably at 7, mids at 5, bass at 2, presence 0.

The guitar volume for the rhythm on the 1959 was at 7, while the 1959 itself was at 8. No big surprises in the settings, believe me, it’s NOT the settings that we have to be looking at! It’s the microphones. I will stress it until I stress you!

Bass in fact was around 2 or 3, otherwise it gets too bassy here. Maybe it’s the attenuator, I’m told attenuators may contribute to bass frequencies to make the speakers work. Mids 4, treble 6. Presence 0. DO you see any new settings? I don’t think so. In fact, it was the way I put the microphones.

The other microphone, the second one, was placed about 6 inches away from the first one, at the very same distance from the grill cloth (not close to it anymore, probably 4 inches away), to prevent phase cancellation, more towards the center of the cabinet, with its general direction towards another speaker (the top right one). Again, it’s not that I set it that way and walked away: I started moving one or both for some time while playing the guitar with headphones on to find the right sound. Something that they did and do constantly in the studios, and which is considered by sound engineers a pain as it really is painful for their ears with such Marshalls. It is evident that the benefit of having an attenuator helps also in this field. It was and is a pleasure to try and dial in an interesting tone while fiddling with the guitar at the same time.

Of course, equalization in post (after recording) was also applied  to both the rhythm tracks and the solo tracks. I generally boost the 2khz frequency, and lower higer frequencies while also taking out some bass freqs below 100 hz. Some reverb and that is all. NO compression whatsoever.

I realized once again how much the playing is important with AC/DC. Like I didn’t know it. Sigh. And mostly, without the slighest doubt, the timing is King with them. Impressive. They are – or were – excellent, almost unthinkably excellent. I still marvel at them every time I intend to play seriously one song from Back in Black. Especially the title track.

But I digress.

I used the ’69 custom for the rhythm. You may see it has different pickups. Well, only one is, the bridge pickup (but I added the same covers to both, old burstbucker covers I had laying around). The “new” pickup in the custom bridge position is the… older Angus Young signature pickup! If you remember, it’s the one I had in the ’64 reissue. Since that guitar is a wreck now (I stole most of its parts to modify other SGs), I also took its pickups away. I also re-wired in ’50s wiring the custom (SG Custom) bridge pickup. It sounds “better” to me now, I undestand it better. It works more closely to all the other SGs I have. The AY pickup is still the great pickup I used to remember. I really like it. I used the SG Custom for no particular reason other than the fact that it sounds good and plays easy.

The solos were playid with Blackie. Why? No particular reasons other than, it has a very thin and small neck. I understand why Angus likes these: it’s easier to play like him with these necks. Particulalry, trying to emulate his vibrato comes more easily. So that’s why.

I am trying to tell you that I could even try and exchange parts with any other of these SGs I have here. In fact, provided that the guitar(s) sounds good and plays “easy” (low action, good resonance, no mis-fretting strings, etc.) probably any SG would work.

Fil "SoloDallas" Olivieri

We Are Rock 'N Roll People.

  • avatar
    Posted at 10:07h, 20 March

    Hi Filippo,
    You are really insane !! (in the good way of course;)
    Thanks for all these great videos !

  • avatar
    Posted at 19:23h, 24 February

    Hey my guitar playing buddies! 😉
    I’m after advice….Has anybody else thought that their lead/solo playing is pretty reasonable or even pretty good when unplugged, but when you plug into an amp, it seems to go all wrong?!? This semms to be my problem….Whenever I’m jammin to a backing track on the internet and my guitar is unplugged, I’m a preety good lead guitar player…..As soon as I plug in, it sounds like I’m playing drunk and haven’t practised for months! Sometimes the difference is so big its quite funny, seeing ow my playing changes when I’ve got a cable pluuged in! But really, its a REAL pain, and I’ve had this problem for quite a while now. Its not that I’m nervous of people hearing me or anything – I’m quite a confident person anyway. But this bugs me…Has anybody else ever had this problem? Any tips, especially from some players of my kinda level (Beginner/Intermediate)? Thanks guys!

    • avatar
      Posted at 19:49h, 24 February

      I have a similar impression sometimes, and I wonder if practicing unplugged most of the time is an issue; for me most of the difference when plugged is due to imperfect muting (left and right hands). I see it improving over time, so I try practice plugged in as much as possible (well usually with a headphone, so there’s no audience 🙂

      • avatar
        Posted at 20:18h, 24 February

        Same for me earlier. When I started to play along to songs or backing tracks, it went horrible. It seems that I didnt get the right feeling how to play right, how hard I should hit the strings and such things. And when I played to a backing track, I got confused a bit 🙂
        I believe, one of the secrets is seeing either guitar and amp as single instruments and one have to play both instruments correct, or seeing guitar and amp together as one instrument. Since then I only play unpluggd as a warming up or when learning new things. In all other cases I always play loud and with a backing track. Often this is one of Fils videos, it’s a good control for me to see if my timing is right.

        Turning on the amp, letting the tubes heating up and playing unplugged for 20 minutes or so, before making noise 🙂

        And when it’s one of the days where our family-internal agreements don’t allow me to play over the JMP, I’m using the mini Vox amp 🙂

        • avatar
          Posted at 21:47h, 24 February

          I end up playing soft/unplugged many times, when loud is not an option and mini amp with headphones would be impolite, like when watching TV with the family 🙂

          • avatar
            Posted at 22:34h, 24 February

            Oh, well, known situation. However, daugther watches in her own room and every 2nd day I’m allowed to do so, wife uses headphones for watching tv then 🙂

  • avatar
    Posted at 22:06h, 23 February

    Hey, Fil! How can I get the AC/DC tone on an JMP Super Lead amplifier without my head exploding? You know, because of the volume. I’ve tried with a distortion pedal but it’s just not the same.
    And nice video! Really enjoyed it!

  • avatar
    Posted at 15:41h, 19 February

    I’ve been playing Back In Black and songs from that album this week, so took another look at this one for reference and found your settings are the same for mid, pre-amp and volume control as I’ve (eventually) arrived at but bass and treble are the opposite? I read that you suspect it’s the attenuator having this effect and I think it must be? My bass is up around 7 and the treble only 2-3. Is it because of differences in our 2204’s? or the speakers? which type are in this cab, are they the 55Hz? my cab has G12M 75c/s.
    Also, with reference to the pick up article, you used Blackie for the solo’s yet it has low res pick ups but gives a great sound? My brain hurts……..lol

    • avatar
      Posted at 19:07h, 19 February

      my brain and ears hurt, too! 😛
      Well, these are my conclusions: I should have kept the bass freqs higher than I had. Always, for AC/DC tone. That is, at least 4-7. Yes your conclusions are right: an attenuator will boost the bass frequencies. However, this is very useful as it helps the speakers move, which is mandatory to obtain speakers break up, which is a TANTAMOUNT (lol) part of the famous Marshall drive. So I should never take the bass so low: I should use it high, and then take some off from the equalizer that I always use in post (the Sonnox EQ). As for the treble, when boosting a Marshall like ours without an attenuator, the treble frequencies really bloom. Such a terrific thing. But with an attenuator, it’s different. There – as you had suspected – are the differences. So all in all: yes, the attenuator might forces “us” to change some settings on the amp. I don’t believe at all our 2204 are different (as I think both of them are stock). The cabinet I am using right now is the 1971 one with the G12H30s, which are supposedly even brighter! Why am I using that one: just for kicks; I am trying to familiarize with both types (G12ms and G12H30s).

  • avatar
    Posted at 00:26h, 16 February

    Nobody is perfect, but Fil you are really near with a sound like this !

    We should make a petition for you to meet Angus one day and make a video cover with him ! Would be so EPIC !

    Greetings from France.

  • avatar
    Posted at 18:38h, 12 February

    watchin ur vids makes me want to change my les paul for a sg so badly ^^,

  • avatar
    Posted at 03:07h, 05 February

    such an awesome video. sounds exactly like the studio version! Any chance of a new series tutorial for this song made any time soon?

  • avatar
    Posted at 16:44h, 04 February
    • avatar
      Posted at 16:44h, 07 February

      Cool, man!! A lot of people is still thinkin’ they don’t use all that cabs onstage. I think it is true that they both have got a micked cab into an isolation box, for recordings and maybe for the P.A. sound that fills the entire stadium, but they have all that whole lot of amps and cabinets making the work onstage. No monitors for the guitar sound, I think…just drums and voices, and maybe the bass guitar, sounds trough the stage monitors… guitars goes as itselfs by all that Marshall and Wizard 100w amps and cabinets…Malcolm goes trough upside cabs in left side and right side-down cabs and Angus trough left side down and right side up cabs…

  • avatar
    Posted at 10:57h, 04 February

    Even though they used to 50w amps 2204’s etc in the recordings, am I right in saying they use the 1959slp’s on their live performances these days, I know malcolm uses a super bass and jtm45 100, but im sure angus uses a 1959 with a general setting for all the songs? Do you know what those live settings are Fil? 🙂

    • avatar
      Posted at 10:58h, 04 February

      Ahh yeah, I also wanted to ask you if youve ever used the 57 classic pickups?

  • avatar
    Posted at 14:19h, 02 February

    what speakers does this cabinet has? thanks and greetings from Argentina!!

  • avatar
    Posted at 14:00h, 02 February

    Listen to these soundexamples, very fine !
    What do you think about a 100W JMP Mastervolume from 1982 ?? Question for all of you.

  • avatar
    Posted at 15:13h, 30 January

    I don’t want to steal pictures from you, but I would like to see your photos in their real size. Can you make a gallery on solodallas.net? This picture rotator on the left is too small to see them.



    • avatar
      Posted at 18:40h, 02 February

      This is a good idea. We’re kind of restricted to the photos in each article or the random ones that pop up on the sidebar of the homepage

    • avatar
      Posted at 12:52h, 03 February

      Agreed! You have a lot of sweet looking axes! It’s a shame we can’t get a real good look at them.

    • avatar
      Posted at 07:23h, 04 February

      You can see them larger and take any picture you want from me. They’re for you. Just give me credit when you use them and try to not link to them (i.e., re-upload them where you want and then post them away). Just right click on them!

  • avatar
    Posted at 10:11h, 30 January

    Fil, don’t you think it’s time for Problem Child? 😀
    I asked you many many many many times and you always promised.
    Would be awesome! I still can’t get some parts of the solo right and I’m sure after looking your performance video everything I WOULD get it right. (Its always this case after looking your beautiful performance videos. Since you’ve been using HD I do not even need a tutorial, because everything is very easy to observe.)

    GREAT JOB! I think… its the DNA (you still got the strings? :P) of Angus which allows you to apply THAT high voltage into every part of your body! *_*

    \m/ Rock on

    • avatar
      Posted at 13:36h, 30 January

      I will. I have not been answering messages as I am now in Dubai, been here for a few days already. Will be back soon and will revert to making videos, including PC! Cheers mate, Fil

      • avatar
        Posted at 00:02h, 04 February

        Can’t wait for your return Fil,and maybe a Fly On The Wall track along with Problem Child??


        But that’d be a bit out of place I suppose,right?


        Not exactly the same era as the stuff you’ve been doing lately,but I wanted to mention it again to keep it fresh on your mind.

        -Cheers/Best wishes,

        Hope you return how safely,looking forward to some more videos 🙂

        • avatar
          Posted at 07:25h, 04 February

          Buddy I’ll be back on next tuesday. I WILL do those songs!

          • avatar
            Posted at 02:50h, 06 February

            Thanks again my friend,

            Your the man.

  • avatar
    Posted at 01:25h, 30 January

    Great, the sounds is almost the same. Excelent job.

  • avatar
    Posted at 21:42h, 28 January

    Yes! Beautiful vibrato (sound 🙂 . Vibrato is my biggest love!

  • avatar
    Posted at 17:31h, 28 January

    Hi Fil,

    Love it, and have to apologize for listing it on my mac speakers…
    Thanks! Ron

  • avatar
    Posted at 18:49h, 26 January

    hi solodallas I have a question, according to the info you give us, the tone you’re trying to get is the tone you hear on the Back in Black record, right? but does it mean that you are trying to get AND transmit it to us at the same time (through your videos) or that you have already reached the tone but it is hard to reproduce it through your videos?
    P.S: excellent performance!

    • avatar
      Posted at 18:41h, 02 February

      Youre hearing exactly what he’s hearing, he’s just trying to get the tone of the album. The video’s sound is more or less flawless coming to us.

  • avatar
    Posted at 17:30h, 26 January

    Hey Fil. I’ve watched your vdeos for….erm….a long time now, since the early days of YouTube (Remember?)….. 😉
    Gotta say, your tone in this video is simply astonishing – Especially your tone for the verses and chorus. Its pure AC/DC – I’ve never heard a tone so close to Angus’ before, probably because I never thought it was possible to get THAT close – I was wrong, very wrong, because this is something else. Great stuff!
    Hey, to Fil and ANYBODY else watching and reading, I play in a hard rock band, and we’ve just uploaded our first cover (Highway to Hell) onto YouTube. We have many others (Inlcuding “You Shook Me All Night Long”, “Back in Black, “Shoot to Thrill” and others), but just haven’t uploaded them yet. We’d really like some feedback, both positive and negative.
    Here’s the link:
    Would really appreciate any comments.
    Either leave a comment as a response to this one, or comment on the YouTube vid itself.
    Thanks guys, and rock on!

  • avatar
    Posted at 15:19h, 26 January

    Hi, Fil!
    Well, this cover ia best, as always!:)

    I just want to ask you: will you do Malcolm’s covers, find the tone and show some Gretches?:D

  • avatar
    Posted at 16:31h, 25 January

    i love this one, fil!
    your performance really shows how much work goes into doin’ it right, it always makes me wanna grab my sg and jam along, great!

    • avatar
      Posted at 16:34h, 25 January

      another question: what guitar strap do you use here? cause it looks pretty comfortable!

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