15 Oct AC/DC’s “Riff Raff”, Studio Version, Schaffer-Vega Diversity Series
This one took me circa four days to prepare, before final recording that is. I have been trying with the microphone position (Neumann U47) and with mild – really just a bit – equalization.
The microphone used in this album – or the microphones – was a Neumann U47 FET, a different microphone to the Neumann U 47 tube version, which is older than the FET design.
The FET design came into place after Neumann couldn’t source anymore (in good quantities) the VF14 valves (tubes) needed for the original U47.
Since I don’t have a U47 FET – and I don’t intend on getting one for now – I used the closest thing (in my mind) that I could use: its former self.
The two microphones are said to be slightly different, but I do not know in what they differ, frequency response wise. Eventually, will look for the charts.
Bon was also a user of the U47 FET for vocals, and I think he sang thru’ a U47 FET here.
While Mark Opitz – sound engineer for this album – talks about two microphones, the “AC/DC in the studio” interview talks about one microphone per cabinet. That’s what I used.
The final position is what you see on video, nothing really complex, a 3 inch distance from the outer right bottom cone, slightly towards the center of the cabinet. I always use the bottom cones, especially on the slanted cabinets. I had tried the top ones, but they give a “funky” strange response, you can hear a lot more the room and I didn’t want them. Better a straight position as on the bottom ones.
The sound of the guitars on this album is rather bright – especially on the rhythm ones – so I did slightly put some center cone as well in it.
Additionally, it is my strong belief that the whole album was recorded solely with Marshall 2203s, which is what I have done as well.
Now, the real news for us here could be the fact that I used 1979 Celestions G12-65s here. It was a much better instant match than the Celestions G12Ms.
The cabinet I used here is a “new” entry for me. It is an original, near minty 1979 slanted cabinet of the period loaded with them Celestions G12-65. It was acquired on ebay, from a disabled guy names “Philippe” and solely thanks to the help of brother/member Rob Taylor, who has completely managed from within the UK the pickup and shipping process. Philippe – being disabled – wouldn’t do anything but open the door at the carrier door buzz for pickup. Thank you once again, Rob! Additionally, the ebay link was proposed to me by brother/member SGAce – George – who has also had his wife give birth to two wonderful twins. Thanks to you and Congratulations, George 🙂
I did try it on a few Powerage songs (Angus’ parts only(, and I came to the conclusion that Angus used exclusively Celestions G12-65s also on Powerage (as well as on Back in Black, that is).
Therefore, I am going to draw a temporary conclusion here, which I have already shared with brother Franz (Banane) and to which he agreed (he was actually of the same idea, too): Angus used almost only G12-65s from 1978 (inception date) on for a good number of years. He must have liked them a lot better than the G12Ms.
The G12-65s sound a lot like G12Ms, but they give different things, too. Less bass and more tight; treble are “harder” sounding but not harsh; really, tougher I would say. Mids maybe are less prominent, more controlled. Very fascinating. Will experiment some on Highway to Hell as well. Generally speaking, find the G12-65s more controlled.
I am rather certain Angus did use extensively the G12-65s in that era: if you have some, or can (and want to) find some or even use those on amplifier emulators (in place of the G12Ms) use them as much as you can, record yourself and report back: we are very curious here of your own results!
The real difficulty here for rhythm parts for me were Angus’ “attacks”; i.e., when he starts playing in his own; there is no drums to hear and he is going on his own tempo; very hard for me to match (especially at the beginning of the song). Also at the end he does it again; I had to closely listen super-carefully (you can see that) and not move at all not to get distracted by my own sound and noise to get it right). After a few takes, it came off fairly well.
The rhythm part is pure adrenaline, with those riffs done with sheer energy. I am in doubt of how exactly he picked some parts and gave my best interpretation.
The pain for me here was the solo. Some of you have figured out it had to be a pain, and mostly it was for two reasons:
– almost un-recognizable notes due to speed and his own performance
– speed for a slow one like me.
To debunk the notes as much as I could (and for what it’s worth) I used ProTools slow down tempo function this time. Audacity is good, but ProTools puts less digital artifacts in it. I slowed down to 60% of original tempo, same pitch. As usual when I di this, I pick up one guitar in fine tune with the song, and start messing around for notes.
After one hour I had it figured out and had to repeat-play on the guitar certain passages to not forget about them. There are at least two specific points that come to mind where I did unusual things for me. We’ll do it on a tutorial.
The speed of it all was almost unbearable to me. I am not that fast, but he was and was good at it, by god! I had no idea he was that good at speed. It was good for me to approach this studio solo for the first time as it did put me against speed. I have never been particularly fascinated by speed, but damn, I could also use some at times, couldn’t I? So this will be one point for me (maybe, us?) to indulge into. But never leaving aside the timing (good timing) feeling and groove aspects of it. I would NEVER put speed in front of timing/feeling.
The types of scales he used here are also pentatonic with addition of a few “side notes”. Nothing impossible in terms of reach with fingers; but it’s the pattern he played them with that was difficult for me. And the speed. I remember thinking in my mind that I just couldn’t follow him. Had to replay for a few dozens minutes some parts over and over, until I memorized exactly the notes sequences and could then almost go into automatic mode, which “simulates” pretty much what I am sure he did (I don’t think he was thinking about what notes to make, though I just know he was willing to use specifically some notes to make the scale sound different than usual, as it is on the whole Powerage album).
While rhythm parts were recorded without the Schaffer-Vega Diversity (as I think was done in the studio for this song) the solo was recorded with my beloved Schaffer-Vega.
I can’t tell you enough how much I love it. It works marvels on all amps I tried it on. And different settings will give quite different tones.
Believe it or not, I also tried it on those small Marshall solid state things, the ones you clip to your belts; I love it! It just sounds Angus Young 100% (with an SG). This might well imply that the Schaffer-Vega works wonders on solid state amps. If you want my un-tested opinion on this, I think it will work on ANY amplifier.
Amp settings for both solo and rhythm were:
Marshall 2203; Presence 0; bass 2; mids 2; treble 5; Master 2; PreAmp 5 1/2 (five and a half). It’s rather clean (relatively speaking).
Guitar volume was on 10, and so was the tone knob. He might have done it differently. All open.