You know me (at least a bit) and therefore understand that not too long has to pass for me to go back to my personal holy grail, that being the “Back in Black” sound. But I attempted this time with a slightly different ingredient (a few actually) this including a new (bought used) Marshall YJM (Yngwie Malmsteen signature amp) and – in the recording process – a Peluso P67 microphone, supposedly being an “inspired by” microphone – a clone of a Neumann U67, basically. My own vintage Neumann U67 in fact is being checked as it started to saturate at medium volume – something it is not supposed to be doing, and with a vintage microphone of this caliber (considered by many as “THE” microphone) I better take good care of it. Updated Audio/Video Version on our Server
I had started for curiosity playing the rhythm track on my older set of G12Ms “blackbacks” (as opposed to greenbacks, these are supposedly the same speakers, only produced in the mid to late 1970s, a time that seemingly was short of green plastics – only difference being the colour!), as I am always willing to put my previous findings to test in time (and sometimes, this has caused me to review my own findings) but this was not the case. As soon as I placed the two microphones – one vintage Neumann U87 and the Peluso P67 on the lower two speakers of my Marshall B cabinet loaded with the G12M “blackbacks” and hit record, I realised something was off. This something, provided I placed the microphones correctly (which I think I did, simply following what I had learned from the great Tony Platt who used this technique himself on all of Back in Black: you put them at the same distance – roughly 3 cm – from the grill cloth, paying attention to not having them out of phase, and pointing to the general direction of two different speakers) was excess brightness/mid frequencies. I found myself having to massively cut such excess (trying to) from within the EQ console emulation, and I noticed immediately that I was trying too hard: this is definitely (I learned, in time) not how it was done back then, and at least not with/for AC/DC albums. We must always keep in mind that the set of people who worked with/for AC/DC during all of this time since the early days, has always been comprised of great minds and skills. So despite I am sure they always tried “whatever works” to cut the right sound recording AC/DC, we also know by now that excess EQ was never used, not even early on. And by excess EQ I am talking about taking out (or even worse, having to add) decibels upon decibels of HMFs or LMFs (the two mid frequency ranges you commonly find on EQ consoles). Didn’t work. So I knew right away that I had to go for what I thought had been used extensively on Back in Black, i.e., Celestion G12-65s. Re-placed the microphones on the bottom speakers, higher side of them to prevent booming, with the microphones capsules at the same distance from the grill and placed half on the centre cone cap, half on the ring around it (to try and capture at the same time some brightness and some body, with both microphones) and went again.
Baffling the cabinet to try and prevent my bad sounding room to reflect too much
It really strikes me how I had to keep on lowering the volume of the amp. In the past, if you remember, I used to think that Angus (and Mal) recoded their guitars in the studio rolling off their guitar volume for rhythm tracks, just like we are used to seeing them do live (Angus specifically). Wrong. I now think was wrong for the most part. While I think this might still have happened at times back then, this was definitely not the main rule. The main rule being – quite the opposite – having the volume of the guitar on 10, and using the pickup at its full potential thus dialling in the sound differences from song to song from the amplifier settings/different microphone positions. Also, the tone knob was often used especially in the early days, both for rhythm tracking and solos on Angus’ part. But I am now more and more convinced that the volume of the guitar was more often than not, on 10 for both brothers. So provided the guitar was set right with volume and tone both on 10 for this track, I started rolling off the amplifier volume – a Marshall YJM attenuated by my beloved Aracom PRX150-DAG and not the built EPA, which at the low attenuation settings I use my amps at, does not sound as good as the PRX150-DAG (notably letting the amplifier drive much less and making it darker sounding) – from 6 to… 3 and something. Amazing. I mean, do you – yes, you reading this – remember how many times we heard read about AC/DC using the amplifiers at 11? Wrong. So wrong… so refreshing to learn for good – once more – that it wasn’t true, especially in the studio! Tony Platt had stated this clearly in several interviews, too. But you know, one thing is to read about it, another thing is working on it yourself. And remember this, it’s always nice to try to record yourself. It teaches us how to play consistently. One thing is playing and listening to ourselves as we play; quite another is playing while recording ourselves, and then listening back. You will only understand what I am talking about if you do this yourself. And if you trusted me so far, you will trust me even more discovering that the best way one guitarist can learn how to play his instrument is by consistently and constantly recording themselves and listening back. Record, play, listen. Repeat. But I digress. Finally, it started to sound right. I noticed I also had to roll the mids to 3 and treble a both further than 5, at around 6 (needed the treble). Presence was 0 and bass was 8. This cut the sound. It was almost amazing to play at these settings with the microphones well placed. It seemed to me to really be there with the band; something I started feeling only a handful of years ago, when I really became serious about my covers (serious fun comes only from a serious approach, I say). I still had to intervene some from the EQ Emulation (removing mids both on the HMF range and the LMF range). Add some compression (that was likely only added while mixing/mastering the actual album and that serves me the purpose of adding simulated air movement to my speakers), tape delay to further thicken the sound (ALWAYS used with AC/DC!) and a tape emulation to further squash slightly my sound. That was that. For the solo, I used exactly the same settings and microphone positions (although Tony Platt hadn’t!) and just added the Schaffer Replica® to the chain. For me, it was instant Angus Young on Back in Black. There are definitely three different types of solo sounds on Back in Black (at least three) and to my current knowledge and experience, these are: – Angus playing through the Schaffer-Vega Diversity (SVDS) on a 1959 Super Lead Head – Angus playing through the SVDS on a 50 watts head (1987? JTM45/50?) – Angus playing without the Schaffer-Vega Diversity bits and pieces in a different location This particular sound seems to be the first of the three, just like the title track (Back in Black). However, at least with the YJM, I didn’t have to drive the amp up to 7. 3 Was more than enough. It’s amazing what the The Schaffer Replica (TSR) can deliver to get this sound right. It’s just “it” with no effort. I barely had to EQ anything. Just added a tad of reverb. The TSR wasn’t even maxed out, just companding at 10 and boost 3/4 (could have chosen even less probably). Since this particular solo seems to be slightly dark sounding, I thought I didn’t have to switch speakers types, and left the G12-65s on. To my years it sounds just right.