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more... ArtistsHow-TosRecording TipsStudio LegendsApril 2012

Studio Legends: Alan Parsons on "Dark Side of the Moon"

Studio Legends: Alan Parsons on "Dark Side of the Moon"

Gilmour's Gear
Guitarist David Gilmour used a small arsenal of gear for the Dark Side of the Moon sessions. Given his penchant for changing his rig—and the fact that the sessions were scheduled around live gigs and stretched over the course of a year—it’s difficult to pin down an exhaustive list of his Dark Side setup. However, the following pieces of gear are generally believed to be the main tools for the sessions.

Gilmour’s famous black Fender Strat was his main axe during the Dark Side of the Moon sessions. At the time of the recording, the oft-modified 1969 Fender Strat would have had a ’63 neck with a rosewood fingerboard, stock single-coils, and an extra mini switch for extra pickup combinations. In early ’73, a Gibson PAF humbucker was installed between the bridge and middle pickups, but it is doubtful that pickup is heard on the album.

Gilmour also played a Fender 1000 pedal-steel guitar tuned in G6 (D–G–D–G–B–E, low to high). He also used a custom guitar built in 1970 by Canadian luthier Bill Lewis for parts of the “Money” solo. It had a mahogany body, ebony fretboard, 24 frets, and custom humbuckers, and it may have been used for other tracks, as well.

During the Dark Side period, Gilmour used Hiwatt DR103 100-watt heads through 4x12 cabinets. Alan Parsons recalls the cabinets being Hiwatts, while some sources (such as suggest they may have been WEM cabs. The latter source also suggests that a Fender Twin combo was used on Dark Side, though Parsons does not recall that amp being used. A rotary-speaker cabinet—either a Leslie or a Maestro Rover—was also used.

Gilmour is famous for his masterful use of effects, both live and in the studio. Among those used for Dark Side were a Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face, a Binson Echorec II, a Colorsound Power Boost, a Univox Uni-Vibe, a Kepex tremolo, and an EMS Synthi HiFli.

Parsons' Go-To Mics
The Neumann U47, U 67, and U 87 microphones mentioned by Alan Parsons in this interview have probably been used to record more hit records in more styles of music than just about any other microphone models. They’re quite expensive—especially vintage U 47s and U 67s—as are newer reproductions like those from Telefunken and Bock Audio. However, below we’ve also listed some quality alternatives that will impart much of their magic at a pretty reasonable price.

Neumann U 47
Manufactured from 1949 to 1965, the U 47 was a large-diaphragm tube condenser microphone with a switchable polar pattern. It is outstandingly versatile and excels on almost all sources, including vocals and guitars. It has a clean sound with good presence and nice top-end warmth. The Beatles’ producer, George Martin, has stated that the U 47 is his favorite microphone.

In 1969, the U 47 FET—a very different microphone with solid-state electronics—was released. Many engineers prefer the FET version for recording kick drums and upright bass.

Neumann U 67
In the early ’60s, the U 67 was introduced to address some complaints about the U 47—some engineers felt the U 47 could be harsh and bass-heavy when used for close-up vocal recording, which was becoming popular at the time. The U 67 is still a large-diaphragm tube condenser, but it adds a bass roll-off switch and has a slightly reduced upper midrange. It is also very versatile, with a large diaphragm, switchable polar patterns, and a tube-based condenser design. The U 67 became the studiostandard workhorse for many engineers and producers.

Neumann U 87
The Neumann U 87 is among the most widely used mics in the professional studio market. It’s a solid-state condenser with a large diaphragm and switchable polar patterns. Many engineers rely on it for vocals, but it has been used for almost all applications, including orchestra, drums (Bruce Swedien of Count Basie, Duke Ellington, and Michael Jackson fame swears by it for toms), electric guitar, and more.

Large-diaphragm tube condenser alternatives: Mojave Audio MA-200 ($1,095 street), Rode K2 ($699 street), SE Electronics Z5600a ($849 street), Avantone Audio CV-12 ($499 street), or Studio Projects T3 ($599 street)

Large-diaphragm solid-state condenser alternatives: Mojave Audio MA-201 FET ($695 street), Audio-Technica AT2035 ($149 street), Rode NT1000 ($329 street), Blue Bluebird ($299 street), AKG Perception 220 ($179 street)