Can John cut a funky track for ESPN overnight?
I recently did a home-studio
project for an ESPN documentary
Holloway—who was both the
first black quarterback in an SEC
school and who led Tennessee to
three bowl games from 1972 to
'74. The show's producers needed
51 seconds of music that sounded
like classic '70s funk, and they
needed it fast. Licensing was not
available on the place-holding
music they were using, and
ESPN wanted to see (and hear)
something before the weekend.
I literally had two hours to get
something to them.
To think is to undermine: Thinking makes the most natural act unnatural. Think too much, and you can't urinate in a public restroom or sleep when you are exhausted at 2 a.m. Next time you're in a crowded room full of strangers, really focus on walking naturally from one end to the other. You will inevitably feel awkward. That's why booze remains so popular at parties—it turns off your brain so you can feel natural.
When it comes to getting a natural feel while recording, I hearken back to the words of my mentor, Homer Simpson, who said, in a nutshell: There's a time to think and there's a time to do stuff, and this is definitely not a time to think. Because I spend a good deal of my not-thinking time watching music on YouTube, I began this project by typing “FUNK 1972" into YouTube's search box and then mindlessly engaging in “research" (I'm using this somewhat academic term in its broadest sense). I was lulled into a semi-catatonic state as I watched Earth, Wind & Fire, Billy Preston, and P-Funk for about 20 minutes, then I came to in a panic thinking, “Get it together, man. You've got a deadline— do your work!"
Research temporarily concluded, I created a new Pro Tools session file, opened a Toontrack instrument channel, and played the first “funk" drum loop I could find. It sounded sufficiently funky, so I copied it onto instrument track #1 and repeated the two-bar phrase 100 times. Then I imported the QuickTime video version of the ESPN documentary and saw the drums lock with the vid. This took roughly seven minutes. Next stop: bass.
Generally, I see bass as a white canvas and guitar as the paint. These minimalist leanings work fine in country and dumb rock but they do not apply to funk, where the bass is right out front, loud and proud. I went back to YouTube, typed in “funk bass" and found a video entitled “Bootsy's Basic Funk Formula."
Search YouTube for “Bootsy's Basic Funk Formula," and you'll be rewarded
with a groovin' bass lesson from the “space bass"-wielding man himself.
Armed with one funk bass
lesson, I tuned up my bass,
plugged it into a DI box, and
played along with the drum
track, trying to shift phrases with
the scene changes on the video
screen. It took a few attempts,
but I came up with a pattern that
seemed to flow with the screen
images. After laying down the
bass, I listened to the track and
wrote down a quick numbers
chart, knowing I would inevitably
forget the chord changes.
Having completed the hard
work for the project, it was time
for the fun part. I plugged my
20-year-old Cry Baby (which after
years of use and abuse is really
getting funky—in a bad way) into
my little Kustom amp. I chose the
Kustom because its blue-sparkle
tuck-and-roll covering looked
like something you'd see in a
'70s-era Commodores show. To
complete my '70s vibe, I used my
'75 Tele Deluxe (thanks Michael
McFarland, who traded me this
sweet brownie). I read the chart
down and played high triads with
a liberal dose of wah.
I opened up another track and
added a dirty lead part, sans wah.
It wasn't a great part, but I knew
that if I played it 20 more times,
it would be a little different, but
not really any better. Miles Davis
once said “Do not fear mistakes.
There are none." I hate to contradict
Miles, but there were some
honest-to-God wrong notes on
my track. I listened and removed
the few ugly parts and left the
space open rather than redoing
them. As Bootsy said in his video,
“Space is good."
In honor of Earth Wind &
Fire, I added a few keyboard-generated
horn stabs. Now the music
was sounding pretty close to what
the client had described. I added
some delay to the lead track,
compressed the overall mix, and
emailed it to the client. The entire
project, including lots of YouTube
visits, took under two hours.
The next morning I was
informed that the producers
didn't like the track, but they
got an extension and wanted
another version by the end of the
day—which gave me lots of time.
Rather than fix the old track, I
started a new track from scratch
and did the entire process over
again. Version two took a little
longer, because I put more time
into finding a cooler drum loop,
added drum fills at transition
points, and recorded an organ
pad over the entire thing. Overall,
it felt better. As of now, I haven't
heard back from the client, so I'm
going with that old chestnut: No
news is good news.
Deadlines are your friend!
Look at Guns N' Roses' Chinese
Democracy: $14 million, 17 obsessive
years, one crap record. I've
watched people rework a track
ad nauseam and manage to crush
any soul the music might have
had. Granted, there are exceptions
where over-thinking makes
amazing art. Rumours, Let It Be,
and Night at the Opera are notorious
for their obsessive excess, and
they are perfect albums. But for
those of us in the real world with
tiny budgets and limited time, we
just need to put our heads down
and crank it out with as little
thinking as possible.
John Bohlinger is
a Nashville-based guitarist
who works primarily
in TV and has recorded
and toured with over 30
major-label artists. His songs
and playing can be heard
in major motion pictures, on major-label
releases, and in literally hundreds of television
drops. Visit him at youtube.com/user/johnbohlinger
Looking for more great gear for the guitar player in your life (yourself included!)? Check out this year's Holiday Gear Finds!
D'Addario XPND Pedalboard
DR-05X Stereo Handheld Recorder
Wampler Pedals Ratsbane
Created in collaboration with legendary guitarist George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame, the Mr.Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage and an onboard Deep control, which together are designed to enable an amp to have increased sustain while still retaining note definition and dynamics.
LegendaryTones, LLC today announced production availability of its new Mr. Scary Mod, a 100% pure tube module designed to instantly and easily expand the capabilities of many classic amplifiers with additional gain and tone shaping. Created in collaboration with legendary guitarist George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame, the Mr.Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage and an onboard Deep control, which together are designed to enable an amp to have increased sustain while still retaining note definition and dynamics.
Originally released as the Lynch Mod in February 2021, the updated Mr. Scary Mod features the same core circuit as the Lynch Mod but is now equipped with a revised tube mix combo per George’s preference as well as a facelift in a newly redesigned electro-galvanized steel enclosure. As with the Lynch Mod, each run will be limited and the first run in Pumpkin Orange with Black hardware is limited to just 150 pieces worldwide.
The Mr. Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage on top of the cathode follower position, keeping note definition and articulation while further increasing sustain. Each Mr. Scary mod is meticulously built by hand in the USA, one at a time, and tuned using high-grade components. Equipped with a single ECC81 (12AT7) in the first position and ECC83 (12AX7) in the second, the Mr. Scary Mod can clean up beautifully when rolling down your guitar’s volume, and still adds scorching gain when you roll it back up. This is a gain stage that’s been tuned and approved by the ears of the maestro George Lynch himself.
“The Mr. Scary Mod excels with dynamics and is incredibly touch-responsive, allowing me to shift from playing clear, lightly compressed cleans to full-out aggressive sustain and distortion –and control it all simply by varying my guitar’s volume control and picking,” said GeorgeLynch. “In many ways, it’s an old-school approach, but it’s also so much more natural and expressive in addition to being musically fulfilling when you can play both the guitar and amp dynamically together this way.”
The Mr. Scary Mod installs in minutes, is safe and effective to use, and requires no special tools or re-biasing of the amplifier. Simply insert the module into the cathode follower preamp position of compatible amplifiers (includes Marshall 2203/2204/1959/1987 circuits) and
immediately get the benefit of enjoying a hot-rodded amp that delivers all the pure harmonic character that comes with an added pure tube gain stage. The handmade in the USA Mr. Scary Mod is now available to order for $319.
For more information, please visit legendarytones.com.
October Audio has miniaturized their NVMBR Gain pedal to create two mini versions of this beautifully organic-sounding circuit – including an always-on gain device.
The NVMBR Gain is a nonlinear amp that transitions gracefully from clean boost to overdriven tones. Volume increases from just over unity to about 10db before soft-clipping drive appears for another 5db of boost. Its extraordinary ease of use is matched by outstanding versatility: you can use it as a clean boost, push a stubborn amp into overdrive or create a just-breaking-up sound at any amp volume.
October Audio’s new family of mini NVMBR Gain pedals includes a switchable version that allows you to bypass the effect: one option features brand logo pedal graphics, while the other sports a fun “Witch Finger” graphic with a Davies knob as the“fingernail”.
The second version in the new lineup is an always-on device featuring the Witch Finger graphic and Davies knob, with the same NVMBR Gain circuit that lies at the core of the switchable version.
- Knob controls gain and clipping simultaneously
- Stunning silver hammertone finish
- Switchable versions are true-bypass, available with classic or witch finger graphics
- Authentic Davies knobs, including the “fingernail”
- 9V center negative power supply required
- Dimensions: 3.63 x 1.50 x 1.88 in
Witch Finger (always on NVMBR Gain) demo
All October Audio pedals are assembled in Richmond, VA, and available for purchase directly through the online shop. Street price is $109 for NVMBR Gain footswitch versions and $89 for the always-on device.
For more information, please visit octoberaudio.com.