guitar studio

Neal Schon talks bout recording his latest, I on U.

Not many guitarists have such a rich musical history as Neal Schon. He made his musical debut with Santana as rhythm guitarist in the late sixties at age sixteen and went on to co-found the band Journey with bandmate Gregg Rolie. What’s wonderful about Neal is that he’s always remained musically active with his side projects outside of the mega-hit-making machine Journey. Who could forget his great collaboration with Jan Hammer in the eighties? That’s why I wasn’t surprised to find his solo release on Favored Nations entitled I on U to be creative and refreshing. Working alongside Russian keyboardist-sequencer Igor Len, they put together twelve tracks showcasing Neal’s classic rock tones with the modern drum programming flair of Igor. The haunting melodies of Neal’s guitardriven tracks flowing over the lush keyboard changes induce a sophisticated, cinematic feel throughout the album—but without forsaking his shredding, screaming leads and signature tone. I had the pleasure of sitting down and speaking with Neal Schon about I on U and his new journey with Journey. $0 $0 Were you influenced by anything in particular when you wrote the album? I know it’s different from your Higher Octave releases. I like your tone much better on Ion U. $0 $0 I definitely wanted to give it a bit more of an edge. On the Higher Octave releases I recorded what they wanted and dabbled in that area for a bit, and it was fun for a second. But I look at it like each solo project should all be different. I don’t want to repeat myself on any one record; I’d rather go all over different genres. $0 $0 I on U is a great album. I love the instrumental vibe—it just sings with great composing. I like how you combined your signature sound along with urban new grooves. Can you tell us a little about it? $0 $0 I worked with a keyboardist by the name of Igor Len, who reminded me a lot of working with Jan Hammer. He is right up there with Jan and a very talented musician and composer. We just went at it everyday and came up with the material. We sort of just winged it with Pro Tools, as opposed to going into the studio with a very structured schedule. I think I do my best when I’m not thinking about it too much; more off the cuff and from the heart, not the brain. $0 $0 What’s your recording set up on I on U? $0 $0 It was mostly direct. I used a lot of Roland gear, the GP6 and plug-in amp simulators. It was all done on Pro Tools. I did a lot of programming on the GP6. When you do not have access to a large studio where you can set up a couple of great sounding amps, the GP6 is a great alternative. I didn’t have a working studio at the time, so we just used an empty room and set up shop and laid down the tracks. Then we sent it out to Gary Cirimelli at Amulet Music in Nashville. $0 $0 The title track, “Revelation,” on the new Journey album is a guitar instrumental. How did that come about? $0 $0 I had the chord changes in my head and was working on creating a power ballad, a bit darker with classical-oriented changes like the old Journey song, “Mother Father” from the album Escape. Producer Kevin Shirley encouraged me to put an instrumental on this record. I went home with a few ideas and played the chord structures down to a little digital recorder and laid down some guitar and drum loops. I really liked the way it came out and played it for Kevin, who loved it. Kevin then edited down the song a bit and had me cut it live for the record. We also added a longer intro and did some trippy reverse guitar on the outro. $0 $0 The album was recorded at The Plant in Studio B in Sausalito, which has an old Neve Desk with a couple of 24-track analog Studer recording machines. We also used the new HD Pro Tools, which has some really impressive converter sounds. I was amazed with the fidelity and how much Pro Tools had improved. The old Pro Tools sounds used to leave me cold, because everything got squashed in the middle and it didn’t have that giant spectrum of fidelity that you get out from using analog tape. You get low, low bottom end and nice highs and nice mids that sound like night and day from the old Pro Tools. We then had it engineered by John Neff and mixed by Kevin Shirley at Studio at the Palms, Las Vegas. $0 $0 _________________________________________ $0 Being a real professional, Neal understands his craft and the making of a good-sounding record. For those of you who want to delve into Neal’s solo side, I recommend picking up I on U from Favored Nations. Keeping with his classic Journey sound, Revelation is a true journey into his self-preservation of his craft.$0 $0 $0 Brian Tarquin $0 Emmy Award winning guitarist Brian Tarquin scored a Top 20 hit in the nineties with “The Best of Acid Jazz, vol. 2 ” on Instinct Records and enjoyed several top 10 hits on the R&R charts. Founder of the rock/electronica band, Asphalt Jungle Tarquin, he has scored TV music for such shows as CSI, Smallville, MTV, Alias, 24, All My Children and many others. $0 $0 $0 $0

New Zealand''s Martin Winch talks about recording his acoustic version of Led Zeppelin''s Kashmir

Martin Winch is one of those great discoveries whose music has a way of warming the heart. With his nylon guitar playing, one cannot help but feel inspired to participate in the experience. His appealing style of ambient, acoustic and electric guitar melodies—reminiscent of Larry Carlton’s tone and feel—really draws you in, to say the least. When I stumbled upon this guitarist from New Zealand, I thought he would be a wonderful addition to the Guitar Masters compilation series.

A veteran of the music business for over thirty-five years, Winch has released five solo albums on his own, and he teaches all styles of guitar. His home recording studio has produced and composed music for commercials, documentaries and AV productions. One of these is the popular New Zealand Toyota commercial “Welcome to our World,” which showcases his various styles, ranging from country to raunchy rock, from folk to jazz.

He’s worked in several New Zealand groups, including Dr. Tree (Jazz Album of the Year 1976), Mike Harvey’s Salty Dogg, and later the famous “1860 Band” in Wellington. He also appeared at two Montreux Jazz Festivals with the Roger Fox Big Band, and was honored with the of “Guitarist of the Year” award in Auckland, New Zealand in1999. Winch was also a part of The Club 21 resident band Billboard in the mid-eighties. I talked with Winch about his wonderful acoustic rendition of the Zeppelin tune “Kashmir,” and got the low down on his recording techniques:

Setup for Recording “Kashmir”
My initial demo of “Kashmir” was an electric version more like the original, but I decided I hadn’t changed it enough to warrant anyone being interested in it. So I just started programming Middle Eastern drum samples to give it a more exotic flavor. I decided to try it with acoustic guitars rather than electric, and it seemed to work. The solo sections, although they don’t sound like it, are still based on the chords that Led Zep used. I used MIDI from an old Atari computer program for all of the other instruments. It will die on me one day, but until then I will continue to use it. The main sound modules I use are a Roland 1080 fitted with sound cards for bass and drums, and a Yamaha Motif rack. My studio is pretty small, so there is not enough room for drum kits and big amps.


I used my own home studio to record everything, with a selection of mics by AKG, CAD and Studio Projects (all condenser mics). My mic preamp is locally made by DJR, featuring Neve-style EQ options. I generally record in stereo with two mics on the guitar quite close, to avoid any fan or other noise from the PC.

Recording Guitars
On the recording of “Kashmir” I used four acoustic guitars: a Seagull Grand Artist (parlor style guitar) for all the rhythm chord parts; a Matsuoka nylon guitar for the first ad lib section; and a Martin D-35 for the second ad lib section. The slide melody was played on a 1980 Epiphone semi-acoustic with the action raised up high using a large Allen key under the strings! There is also a lick in there recorded on a Hofner 6-string banjo.

Recording Format
My recording equipment is all PC-based, and I use Cubase to record with. I have lots of software for effects and mixing. I have Yamaha NS10s and a pair of Yorkville ported monitors for near field mixing, and some large RCF speakers for the big sound. I am completely self-taught both on the guitar and as a sound engineer, and have spent most of my life doing one or the other. (I will be sixty next year and am keen to keep going with music!)

Recent and New Projects

I am currently planning an album of easy-on-the-ear tunes, with lots of strings and me playing mostly nylon guitar. I have, in the past, had some success with this type of album in New Zealand and Australia, but unfortunately we weren’t able to get a release in the US.

Luckily, Martin Winch’s version of “Kashmir” is on the compilation Get the Led Out! Led Zeppelin Salute, which is available in the US. Plus, for a healthy sampling of his tunes, you can visit his site at

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Robin Trower talks about his recording techniques on his latest, Seven Moons

Robin Trower, the iconic disciple of Hendrix, was born on March 9, 1945 in Catford, South East London, England. Catford is a town within London located at the heart of the London Borough of Lewisham, dating back to Saxon times, and which has a rich cultural artistic history. So it is no surprise that it would be the

birthplace of one of the most talented and tone-respected guitar heroes of our time. In the early turbulent sixties, Robin formed a group that would come to be known as The Paramounts, later including fellow Southend High School mate Gary Brooker. The Paramounts disbanded in 1966 to pursue individual projects. Trower then joined the band Procol Harum in 1967, staying until 1972. In 1973 he teamed up with bass player James Dewar and drummer Reg Isidore to form the Robin Trower Band. Without a doubt, Trower’s most famous album is Bridge of Sighs (1974). Ironically, his former Procol Harum band mate, organist Matthew Fisher, produced the album. In 1980 Trower teamed up with former Cream bassist Jack Bruce and drummer Bill Lordan for the magnificent self-titled release B.L.T., an outstanding, retro Hendrix experience. Now they are back for their first collaboration in years with the release of Seven Moons. Trower’s heavy univibe guitar tone can be heard meshing with the distinctive voice of Jack Bruce. I had the pleasure of interviewing Robin as he came off tour with his reincarnation of B.L.T., in which Gary Husband replaces Bill Lordan on drums.

What’s your setup, guitar and amps that you used on the recording of Seven Moons?

I used 2 Cornell “Plexi” 18/20 amps—these are the 20 watt 1x12 combos. I would split from my pedals, running one clean and one more overdriven. On the track “Just Another Day,” I used my DejáVibe going through one amp and the other straight. My pedals were a Fulldrive II and a Clyde wah, both by Fulltone, as is the DejáVibe. The guitar was my signature model Stratocaster from the Fender custom shop, built by Todd Krause. This model is really quite a vintage-type Strat (saddles) with a seventies neck with large frets and locking tuners. I thought the larger headstock might possibly give the guitar a bit more resonance. The neck pickup is a fifties reissue, the middle is a sixties reissue, and the bridge pickup a modern winding for more oomph.

Do you have your own studio or did you use an outside studio for this project?

I do not have my own studio, and for Seven Moons we went to a studio in London called Intimate Studios. I recommended it to Jack because I like the acoustics in the room: wooden floor, not too dead—very good for guitar and drums.

I was a very big fan of the original B.L.T. album and it was great to see that you and Jack are back for another collaboration. How much did Jack Bruce play a role in both composing the album and production?

I would come to Jack with a guitar idea and a lyric and he would turn it into something great. All the songs are co-written. We both acted as producers on the sessions but I always let Jack choose the take. If he was happy, I was happy. I did a lot of the guitar soloing on my own and then Jack would come in and do his vocals. One day he sang five master vocals in a few hours—amazing!

How did you record the guitar, mics, room amp or close mic, etc?

A Shure 57 a few inches from each combo.

What format did you record the songs on? Analog or digital? Can you be specific about tape players, such as Ampex or digital formats such as Logic, ProTools, etc?

Seven Moons was recorded on tape through a Neve VSP 72 with Flying Faders to an Otari MTR90 (2” 24 track analog) and mastered to a MCI JH-10 (1/2” – 1/4” analog mastering).

Being a guitarist, what foot pedals did you use on this project? Were there any in particular that really gave you that classic Hendrix feel? Perhaps you can share a technique with the readers?

Fulltone Fulldrive II, Clyde wah and a DejáVibe. I am very flattered that you think I have something of the Jimi Hendrix feel. All my influences were black Americans, blues, rhythm and blues, and soul. Of course Jimi Hendrix was the first guitarist to pull all of these threads together.

What upcoming projects or albums are you working on?

Jack and I are trying to do some dates in Europe in the New Year—hoping to have one show filmed.

I knew when I heard this release that it was recorded properly onto tape. It’s so refreshing to see artists still using this format. Hell, it’s tried and true! Just check out the tracks “Lives Of Clay” and “Bad Case Of Celebrity” to feel those dynamics in the recording. Of course, it’s Robin’s playing that comes through with soulful blues, the way only he can do it, but the tape is a living, breathing integral part of the recording. LONG LIVE ANALOG TAPE!
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