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Author Topic:   Recording Magazine article- recording chain
Bruce Kaphan

From: Fremont, California, USA

posted 13 May 2004 05:31 PM     profile     
I'm Bruce Kaphan and I'm a pedal steel player...

I'm also a recording engineer/producer. From time to time, the kind folks at Recording Magazine ask me to write articles for them. They've just asked me to write an article about recording pedal steel. I intend to describe how I record myself, but I'd like the article to be more broad-based than just that. I'm posting this request because I think it would be very interesting for both the particiapants on this list and also the recordists in general to have an idea of how the pros do it. For the sake of making the article relevant to people who might actually have a shot at hearing the results of varying techniques, I'm asking only my major label recording brethren to post replies here- I'd love to be able to give any of you that care to respond a plug and a brief description of your most successful recording chains- please include manufacturer/model of your steel, amplification, mic(s), DI(s) if used, preamps, compression, etc. Any techniques you've found useful would also be appreciated. Obviously some of you aren't engineers yourselves, but if you happen to pay attention to what your favorite engineers tend to use on you, that's exactly what I'm looking for. Or better yet, if you aren't into the engineering side of things, ask your engineer to post! Thanks for your help! If you'd like to contact me directly, my email address is

chas smith

From: Encino, CA, USA

posted 13 May 2004 08:54 PM     profile     
From one of your minor label, Cold Blue, brethren:

I typically use a modified Sho-Bud Professional that has a Bigsby copy pickup in the bridge position and a 705 at the neck, or a very-modified Sho-Bud Super Pro with an EMG (because they're quiet around computers) pickup or Guitarzilla, an effects guitar that is usually "prepared" and has a bass neck.

If it's a "straight" recording, and we aren't using an amp ('59 Standel with Altec 418B), I come out of the volume pedal into either a Demeter Tube Bass Pre or an Evans pre with a Demeter Real Reverb (springs) in the loop. From there it's into their converters or if it's my converters, I use a TC Electronics Gold Channel.

If I need overdrive, I use a ToneBone (classic) or THD BiValve with "vintage" tubes.

If it's full on effects then I come out of the pedal into a Mackie 1604 vlz mixer and send it to a TC Electronics M-5000 and an Eventide Orville, or I can cascade the Orville into the M-5k or the 5k into the Orville, back into the mixer then out to their console. If it goes to an amp then the Mackie goes to a MosValve which then powers a Standel cabinet and a Music Man "rubbermaid" cabinet, both with Peavey 1501-4 speakers.

If it's a simpler set up, Demeter Tube Bass Pre into the Orville or 5K, or both, into the console or converters.

If it's into my computer, I have just moved from Sonic Solutions to Pro Tools HD, (I feel like I've joined the "dark side").

I hope this is helpful--cs

Tony Prior

From: Charlotte NC

posted 14 May 2004 05:44 AM     profile     

Being asked to write the article is a real feather in your's a wonderful opportunity to bring the Steel forward in the recording world. Use a good pen.

I would open it up for a few more " Non Major Label folks" as well , as there are many many home/Indy sessions producing results that far exceed the Major's..


[This message was edited by Tony Prior on 14 May 2004 at 07:33 AM.]

John Macy

From: Denver, CO USA

posted 14 May 2004 07:09 AM     profile     
Hey Bruce,

Pretty simple for me. Neve preamps 100% the time (even when I am playing a session I carry a pair and my own mics just in case). Favorite mics, not necessarily in order: Sony C37A tube, Royer ribbon, Sennheiser 421, AKG 414 TLII (C37 my fave), though I have tried and used about everything. Mic placement varies, but usually a foot off the amp for starters, going closer or farther away depending on the mood of the track. Generally no compression to tape, unless looking for something specific, and then usually a TubeTech or an 1176. Don't usually need much EQ when the chain is right, though you can't beat the Neves if you need it. Not afraid of effects from the player with the exception of reverb, though then again, whatever the track calls for. If we go direct, it's also through the Neve's--they alway put the magic on the tone. I have worked with Paul, Sonny and Dan recently, and they make it real easy on an engineer, giving you great tone right off the bat. With the vast amount of home-based rigs, many of them are extremely happy when I provide them with a finshed, line level signal out of my pres/mics. Makes it quicker for all of us .

With a great player and a great chain, it's pretty easy .

Hope this helps.

By the way, I love your solo record and really like the AMC stuff.


[This message was edited by John Macy on 14 May 2004 at 07:13 AM.]

[This message was edited by John Macy on 14 May 2004 at 07:18 AM.]

Bruce Kaphan

From: Fremont, California, USA

posted 14 May 2004 07:41 AM     profile     
A clarification...

I'm sorry if I've offended those of you who are deeply passionate about recording pedal steel by asking for postings only from artists with major label experience. There are three reasons why I posted as I did:

1) Reason number one is that in my opinion, when discussing examples of a particular approach to recording, being able to hear the results of a particular approach cements the understanding of how the approach works. I may be incorrect , but I'm assuming that major label product is generally more accessible to the average reader of Recording Magazine. In fact, because I don't expect that my article is going to inspire throngs of Recording Magazine readers to go in search of independently released pedal steel-centric albums, I'm hoping that the readers may already have heard examples (on the radio, TV, movies, etc.) of players who might post.

2) Reason number two is that in my experience working on major label projects (limited as it may be), generally speaking the engineers are very experienced and usually quite good at what they do. Let me just say that in my experience the odds of working with an engineer who can run a session fluently and can get good sounds are greater working on a major label session... Every time I've recorded with anyone, I pay attention to the choices that are made to gather my sound. I incorporate this knowledge into my subsequent work. I'd like to tap into the world of the heavily experienced, in-the-trenches-every-day professional, to provide the readers a window into how some of their favorite successful records were made.

3) Reason number three, I'm on the west coast and have been my entire life. I am personally curious about how steel is recorded in Nashville. I've been very lucky in my career to have occasionally infiltrated the major label market in the LA scene. Prior to this infiltration, over the years I did my best to bootstrap my knowledge of recording. When I finally began doing some recording with major label projects, suddenly my eyes and ears were opened to a whole new set of tools and techniques. I think the average reader of Recording Magazine has also very likely spent a great deal of time bootstrapping their own approach to recording themselves. I just want to try to help these people see how the pros do it. I'm sure the readers of this forum are creative, passionate individuals who have figured out ingenious ways to record themselves. I am certain that the readers of Recording Magazine are cut from this same creative, passionate cloth. I'm not at all worried about these readers being able to re-invent the wheel. By posting this request, I just wanted to give them some useful examples of the history of their art form.

Jerry Clardy

From: El Paso, Texas, USA

posted 14 May 2004 08:01 AM     profile     
John - What are the model numbers of your Neve preamps?
John Macy

From: Denver, CO USA

posted 14 May 2004 08:10 AM     profile     
1073's, along with some 1073 clones. Most of my bigger tracking sessions are on 8068 or 8078 consoles. Can't go wrong with these, though there are several great options (I also carry Daking, Telefunken, Avalon etc.)
Bruce Kaphan

From: Fremont, California, USA

posted 14 May 2004 08:11 AM     profile     
My article is limited to 2000 words. Perhaps an equitable solution to the notion that my request has excluded responses- I will difinitely give a plug to the forum. Anyone who wishes to pursue the thread can come be a part of this community.
Rick Schmidt

From: Carlsbad, CA. USA

posted 14 May 2004 08:51 AM     profile     
Bruce...can you please post your article when youre finished? Thanks in advance.
Ray Minich

From: Limestone, New York, USA

posted 14 May 2004 09:51 AM     profile     
There's a basket full of goodies at Check it out.
Tony Prior

From: Charlotte NC

posted 14 May 2004 10:11 AM     profile     
Bruce, I doubt anyone is offended..what you are doing is excellent..for the recording world and for Steel


chas smith

From: Encino, CA, USA

posted 14 May 2004 12:03 PM     profile     
heard examples (on the radio, TV, movies, etc.)
I've been on a number of movie sound tracks, but usually what I did wouldn't likely be recognized as pedal steel.

[This message was edited by chas smith on 14 May 2004 at 12:04 PM.]

Dustin Rigsby

From: Columbus, Ohio

posted 14 May 2004 12:44 PM     profile     
Neve Consoles...the stuff my home studio dreams are made of.

D.S. Rigsby
Carter Starter and various six string toys

Dan Tyack

From: Seattle, WA USA

posted 14 May 2004 02:17 PM     profile     
I've played on quite a few minor label masters and a couple of majors, so I guess I might qualify.

I always track with an amp, usually a THD BiValve through a THD cabinet with a JBL E120 and a Celestion Century 12". I prefer Coles and Royer ribbon mikes, which are usually positioned a foot or two away from the speaker (usually centered on the Celestion). I also have had good luck with the Shure SM7 broadcast mike close up to the Celestion, off center. It's like an sm57 with a low end. For rock and roll stuff, sometimes an sm57 is just the right thing to fit a rockin' steel part in the mix.

In terms of preamps, my two favorite studios here in Seattle use Neve and Quad 8 pres. They usually don't eq, but for some sounds (e.g. the George Harrison slide sound) I like to have a lot of compression (the UA or Manley ones seem to be popular around here).

I don't record with any effects, other than a wah pedal when appropriate.

Matt Steindl

From: New Orleans, LA, USA

posted 14 May 2004 03:36 PM     profile     
Bruce, I have always enjoyed your articles. Can't wait to see this one! I am pretty surprised that any recording mags would be intrested in this one.

Paul Franklin and Buddy Emmons wouldbe the ones to ask.

Mattman in "The Big Sleazy"-:
S-10 Dekley, Suitcase Fender Rhodes, B-bender Les Paul

Olli Haavisto

From: Jarvenpaa,Finland

posted 19 May 2004 11:27 PM     profile     
Hi Bruce,

Having played for years for major,minor and diminished labels I`ve arrived at my present set up. Lack of studio space,lack of studio time and lack of steel recording know-how in the studios have all played a part...
To consistently get "my tone" I go direct with the following set up:
-Zum or Williams steel ( BL 710s , 910s)
-Evans pre amp
-Rocktron Prophesy Preamp/effects with the preamp section by passed (for PSG)
-different settings of the Prophesys programmable speaker simulation in memory (this is important)
-Stereo feed to the board
- I track with effects unless asked not to. (the stuff in the Prophesy is top quality,and I`ve tweaked it a lot and saved presets appropriate for different situations)

I use same set-up for live gigs,too. I go direct live also,I just add a 1x12 speaker cab with a built in Mosvalve power amp for on-stage monitoring.So, I`ve got the same basic tone whether I`m playing a festival or sweetening up a friends demo on his porta-studio.
For lap steel I do use miked tube amps like the Fender Vibrolux and my current favorite, the THD Univalve.

Olli Haavisto
Polar steeler

[This message was edited by Olli Haavisto on 19 May 2004 at 11:30 PM.]

Bruce Kaphan

From: Fremont, California, USA

posted 20 May 2004 07:57 AM     profile     
I have to wrap up writing this article as of tomorrow (5/21/04). Thanks to all who contributed. For those of you who posted your setups, it would be essential to have references to at least a couple projects that readers could pursue if they were interested in hearing the way your described setup sounds. Unless I can give the readers specific references, setups will not be mentioned in the article. The more available a particular recording is, the greater the chance I'll mention it in the article. Even if the recording is only available online, it has to be accessible. Chas, John,Dan, Olli- if you have time, please post some specific projects. I can't guarantee that I will actually include anything from this forum in the article, but I do guarantee that I will rereference this forum/thread so that interested readers can come and learn from your experiences if they are so inclined. Again, thanks for taking the time to participate! Oh- and Matt- I did try Buddy Emmons and Paul Franklin. Buddy and I traded a few emails, he almost agreed to an interview, but then his wife started suffering from fainting spells and his week was a flurry of medical tests; all the while he's preparing for a performance this weekend. I've left a message for Paul Franklin, but haven't heard back. Meanwhile, my deadline approaches. Bruce Bouton has responded and his approach will definitely be in the article, so at least one Nashville heavyweight will weigh in, and for that I'm exceedingly grateful. Thank you Bruce!

[This message was edited by Bruce Kaphan on 20 May 2004 at 07:59 AM.]

David L. Donald

From: Koh Samui Island, Thailand

posted 20 May 2004 12:01 PM     profile     
No major lable "steel" work here... drat.

But here's a rig I use :

Sho-Bud Pro-II w/ TT C6/705 E9, to Hilton out 1 into Transfex 212 stereo amp with Newman presets, moded by me.

Brauner Valvet mic at 1.5 feet a bit off axis into Aphex 1100 Thermionics tube preamp side A

Earthworks SR-71 or QTC-1 mics about 8 feet back into Thermionics side B

Apehex into Protools 888 via AES/EBU digital

Hilton out 2, into Avalon U5 DI into 888 Analog
and then Line 6 Amp Farm plug-in.

Unless I did PT HD with Appogee converters I wouldn't get a much better sound for me,

Still it's a very versatile tracking method.
it can fit on any mix I want.

Gonna add Brad's Black Box before the Hilton when the 220v versions ready.

[This message was edited by David L. Donald on 20 May 2004 at 12:05 PM.]

Larry Clark

From: Herndon, VA.

posted 18 July 2004 02:44 PM     profile     
Bruces article is out in the current(August) issue of Recording magazine.

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