Recording Tips from Steve Vai Himself....Read On. - Jemsite
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post #1 of 10 (permalink) Old 07-11-2003, 05:37 PM Thread Starter
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Recording Tips from Steve Vai Himself....Read On.

As some of you may know, Steve Vai was recently interviewed by Home Recording Magazine about how he achieves stellar guitar tone. Steve talked about his mic's, ambience, and how to fatten up your recorded guitar sound. Info comes from the August 2003 issue, pg 36-38.

These tips are few, and very simple, but they are VERY effective. Jemsite and I hope that you all will be able to make use of them, and that's why this topic is 'sticky'.


Steve Vai's mic's:

Sennheiser md421, set to speech setting. This prevents bass roll-off,
Shure 57,
Beyer m160,
Akg 414

Mic usage:
Vai recommends combining sounds of multiple mics. It makes for a fuller, wider stereo image.

he often pans the beyer m160 hard left, or alternatively to the 9:00 position, and pans the other mic's to about 2:00 or so.
Ultimately, he recommends playing around with the pan on multiple mic's. This really creates dynamics on your recorded sound.

-Room mic's are a must for good sound, according to Vai. You can position them at the corner's of the room. That's what gives you good ambience, as it captures the sound as it spreads throughout the space your utilizing.

Vai uses the large diaphragm condenser mic's about three inches in front of the amp (This of course, would be the Akg 414).
Combined with room mic's, your heading for ambience city!
It's an art, and it takes a lot of time to set up properly and mix them right, but the finished product should be very cool.

Adding delay to the mic's:

Vai likes to add a 20ms delay to the room mic's at the corners of the room. This adds dimensionality to the recorded sound. Additionally, reversing the 'phase' on selected mic's (for vai, particulary the Akg 414 located 3 inches from the amp) will also help with dimensionality.

Double Tracking:

Vai insists that double tracking is one of the best ways to make a guitar sound good. Of course, you have to make sure the two overdubbed tracks are tight. However, there will always be slight differences, and this is where the magic happens. Those slight differences add considerable dimensionality to the tone. You can even detune the second guitar slightly to produce a chorused effect, or slow down/speed up the tape for the second guitar if your using analog. Both work just fine.

Just make sure things don't get sloppy!

Note: in the Bad4Good era, Steve the 'producer/engineer' was known for wanting to overdub Thomas McRocklin's guitars 4, even 5 times, particulary for rhythm parts. The tone just keeps getting bigger and fatter. This of course, requires due care, because it can get to sound muddy really quick.

Mic'ing the back of your cab:

Steve often mic's the back of his guitar cab. This adds a lot of body and depth.
This however, requires a lot of care as well. Generally, you must make sure that the back mic is positioned so that it exactly mirrors the front mic. The slightest deviation in positioning could mean the mic will be out of phase.


When using multiple mic's, compress the combined signal of them all, rather than individual compression for each mic: "This will help glue the individual components together into one overall guitar sound" (Home Recording, August 2003, pg 3)

There you have it, enjoy. It's not much, but it is definately enough for a starting glimpse into steve's tactics as an engineer. Note: If it was in the article, it's in this post, just paraphrased. If it ain't here, then it wasn't published. While I'm sure there will still be unanswered questions, this should suffice for now! Hope you all get something out of this.
davester1234 is offline  
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post #2 of 10 (permalink) Old 07-11-2003, 05:50 PM
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Thanks for the work devster
great stuff
hanban is offline  
post #3 of 10 (permalink) Old 07-11-2003, 07:20 PM
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Thanks !!

really appreciate it.

This should possibly be made sticky... alot of people might want to know this.

Devo is offline  
post #4 of 10 (permalink) Old 07-11-2003, 11:55 PM Thread Starter
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It is sticky!
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post #5 of 10 (permalink) Old 12-19-2003, 01:20 AM
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Does steve use mics when recording clean tone tracks?

so he uses at least 4 mics all the time? How far are the room mics from the amp......and how high above the amp speaker should you be placing the room mics?

What about when he records guitar solos?

And does steve use the same kind of mics when he records?
SilverSurfer2 is offline  
post #6 of 10 (permalink) Old 12-31-2003, 01:35 AM
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Great info, thanks. A condensor mic on the amp. Hmm, interesting. I was under the impression that you should only use dynamics there. Gotta go try it now. Thanks again.

By the way, this site is great. I am happy that I found it.
sirnothingness is offline  
post #7 of 10 (permalink) Old 01-02-2004, 12:11 AM
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mic techniques

another good technique is to use a dynamic in the grill and to combine that with a condenser (a tube mic if you can get the opportunity) farther back, no exact distance here, just play with it until you get a sound you like.

Also isolating the cabinet (making a box around it) makes for a tight track thats easy to control in the mix. Watch the video for a year and a half in the life of metallica and you'll see what Im talking about.
mike2nyc is offline  
post #8 of 10 (permalink) Old 01-18-2004, 02:52 AM
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Hi Folks!
Yeah! You can get huge, massive, beautiful sound with this technique!
A long time ago in a galaxy far far away in our studio we're searching for the best technique for micing guitars.
So, I don't know how we did it, be we asked it to Eddie Kramer.
He (as a very gentleman and nice person) told us all this.
Anyway, he don't tell us to use 414 3 inch in front of amp, but as a Room distant mic.
Regarding the other mics all must be positioned on the high-right speaker of the cab

| |
| SL *SR* |
| |
| SL SR |

You need to find spots for mics.
Start with SM57 alone, you must find the point where the mic sound more bright and polite. To ear this, use a guitar cable not plugged to the guitar, with the amp on. The buzz will guide you.
The same procedure must be done with the 160 and 421.
You must find the spot around the cup of the speaker here:
( 57> ( ) < 421 )
57 > -|- < 421

Shift and rotate the mics in these zones and find the spots.
You must place mics around 1 to 2 inches to the cab grid.
In this manner everything will be on phase and sound clear and best.
You can of course eq a little bit on the board, but not too much! It's better starting with 0db on all channels the adjusting the levels of every mic that eq them.
We don't pan them.
We've found that the best results are achieved with the Legacy cab, every head you want to use.
For istance, we have an arredondo mod marshall and we use it for recording with the legacy cab.
About doubling, Mr.Vai use Eventide or Protools plugins digital doubling and pan left and right around 7:00 and 17:00. In some cases he don't use digital doubling, but he double the guitar playin' the part again.
I hope that helps, in some way

All the best,

Arch is offline  
post #9 of 10 (permalink) Old 02-17-2004, 04:05 PM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 20
hi Davester,
You told us this informations are into home recording magazine (august 2003) page 36-38 but i called it at music dispatch and they told me there isn't any information about Steve 's mic technics into home recording magazine august 2003 backissue.
Are you sure about it?
Can you help me?
Let me know soon as possible 'cause i am working on my own instrumental cd and i am recording the guitar tracks just in this time so please,help me.
best regards
Alessandro Pagliai
pagliai is offline  
post #10 of 10 (permalink) Old 02-18-2004, 09:12 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: Toronto, Canada
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it's there....but the article is not ON or about Steve Vai...his name is just casually presented with some tips he gave.

Trust me, it's there.

And EVERYTHING in that magazine is printed right here on this page. You're not missing anything if you don't get it.
davester1234 is offline  

clean tone , condenser mic , steve vai

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