My mind works best when thinking about things physically rather than electronically. Coming to this realization gave my guitar recording processes a jolt of experimentation and discovery.
Spatial recognition and playing with objects in a physical space gives me a thrill; I’m the guy on tour who loves to pack the trailer, the guy who enjoys making kinetic sculptures, and I love acoustics and studio architecture. My enjoyment of physical space and objects was evident in my visual artwork and studio setup. However, it took me years to make that connection with my recording work.
With guitars, it’s easy to get caught up in tweaking amps and pedals to find new sounds electronically. It was not until 2009, while working on a Spinto Band EP, that I put aside pedals and experimented with physical ways to alter a guitar’s sounds. I did this by attaching, cramming, and holding different items against the strings of the guitar. Next, I tried a variety of ways to play the guitar: with my fingers, picks, coins or any other objects within reach. In addition, I was surprised to find how different string gauges made the guitar feel, sound, and change the way I would play the guitar.
Once I framed the guitar in a way that my mind naturally understood, I was able to reach my sonic finish line more quickly during recording sessions. Amps and pedals are still a great way to get a guitar sound, but being aware of the possibility of direct physical changes to the guitar gave me a better perspective on sonic decisions.
The challenge for me now is applying this process while producing other musicians. When I begin work with a new musician, I look for the skill sets and artistic approaches that come most naturally to them. As a producer, I attempt to set up recording scenarios that highlight the unique ways of thinking and playing that each musician possesses. If a musician has reached a roadblock during recording, sometimes refocusing the problem in a way that fits their best natural artistic process can lead to a solution.
Next time you record a guitar, channel your inner Yoda and try to get inside the way your mind naturally works and can be the most powerful!