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Chapter 3: Instruments With Pickups

AUDIO FILES (To download all WAV examples at once: 3MB ZIP)

  • String Instrument Fingering Positions: On an orchestral stringed instrument, the same pitches can frequently be played on different strings to achieve a very characteristic tonal variation. For example, listen to this small melodic line played on three different strings of a viola: the 'A' string (Ex03.01:WAV/MP3 bp); the 'D' string, tuned a 5th lower (Ex03.02:WAV/MP3 bp), and the 'G' string, tuned a 9th lower (Ex03.03:WAV/MP3 bp).

  • Guitar Fret Buzz: If a guitar's action (the height of the strings above the fretboard) isn't set appropriately, then it can result in 'fret buzz', where the strings rattle against the frets during performance -- as heard in this audio example (Ex03.04:WAV/MP3 bp).


  • Handy Communications Gadgets: Here are a couple of affordable little mic switching boxes that both work well: Radial's passive Hot Shot DM1, designed to work with dynamic mics only, and the active Mic Mute Lite from Orchid Electronics, which requires phantom power to run, but which can also be used in conjunction with phantom-powered mics. Orchid Electronics were also responsible for the custom-built dual Mic Mute unit pictured on page 89 of the book.

  • Automatic Software Talkback/Listen-mic Switching: Although I prefer (as discussed in the book) to have hardware switching for talkback and listen mics, and to operate them manually, if you don't have a problem with automatic software switching then check out Sound Radix's cute little freeware plug-in that can do automatic muting/unmuting in response to your DAW's transport status.


  • Some Real-world Small-studio Communications Systems: In section 3.2.3 of the book, I discuss general principles of small-studio communications using talkback and listen mics. To supplement this, here's a PDF document with some concrete examples of such systems, including some discussion of each setup's pros and cons.

  • Further Audio Editing Advice: Try this two-part series from Sound On Sound magazine, which has lots of information about real-world audio-editing procedures within the computer DAW environment: Part 1 & Part 2. (The subject is also dealt with in depth in Chapters 6 & 7 of my other book, Mixing Secrets For The Small Studio.)

  • Warwick Kemp's Track Expansion Method: If you're working within a limited trackcount without transport-synchronisation facilities (perhaps because you prefer using an analogue recorder), you can still generate slave reels using Warwick Kemp's Track Expansion Method, and ingenious scheme which takes advantage of the human sensitivity to interaural time-delays.

  • Working With Latency In Computer Systems: See the Chapter 2 resources page.

  • Further Information About Instrument Setup/Maintenance: The Guitar Repair Bench site has lots of user-friendly entry-level tutorials on setting up and maintaining electric guitars, and there are lots of great in-depth resources on the net for users of electromechanical keyboards too: The Rhodes Super Site, the Wurlitzer Electric Piano List, and the Hohner Clavinet & Pianet Resource Homepage. If you're working with analogue synths, then the Links page is a great springboard for finding out anything you need to know. Violin-maker Russell Hopper has a nice free booklet about basic handling and care of orchestral string instruments, and there are also some nice supporting video presentations from him on the same subject here.

  • Rehearsal & Arrangement Tips: Although this Performing Musician magazine article focuses on bands, there's a lot to be taken from it when routining with band musicians for studio overdubbing. If you're looking for arrangement ideas, there are plenty of workshops in Sound On Sound magazine's archives, such as their 'A Rough Guide To Song Construction & Arrangement' series (Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4).

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