and I both
purchased guitars from Kevin Ryan after those CDs were
recorded. Amy had a Nightingale with a Boznian spruce
and Brazilian rosewood sides and back. I used a Brazilian/Cedar
Grand Concert for my Shades of Blue recording and Steve Baughman used
that same instrument on the "Celtic Summit" album with Robin
Bullock. I used a Brazilian/Boznian Spruce "Nightingale" on the DVD
I recorded for Solid Air
Records and Warner Bros. Publications. It's tone is rich and complex
with lots of bass and plenty of high overtones. That guitar was
also played on "Acoustic Journey," "Land of the Sky," and "Winter
Tidings" and has since been sold.
The guitar I used on Caledon Wood is the Larry Sifel dreadnought "Dryad" that I played in concert for over ten years. It is arguably the best sounding instrument in its class that I've ever played. It was returned to Jean Sifel in 2014 in order to be a part of the Pearl Works museum.
We own an Appalachian dulcimer built by Tom Fellenbaum and an Old-Time banjo built by Lo Gordon. I don't play electric guitar very often, but when I do, I like to use an old Stratocaster that I built from spare parts that is outfitted with custom pickups, wound by Joe Barden, through my 1960's Ampeg SB-12 flip top amp. Both sound great. For recording, I also use a Rob Allen MB-2 Fretless acoustic bass guitar.
For live performance, Amy uses Neumann and Earthworks microphones and I use whatever is available, generally Shure SM beta 58s.
a photo of me and Paul Reed Smith jamming at the Grand Opening celebration of
Pearl Works in Southern MD. quite a few years back. I'm playing the Sifel Rosewood
Cutaway. This guitar was given
back to Jean Sifel after Larry's untimely death in May, 2006. I
still play the maple "Petteway Cutaway" and I think it will always
be my all-time favorite guitar.
I use the Elixir Phosphor Bronze HD on all of my guitars. Amy prefers the 80/20s.
We also use Elixir nanoweb strings on our mandolins
I haven't found another string that is as consistent or has such perfect intonation.
G7th Heritage Capo
use the Heritage model capo by G7th. These
are the only capos that automatically adjust to the fretboard radius on
any guitar. You can slide them back behind the nut when they are
not in use and they are very lightweight. The bumpers along the
sides keep the capo from scratching the neck.
Amy also has a custom G7th Heritage capo, but she also likes the Planet Waves NS Capo Tuner which is also strong enough and long enough for capoing high on the neck, but has a tuner built in. If I'm playing an acoustic concert and need a tuner, I attach the micro headstock tuner. It practically disappears on the headstock and it works really well.
Karura 000 Case
Visesnut , Harptone and Martin Cases
Circa 00 and my Tippin are both in cases made by the Karura Case
Company in Bangkok, Thailand. This is definitely one of the best
you can buy. It's made of a carbon fiber composite material that
makes it lightweight and extremely protective. My new Circa
guitar needed a good case and I ended up purchasing a Visesnut case
that has an adjustable interior size. This case has become my
number one flight case for any of the 000 or OM sized guitars I
use. The Visesnut also has a padded thermal case cover and straps
that are quite comfortable. For the rest of our cases, we use
covers, especially when flying. You can zip these
covers to completely cover the latches and elminate the need for taping
them down. They also offer an extra layer of thermal protection
in hot and cold weather. We often use gig bags for the RainSong
guitars since they are practically indestructable. I love the new
vintage style cases by Harptone and Martin and have them for a couple
of my guitars, but I only use them when driving to gigs.
"pluck" the strings with my right
hand fingernails in combination with either my thumbnail or a plastic
thumb pick. Sometimes I feel like I have more control when using a
especially when I'm playing harder, but I like the sound of the
thumbnail, since it is more balanced with the fingernails. I also use
the back of my
fingernails for strumming and "popping" effects. Hammer-ons and
pull-offs figure prominently in my playing, which makes it sometimes
difficult to tell which hand is "plucking" the notes. Recently Amy and I both
started getting "UV Gel" nails on our right hands. I keep my
nails filed and polished smooth around the edges so the attack on the
string is clear and pure . I
use very little force in my left hand and strive to keep both hands
relaxed at all times. I've found that I can get more power this
flatpicking, I like to use a heavy pick, preferably tortoise shell or
something that imitates it. When I'm backing up Irish jigs and
reels, I use a thinner pick.
We have a little home studio setup that uses an Apple Mini computer and Digital Performer 9 for OS X with a API 1324+ 4 channel mic preamp and a MOTU thunderbolt digital interface. We also have a MikTek CV4 tube mic, a matched pair of MikTek C5 microphones, a matched pair of Sennheiser MKH-40 microphones and a matched pair of AKG 414B TLII's with C-12 capsules installed in them. Our Boston grand piano (by Steinway) sounds wonderful in this space. I record at 88.2 kHz, 32 bit floating. Billy Wolf does all of our mastering at Wolf Productions in Virginia. My most recent album was mastered by Billy and my good friend Greg Lukens.
In the past, we used a vintage AKG C-24 stereo tube mic to record the guitar for "Whispering Stones," "The Waters and the Wild," and some of "Midsummer Moon." We used vintage Neumann U-47 microphones on nearly all of the stringed instruments for "Caledon Wood." Jim Robeson, the engineer at Bias Recording Company in Springfield, VA placed the mics about 1-3 feet away from the guitar at the spots that sounded best to him. We rarely ever used any EQ on the guitar during recording or mixing. The project was mixed to 20-bit digital using the Rane "Paqrat" and then mastered in 20-bit at Airshow by Dave Glasser (the good ole' days of digital recording)
To record the guitars at home for the first few self-recorded albums, I ran the microphones directly into an ADAT XT-20 digital eight track recorder. However, I've since purchased the Macintosh and MOTU 896HD Firewire recording interface and I'm very impressed with the capabilities this equipment offers me. Until recently,I used a Mackie 1604 VLZ PRO mixer and a pair of Genelec 1029A's with the Genelec subwoofer for monitoring. I still use the Genelecs but no longer need the mixer since the new MOTU 896HD has a virtual mixer built in. Headphone monitoring is done through a Rane HC6 and a choice of Shure SRH840, Sony MDR-7506, AKG K 240 DF, AKG K 240, or Audio Technica ATH-M40 headphones. My favorite mic preamp is the four channel API 3124+ . I also use Presonus MP20 preamps for electric bass and direct pickup signals
prefer to mic guitars by placing one microphone facing the 12th fret
other placed about a foot from the lower
bout, pointed behind the bridge. I've also used the XY and ORTF
placement for close micing where phase issues may occur. I've
been experimenting with
mixing and matching different mics and mic placements and have come up
with some pretty
results but I still prefer to use a matched pair. I
borrowed a pair of
Senken Mics from Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer to record the "Celtic
Summit" CD by Robin Bullock and Steve Baughman. They were an excellent
choice for recording Steve. On my solo guitar album "It's Only
the Blues" I used the two AKG's with C12 capsules and added the
MikTek CV4 as a center mic. The results were amazing. I
also used this technique to mic Amy's guitars on "Home Sweet
Home." For my most recent project, The Collector's Passion, I
recorded on location using an iPad Pro and a Roland interface. I
used the ORTF placement for the mics and recorded using the Auria
app. The results were so good that it changed my concepts of
recording solo guitar music.
Mixing with Jim Robeson using the wonderful API console at Bias Recordings in Springfield, VA
- Photo by Amy White
Fairewood Studios - Takoma Park, MD
"Racing Hearts" was mixed by Jim Robeson at Bias Recording in Springfield, VA. This time we mixed to 24-bit digital and then mastered in 24-bit with Bill Wolf at Wolf Productions in Falls Church, VA. "Gratitude," our Indie-winnging duo guitar project on James Jensen's Solid Air Records was also mixed and mastered the same way with the same engineers. Those guys are so good!
"Shades of Blue" was mixed at home using
MOTU's Audiodesk software and mastered with Bill Wolf.
Wing," "Acoustic Journey," "Land of the Sky," "Winter
Tidings," "Dream Guitars, Vol. I" "High in the Blue Ridge," "It's
Only the Blues," and "Home Sweet Home" were all recorded and
mixed at home, using Digital Performer software. Mastering was
done by Bill
Wolf once again. "The Collector's Passion" was recorded "live" on location and mastered by Bill Wolf and Greg Lukens.
I never use any processing or EQ when tracking. I'd rather leave
that till the mixing stage and even then, I use very little, if any, EQ
and minimal processing. My computer software has a number of wonderful
processing plug-ins, including the new ProVerb reverb plugin. I now use it instead of my Lexicon MPX-500
for overall reverb effects. I've been using the computer for mixing all
of our recent projects. We still like to send our files to Bill Wolf's mastering
suite at Wolf Productions for the final mastering before
favorite tunings are EADGBE,
DADGAD, DADF#AD, CGCGCD, CGDGAD, and DGDGBD. I've experimented with many
variations but find myself returning to DADGAD as my "standard"
tuning. I've also been experimenting with the use of partial
capos. All of my capo positions and tunings are listed in the
liner notes of my solo albums and on the transcriptions in my
books. On "Racing Hearts," I used DADGAD tuning exclusively, so I
didn't bother listing it. I did use a partial capo across the
first four strings at the second fret for "Hidden Wings." I just
couldn't figure out any other way to play it at the time. Now I
can play it in CGDGAD. Everything else is
straight DADGAD either open or with a capo. For the duo guitar
album I stayed in DADGAD most of the time, but snuck back to standard
for a couple of the jazzier numbers. Amy also played primarily in
DADGAD but she wrote some really cool tunes in a tuning she learned
from David Wilcox: BGDGBD. She put a partial capo on the
fourth fret and used the low B as her root. Another variation she
used was BGDGAD. On the "Shades of Blue" album I used DADGAD and
Standard tunings, but I also used DGCFAD(standard tuning down a whole step) for a couple of tunes to give
me that slinky electric feel. The solo CD "Dream Guitars
Vol. I & II" feature Standard and DADGAD
tuning primarily, but there are tunes CGDGAD. "It's Only the
Blues" is almost entirely in DADGAD except for "This Just In" which was
in CGCGAD. "The Collector's Passion" features all of these tunings as well as CGCGCEb for one tune.
Al & Amy-Home ~ Biography ~ Discography ~ Technical Stuff ~ Reviews ~ Awards
a i r e w o o d S t u d i o s
P.O. Box 1093
Weaverville, NC 28787