Thursday, October 07, 2004

In Loving Memory of Arch Aikman

Soul Amp's new vintage Hammond "M3" AKA Arch Aikmen

This saturday M1 and I are hitting the road in his GMC pickup with topper to fetch this beauty of a M3 in South West Indiana. It will be a bit of a haul but it should be worth it. The story on this little gem is that it began life as all Hammonds did in Chicago at the Hammond factory and settled into it's first and only home the Dugger Methodist Church in Dugger Indiana. FOr the next 46 years this organ was played a few times a week and kept under a canvas cover. This particualr organ was dedicated to "In Loving Memory of Arch Aikman" engraved in a small brass plate attached to the cabinet. We won't be removing this plaque. Think of all the weddings, services, baptisims and funerals this little organ saw in it's service to Dugger Methodist Church. I dug that.

I snapped this baby up as I am member of the Music Comittee at the church I attend, UUCW so I am familiar with the care that churches take when it comes to instruments used during service. So the scenario was the better than the "grandma" owned Hammond, at least theroetically.

For those unintiated to the qualities of a Hammond organ let me start by saying it is one of the most versitle instruments ever invented. The tonewheel sound of the Hammond has found itself in all genres of music, motown, gospel, blues, rock, pop, jazz to name a few. This model the M3 is essentially a B3 cut down to size and put in a spinet cabinet. It uses the same tube pre-amp and amplifier as the B3 and has the percussion, vibrato,chorus and familiar start run switches. The main differences are in the keys 44 as oppposed to 61 be manual and the M3 lacks the "harmonic foldback" feature. these lttle "baby b's" are farily easy to find but rare to find in as good of condition as I expect this one to be. While B3 consoles are going for the thousands of dollars now the M3 remain relativly undiscovered bargin. they can be had between $100-500 currently. You can even find them for free if you keep your eyes open. I expect these spinets to become increasingly rare as they have the Hammond sound without the back breaking wieght or wallet busting cost. M3's can be fitted with Leslie cabnet connectors and modified to have the "harmonic foldback" feature found on the B3.

The Hammond is making a comeback after fading for awhile in the 80's and early 90's but listening to alternatvive modern rock and pop you will hear it's unmistakable sound sliding up through the mix.

Famous recordings you probably know are Booker T and the MG's "Green Onions" recorded with a Hammond M3. The race scene in American Graffitti had this tune as the back drop. Boston's "Smokin" are probably the most famous of the pure Hammond organ hits. How many of us early 60's kids remember downing beers listening to that over and over again. Styx and Kansas the Beatles and a host of dozens and dozens of bands made the Hammond a indespensible memeber of the band. The synth replaced the sound and for a time it was lost. But the renewed intrest in pure tone and tube sound in our digital age as brought the Hammonds back.

As a guitarist this is the first time I have played in a band with a organ and it has been quite inpiring. The deep and rich tones of a hammond tonewheel generator goes well with the guitar both clean and dirty and provides a rich pallete of sound to lead over.

With SOul Amp being thick with Hammond Organ samples at this time it was a no-brainer to pick up the real thing for recording. The samples we currently use are at 16/44 and sound okay but seem to lack a genuine character. when captured at 24 bit and 48 kHz sampling rate.

So the journey begins and soon the little gem will be resting in the basement singing into a tube microhone and captured in 24/48 glory. I will keep you posted as to the progress of "Arch".

Click here for info on moving the Hammond M3

Click here for info on recording the Hammond M3 using the Zoom H4

Click here for a tune recorded with the Hammon M3 through the Motion Sound

Click here for another tune recorded with the Hammon M3 through the Motion Sound

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Drum Re-thoughts and Guitar tone

M1 and I met last night to review drum ideas and test some mics on my guitar cabinet. We ended up going witht he single overhead and the lower right condensors with a AT3525 condensor deep in the kick drum enclosed in foam. The SM57 won out on the snare.

For the guitar we found positioning the microphone closer to the cones of my CBS black Fender 2x12 closed back cabinet. The speakers in the cabinet are OEM EV-12Fs. Classic 300 Watt monsters. The clean sound on these are awesome and the overdrive from my class A single ended Fender Champ 12 is quite early 70's classic. The amp a Champ 12. I modified it with various mods found on the internet plus a few of my own to warm the tone up and ease the gain in the lead channel. I plan on replacing the pots in the gain shannel to allow more flexibility in gain control...

Well anyway we set up a SM58 on the cabinet and recored a clean and gain channel track. Then we repeted with the MXL2001. What we found was quite interesting.

We played with exact position of the mic in relation to the speaker. Starting first on the outer third of the speaker and moving inward to the cone. The EV speakers have a rather lager silver dome in the center and we found that a position that allows the mic when pressed up against the screen to (about 1.5" inches from the dome) captured half the dome and half the cone. This gave a balance of the crispy grit of the dome and the smooth warmth of the cone. The dome alone would be too crisp and the cone was too muddy. Together they blend well. Lateral movements of less than a inch make a audible difference in micing these speakers.

The SM58 was rather lifeless on the clean part of the track. But when the gain was kicked in suddenly this fantastic tone emerged. SOunding like Crosby Stills, Nash "Road To Marakesh" lead. That liquid warm buzz. The gritty combination Sovtek 6L6WGC and 12AX7A-C Groove Tube tubes were smoothed quite nicely into a very sensitive and expressive tone by the SM-58. The deep end "cloonk" was there as well in the rich mixture of complex mid-range harmonic overtones. The MXL was the exact opposite. The clean sound with the MXL2001 close mic'd was rich and true to life. It sparkeled with a clearly defined pingy Fender style. Both the out of phase pickup settings on my strat which I use for all most all clean tones sounded most excellent.

Keeping in mind that these are all dry tracks 24/48 digital tracks shows that the tones we are getting are going to be quite workable in the mix down.

We learned alot about how we are going to tackle many of the recordings coming up. As M1 said..."it was a good night."

Next up...The 1958 Hammond M3. We are picking it up this weekend in Illinois....but that is another tale...

Monday, October 04, 2004

Drum Thoughts

I spent some time in the Cat Box (the basement studio) this past sunday working on drum sound. I set up a AudioDesk project called Drum Tests and recorded several takes using various microphones and postisions.

I ended up taking the front drumhead off and going with a dynamic inside on a piece of foam. The snare is handled by a SM57. I tried two different mics on the snare and found that the sm57 had the punchiest sound.

The moved the overheads down low and placed the MXL990 on the lower right underthe ride and next to the floor tom and on the left i went the MXL991 low pointing up at the highhat and snare. the thinking is that I will get a bigger drum sound and still have plenty of cymbal sound as they are grouped pretty tight. Also it seems that the sound is better coming out from the bottom of the cymbals rather that the top.