Group: Super Admins
Joined: Dec. 1999
||Posted: April 22 2008, 16:31
I hope I don't disturb anything by moving this (it feels to me like it belong better amongst the general Mike-tech stuff...fine line though...).
I agree with nusky here, essentially. If you're interested in more details, I think Mike was using a Mesa/Boogie combo for his live distorted sounds at the time of the Montreux performance, with a preamp in front of it to overload it some more (though he never specified exactly what preamp...perhaps the bits of the Manor's desk he later used for the Strat?). I think the combination of valve overdrive and a miked-up speaker helps to keep things smooth. You can indeed use a compressor to get similar smooth sustain without too much fizz.
A little earlier this year, I did a 'Budget Hergest Ridge' demo using a Marshall MS-2R. I was aiming more for that fizzy, gnarly early 70s sound of his, and had fun in the process. It's not perfect, it's not the ultimate Oldfield sound, but the reason I did it was that I thought it would be something that almost anyone could have a go at without spending too much money. I ran the headphone output through a compressor (actually, it wasn't a cheap one, but I'd bet that something like a decent software compressor would do a good job of it). I did it quickly - it could be improved upon quite a bit, even sticking with the gear used. Another thing to try with those little Marshalls is running an overdrive pedal like a tubescreamer into it first, then miking it up with a suitably warm sounding mic (a Sennheiser MD421 is always good to have around, though they cost many times more than the amp...the AKG D112 can make an interesting choice if you want a more woofy sound with the mids sucked out, though I have to admit to not having tried one on a micro amp. I have tried various Neumanns, but really, that's getting silly...Oktava MK-012s tend to work well for that kind of thing, though, and don't cost the earth - they're very handy to have around). I have to be honest and say that I play around with the thing more for the novelty value for anything else - I'm not sure I'd recommend spending a lot of money just to build up a rig based around one! That said, things like the mics can of course be used for all sorts of other recording tasks (though the D112 is a rather more specialist thing - I find the them useful for more than just recording bass drums, which is what they're intended for, but they're far from general purpose).
Anyway, I think I digress...one of the many amp modellers out there ought to be able to help you get a sound which will leave you more than happy. I actually don't think the specifics of the sound are as important as how you use it. I think having the right touch is very important, like nushky says - the sound you're aiming for is the sort which can end up anywhere between beautiful and excruciating depending on how it's played! I think the two key things there are picking the strings with the right kind of attack (confidently and cleanly, with a fairly small amount of knuckle movement - I think having the picking hand at the right angle is crucial there, so you have the right amount of control; if you end up pulling at the strings or hooking your fingers under them somehow, you'll not get that screaming quality) and fretting with just the right kind of pressure, to keep the notes sustained without pulling them put of tune. Staying as relaxed as possible is important, and I'd say it's a good idea to pay attention to where your fretting hand thumb is - hooking it too far over the back of the neck can lead to you holding the fingers at an angle which then puts them in a position where they're less flexible. Stiffness tends to come across in the playing.
I think that's quite enough from me for now!