Gear Gods presents Studio Pass: Kurt Ballou


Lesson Info

Guitar Q&A

Does anybody have any questions thus far about the guitar set up camp set up or or making my got one as faras like distant make miking on a cab? Do you, tim, please use the drum stuff for ever, just like set of mike like four, five feet off of the cab itself? I don't typically do that sort of take the same approach that I do like about if I'm if I'm making a tar on the guitar, the drum set of totally broken down and I'm getting a new ambient mike kind of take the opposite approach, our start similar approach to what I do with the diffused drum mike's, I won't necessarily put him, you know, in my bathroom, around the corner from the but like all aim, you know, if I'm the guitar in a band of that back wall, I might I might put an amp sort of beside the guitar iam also pointed out that at the back wall, so it's, getting some ambient stuff off the cabinet is getting the reflections off that wall, so remove that like really close stuff and give it a little bit of like pre delay from when th...

e amp happens to win the room like hears it and samantha li's kind of crappy room mike's, too, or like a dynamic mike, so it sounds more like more like the bleed of the guitar into a drum mic rather than like a real nice pretty room tone on the guitar, you can even take it one step further if you really want to make it sound live you khun like you know, put on and put a mike in the corner of the room over there and then set up a snare drum max to it, turn the snares on and let the amp rattle the snares and you can feel more like, you know, more like you're really there couple people were very excited about your feedback in your guitar tracks, so talk about kind of the secret of how you get that awesome like perfect feedback? Sure well, feedback is super frustrating and totally out of control and hard to control, and you can't be married to getting a certain type of feedback you just kind of have to do and see what happens and hope for the best, but the way that I like to handle feedback is, um and it's the the goal of feedback is typically to give you that feeling that you're there that it's a show it's happening it's happening organically, however, I find that communication with a guitarist when we're doing you know when we're doing a track by track type thing like way track the drums to scratch guitars and we're recording on lead guitar I find that the communication with that guitarist is best when they're sitting or standing in the control room with me and you know we can easily talk back and forth we don't have to have headphones on talkback mic because nobody likes playing on headphones and sort of annoying it's better to just have speakers cranked up, you know, other other people to talk to without worrying about pressing, talkback, buttons and and all that kind of stuff so usually it's me sitting on my console guitar players here and we're going back and forth dialing in the bulk of all of the rhythm guitars and then before I leave that guitar tone I will then move them out into my life from set them up in front of the amp and, you know, give them headphones on, talkback mic at that point, but but before that will sort of plan out we want feedback at all these locations and depending on how much it is, I'll either create a new playlist in pro tools and then record another full take of this of the song sort of with the guitar player standing in front of the camp and then, you know, just sort of go in me and you'll be like, okay want to grab this little section and grab that little section and then drop it into the main playlist or we'll just do a bunch of little puncheon's on the same track, I don't like to do dedicated feedback overdubs to me, that sounds a little bit can, so, you know, some people record their rhythm guitarist clean and then go in and just sort of, like tryto bring in feedback where it's necessary, I will have them play along with the riffs and then punch in or edit in just the necessary area. So we have the balance of tight rhythm tracking in the control room with the wild tracking in the live room and kind of find what's what's great about each performance and then his grab, grab snippets from each and make a master track. We've got one more from adrian here. How do you get how do you get rid of guitar fizz noise when you use tones with a lot of distortion in indiana? W yeah, we're going to talk about that in guitar mixing, but there's a lot of ways to do it it's most answer seems to be around like eleven k, so you can use a notch filter to remove it. Some people use a low pass filter, which I try to avoid, because I think that lo passing it removes all of the good air, which gives the guitar tone a sense of three dimensionality, how do you so that this is something that I struggle with and and I think is very important to talk about in this part, like, how would you, when you're talking about mike selection emplacement? How would you keep the good air without the bad stuff that you would need to has a lot to do with the game staging on your amp if you're using a pedal or not? And so how? If you have a pedal, how that set, how the game is set in how the master volume is set, you'll hear, you know potion talked a little more about master volume earlier, but depending on your amplifier and your cabinet, you know the tone is going to change drastically based on where your master is set on dh you know, at lower levels, you're gonna have maur, mohr headroom and sort of mohr responsiveness, but at higher levels you're gonna have more raunch, the mid range is going to come forward, the lobe, the low, mid they're going to come out, the speaker is going to start compressing and sort of evening out your tone, you're going to get more feedback and more sustained with more volume but it's at the same time you know there's, the sound of metal, his lower master volumes and mohr crunch and mohr articulation, so depending on the style that you're playing in the song what you're doing you might want a super loud sound you might want to require so tried dial that in, but the other thing that I'm noticing is, um, the presence kind of vary in a lot of amps were when you're down really low you get a really silly sound, you bring it up toe like medium high, the men arrange the mid range pills and you don't hear so much sizzle, then you go even higher and then a different kind of sizzle comes out. So depending on what type of sizzle you like or don't like and how open you want the tone, you just kind of adjust your master volume war changes speaker cabinets use lower wattage speakers or darker sounding speakers that will sort of well, I mean, all speakers roll off high end, but they just do it to different agrees like the higher wattage selections and like the you know damien magnet celeste jin's are closer to p ay speakers and they don't roll off nearly as much high end to say like the thirty well um yes, oh my current favorite speakers are made by webber I'm using like usually a combination of a al mako blue dog with a hemp cone and ah ceramic silver bell with a paper cone and the ham kam especially does a great job of of rolling off the the exceedingly sicily high end so you can you do that with an selection but you also knew that with microphone selection you know certain dynamic microphones for example like beyer m eighty eight very mid range your microphone doesn't have too much sizzle has a nice bottom and if you have an extra sicily qatari um you might choose an m eighty eight or you might choose toe rely more heavily on like a royer one twenty one ribbon mike, which is going to roll off a lot of the top gonna be a little bit careful about those mikes that roll off all the top because you do want a little bit of top in there. So maybe you have a royal combined with a dynamic mike like a the buyer to a one has quite a bit of sizzle so you can have the bulk of your sound come from the royal. You blend in a little bit of the buyer there, just give us some three dimensionality or you know our you know, whatever pick, pick, pick cool mike's try a bunch of different stuff. Do you find the right mike teo work with amplifier, of course microphone krampus huge to like more transformers sander for the no transformers they tend to add a certain amount of weight to the sound and reduce some of that sizzle but if you've already recorded it and you're stuck with a really silly guitar notch filtering is your friend and sort of so and sometimes boosting first is an easier way to find where that frequency is so like boosted like oh narrow band with belle and then search around do you find that that's type stuff? Find them find that frequency and then cut it at that same frequency and then, you know, a certain amount of cut will give you you were probably cut too much at first, but you want to get rid of that stuff entirely when you realize that it starts sounding a little fake, so start sound like apollo or something, then bring that stuff back and I'll feel or organic oh, I wanted just one quick thing about that. Another cool trick for that is to use a gsr on the guitar you can especially a di essere that or a multibillion compressor that can let you sort of dial in specific frequencies though the waves yes there's pretty good for that or like wave c four's not bad you kind of dial in what's the sicily frequency and pull that down so you can still kind of boost the brightness of the guitar with another issue but then reduce the sizzle with that all right and some people in a chat room are going to cry like I think they're like seven or eight people who all wanted to know this I don't want you not to cry. So ed lam says I was curious about the good heart tones of bands you know recorded like nails and trap them who used the boss? Hmm? Two pedals on the h m too it's still retain the signature agent to style grit how do you approach recording? Mixing that sort of sound I loved sixty sixty said that nails record is the dirtiest, most pissed off guitar tone I have ever heard namely, like wide open wound. Yeah. Could you elaborate on your well nails are dirty and pissed off people on dh you know, telling starts with the people, so yeah, I mean theeighty into is a very specific sound and you know it it's sort of I think the h m to as we know it today, which is I sort of enjoyed a renaissance as of late comes from early swedish death metal. You know, this sort of like two classic death bells to me there's the florida death metal which was intended to be solid state guitar amps like the am paige, vh one forty c and the ss and some create stuff some pt stuff finn and I love the pt bandit talk about that stuff all the time and then the swedish death metal sound actually came from different pt bandits and marshals with the boss h m to battle on dh it has this very specific sort of q filter to it it just sounds like a angry tractor being played through a guitar there's other pedals actually to do essentially the same thing that's the area on metal master, which is like a I think I kind of like a clone of the h m too, but with crafty parts and that's a little bit more searing and sicily in the h m, too and then there's also this's great mastering studio that you sometimes called enormous door mastery and they're kind of starting up a pedal company and they have something called the hp, which is a believe sort of short for left hand path named after the tune record and that's a similar tone to the agent too, but with a little more control of the mid range and presence and actually got a pretty convincing h m to tone recently out of a mason mark three combo and a boss medals on going into it. S o thiss h m to sound is becoming like a lot more common these days, and I think a lot of the bands doing it like trapped in the nails are aware of that and, you know, I don't want to get to lumped into what everybody else is doing because you know, when I make records, I try to make them sort of timeless I don't want people to, like, put on one of my records and go like, oh, yeah, two thousand nine like I want to know or two thousand fourteen whatever, like, I want people to be able to always enjoy the music that I do so as as trends sort of come and become certain prevailing winds, I think meat myself and a lot of the bands that I record, we try toe move away from that. So the early nails records really were just straight up, like marshall h m to kind of sounds and the key to that, you know, the classic, like swedish death metal dialed in h into san is really in the game staging you take the pedal, you pretty much just crank the level, you definitely crank the low in the high knob and then sort of gain to taste, and then you know the issue on the matters, but it's really about the the input game and the master volume and just there's a there's a point when that stuff just kind of it sort of is sounds like nothing. It sounds thin, small and crappy, and then you get to a certain point of the master volume when all of a sudden, like it fills in the three dimensionality is there but it doesn't sound like this weird can atone and just becomes this totally menacing monstrosity and but then a little too far and it's totally incomprehensible this pedal is like a really fine bounce and you can do it with just about any amp solid state aps to vamps whatever like is long as you have enough control over all the different things you could find the right balance and I've got one of my favorite things to do it with this have this guild uh titan only weird old and that's just killer for that also oh, sorry gives him tighten uh I have a guild thunder bass is actually pretty good with it too, but, um you know, vintage marshall's like jam ps and eight hundred there sort of like the typical way that that tony's done with with the most recent nails record you know, they were they were really into the idea of well let's get something that has that level of just anti social aggression of just anger and, you know, it's like a middle it's just a middle finger to, you know, tio good sound quality so we decided to do is kind of take that take that thiss was this was a sort of a complicated amp set up for me and uh big juggling act sweet we took that that sort of stock swedish swedish metal tone swedish death metal tongue with the agent to and can't actually can't remember which ample used for it it might have been a jam p I don't know I have a lot of stuff I have really bad at remembering the details of what I did but there's a stock sort of h im to sound in there but that's also and that's sort of getting all the mid range so I probably did use my marshall because it's not it's not a super basic so that's kind of getting the mid range and then the bottom end is mostly coming from any call the hovercraft which is made in portland, oregon it's a small company that kind of they they get kind of cheap pants and then rebuild them and repurpose them into something different and and that I have is a hovercraft war but not twenty twenty one um and that began its life as a jet city but now it's more like like an old orange with a first battle in front of it. So that's got this like really super smooth, greasy, slimy, ultra saturated, compressed kind of I kind of almost like stoner doom kind of sleep kind of sound to it eh? So there's that but it's not a very precise sounding and so the the agent to sort of added this like, you know, mid range raunch and articulation and then the dwarf or not sort of added all this bottom and sneer because the band is not a super precise band you know the fact that it's like overwhelming incomprehensible a times this I think one of the big strengths band so those those air two singles contribute to the sound and then the final contribution was sort of inspired by norway we got a medal zone and just sort of tweet that out to some real awful sounding settings and ran that into a altec model number just the classic caltech to microphone preeti is like a five channel mixture to to preempt fif fifteen sixty seven a I think is the model number of it so and that's kind of quite a dark mike preempt so if you've ever tried to like run a distortion pedal right into the board you know that it's just like so I used dark mike pre amp to my princess who kind of compressed the signal distorted a little bit more and make it dark you know I love like all those old garage records especially like stooges m c five type stuff and that sounds like the microphone pre answer distorted on the guitars it's not just distortion coming off a guitar but it's like distortion coming from the mike and you're supposed to like carly sam garden records were going that way too don't you have any specific knowledge of that? But uh yeah, I think kim was using those music man amps at that point yeah, hd one twenties or something that was cool. Yeah, but I heard in some interview one point that he was talking about how I think they used, like a summit to mike freeman would overdrive the two my cramps you're getting like overdrive from the ant, but also a different type of overgaard from the microphone. So yeah, so I've got I had that whole direct double overdrive signal being blended in with the two amplifiers, and then the cumulative effect of that is a little more broadband the most of the guitar in tones, I would go to mean that really the metal zone thing really encroaches upon the symbol sound, and the hovercraft really encroaches upon the bass tone, but so before we move on, want to add that there's one critical element of this sound, and I'm not being facetious here, this really can't be understated, which is, you know, todd, I mean, todd jones is a very like, unique human being, you know, as a player and a person, and that matters a lot, you know? I comply you. Todd is a very good friend of mine I could plug into that same setup, I wouldn't sound like todd, you wouldn't sound like todd and and it's important to remember that you know, the human angry part of what makes so many of your recordings so greatest human beings involved with them and that's something that I think we shall remember, which is why you were saying the first segment of today like working with your client? Yeah, don't skip that yeah is important stuff. Oh, just I just feel like I should say I didn't do all the guitars in that they have a son guitarist now say about and he's awesome when he signed on that yeah, they're they're just equal like I forgive tod's left knees, right? Or vice versa, but I don't think anybody pinch hit hit it for anybody else on that one. Todd is certainly the main driving force you creatively and you know, but regardless point point being, you know, the humans that played on the record, whoever they that's a huge part of the sound and you know gear is great and all that, but but the people I learned that lesson the hard way many years ago, I recorded a record that some people liked, and then it shortly thereafter had a band coming and say we love this record do everything exactly the same as you did on that record, and I really did my best to do everything engineering wise exactly the same as I had done on this record that they really loved, and that records didn't really turn out very good because they were different players. They had different songs, and they played in a different way. And, you know, you always listen to who it is that you're recording and do what works best for them and optimized song. And don't get married, too, what somebody else did. But just, you know, it's important to reference other stuff just to just to keep yourself honest, to calibrate your years. But really, you need to listen to the song and doo with best for the song.

Class Description

In this two-day course, prolific producer Kurt Ballou will take you behind-the-scenes of GodCity Studios to show you exactly how the magic happens. This all-access studio pass will immerse you in every aspect of Kurt’s distinctive sound — from choosing and setting up gear, to tracking and mixing.

Kurt will show you the basic and advanced techniques he uses in his studio every day, and teach you how to apply them to your own recording — regardless of whether you’re working in a studio or at home with a DIY setup. Using anecdotes from his years behind the board, Kurt will also teach you his best practices for working with bands to extract the best and most inventive sounds.


Keith Foster

First off, even though I'm neither a beginner nor a recording professional, this class is absolutely worth the money you spend on it - especially if you plan on making heavy music. There are enough tips, tricks and guidance in here to get your money's worth many times over. That said, as an indie artist who goes to a studio to record drum tracks, then does the rest ina home studio I found some of the things disheartening. Much of the class follows a "I do this thing using item / amp / microphone / plugin (X), it's pretty cool" vibe, and it sounds cool.... until you check the price. As an example, the 'stereo buss processing' section sounds fun to try, except for the part where the three pieces of gear cost about $8K. As a result I found myself figuring out how to incorporate the essence of what he was saying without the gear budget to do so. Maybe I'm not the intended audience but a little more concept and less gearhead would have been even better. That said you should totally get it, it's a low price for so many hours of great content.