Photo: Shlomi Pinto
It Goes To 11: Audio Engineer Alan Parsons Gives An Inside Look At His Favorite Recording Technique
Famed audio engineer and producer Alan Parsons doesn't necessarily have a favorite piece of gear that he uses in the studio, but he does have a go-to technique.
Alan Parsons is a legend in the recording studio. He earned his first engineering credit on the Beatles' Abbey Road album when he was still a teenager, and since then, he's been an engineer on albums by the likes of Pink Floyd and The Hollies, as well as helming his own act, The Alan Parsons Project.
Since his early days in music, Parsons used a technique in the studio that's gone on to become his signature sound. He may not have a favorite piece of physical gear, but he certainly has a favorite method — and in this episode of It Goes to 11, he explains how it works and why it's such an effective studio tool.
"It's not that it's so much a favorite piece of equipment, as it's a concept that I've used for all my records, almost since I started engineering," he says. "And that concept is double track with varispeed."
English musician Roy Wood first taught Parsons this concept, and he learned to love it in the days when analog tapes were the go-to method of studio recording.
"I would change the speed very slightly on the tape machine — a tiny bit faster, or a tiny bit slower," Parsons explains. "Then I would double track the instrument being recorded at that slightly different speed. And that gives a wonderful chorus-ing effect. It's become almost a trademark sound of my records."
In the digital era, however, he's had to adapt to how he pulls off this signature move. "Back in the days of analog, it was pretty easy — you'd just press a button," Parsons continues. "But in the digital age, it's become a lot more difficult to do that."
Yet he still manages to make records using the varispeed concept, with the help of a piece of equipment called the Apogee Big Ben Master Clock. The studio timepiece keeps pace on master tracks, and includes subtle enough adjusters and modifiers that it's possible to use Parson's favorite method.
Press play on the video above to hear Parsons explain more about the concept of double tracking with varispeed — and how he continues to do it in the studio today — and keep checking GRAMMY.com for more episodes of It Goes to 11.
Photo: Anton Goiri
It Goes To 11: Jorge Drexler's Favorite Spanish Guitar Has A Special Childhood Connection
In this episode of It Goes To 11, Uruguay-born musician Jorge Drexler introduces fans to his favorite classical guitar and explains why it's the most essential instrument he owns.
Uruguayan singer/songwriter Jorge Drexler's life path included training as a medical doctor — specializing in otolaryngology, the study of diseases of the ear and throat. Still, he says that music, and specifically, the classical guitar, has been a constant for him ever since childhood.
In this episode of It Goes To 11, Drexler introduces viewers to the Spanish guitar, the most essential item in his musical tool kit. As he explains, it was made by Vicente Carrillo, a Spanish luthier who made guitars for Keith Richards and Paco de Lucía, among others.
Drexler's instrument has various siblings. some who've landed in the hands of some of the biggest stars in music. What makes Drexler's guitar truly special, he continues, is the wood it's made from.
"The cover is made of Canadian cedar, and the sides and the back are made of palo escrito. It's a type of Mexican wood," Drexler says. He then flips over his guitar to reveal the gorgeous, multi-toned panel of wood that makes up the back of the instrument.
When Drexler was first learning to play the guitar, as a ten-year-old in the mid-1970s, he had an instrument made from a similar type of wood.
"This guitar is made of Mexican wood," he explains, "and the first guitar I ever had was a guitar from Paracho, Michoacán, made with Mexican wood as well. So in a way, I'm reconnecting with the first guitar I ever had that was made with this type of wood as well."
Drexler's life has changed immeasurably since he learned his instrument: He's been nominated for five GRAMMYs and won five Latin GRAMMYs over the course of his career. In the meantime, he's only grown closer to his Spanish guitar.
"I can play it like it's a part of my body, right?" Drexler adds. "It's a beautiful instrument, and the sound is the most beautiful thing about it.
Watch the video above to see Drexler's classical guitar in action, and keep checking GRAMMY.com for more episodes of It Goes To 11.
Credit: Sam Hodges
It Goes To 11: Scott Kirkland Unveils The Synthesizer That Helped The Crystal Method Find Its Sound
Meet the synthesizer that the Crystal Method's Scott Kirkland has used on every album in this episode of It Goes To 11.
Over the course of the almost three decades Scott Kirkland has spent making music as the Crystal Method — which became Kirkland's solo project when former bandmate Ken Jordan departed in 2017 — he has always depended on a great synthesizer to help him create his signature sound.
In this episode of It Goes To 11, Kirkland introduces the trusty synth that has helped the Vegas-based electronic outfit form its signature sound. "It's been in the Crystal Method family for every album," he says.
That's the Roland Jupiter-6, a piece of gear that Kirland says he originally picked up thanks to LA-based classified ads paper The Recycler — the same legendary paper that once helped bassist Duff McKagen join Guns 'n' Roses and put Nikki Sixx and Tommy Lee in touch with guitarist Mick Mars to form Motley Crue.
"There would be, like, 20 to 30 people every morning at 6 a.m. out there getting 'em, ripping 'em open to put 'em on their car," Kirkland remembers. "Some people were looking for free items, some people were looking for cars, and there was a group of us that were always looking for synthesizers. I'm sure that's how we found it."
The now-discontinued JP-6 is well-known for its ability to produce a wide array of sounds. To Kirkland, that's what makes it great. "I always love sounds that seem to be antagonizing each other," he explains, adding that it can easily create texture, sonic juxtaposition and — because the Crystal Method is not a vocal group — create sounds that are ear-catching enough to serve as a main melody.
"It feels like an old friend. Like having a conversation with an old friend. I would never get rid of this old friend. But if I ever had the opportunity to buy a new friend, I would," he jokes. "If any of you out there want to donate your Jupiter-6 to the Crystal Method, I promise you, I will give it a fantastic home."
Hear more about Kirkland's trusty synth in this episode of It Goes To 11, and check back for new episodes.
Photo: Kevin King
It Goes To 11: Samantha Fish's Favorite Piece Of Gear Is A Road-Tested Blues Instrument With A Sound That Sets Her Apart
Blues rocker Samantha Fish shows off her cigar box guitar, an instrument that's been a crowd-pleaser at her shows ever since the day she bought it.
Singer/songwriter Samantha Fish's catalog encompasses an array of different styles, from rock to alt-country to bluegrass. But a major part of her foundation is in blues, and her favorite instrument is a testament to those roots.
In this episode of It Goes to 11, meet Fish's Stogie Box Blues Cigar Box Guitar, a piece of equipment that's been essential to her live show for the past decade. "The beauty of this thing is how durable it's been for me for 10 years," she explains.
The origin story of the guitar — made from an actual cigar box, which once contained 20 premium cigars from Nicaragua — is a memory that's special to Fish.
"I remember being a teenager, and my father took me to my first-ever blues festival in Helena, Arkansas. They call it the King Biscuit Festival. And a lot of the bands and one-man acts were playing this instrument," she recounts. "I remember thinking, 'Wow. So cool and unique.'
"Fast forward, years later, I got hired to play the same festival with my band," she continues. "I saw a guy selling these, and I said, 'Hey, this is kind of circular and perfect and serendipitous. I'm gonna buy one.'"
The first time she tried it out in front of a live audience, the reaction was immediate. Now that the guitar is so special to both Fish and her fans, the singer admits she's not sure what she'll do once it dies. "You find it, and you're attached to it, and it's really hard to replace it, even if somebody makes you a replica," she says.
Even when that moment comes, Fish will still keep it around for sentimental reasons. "I've got some gear on my walls," she adds. "I'm gonna play it 'til it can't be played anymore, and maybe there'll still be some shreds of it to hang up somewhere."
Press play on the video above to see Fish's cigar box guitar — as well as some shots of the instrument in action — and check back to GRAMMY.com every Wednesday for more episodes of It Goes to 11.
Photo credit: Didier Messens
It Goes To 11: SOJA Frontman Jacob Hemphill Explains How His PRS Modern Eagle II Furthered A Bond And Captured His Soul
SOJA vocalist and guitarist Jacob Hemphill details his initial reaction to his prized guitar — what he describes as "the most expensive thing I own" — and how the instrument changed his relationship with his father
What was your reaction to receiving the most expensive thing you own? If you're anything like SOJA frontman Jacob Hemphill, your feelings probably teetered between shock and a newfound sense of responsibility.
"I had never seen anything that was this well made in my life, and let alone, I was the one who was supposed to hold it and play it and make it sing. I couldn't believe that," Hemphill recalls in his episode of It Goes To 11.
Watch the three-time GRAMMY nominee explain the soul-bonding relationship between himself and his PRS Modern Eagle II Singlecut — and how it also bonded the singer and his father.
Hemphill and the Modern Eagle II have proven to make a great duo so far. The SOJA vocalist and guitarist has led the band to three GRAMMY nominations for Best Reggae Album, including a nod at this year's GRAMMY Awards for their 2021 album, Beauty In Silence.