Zone Recording: Less Is More

Hello fine readers from beautiful Vancouver, Canada. It is smoking hot today and I realized that it is time for another installment of the "Zone Recording".


What the hell am I saying? If I was to write this column 10 years ago I would think I was insane! This can be applied to so many things it is almost sickening. I will try and relate it to the recording world, and even further into guitar sounds.

I remember trying to get the heaviest sound known to man years ago and had two or three distortion pedals all hooked up - through an already distorted amp. I thought it sounded great until I stopped playing and heard the sound of a small hurricane through my amp. Even better, when I heard the playback of the take that I just did, I could not decipher what the hell I was playing. Hmm... what could possibly be wrong? I have the huge death sound I thought.

What I had in retrospect was a huge pile of steaming $&$@!@$#$! I cannot remember how I learned this, but here it is. You do not need copious amounts of gain to make the sound heavy for the guitar. LESS IS MORE in the gain department. All you need is probably half the gain you were using, and special attention to the bass knob on your amp.

You cannot leave the bass setting and gain setting where they are when you are practicing your chops of doom late at night with a volume setting of 5. Sure it will sound good at that level, but people don't realize that as you crank your amp, you have to readjust the settings to make it work for volume of 8, or God forbid 10! The louder you go, less gain is needed to compensate for the overall punch of the sound. The bass is as equally important. Lower the bass setting the louder you go. Now you may be asking, "How much Dave, tell us how much?"

Every amp is different and even the room you are in will effect it. The basic rule is that you don't want your amp to "fart", or "woof". That is the easiest way to say it. I think you will all know what I mean when I mention this. It is the sound your amp makes when the speakers cannot handle what is being fed into them.

Lead Sound

The same principal is good here also. So many people rely on 'insane gain'. Why do we need this? It just compresses our sound so horribly that our phrasing suffers because we cannot stop playing for even a minute. If we did, the feedback and noise would scare King Kong off the Empire State building.

When recording, using a less distorted lead sound, with some nice outboard compression will add so much life to your sound, it will be awesome. Let us all reflect on David Gilmore's solo in "Another Brick In The Wall Pt. II". His tone is not that distorted at all, but sings, and there is space for phrasing. One of the best solos of all time.

I hope this helps!


May the tone be with you.

David Martone is a guitarist from Vancouver, Canada who has released seven solo CDs which showcase his musical diversity and brilliant guitarmanship.

His 2007 CD is entitled "When The Aliens Come", which features a progressive sound incorporating jazz, rock, fusion and metal influences.

David Martone