Zone Recording: Old School

Welcome back readers to another installment of Zone Recording. I have just experienced a great album recording session that I would like to inform you about.

I was hired to play the guitar parts on an album from an artist named Ali Milner. She is a great singer songwriter residing in Vancouver BC Canada.

As we all know, most recording dates, including ones I have been running, are built from the ground up.

What I mean by that, is that most of the time, musicians are not playing with other musicians, but with clicks, drum machines, or existing tracks as they overdub. This has become standard practice for some reason over time. I believe this is because the engineer and producer can have a very clean take, with no bleeding of other sounds into the take, of all instruments. Also, critical listening can be made of each instrument to make sure everything is clinically perfect. Sometimes too perfect - and all the life is edited, tuned, tweaked, EQ'd and manipulated to a point that it does not even sound real anymore! Don't get me wrong, that is an effect in itself, which can be cool, but once everything is done that way, it sounds pretty... fake.

This session took place at The Armory Studio in Vancouver. BC Canada.


This is an amazing studio where many have recorded including, Kiss, AC/DC, Bon Jovi, Nickelback, Martone, etc.

First off - the music. I would compare it to a Norah Jones type of feel. Some great tunes with a very open and down to earth vibe.

I was given some very simple lyric charts as well as a disk with all scratch versions of the songs on them. Sometimes the chart did not match what the demo was doing and vice versa. I decided to make some of my own charts up, as well as correct the existing ones for the sessions.

I also needed to think of the instrument of choice I would be bringing. I knew I wanted an older vibe and the Parker was not going to cut it for this date, although I did use it on one song.

I ended up using a Gibson single cut ES 137.


What a great guitar! I plugged it into a Vox AC15 and AC30 amps for a great vintage tone! These amps were in an iso booth by themselves while I played out in the main room.


I also used my Parker P8, as well as another Gibson acoustic on the sessions as well.

First thing that I found out that was cool, is that we were going to record to 2-inch tape. Very vintage indeed!


Now for the great part.

The whole band was set up and tracked together! That's correct! Together! Here is a shot of the set-up.


In the main room we had acoustic piano, bass, and guitar all set up together. Notice the acoustic walls set up in this picture...


I was set up behind those movable walls.

Drums and vocals were set up in their own respective iso booths, with the players inside those booths as well.


Vocal iso room...


The way it went down was, we (the band and producer Don McLeod) would play down the charts to get a feel for the song. We would cross reference against the demo for tempo and parts, and then also cross reference with sonic examples that the song we were working on should be influenced from. This was time consuming, but eventually we would get something. I believe there were 13 songs in total. I played on 8 of them. Some of the other great musicians that were part of the date were Sherry St.Germain, Flavio Cirillo, Norm Fisher, Eric Soloman and one other bass player I cannot remember the name of... sorry!

Flavio also took all the pictures we are checking out right now as well.

This was overall a great experience and the vibe was great in tracking. Of course, it was interesting with all of us trying to get perfect takes together, but we would usually do two takes. We would pick the best one, and if - if we needed to do a punch in - we would. I had to do a few, but basically getting the whole band on a pass playing pretty much perfect was the goal. I have to say we pretty much achieved it!

Watch for Ali's record coming out in the future.

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