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James Taylor guitar chain
Old 24th August 2006
  #1
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RBowlin's Avatar
 

James Taylor guitar chain

Anybody familiar with the mic/pre/comp used to record Taylor's guitar? I listened to an old album (Mud Slide Slim) and was just amazed at the sound of the guitar.

-Rich
Old 24th August 2006
  #2
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GYang's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by RBowlin View Post
Anybody familiar with the mic/pre/comp used to record Taylor's guitar? I listened to an old album (Mud Slide Slim) and was just amazed at the sound of the guitar.

-Rich
Have no clue, but I'm sure that 99,9% of James Taylor's sound lies in his guitar (not to speak about playing). I strongly believe that even pretty basic setup would capture all what's necessary for top class recording.
Old 24th August 2006
  #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GYang View Post
Have no clue, but I'm sure that 99,9% of James Taylor's sound lies in his guitar (not to speak about playing). I strongly believe that even pretty basic setup would capture all what's necessary for top class recording.
Truth. I was listening to some early JT as well as some Joni Mitchell with James playing AG and his tone has been consistent for over 35 years, regardless of the guitar he played or the recording chain. What an amazing player, as simple as his style is.
Old 24th August 2006
  #4
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studjo's Avatar
 

I think GYang has a point there because I listen to some newer recordings from JT and his guitar sounds just perfect ...

Jo
Old 24th August 2006
  #5
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A few years back I read that 'Hourglass' was recorded through a low end Yamaha digital board on location, and that the engineer taped a tiny mic to a popsicle stick and taped that to his guitar, because he wouldn't stand still. Then it was mixed on a SSL console. That album won an engineering grammy. So now you gotta go buy a used Yamaha digital board and a popsicle stick, and you'll have the James Taylor sound.
Old 24th August 2006
  #6
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Not sure of the chain but James does use Olson guitars.
http://www.olsonguitars.com/

They are made here in Minneapolis. We were lucky and had the builders son here recording and we had dad bring in a few guitars to try out. Fun fun. Wow did they sound good. There are far from cheap though.


Todd
Old 24th August 2006
  #7
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Well, I've found info on his custom guitars, fingernails and such. But I'd love to know the recording chain used on some of his older stuff. He seems to be one of those guys you could stick a Radio Shack mic into a cassette deck in front of and he'd sound great.
As a musician hung up on gear, that stands as a reminder that it's about the music. I'm currently getting a good acoustic guitar sound using an AKG c450b into a UA 610. But it's not THAT sound. I'm going to try an API 512c and a Vintech pre in about 2 weeks. I hope to get closer than I am now.


Anyone else know anything about this topic?

-Rich
Old 24th August 2006
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ToddF View Post
Not sure of the chain but James does use Olson guitars.
http://www.olsonguitars.com/

They are made here in Minneapolis. We were lucky and had the builders son here recording and we had dad bring in a few guitars to try out. Fun fun. Wow did they sound good. There are far from cheap though.


Todd
Yep, The Olson's look nice. Word is that Olson left JT a guitar to play around with at a concert. He liked it so much he ordered a couple.

So all I need is an Olson, a little mic on a stick and an SSL board.

Who would have thought?

-Rich
Old 24th August 2006
  #9
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Yeah, the Olson's are very nice. If you look for a used one, the more recent ones are better than the very early ones, although they are all good. Amazing guitars. I think there is still a substantial wait for a new guitar. There was a period of time a number of years ago when he even quit taking orders so he could catch up.
Old 25th August 2006
  #10
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Pohaku: By day, I'm an attorney too

But at night, when I fire up my tube gear....
-Rich
Old 25th August 2006
  #11
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AFAIK Jim Olson changed his ordering process quite a while back. He was getting taken advantage of by speculators -- they would pre-order at his quoted price in the $5k range, knowing it would take 2-5 years to complete. Then on receipt they would immediately put the guitar on auction for about double the price they paid. And were getting it.

So his policy changed to allow custom orders at $12,500. If the speculators could still make a profit on that, then good luck.

Everything else is sold as "available instruments", first come first served. And some of those have been going for $15k +

Nice guitars, but it's just the JT link that attracted all those wild prices. There are plenty of other guitars every bit as good or better, for far less money.

As to the recording chain -- don't know about the mics, but JT has used the same Baggs LB6 pickup for many years in his live setup, and I believe some of that makes it to the records. Can work for his soft fingerstyle approach, but IMO it's an annoying pickup for any kind of aggressive strumming or flatpicking.

Steve
Old 25th August 2006
  #12
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I've read about the Baggs pickup for live performance. I just assumed there was no reason for incorporating that in the studio environment. I guess it could be mixed in with the mic sound.
I guess what has intrigued me is that all the tonality of the guitar is there without any boominess at all. I suspect there are a number of pieces to this puzzle, mic, mic placement, pre, and eq. But given the consistancy in the sound of Taylor's guitar thru the years leads me to believe there is some standard recording chain he uses.
Of course tracking is only part of the equation. But it's the place for me to start and I'm going to keep looking until I find the answer.

-Rich
Old 25th August 2006
  #13
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I have use James Taylors albums as quality reference since 1970´s, very nice playing, producing and engineering, and as you say, a great acoustic guitar sound.

My absolute favourite albums (venyl of course) are "Gorilla" from 1975 and "In The Pocket" from 1976.
Both produced by Lenny Waronker and Russ Titelman.
Engineered, mixed and mastered by Lee Herschberg at Warner Bros. Studio North Hollywood.
Very well mixed with smoth nice clear sound, if you like sweet acoustic guitars, try to find this two albums.

Next album, also great, "JT" from 1977, have more punch and compact character, (very nice bass and drum sound) and was produced by Peter Asher, recorded mixed by Val Gary at The Sound Factory in L.A.
This album was mixed with "Aphex Aural Exiter System", but it would be interesting to hear the master with out the Aphex process.

--Bo
Old 25th August 2006
  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by uncle duncan View Post
A few years back I read that 'Hourglass' was recorded through a low end Yamaha digital board on location, and that the engineer taped a tiny mic to a popsicle stick and taped that to his guitar, because he wouldn't stand still. Then it was mixed on a SSL console. That album won an engineering grammy. So now you gotta go buy a used Yamaha digital board and a popsicle stick, and you'll have the James Taylor sound.
too funny
Old 25th August 2006
  #15
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It's hard to say, but I guess "Gorilla" is my favorite. The AG sound on "Wandering" is incredible.

I've got an Aphex Aural Exciter. I didn't think those things even existed in the 70s. I've not played with that piece of gear in a while. I think I'll fire it up and see what I can make it do.

-Rich
Old 25th August 2006
  #16
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Greg Gualtieri made some pre's for the guitar

I understood from when I was buying my Pendulum gear that Greg Gualtieri, designer of the Quartet and, I assume, all the other Pendulum stuff, was instrumental in James getting his sound and that James use live pre's purpose built for acoustic guitar made by Greg. So... maybe Greg will tell us something. u out there Greg?
Old 25th August 2006
  #17
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I'm looking at the SPS-1 and the modified AKG C416. I'm curious if something along these lines is what JT uses. Anybody from Pendulum Audio around?

-Rich
Old 25th August 2006
  #18
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Pohaku's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by squeegybug View Post
AFAIK Jim Olson changed his ordering process quite a while back. He was getting taken advantage of by speculators -- they would pre-order at his quoted price in the $5k range, knowing it would take 2-5 years to complete. Then on receipt they would immediately put the guitar on auction for about double the price they paid. And were getting it.

So his policy changed to allow custom orders at $12,500. If the speculators could still make a profit on that, then good luck.

Everything else is sold as "available instruments", first come first served. And some of those have been going for $15k +

Nice guitars, but it's just the JT link that attracted all those wild prices. There are plenty of other guitars every bit as good or better, for far less money.

As to the recording chain -- don't know about the mics, but JT has used the same Baggs LB6 pickup for many years in his live setup, and I believe some of that makes it to the records. Can work for his soft fingerstyle approach, but IMO it's an annoying pickup for any kind of aggressive strumming or flatpicking.

Steve
I agree. They are very nice guitars, but the pricing is a celebrity effect. There are other comparably excellent guitars available for a lot less money. On the other hand, its nice that he as a luthier is able to get that for his guitars as opposed to the speculators.
Old 25th August 2006
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RBowlin View Post
I'm looking at the SPS-1 and the modified AKG C416. I'm curious if something along these lines is what JT uses.
Yes, Pendulum SPS-1 is the preamp he uses. It's a modular system with a separate DI module that plugs in the endpin jack, then just sends a balanced signal to the mic pre. Has lots of inserts/FX loops, 3-band parametric EQ, integral mix bus.

It's a nice unit, I owned one for several years, works good just as a studio mic pre as well.

I replaced it with Sunrise tube preamp and Speck ASC-T. IMO the Speck equalizer is far more functional and musical.

Steve
Old 25th August 2006
  #20
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fwiw, james has porcalain nails painted onto his own nails. thats what all that clicking and clackining is that you hear . its a very distinct sound. i believe but might be mistaken that his old label mate mccartney does it now also , at least on the new album.

s
Old 25th August 2006
  #21
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Bo Hansén's Avatar
 

Rich,

Quote:
Originally Posted by RBowlin View Post
It's hard to say, but I guess "Gorilla" is my favorite. The AG sound on "Wandering" is incredible.

I've got an Aphex Aural Exciter. I didn't think those things even existed in the 70s. I've not played with that piece of gear in a while. I think I'll fire it up and see what I can make it do.

-Rich
What I remember, it was the first Aphex Exiter version, (a big unit) and I think it was only for rent, not fore sale.

(maybe I get it wrong ??)

--Bo
Old 25th August 2006
  #22
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As the world's greatest JT fan for years, I have some info on this subject from my vast collection of interview transcripts and other documentation on JT's guitar sounds and technique, mainly from the earlier days when I was copying him note for note on my D35.

October 1981 Recording Engineering Producer Interview with Val Garay
JT album recorded with a SONY ECM-50 in the soundhole, mixed with an AKG C12A "far enough from the guitar so the musician has room to play". No mention of guitar used.

May 1984 Guitar Player Interview
Gibson J-50 used on the first three albums, no pickup for recording, but miked. Barcus Berry under the bridge in those days for live stuff.
Next came the cedar topped Mark Whitebook guitars, Takamine pickups, used for the next few albums. James specified Gibson shaped neck for these custom Whitebooks, then settled on later models with more of a Martin neck shape (somewhat triangular). Studio sound is obtained with a little Sony PCM50 at the soundhole mixed with the Takamine pickup, but he also used an "AKG", sometimes a "Beyer" and sometimes an "extremely directional shotgun".

April 1988 Musician Mag Interview
Whitebook guitars mentioned again with Baggs pickups for live sound. Beyer M88 for live vocals.

Don't have much info on when he switched to Olsen. I cannot find a more modern magazine interview where he mentions Olsens, but will post more if I find it.
Old 25th August 2006
  #23
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RBowlin's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by David Spearritt View Post
As the world's greatest JT fan for years, I have some info on this subject from my vast collection of interview transcripts and other documentation on JT's guitar sounds and technique, mainly from the earlier days when I was copying him note for note on my D35.

October 1981 Recording Engineering Producer Interview with Val Garay
JT album recorded with a SONY ECM-50 in the soundhole, mixed with an AKG C12A "far enough from the guitar so the musician has room to play". No mention of guitar used.

May 1984 Guitar Player Interview
Gibson J-50 used on the first three albums, no pickup for recording, but miked. Barcus Berry under the bridge in those days for live stuff.
Next came the cedar topped Mark Whitebook guitars, Takamine pickups, used for the next few albums. James specified Gibson shaped neck for these custom Whitebooks, then settled on later models with more of a Martin neck shape (somewhat triangular). Studio sound is obtained with a little Sony PCM50 at the soundhole mixed with the Takamine pickup, but he also used an "AKG", sometimes a "Beyer" and sometimes an "extremely directional shotgun".

April 1988 Musician Mag Interview
Whitebook guitars mentioned again with Baggs pickups for live sound. Beyer M88 for live vocals.

Don't have much info on when he switched to Olsen. I cannot find a more modern magazine interview where he mentions Olsens, but will post more if I find it.
Thanks for the info. This is the kind of stuff I'm looking for. There is no question that his "sound" is instantly recognizable, not to mention his playing style. I remember sitting in front of my little portable record player in 1971 listening to Fire and Rain, my guitar on my knee, trying to match every lick he made. I certainly haven't mastered his playing skill, though I'm close. What I've not been able to do is capture that sound with my recording rig.
After reading the responses here, I need to rethink my approach. And, of course, I'll need to buy new gear to impliment that "new" approach.

-Rich
Old 25th August 2006
  #24
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i'll see if i can dig up the photo, but i recall seeing a pic of him somewhat recently in the studio with a pair of Royers (either 121's or 122's) on his acoustic. typical "spaced pair" placement--one near the bridge, the other around fret 12/14 and back far enough that "he has room to play".

sorry i can't be of any more help than that.


cheers,
wade
Old 25th August 2006
  #25
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I've got a friend who told me the same thing. Royer- 121s. THIS I understand. Mics "in the guitar" seems a bit strange for studio work but I'm going to try it anyway.

If you can dig up the pic I'd love to see it.

-Rich
Old 25th August 2006
  #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RBowlin View Post
If you can dig up the pic I'd love to see it.
i'll see what i can do. for some reason, though, i recall it being in one of the local Charlottesville (Va) papers (called "The Hook") in an article on Crystalphonic.

My memory could be off, though.....but that's what i recall. it was a B&W picture.

Does anyone know if either October Road or the Christmas Album had parts recorded at Crystalphonic?


cheers,
wade
Old 25th August 2006
  #27
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every time i have seen him play live, he used a shure SM81.
Old 26th August 2006
  #28
kdp
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Sorry,don't know the technical stuff on James but Yeah! One Man Dog is a masterpiece!
Old 26th August 2006
  #29
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Oh yeah ...don`t forget the capo .....
Old 20th January 2008
  #30
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James Taylor: Talent vs. Technology

Before becoming a studio musician in 1976 (Los Angeles) I was living next door to Mark Whitebook in Topanga Canyon. This was a coincidence because I'd already ordered a guitar from him at "Westwood Music" not knowing he was in the shop next door to my house. My room mate was John Lee Hooker's guitar player. One night he was at the Whiskey a Go Go to hear John McGlaughlin's Mahavishnu Orchestra. He told John about my Whitebook and I got a call from both of them from backstage at the Whiskey that night. John freaked when he played the Whitebook which was a thrill for me as I was a big fan of his. He took my number.

A couple of weeks went by and one night at 2:00 AM I was listening to a Shakti LP and the phone rang. It was McGlaughlin from England. He asked if I could help him order Whitebooks for himself and for James Taylor and Carly Simon. The rest is history because Whitebook was on of the greatest guitar makers ever (of steel string) and this single order made him famous as well.

Finally getting to the point. I heard James Taylor's first LP with "Carolina on My Mind" when it came out in 1969 or 1970. The guitar playing is so wonderful. The sound is too. When I became a session player I worked with his brother Livingston in the studio as well. He used the J-50.

I submit this and agree with one of the guys in the earlier stings...James Taylor's touch IS the sound. In truth he really didn't sound all that much different on the Whitebook from how he sounded playing the Gibson although the frequency response and presence of the Whitebook is clearly superior.

The "chain" as you all refer to it, and in my humble opinion is as follows and in this order of importance...

1. The heart and soul of the player.
2. The "touch"
3. The instrument
4. The Engineer
5. THEN and only THEN...the gear

thanks. I love JT as well.

Quote:
Originally Posted by David Spearritt View Post
As the world's greatest JT fan for years, I have some info on this subject from my vast collection of interview transcripts and other documentation on JT's guitar sounds and technique, mainly from the earlier days when I was copying him note for note on my D35.

October 1981 Recording Engineering Producer Interview with Val Garay
JT album recorded with a SONY ECM-50 in the soundhole, mixed with an AKG C12A "far enough from the guitar so the musician has room to play". No mention of guitar used.

May 1984 Guitar Player Interview
Gibson J-50 used on the first three albums, no pickup for recording, but miked. Barcus Berry under the bridge in those days for live stuff.
Next came the cedar topped Mark Whitebook guitars, Takamine pickups, used for the next few albums. James specified Gibson shaped neck for these custom Whitebooks, then settled on later models with more of a Martin neck shape (somewhat triangular). Studio sound is obtained with a little Sony PCM50 at the soundhole mixed with the Takamine pickup, but he also used an "AKG", sometimes a "Beyer" and sometimes an "extremely directional shotgun".

April 1988 Musician Mag Interview
Whitebook guitars mentioned again with Baggs pickups for live sound. Beyer M88 for live vocals.

Don't have much info on when he switched to Olsen. I cannot find a more modern magazine interview where he mentions Olsens, but will post more if I find it.
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