Thursday, August 02, 2007

Guitars and Gullahorn's Lair

Today was one of the more brain-intensive days in the studio yet, both for Ben and for me.

Ben's brother-in-law tagged along for the morning and observed from the futon while I recorded the acoustic guitars for "All You'll Ever Need" and "Windows in the World". When I say that it took hours and hours to get the guitar parts (that I wrote) right for just two songs, I'm not exaggerating. We got to the studio at about ten, and with Gully out of town there was less tomfoolery, so we cranked right up with the guitars.

I used Gully's Olsen guitar, pictured here with his Larivve and my Mannix (a.k.a. "The Narnia," according to Jill):

People usually overestimate the sound of a nice guitar. After you reach a certain level of quality with a guitar, the rest is subjective; the main difference between this fancy one and that fancy one is preference, or the number of bells and whistles. If you love an instrument well, it tends to sound better to you. You come to love it for its scratches and dents and quirks, and the actual sound of it is of equal importance to the history you share.

So between the four or five guitars sitting in the studio, I tried out the Olsen for "All You'll Ever Need". I had played one years ago (it belongs to my friend Danny Oertli) and the strings on it were pretty old at the time. I wasn't impressed with the sound, though knowing that James Taylor and Phil Keaggy (I think) both play Olsens, my expectations were high. It confirmed my suspicion that once you reach a certain level of instrument, they can't really sound that much nicer--not five-thousand bucks nicer, anyway.

Well, today challenged that opinion. It didn't change it, but the opposition scored a point. That Olsen felt so nice; the intonation was just right, the sound of the high strings was especially bright, and in the words of Nigel Tufnel, "Just listen to the sustain. You could go out and have a bite--still be hearing that one." Anyway, it was a surprise.

Then came two hours of playing a 3 minute song over and over and over and over and over again until it was right. Poor Ben at the helm steered us through some treacherous waters, and by the time lunchtime arrived it felt as if we'd just carved a path through the teeth of the Arctic Sea. That made Baja Burrito taste especially good.

The illustrious Paul Eckberg joined us for lunch and brought along our old pal Ringo.

After lunch Ben and I started on "Windows in the World". This is probably the most fingerpick-intensive song on the record, like "Queen of Iowa" or "All Shall Be Well" on The Far Country. I went into it prepared for labor. We worked for a good hour or so until a storm rolled in. We could hear the rain and thunder through the microphones, not to mention the planes overhead and the occasional train whistle blast. All these sounds strangely converged at about the same time so we spent a sweet twenty minutes or so waiting for the storm to pass, listening to a different music altogether.

Goodgame and Osenga stopped by the studio for a few minutes to pick something up, but sadly we didn't get to hang because the song was waiting for us. We worked on those guitars until 5 o'clock today, and our brains were fried.

Oh, and I didn't mention that we recorded my vocals for the two songs today too. It was a good day's work.

Here are a few more pictures from Gully's studio, meant to inspire.

Listening to: Bruce Cockburn - Lord Of The Starfields
via FoxyTunes


lyndsayslaten said...

man. this is the most inspired i've been in a long, long time.

Dan said...

It looks like the brume is being displayed as an instrument in the first picture. How does it compare to the Olsen? :)

b.j. mumford said...

andy, i had the exact same experience as you with the guitars. martins, taylors, even my beautiful santa cruz, they were all just different flavors, but all fine guitars. until i played my friend kellar's olsen. i would say that i would sell my car to buy one, except i doubt my car's value would afford so much as a downpayment. (i have verified visually that both keaggy and jt are olsen men.)

by the way, i always think it's really fun to know what folks played on any given song, for instrument geeks such as myself. just something to think about sticking in the liner notes there.

Andy said...

I agree with your speech about guitar quality. You love your guitar (even loving those scratches and dents into it) and it responds by sounding better and better to you. And I'd say that it sounds better and better "objectively" to your listeners because it's become more and more like "second nature"--like an appendage to your body. You've got to learn how to play certain guitars.

It doesn't irritate me or anything, but since you're so good with words, I thought you might add to those good words an editorial nugget: I think that if you are talking about songs, you put the title in quotes; you put the name of an album in italics.

How's that for fanmail?

Andrew Peterson said...


I'm usually a stickler for grammar and such, so I appreciate the editorial advice. Funny thing is, I remember thinking when I listed the songs and the album together in that sentence that something looked funny about it but I couldn't place what. I'm off to correct it, post haste.