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An interview with Peter Frampton by Glenn Bucci
Peter Frampton comes Alive in the studio
Peter Frampton came out with an album last year called Fingerprints. It is an instrumental album that has 14 remarkable songs on it. I personally feel it is the best rock instrumental album since Jeff Beck’s Blow by Blow. Many people in the music industry were so impressed with Fingerprints that it won a Grammy. On it, Peter invited many stars to join him, including Rolling Stones' Charlie Watts and ex-Rolling Stone Bill Wyman. I talked to Peter about the CD and discussed recording techniques he uses in the studio. I found Peter to be a gentleman and very pleasant person to talk to.
Many rock guitar players that have instrumental albums play these real impressive lead solos, and by the time you are on the fourth song, it starts to all sound the same. However Peter would not have any of that. On Fingerprints, he was able to create wonderful melodies and chord structures for each song, and guess what, all the songs sound different. He not only plays great lead guitar, but great rhythm guitar as well. He jammed with Mike Cready and Matt Cameron of Pearl Jam on two songs, Allman Brothers/Govt’ Mule guitar slinger Warren Haynes, Paul Franklin a pedal steel virtuoso, Hank Marvin and Brian Bennett of the Shadows, and John Jorgenson who helped play on a cut that sounds like a Django Reinhardt song. If you have not heard of Django, he is the guy Les Paul and Jeff Beck learned from. Nuff said!
Studio: How great your music sounds depends partially on the dimensions of the rooms and acoustic treatment. Peter’s studio is in the basement of his home in the Cincinnati area. The studio has 14-foot ceilings, which includes a nice size control room, and live room. In the control room, Peter uses a Studer 2” 24 track recorder. Once he records the music to it, he then transfers it to Nuendo where he is able to edit, use automation, and add effects to the music. He works with an SSL E mixer with 56 inputs and uses Apogee converters at 96kHz. Peter agreed that they don’t give you an "in your face" sound nor do they have an over-exaggerated top end. The Apogee’s have a very natural sound to them. They give you a sound that sounds like what you would hear when a band plays in front of you. Some high-end converters seem to pick up all these little nuances and amplify them to a point that you get an unnatural sound including a big sparkling top end. Though some people like this character, it does not give a natural sound that the Apogee’s give. Many on the forums say this natural sound is more like an analog sound. Peter also stated he prefers to record music at 96kHz compared to 44.1kHz, as the top end is clearer at the higher sample rate.
DAW of choice: Peter stated he tried many of the DAWs out there and he found Nuendo to be the one that has the best sounding audio engine to him. Though he has some good hardware gear, he loves the UAD plug ins including the 1176 and LA2 A, and uses some Waves plugins such as the Renaissance. These can be helpful in fine-tuning the tracks for vocals, bass, and guitars. What mic pres does he use in the studio? Besides the ones on his SSL console, he uses Neve 1073s, Vintech and Universal Audio mic pres. To capture his vocals and to get his sound, he uses an old Neumann U47 that goes into a Neve 1073. Then to keep the vocals even but punchy he runs them through a Universal Audio 1176 limiter. This is one of the magic setups that many classic rock recordings used as well. Most engineers just love the sound with this combination. With U47s not being made any more by Neumann, it is a mic that many mic companies try to emulate today. It has a special low midrange character that sounds so good on many classic rock recordings.
Guitar Tracking: When Peter records guitar tracks, many times he will record them in mono, but then adds stereo effects to the signal. Peter stated this is the same setup he uses on stage as well. Peter though likes to experiment a little and, at times, he will record his guitar in stereo. I asked him what mic techniques he uses to record his guitars. He uses a SM57 close up to the speaker and points the mic towards the middle of the paper cone at a 90-degree angle. He also at times will use one or two U67 tube mics or Soundelux U99s. With one U67 he can use it as a mono room mic, or 2 U67s high up to get a stereo recording. He will place them an equal distance from the amp. This can get a richer sound and he chooses this setup on more jazz type of recordings. The U67 he places between 12-18 inches away from the speaker cabinet. The condenser mics are more delicate but they pick up a fuller sound. It really depends on the song and what you are trying to accomplish on it. Peter also uses Ampeg Echo Twin at times to get different guitar sounds as well. Each amp has a different voice, and depending on the song, Peter will use the amp that fits the song best.
Guitar stacking: Peter many times has several rhythm guitars on a song. He tries to have each one use a different inversion so they stay out of the way of each other. If he played the same part on both passes, it would just be a simple blend. The different inversions allow different notes to be used, (usually one voicing is higher than other) which help the two parts to stay separate and distinct. He mentioned that in Motown music many times that is what you would hear being done with the different guitar players in a band. It can allow the music to breathe better and add more dimension to a song. For example you could play an A chord the standard way with your fingers pushing on the strings on the second fret. Then have a second guitar play the A chord on the fifth fret. Then you pan one guitar more to the left and the other more to the right. Peter likes to play guitar in regular and opening tuning. The Rolling Stones also have used this technique through the years. Peter is still finding new chords and different ideas that helps keep his music fresh. He said each key has its own sound.
Tape vs. hard disk: I asked Peter about this and he told me there is something about tape compression on the bass and drums that you just can’t beat. He also feels that he has this wonderful Studer machine in his studio, so why not use it. When using reel to reel, it can add a gentle smoothness that touches music in a pleasing way that many still love. How can people get this sound without using reel to reel? Many companies have come out with products that try to emulate the sound of reel to reel, and some are better than others. One of the better ones is a half-space rack unit from Rupert Neve called “True Tape Emulation and Line Driver. “ It attempts to impart this gentle color to tracks without using reel to reel by using real magnets in the unit. Many times, it can round off the music gently and remove some harshness that might be on a track. Many times, Peter will record the meat and potatos of a song on the Studer. Then later on, he will record his lead guitar tracks and other things by going straight into Nuendo. Other times he may record straight into Nuendo and make slave reels with the Studer. Recording straight into Nuendo or any DAW is just a one-step process. Working with reel to reel, converting from analog to digital and going back to analog is more work and is time consuming. This takes time away from recording and mixing causing more time with rerouting with cables and waiting for the song transfer to be done. This is why recording straight into a DAW is a lot easier than the process of recording to tape, and then transferring everything into Nuendo later on.
Players: On the Fingerprint CD, Peter has Gordon Kennedy (formerly of White Heart) in the band, and Arthur Stead on keyboards who also plays guitar. Peter believes this is the best band he has ever had. On songs like Black Hole Sun and Float on his new CD, there are 3 different guitar parts, so he is able to recreate these songs live on stage with this band. Playing bass for most of the CD is John Regan. He is a very steady bass player. He knows when to keep it simple so the song can breathe, and when to add more in the gaps when needed. John Regan uses a 65 Precision bass or Jazz 6 string. He will record with an Ampeg B12, which gives a tighter sound than the 15. He uses a U47 and an 1176 compressor while tracking. Bill Wyman also plays on one song with Charlie Watts on drums. Charlie recorded with an old Gretsch drum set that that gives him a big thick sound. You can clearly hear a difference with his drum sound over the rest of the record. Charlie and Bill just sound great together. Bill does not like to stay on the root notes, but moves around a little, making some interesting grooves in the song. Bill used a Steinberg bass and just recorded direct into the board. Interestingly enough Peter has his old bass player, Stanley Sheldon (Frampton Comes Alive), play on a song called Ida YU Voulet. This has a nice South American feel to it and his bass playing is just wonderful. Stanley still uses a fretless bass, which he also used on the Frampton Comes Alive record.
Success: Peter had one of the most successful records ever with his Frampton Comes Alive album. The album still holds its own today, and is still played on every rock station out there. Though it was very exhilarating and fun, Peter enjoys his life more now. Being healthy, family healthy, and just doing the things he loves as he directs his own career. Though I love his Alive record, I found his “Live in Detroit” DVD to be just as good if not better. After Fingerprints won a Grammy, he is on tour this fall giving his all playing the new and his classic songs including one of my favorite songs from his Humble Pie days, I Don’t Need No Doctor.
I found Fingerprints to be the best thing he has recorded in years. He collaborates so well with every guest on the record, and they work off each other so well. Some highlights include Warren Haynes playing some killer slide guitar, and Peter coming right back at him with his lead guitar playing.
The song Boot It Up has an amazing sax solo on it. The sax solo was recorded in England on an AKG “The Tube” mic. The track was then sent back to Peter in the US, where he transferred it into Nuendo. On the road, he uses Cubase while in the studio he sticks with Nuendo. Both are made by Steinberg and are very similar to each other. On Shewange Way Peter’s lead plays in a major scale, but at the end of many phrases, he ends up on a minor note, which adds an eastern flair to it. The acoustic guitar playing adds a little Spanish touch as well. Souvenirs De Nos Peres has the Django Reinhardt feel. For recording the acoustic guitars, he uses a pair of Neumann KM 88’s in an x/y position through Neve 1073’s. Interesting enough in Peter’s studio, two thirds of it is a studio, and the other area is a hang out room and gym. He found recording the acoustic guitar in the gym gave very natural reflections, which gives a wonderful ambience to the track. If you like that song, you may want to check out some of Django’s music he did in the 1930’s. Fingerprints is not just for guitar players, but for all music lovers as well.
- Posts: 497
- Joined: Mon Oct 28, 2002 12:00 am
- Location: Pennsylvania
- Posts: 497
- Joined: Mon Oct 28, 2002 12:00 am
- Location: Pennsylvania
Was a big fan of FCA back in the day. Great to know he's still recording!
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More recently, Pete's cover of While My Guitar Gently Weeps off his Now album, is splendid and possibly my equal fave cover of that track along with Jeff Healey's version.
Peter Frampton: While My Guitar Gently Weeps
Jeff Healey: While My Guitar Gently Weeps
Thanks for posting Glenn.
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