Hello again! If you’ve been following the blog recently, you’ll know already that our focus this month is on Recording Guitars. As this is week 3, I wanted to introduce you to a few guitar accessories that have made my life much easier in the studio when recording, but they’re not limited to just this environment - some are great tools for out on the road, especially if you’re like me and like to write when away from home on tour.
Let’s dive in!
When recording, sometimes you don’t always want to tremolo pick, use a guitar slide, or simply create sustain through say a distortion or fuzz. This is where the Ebow comes in handy. This tool creates a form of feedback loop that creates an infinite sustain on a single string allowing you to invent new sorts of sounds on the fly.
It’s kind of like the bow used on a violin in terms of sound (and the way it’s creating an infinite sustain as well, in a way) and when coupled with a reverb you can amalgamate luscious pad-like soundscapes, as well as find much more interesting sounds to utilise as layers within your compositions.
One of the best features this accessory has is the way it can vary in dynamics as well. When the Ebow is moved closer to the pickup being used, the more intense the effect becomes, but when moved away the opposite happens or it ceases the effect when far enough away which can be a very useful tool when creating swells or delicate rises within a song. It’s not a must-have tool, but it’s definitely one to think about having around; in my experience once you have one, you’ll find more and more ways to use it!
This is one of my most used accessories for a number of reasons. Not only is it great for allowing you to experiment with new tuning possibilities, open tunings, and ones that without a capo would be impossible due to string tensions - but it can also be far more accurate when doing this.
Thanks to the design being split into 6 ‘pegs’ each string can either be with the capo on or off, and the pegs can be adjusted individually which gives you total control over the fret you’ve chosen. Sometimes, capos can be a little fiddly with either the rubber or plastic becoming dislodged or broken, however the Spider capo is all plastic and has grooves molded to allow a proper connection and pressure applied to the string - so no more fret buzz when the capo slips or isn’t in place properly. Again, once you have this tool at your disposal, you’ll find more and more ways to utilize it, and I love mine!
I can’t verbally explain my discontent for changing strings and how tedious it can become sometimes. I change strings more often than many I know, but it’s not because I enjoy doing it - it’s quite necessary, especially when recording the final takes on a record. However, what's more frustrating than having to change your own strings while you’re recording your instrument is, for me at least, when an artist isn’t as used to the task and can take a long time in between takes in a session which doesn’t just deplete the time they’ve paid for, but it can crush the vibe or consistency of the artists takes as well.
Thankfully, a guitarist I played in a previous band, put me onto the string winder early on and for something that is a simple winding tool made of plastic, it’s quite possibly one of the most important devices in my studio. I actually have 2; one that stays in the studio at all times, and another that resides in a tool box alongside all my other guitar tech’ing tools I take on the road to maintain mine and my bands instruments.
Over the last couple of years, I refined the string change formula a little more by adding a pair of wire cutters and pliers so changing strings and the frustration it used to bring me is now a thing of the past for both myself and guitarists I record.
On this string winder, you can see there's even a cut-away to allow use on bass guitar tuning pegs as well.
If you invest in a string winding tool (and wire cutters), I’d highly recommend locking tuners as well. They seem like an obvious thing when you have them, but if you aren’t sure what they are or why they’re so useful, let me explain.
In my experience, when not using locking tuners, my guitars and others I record, vary in their tuning much more frequently and require re-tuning much more often. When not using locking tuners, you need to wrap the string around the tuning peg several times to stop it slipping as much; and as the grooves in the strings winding are the only thing that is used to grip the peg, when this isn’t done correctly, the string slips and will go out of tune.
With locking tuners, you don’t need to do this at all. In fact, you can pass the string through the peg with only a little slack on the string, twist the lock on the rear of the peg and now the lock is what stops the string slipping, allowing a much more stable and consistent tuning. Not only do they save time by allowing you less need to tune, but when changing strings it’s so much easier than trying to unwind the small piece of string left around the tuning peg when using wire cutters - instead, you can simply unlock, cut the string near the bridge, and remove all the strings at once basically with little to no fuss!
Hosa Cable Ties
Lastly, this one is often far too overlooked, but has become vital in managing my studio and my live rig while playing guitar. Cable management is an absolute must for me for several reasons, but if I had to choose one good example it would be when a cable fails (which I’m sure we all share the pain of mid-session).
If you have a spaghetti maze of loose cables, coiled around each other on the floor with no arrangement, and a lot of equipment connected to those cables, then it can take an age to not only find which cable is the faulty one - but then having to figure out how to unravel it from the mess you’ve allowed to happen. The same applies to playing live, and when setting up a large rig with maybe in-ear monitoring, or backing tracks; if a cable fails during soundcheck and you can’t locate it quickly and replace it, then it’s probably going to result in a lot of stress and not soundchecking so as to make time to fix the issue.
Hosa cable ties are a lifesaver in this scenarios and although they haven’t reinvented the wheel, and it’s easy to say any cable tie will do - and you’d be correct - I prefer the ones from Hosa as they’re long lasting, the velcro does diminish over time, and it’s so easy to undo and re-wrap in the blink of an eye. On top of that, the actual makeup of the cable tie is genuinely road ready and you can get 50 of these for less than £10.
If you feel like I’ve missed something today, I’d love to know what your favorite accessories are! You can email back to the one that sent you here if you’re on the mailing list, or you can write to me at Harri@jzmic.com - until next week though, stay creative!