The Art and Love of Re-amping
Re-amping is not just about guitars and distortion... it's a versatile and satisfying blend between the creativity of analogue and the freedom of digital recording.
Pictured: Wisseloord Studio 1, with the collection of amps for Vandenberg’s record that Bartlett recorded
A few years ago I spent a few years creating albums entirely to tape using a beautiful Studer A80 Mkii 8 track and a Neve 5316. We would go days in the studio without turning a computer on cutting tape, punching dubs, and committing to sounds, because if you skip past the 8 tracks you’ll have to dub to the 2 track and then you can’t change. It taught me a lot, and I’m very proud of the results: several of the albums were mastered from tape straight to vinyl, and never hit an AD Converter until conversion for a digital release.
Recording like this is a labour of love; it’s a process that’s so limiting, but through its limitations you’re forced to be more creative. I ran everything through anything: sampling guitar notes, sending synths through amps, and using guitar pedals on vocals for delays (even having band members’ girlfriends stomping them on and off during mix passes - because everyone else’s limbs were busy on the console). It was truly a process where nothing was off limits, but the one thing we didn’t have is the luxury of trial and error. With such a limited track count, and fear of tape degradation, we were forced to create a vision and stick to it.
While both tape and analogue recording have their benefits, I love digital because if you can maintain vision, you have the freedom to experiment. You can see what works and what doesn’t, and if something doesn’t work, you’ve only lost time. This spirit of experimentation using the freedom that ‘digital’ provides and the creativity inspired by ‘analogue’ is captured perfectly, in my opinion, through re-amping: the hybrid process of taking a signal from the converter, putting it through a re-amp box that changes the impedance, feeding it through any manner of amps and pedals, micing it, pre amping, before feeding it back into converter.
I use re-amping during recording or mixing, on anything from guitars, to vocals, drums, synths, clarinets anything. For me, re-amping is not just about distortion, it opens up a whole new realm of possibilities. It can be a slight compression to a track, it can be an EQ, it can be a reverb effect, it can make something digital sound more real, the cabinet and mic selection can be used to place something within a mix, or it can simply be that you have always wanted that rhythm part to have more of a Vox feel, and your amp just doesn’t quite cut it.
A few years ago I worked with guitar legend Adrian Vandenberg, who played with Whitesnake and alongside Steve Vai for years. His is the classic solo on “Here I go Again”. We were privileged enough to work for a few months at the famous Wisseloord Studios in Holland where they have one of the best guitar amp selections in the world. We had access to the 7th Marshall ever built (hand signed by Jim Marshall), first Series Bassman, Twin, Voxs, Twinklelands, Two Rocks everything imaginable, with every imaginable cabinet. We spent three days trying every possible combination of tones and sounds writing extensive notes on everything we could. And then? Adrian sat down with a Kemper Amp modeller, and played his parts to the beds we had laid down, while I worked on strings and percussion and other parts of the record. Finally, we re-amped all of Adrian’s parts back out through the amps we had chosen for each song. It was the easiest guitar tracking I’ve done!
No matter how you use it, re-amping is an important tool for creating music.
Written by CEO and founder of Studio Assistant: Stephen Bartlett