Small is Big

I know this is probably not news to many people I know that have been doing audio engineering for as long, if not longer, than I have. Heck, it’s not really anything new to me. If anything, it’s more of a revelation, really, on what I already knew but perhaps never wanted to believe. I sort of had my revelation while working on a soundtrack for a major client and was going through some amp models to find find the right sound for a lead guitar part. If anything, it big sounding models didn’t cut it for the lead. I tried many of them, including Marshall, Diezel, Engl and Mesa Boogie stacks. They sounded big, but that bigness was falling short in the type of tone that I needed, thus feeling small.

Then it hit me: some of my favourite lead tones were from albums like Led Zeppelin II and IV, and the thing that hit from those albums was that Jimmy Page mainly used small amps like a Supro Thunder. Thus, I dug up an amp model of it on my POD and it was perfect. That little amp sounded so big in the recording that I wound up pushing a bunch of things out of its way so it could carve its way right up the centre. I couldn’t believe just how good a small amp can sound. Even a small amp model, especially since I don’t know where to even begin to look for a Supro Thunder. I find that leads cut better on a smaller amp model, than a bigger one.

Yeah, it’s nothing new because even when I used to deal with my ol’ reels almost 30 years ago, I would close-mic my little Traynor combo because it sounded so monster in sound on tape. My stack never cut it, and I new back then that my combo was my main amp for recording guitar. If anything, it hasn’t changed with amp models. I used a small Vox, Matchless and Supro in this project and they all worked in it because they sounded big. Even the Vox model gave me a U2-type sound that all of a sudden gave me a larger than life feeling when I played. It’s probably a sound that I will use more often.

Big stacks have their place, no doubt. Heck, I used a couple of models for another recording in the rhythm guitars. However, the leads needed that bigness that I could only get out of a smaller type of amp model. Hopefully, I’ll pay more attention to this revelation, so that I won’t have to go through it all over again. All I need to remember is: the smaller the amp, the bigger the sound.

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