Grammy-Winner Ricky Skaggs Reveals Tricks of the Trade

Mar 1, 2004 12:00 PM, Editors


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Multiple Grammy Award-winning bluegrass artist Ricky Skaggs and owner of the Skaggs Family Records label was nominated five times for the 46th Annual Grammy Awards in February 2004.

Pictured: engineer Lee Groitzsch (left) and Ricky Skaggs in the studio

Both of his nominated albums, Live at the Charleston Music Hall by Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder (Skaggs Family Records) and The Three Pickers by Earl Scruggs, Doc Watson and Ricky Skaggs (Rounder Records), were recorded live using Neumann-distributed TRUE Systems Precision 8 8-channel microphone preamplifiers. The Precision 8 is designed and built by Sunrise Engineering, a design and build manufacturer located in Tucson, Arizona.

Lee Groitzsch, a recording engineer and studio manager of the Skaggs Family Records Studio, explained that the TRUE preamps fit the requirements of the two projects perfectly. "On both of those occasions, we had a low budget, but obviously had some high sonic requirements that we had to meet," he commented. "We wanted to find mic pre's that weren't outrageously expensive to buy or rent, but would deliver sonic integrity when putting it to tape."

In addition to sounding good, the mic preamps needed to be easily transportable, continues Groitzsch. "We weren't going to be renting a truck. We were going to be hauling the gear and setting it up at the venue ourselves and patching it in ourselves, and cutting to a RADAR [hard disk recorder]. The TRUE mic pre's sounded good on acoustic instruments and vocals and being a one-rackspace unit with eight channels, it ended up being one of the key pieces of gear in our project."

Live at the Charleston Music Hall was nominated for three awards, including Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocal for the track "A Simple Life"; Best Country Instrumental Performance for "Get Up John"; and Best Bluegrass Album. The Three Pickers, featuring Scruggs, Watson and Skaggs, received two nominations: Best Country Instrumental Performance for "Pick Along" and Best Traditional Folk Album.

"So now we've got two projects that the TRUE preamp was used on that are nominated for a Grammy," enthused Groitzsch. "We're just a small label and we've got five nominations. Amazing. We're hardly even getting played on the radio!"

The Charleston live recording made use of several Neumann KMS 105 microphones, reported Groitzsch. "We used a KMS 105 on Ricky's vocals, the fiddle was cut through one, plus the banjo, and Ricky's mandolin was cut through, as well."

The results were spectacular, he says. "Ricky's live record, sonically, is probably one of the better-sounding records that we've turned out. It went way beyond our expectations, especially for the amount of money and time that we had available to us to create it."

The Precision 8 preamps are also getting plenty of use at the Skaggs Family Records facility. "I'm using the TRUE pre's here in the studio just about every time I cut a piano," said Groitzsch, "because I'm using the M-S function on it. I use a stereo mic, generally a C24, with the M-S portion of the mic pre. It's the best our piano has ever sounded. We're really pleased with the results."

For more information on the Precision 8, visit distributor Sennheiser at

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