RadioStar Happenings and Plans

Oct 31, 2006 2:06 PM

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Mix Regional

The Mix Regional section for Mix's May 2014 issue focuses on Nashville. Send us your studio news: updates, sessions, new rooms, club performances and installations. Let the Mix audience know what is going on! Send photos and descriptions to mixeditorial@nbmedia.com.

Chamberlin M-1 Keyboard
Richard Chamberlin's contraption, built in his garage in Los Angeles around 1970. Chamberlin made the first tape-based sampler keyboards ever, using actual recordings of instruments instead of the mostly fake-sounding synthesized versions of the time. On this M-1, each key on the keyboard has a tape head, and when the key is pressed, a strip of 5-track tape is pulled across the head for that key. When the key is released, the tape retracts back into a tape measure-type spring-loaded cylinder. Chamberlin went on to create and license another tape loop-based keyboard design for Britain's Mellotron company, whose models unfortunately eclipsed his own namesake designs in popularity.

Chamberlin Rhythmate Drum Machine
The accompanying rhythm section for the Chamberlin M-1. A stand-alone speaker box that plays continuous 3-track tape loops, including bossa nova, fox trot and early rock 'n' roll beats. So rare and precious, we only pull it out for special occasions.

Mellotron 400 Keyboard
Playing a real Mellotron on a record has its challenges. You may have to tune each note individually and play them one-by-one. The initial touch of the keys can't be too hard if you don't want it to sound abrupt. You have to overlap the playing of one key to another to give it a fluid feel. And you must learn how each key is reacting that day and adjust your playing and volume to the Mellotron's mood at that moment. Sounds complicated? It is, but the results are so worth it, as your strings will have the most other-worldly sound to them.

ARP 2600 Synthesizer
Billed as the actual synth that made the helicopter sound in Apocalypse Now. This is one of the funnest instruments to pull out on a session#151;sure to waste hours of precious studio time.

Optigan Keyboards
Originally made by toymaker Mattel in the '70s, this keyboard uses clear plastic optical discs to play a variety of keyboard sounds and accompanying rhythms. Pretty cool just operating it normally, but really weird when you flip the discs upside-down or stack two discs on top of each other. Total acid trip! They can still be found in thrift stores; in fact, one of the two I have was found in my favorite local shop for $25.

Vaudevillian Piano
This is an original fold-up piano used by clowns and other traveling entertainers around the turn of the century. Incredibly enough, it has a real iron harp, ivory keys and uses real piano strings. And it's really, really heavy.

1960s Coral Sitar Guitar
A unique guitar I discovered while working on Tool's Undertow record. You'll hear it featured on the song "4 Degrees." It has a completely unique sound, a Middle Eastern twang and shimmer that ads a special color to recordings.

1960s Ampeg Scroll-Top Bass Guitar
Bought this from Exene's "God Save Us" thrift store in L.A. Used to belong to John Doe from the band "X." It has the original flat-wound strings on it, never changed from the day I bought it. The strings are completely dead, and the instrument sounds dry and tubby like a stand-up bass. Sometimes just the perfect sound for a creative interlude.

1963 Fender Gold Stratocaster
One of the most popular instruments in the house, I found this Strat in a music shop in Yuba City, California, for $175. Yeah, it didn't look like this though. Andy Braur in Los Angeles stripped it down, replaced the unoriginal bits with new-old-stock parts and gave it a new paint job. Okay, it's not a pure, unadulterated 1963 Strat, but it is the most amazing and beautiful-sounding studio tool!

1961 Fender Esquire
Now here's the real thing, with a crystal-clear Tele sound. The Fender Esquire was designed with a Telecaster body, but only has one pick-up instead of two. Supposedly, the Esquire guitars sparkle more and have a greater sustain than Teles because one less pickup means one less magnet pulling on the strings. Mike Campbell and Tom Petty enjoyed playing this guitar on the song "She's the One" and on the Johnny Cash sessions.

1968 Gibson SG
This awesome instrument gets brought out for nearly every session for some reason. It just has something special about it, like it's alive or something. Found it in an obscure shop in Colorado. The shop owner took me behind the counter into a back room where he had 30 or so vintage SGs all lined up on a wall. I can't tell you where that shop is because I imagine the other 29 SGs are still there, and I might just need another one.

1990 Fender Gemini Acoustic Guitar
Not our best acoustic guitar for sure, but this is the one that Prince singled out to use on "Diamonds and Pearls." You can hear its dry tone on several songs. After using it, he asked if he could buy it from me, to which I promptly replied, "No."

Ludwig '70s "Black Beauty" Snare
For some reason, this snare always works in the studio. Not sure exactly why, but this old brass-shelled snare has more power and punch, and makes the most inconsistent player sound steady and solid. If you are looking for one, make sure it has the trapezoidal logo plate with the olive color.






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