Holy grail of tone? Mayer on recording with an MPC

  • As seen on a TGP thread. It's quite interesting to me, I would have thought someone would rather use something like a Kemper instead of any plugin in the world, but apparently, that's not how the big producers in (insert genre) are doing nowadays.


    Kind of makes you think about one's own approach to producing a song. Heck, I am sorely tempted to run my DI tracks through Toontrack's EZ Mix to see what there is to see.


    Theoretically, I suppose you could cop any tone, even a digital one using the Kemper. Mayer's a major artist though, it is quite interesting to hear how the amp tones you and I bought the Kemper for are not what's in vogue in the pop (?) world.




    John Mayer: “When I’m playing on people’s sessions, I don’t bring an amp; I record all my guitars through my Akai MPC”



    By Michael Astley-Brown (Total Guitar, Guitarist) 3 days ago



    Guitarist says Hendrix would do the same, details producers’ resistance to guitar amps





    John Mayer is no stranger to controversy - some guitarists simply refuse to get over his actually-pretty-good Strat-a-like with PRS, the Silver Sky - but in a rare interview with our pals at Guitar World, the blues heartthrob has now detailed his forward-looking approach to recording guitars, which is sure to ruffle a few more traditionalist feathers.



    “When I’m playing on people’s sessions these days, I don’t usually bring an amp; I record all my guitars through my Akai MPC [X],” Mayer claims. “Why? Well, because that’s what the rest of the music is suggesting. When everyone is using virtual instruments and virtual effects, there’s no oxygen.



    “Those frequencies are so well cordoned off, a Bassman amp with three mics put on it literally will not fit inside the song. There’s a lot of resistance to that from producers.”



    We’re surprised Mayer would turn to a standalone unit to record guitar parts rather than go direct into the desk in a studio setting, but it seems to be working, judging from the number of sessions he’s been called upon to perform since switching up his tonal approach.



    “My guitar parts are getting on three times more records these days than when I came in with my guitar amp and a couple pedals and mics. It wasn’t fitting the lexicon, so I had to really look at that and ask, ‘Is the old way of doing things really honouring the electric guitar?’



    “Pick your favourite guitarists from the ’60s and ask yourself, if they were around today at the age they were in the ’60s, would they have embraced new technology? Damn right, they would’ve! You’re damn right Jimi Hendrix would have been unplugging from a Marshall and holding the guitar cable in his hand, looking around the room going, ‘Where can I plug this into?’”



    Although we can’t quite imagine Hendrix guesting with Ed Sheeran or Barbra Streisand, Mayer raises an interesting point: if you’re working with a producer outside of the rock world, they’d most likely prefer a clean DI’d tone that they can manipulate with plugins as opposed to forcing a traditional guitar sound into a crowded mix.



    Again, this fuels our ongoing ‘the guitar isn’t dead; it’s just been re-contextualised’ theory, echoed by Muse's Matt Bellamy, who dubbed it “a textural instrument rather than a lead instrument”. Cue outrage in one, two, three…





    https://www.musicradar.com/news/joh...p-i-record-all-my-guitars-through-my-akai-mpc

  • Bollocks.


    Shaping a tube-amped sound into a mix is achieved with high and low cut and maybe some mid-range manipulation. Then there's compression, delay and early reflections and so on. It works. Period.


    First thing that popped into my head when I read that was the way the awesome rhythm parts in Earth, Wind and Fire's '70s gigs were carved up to sit beautifully in the mix. Those parts would sit extremely-well in just about any mix, regardless of genre. They'd sound fantastic in a "minimalist", sample-based urban trap or rap song, for instance. Totally-different from '70s EWF, but they'd work, just as a distorted-wah D3 clavinet would in both cases.


    Another way of looking at it:
    Why would all manner of plugin-effects and virtual-instrument coders be pushing so hard in seeking "authentic" tube, tape and OB compression emulation if it didn't work? Fact is it does, and in all genres I can think of.


    In light of this, why would all those tube guitar amp types out there be mysterious exceptions to this rule? Makes no sense. Nothing to see here IMHO.

  • Its an interesting article. I definitely agree that people like Hendrix wouldn’t be using Marshall stacks toay but would be looking to find the best most innovative technologies to let them push the boundaries and create new sounds that noone had done before.


    While I love John Mayer’s music and his guitar playing/tone are always stellar, i get the feeling he is a complex individual who is often a little light on truth and heavy on spin Maybe I’m doing the guy a disservice but I’d take anything he says with a pinch of salt.


    I had a look at the MPC X reviews but didn’t see anything that suggests it has any form of inbuilt guitar amp modelling. Maybe it just wasn’t mentioned but it looks to me as if he might just be using it for convenience to record a DI signal for the producers to run through whatever they choose. It sounds to me like it’s more about convenience than sonic character. It is entirely possible that producers are just sending him a rough mix which he loads into the MPC records a guitar track or two then emails it back to them. Total convenience and works even from a hotel room on tour.


    Regardless of all of that it definitely shows that there are many ways to skin a cat and the “pros” are still always looking for something to push the envelope even for something as classic as a bluesy strat(ish) tone.

  • I totally agree.

  • Each to their own. I'm not really listening to music that is generated by virtual instruments. They might go heavy on virtual effects but the real drums, bass, vocals and guitars are there in spades. If that was what I was listening to and thusly being influenced by or being paid to provide guitar to, then I'd likely consider his approach but it's not, so I won't.


    Music has evolved but there have always been different methods, I prefer the sound of a real band, giving it some energy rather than sterile perfection. So for me, the Kemper straddles that role with digital ability perfectly.

  • While I am a tube amp enthusiast, I have to point out that it is not necessary to use devices that sound like a tube amp for devastating results, Nicky.


    Like take a look at the Axe FX, for example, haha :D

    Of course not, AJ. I'm a raw-food enthusiast, but it's not a necessity to make a "devastating" meal. I know you're joking, of course; Fractal's goal is after all to simulate tubes as best it can.


    I defended tubes 'cause John's "attack" was essentially on the necessity of real amps, which means tubes in almost every case:


    ‘Is the old way of doing things really honouring the electric guitar?’

    Well, actually, it is John. The entire history of guitar-amp manufacture and design is centred around this primary goal.

    Another ridiculous statement:


    ... Jimi Hendrix would have been unplugging from a Marshall and holding the guitar cable in his hand, looking around the room going, ‘Where can I plug this into?’”

    Really? I'd have thought he'd try this, let's say, in the case of an MPC seeing as John's all for it now, and say, "WTF? Lemme at my amp and keep that shitbox outa my sight!"


    Sure, he might have tried a Kemper or other digital "modeller" and liked the results, but that'd only serve to prove my point as that entire industry's goal is to simulate tube amps as-accuately as possible.


    ... bollocks.

    We have objective... and adjective alignment, Will. :D

  • “I had a look at the MPC X reviews but didn’t see anything that suggests it has any form of inbuilt guitar amp modeling “


    Just read a review of the “X”...the reviewer said he liked the internal effects and especially the amp sims....also agree that Mayer is complex....

  • Um... doesn't John Mayer mostly do acoustic stuff? The few times I see him use an electric he's really trying hard to be Mark Knopfler with a very clean dry sound, a good amount of compression, just a touch of verb, but that tone is mostly the fingers and guitar pickups and very little the amp sound because the amp should be super dry and clean, he could use anything with a decent guitar and it should sound great.

  • Also the newest member of the Grateful Dead (edit: I suppose it is Dead & Co now), and doing a bang-up job of it imo, though I'm not exactly a deadhead. But I think his playing has brought their shows to another level.

    Disclaimer: When I post demo clips for profiles, there will be some minimal post-processing, unless stated otherwise. I normally double-track hard L/R, and add to the main buss a small amount of EQ and a limiter/comp set pretty light as well. Sometimes I get test profiles in advance of release, though 90% of my clips will be from packs I have purchased.

  • Also the newest member of the Grateful Dead (edit: I suppose it is Dead & Co now), and doing a bang-up job of it imo, though I'm not exactly a deadhead. But I think his playing has brought their shows to another level.

    First, you are right - its not the Grateful Dead with only three of the four surviving members - its a new band entirely.


    Second, I'd probably phrase it differently - his playing is helping them refresh the music and allowing it to breathe with a new life. Without Oteil Burbridge and Jeff Chementi to play with and off of, I am not sure if his addition would be the same or different - its hard to judge any one musician's contribution to that type of music in a vacuum.


    With that said, I have really enjoyed D&C and John's contribution though, but, well... from what I have seen and heard, even as much as I have enjoyed it and respected what they have done, I still tend to think of them as a cover band/nostalgia act. Even at their absolute worst, there was a magic that the post-Garcia line-ups have never reached. At their best? Please. My opinion only, YMMV.

  • I'm certainly no Deadhead, so I will be the first to admit I'm no expert. But I have been to a lot of festivals, and heard a lot of Dead cover bands. If D&C are a cover band (never said they were anything else...kind of like Journey or AIC), they're a damn good one! :D


    Just my opinion, but I think the "magic" for many many people had a lot to do with the time in their life, in their country's history, and how many tabs they had dropped before the show. Because I have never considered the Dead to be exactly virtuosic from anything I've heard. I could be just flat dead wrong...great band, great songwriters, unbelievable energy...always played like they were real spun...which produced some real magic, as you say.


    But "magic" is subjective. I can't observe it, and once it's gone, it's gone. So I don't doubt that the experience of the show is nothing like what it used to be. But imo, from a performance perspective...JM has kicked it up quite a bit. Definitely another level from a objective technical perspective (in my opinion of course), but I'd honestly love to take a look at some older shows that hold up.


    And truthfully, and I should have been more clear, I never said "at their best" (subjective of course), but that JM has taken them to "another level", and all I really meant by that was in comparison to D&C shows of the past years.


    I didn't mean to imply that The Dead were better with JM than Jerry, you can't capture lightning in a bottle, and Jerry was something. Definitely magic. :)

    Disclaimer: When I post demo clips for profiles, there will be some minimal post-processing, unless stated otherwise. I normally double-track hard L/R, and add to the main buss a small amount of EQ and a limiter/comp set pretty light as well. Sometimes I get test profiles in advance of release, though 90% of my clips will be from packs I have purchased.