The proliferation of metal over the last few years has led to a boom in the number of guitarists playing 7 and 8-string guitars. But while these tonal behemoths offer a load of new possibilities for the player, they also present a series of challenges when you come to try and record their booming low frequencies. With that in mind, we asked Andrea “Fagio” Fagiuoli – of Italian melodic metallers Ravenscry – to give us some insider tips and fill us in on how the band went about laying down the 7 and 8-string sounds on their brutally powerful new album, The Attraction Of Opposites…
1. Know what you want to achieve
The hours of practice have been put in. You’ve honed your skills with the band, played a few gigs to tighten your live chops, and you’ve spent a bunch of rehearsal sessions putting the finishing touches to your new songs. It’s time to lay down that hit record.
Before you press the big red button, though, it’s good to know exactly what you’re hoping to achieve through your recording – and whether you’ve got the skills to make it sound the real deal. That might mean mastering your chosen DAW, or learning a bit more about mic placement to fully do justice to your guitar tones. In Ravenscry’s case, it meant using 7 and 8-string guitars to get the intense, layered wall of sound they wanted.
“We’ve used 7 and 8-string guitars ever since our first album, One Way Out,” says Fagio. “The choice came spontaneously when we thought about the sound and the riffing for the Ravenscry project. The idea was to experiment with the contrast between the wall of sound done with the guitars and our singer Giulia’s voice. The biggest influence in this sense, mainly for the choice of using 8-string guitars, is definitely Meshuggah.”
2. Choose your weapons carefully
With the sheer amount of gear that’s on the market at the moment, you’d need two lifetimes to try everything out – and you still wouldn’t have had time to record a note. If you want crushing 7-string tones, though, you could do worse than following Ravenscry’s lead.
Fagio says: “For guitars, we used Schecter 7 and 8-strings with Seymour Duncan pickups, equipped with .58/.11 gauge strings on the 7-string, and .74/.10 on the 8-string. Amps-wise, all the guitar sounds you can hear on the album are from our Hughes & Kettner Coreblades. We knew that we would have had a great metal tone – in fact, during the mixing process the guitar sound was almost untouched by the producer, because it was great already. The integrated effects are excellent too.
“We actually didn’t record directly from the cab, though – we used a Two Notes Torpedo Live for that, a great load box which we used to profile the Hughes & Kettner MC412 SE cab with a bunch of different microphones at various positions and angles. The result was simply astonishing. The main configuration we used for the album was the MC412SE with the AKG Perception 820 Tube microphone.”
Another thing that can help is looking at what your heroes are playing. In Ravenscry’s case, Meshuggah 8-string axes were an influence, and they certainly helped the band nail that huge, aggressive low-end sound.
3. Careful with those low frequencies
Those low frequencies can be a double-edged sword with 7 and 8-string guitars, whether you’re recording or playing live. As well as sounding mushy and indistinct, badly EQed guitars can clash with other instruments, particularly the bass.
This is something Fagio has experienced plenty of times before: “A big mistake we always see when watching live concerts is players pumping up the lower frequencies on the guitars. Seven and 8-string guitars already have a lot of low frequencies, guys, so leave that to the bass guitar – it’s its job! We usually cut the lower frequencies on the guitars to be honest… the Coreblade is so good that you can get punch even without punching in too many low frequencies.”
4. To DI, or not to DI?
This is possibly the question Shakespeare would have asked had he wished to record one of his delightful sonnets over an 8-string Meshuggah-esque symphony. Not really.
If you’ve got the options, though, be adventurous. There are pros and cons to using a DI to record guitars, depending on what your desired sound is. In the studio, Ravenscry DIed their dry guitar sounds, then reamped everything – giving them total control over their sound at every stage. In the end, they went for a mixture of the DI signal and a micced cab sound, as provided by the afore-mentioned Two Notes load box.
“We tried a lot of different microphones!” Fagio says. “And we have to say that our favourite one was a large diagram microphone like the AKG Perception 820 Tube. It’s pretty much detailed in every frequency range, and that’s the important thing for us – we want to be able to control the whole spectrum.”
The way Ravenscry did it, they were able to play with and customise their tones long after they actually recorded the guitar itself – which we think is pretty clever. Plus, if you’re using 7 or 8-string guitars, the frequencies are key, and having the chance to alter them at any stage can be a real help.
5. Real amps vs. digital modelling
Plenty of modern-day metal bands have made the change to modelling amps for recording, and it seems that the guitar’s future is a digital one. But there’s still a bunch of old-school amp fans around, and again, there are pretty good arguments for both sides. What’s for certain is that technology is developing extremely quickly, and big-time bands are already using digital gear on stage. This is because it sounds great – in certain opinions, of course – it’s reliable and trustworthy, and it’s certainly lighter than carrying round a full stack to every show!
This is another decision you need to make for yourself after testing out the various options, but Ravenscry’s choice has been to continue with tube amps, live and in the studio. “Digital modelling is getting better every day,” says Fagio. “The level of realism achieved is awesome, even in the lower frequencies like the ones a 7 or 8-string guitar can produce. But the Coreblade unit uses a digital control with a fully analog tone pot, so we can combine the warmth of the tubes with the big advantage of having all the tones in memory with different EQing, effects and volumes.”
6. Let your producer guide you
As impartial listeners and recording masters, producers can be worth their weight in gold, as Ravenscry found out when recording The Attraction Of Opposites. “Since the birth of Ravenscry, we’ve wanted to do everything as professionally as possible,” says Fagio. “This is why we decided to work with such great producers – we wanted the best we could have.”
The band’s luck was definitely in, as they managed to secure the services of legendary metal producer Roberto Laghi and mastering maestro Dragan Tanaskovic. Fagio says: “When we listened to Sounds Of A Playground Fading by In Flames, we fell in love with that sound and decided that we wanted to work with Roberto Laghi and Dragan Tanaskovic, who produced and mastered it. It was an honour for us. They work incredibly well, and it’s like a dream to be part of their creative process. We always like to give full liberty to the guys who work with us. They took it, and the result is breath-taking in our opinion.”
You might not end up with such star names producing you at first, of course, but stick with it and you never know who might take the reins for your next album!
7. Trust your ears!
A final tip for any recording musicians, and this one’s simple – but crucial. If you (and your producer, if you have one) like what your recording sounds like, keep it. Hopefully everyone else will love it too! Fagio agrees: “Our tip is to trust your ears. You can apply a lot of rules, but the final choice we made when recording was always made by ear.”
Music is a pretty subjective thing, and everyone will have an opinion on your tunes. Ultimately, though, if you’re proud of your finished work, that should be all that matters. Ravenscry are certainly satisfied with their new album, which ended up going to number six in Amazon’s USA Alternative Metal Charts. Check out this video of them in the studio and see what you think…
Fagio’s tips are a great starting point for recording guitarists (and not just 7 or 8-stringers, either), but if you’re reading this and have your own advice or experiences to share, drop us a line below. Perhaps between us we can compile a comprehensive list for recording 7 and 8-string guitars!
First published: June 13 2014. Most recent update: October 16 2015.