Famed American film and television composer Danny Elfman talks about his favourite studio recording tools.
1. Fractal Audio Axe-FX II XL
This is the No.1 most-used outboard gear for me; I just love modelling guitar sounds using its software. It replaces my guitar amp and allows me to get really creative with my guitar sounds without having to be in the studio, in a big room with a stack of amps. Of course, any guitarist worth their salt will say, “that still doesn’t match up to a great amp and a well thought out, carefully-curated pedalboard” and they are absolutely right! I won’t argue with that, but there’s enough there with the Axe-FX that replaces a great rack of effects and a real amp for my purposes and the way I like to work, which is being able to grab my guitar spontaneously any time I like, and be up and running in a quick minute.
2. Soundtoys Decapitator
This is what I use on every vocal track. The first thing I do is put it through the Decapitator so that it cuts either the high or low frequency sounds and also adds great distortion to the voice. The fact is, I was overdriving my mics and going over the red line all the time. Wherever I wasn’t going over the red line, the Decapitator balanced out the distortion. It’s a really good effect for vocals and just about anything else.
3. Soundtoys EchoBoy Jr.
When I’m working I need fast simple things that will get me results within seconds and minimum fuss. Soundtoys makes some great tools I love. When I need a good fast echo or delay I always turn to EchoBoy Jr. first. I use this for a simple digital delay with my vocals and any instrument I need it for.
4. Valhalla VintageVerb
This is one of my favourite reverbs. I usually like using the Concert Hall setting, with the colour setting on ‘1970s’ though I couldn’t tell you why. It’s also super simple and requires minimum fuss, but it has a great sound.
5. Native Instruments Guitar Rig 6
There are so many things you can do with this that I don’t even know where to begin. It has a huge ability to f*** up a sound in all kinds of ways. Whether it’s amps, cabinets, filters, modulations, distortions, or repeaters, you will find something in Guitar Rig. It is an endless list of options. I like to use it for creating and experimenting with loops too, which I will then marry to a mashup of rhythmic effects. It’s a very creative tool as it lends itself to being kind of crazy with the sound you have just recorded. It allows you so many extreme possibilities. And hours of fun!
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