Rick Beato Art of Sound Interview

A Conversation with Rick Beato—Classical- and Jazz-Trained Musician Turned Rock Producer

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By Barry M Rivman

The key to a long career in music is versatility, and nothing enables versatility like a music education—especially these days when a producer has to wear so many hats (unless you’re Slash, in which case just a top hat will do). With a roster of artists as diverse as his musical taste, Rick Beato is living proof that a jazz- and classically trained musician can rock with the best of them. A graduate of the prestigious New England Conservatory of Music, Rick found himself in Atlanta in the ’90s, where he formed the innovative hard-rock band, Billionaire. While recording their major-label debut, Rick became enamored with the process of recording and turned his attention to the other side of the glass.

Based in his Atlanta production studio, Black Dog Sound, Rick Beato has amassed an impressive and eclectic list of clients including, Shinedown, Needtobreathe, Crossfade, Trey Anastasio, Stuck Mojo, Charlie Mars. Bullet for My Valentine, Dark New Day, Boys Like Girls, Von Grey, Parmalee, Desmond Child, and Vince Neil. Ever the educator, Rick was kind enough to take time out his busy production schedule to talk with us about what it takes to be a producer, his equipment choices, and some of his studio techniques.

THE INTERVIEW

Producer, composer, and multi-instrumentalist, Rick Beato
Producer, composer, and multi-instrumentalist, Rick Beato

The HUB: How did you get started in music?

Rick Beato: I started in orchestra playing cello and bass when I was in about third grade or so, which I played all the way through college, through my undergraduate degree and masters degree in music. I picked up the guitar when I was 13 and played that all the way through graduate school as well, so I have a master’s degree with an emphasis in classical bass and jazz guitar.

The HUB: It’s a common practice for musicians to either hide their background or avoid getting one entirely, somehow with the notion that learning music will somehow hamper their “feel.” How do you feel about that?

Rick Beato: That’s an interesting question. I have no problem with the fact that I have a background in music. I was a college professor for about six years—from the mid ’80s to the early ’90s—I taught jazz studies at Ithaca College (Ithaca, NY). I did that until I started playing in a rock band and signed a publishing deal with Polygram Publishing in 1992, which led me to leave teaching and pursue playing full time in a rock band. I got signed as a writer but didn’t get a record deal until I moved to Atlanta in 1998 and got signed with a band called Billionaire, which was signed to London-Sire Records. So, I put my jazz and classical music behind me and focused on playing in a rock band (which I did when I was a kid, and I’ve been doing that ever since), which led me into producing.

The HUB: That was my next question; how you made the transition to the other side of the glass . . .

Rick Beato: We had made a record, at the time, with a producer, whose name I won’t mention, but it was a disastrous record, where the producer was never there, never showed up to the studio (on a major label record)—spent months—and I was one of the guys who didn’t know how to run any of the gear. I didn’t know anything about producing and that experience made me immediately go out and start learning how studios work, how gear works, and how you record and produce. Because of my background as a college professor teaching music, I understood how to do arrangements and that part of producing, but the technical aspects of recording I didn’t understand at all, and I had to learn them from scratch.

The HUB: In my experience, at least 90-percent of recording is the music—people have a tendency these days to forget that . .

Rick Beato: Yup.

The HUB: So you were well ahead of the game there. Do you feel your education helped propel you into a career; did it make it faster, easier, or did you encounter resistance because you had a music education?

Rick Beato: Oh, it makes everything much easier. For example, when I’m trying to think of something in an arrangement, hundreds of things come to mind because of my background as an improviser. I used to teach music theory, so I can find ten different ways to go in a song; with a chord progression, a guitar part, or a vocal melody—it just makes it so much easier. I’m a huge proponent of education. Part of the problem with most popular music these days is that we’ve devolved into a four-chord progression that is nearly every song that you hear on pop radio, rock radio, and country radio—it’s the “one,” “four,” “five,” and “six” chords. Virtually every song you hear that is a hit is some combination of those chords. It’s become what I call the four chords of pop music.

If you go back historically and look at The Beatles, out of their 27 number-one hits, I can think of only one song that uses those chords, which is, “Let It Be.” So they were able to write 27 number-one songs without having to resort to that chord progression. And because of that (four chords of pop), people have become more musically illiterate with their tastes in rock, jazz, and classical music. Jazz and classical have seen a massively big decline in listenership since the early ’90s. Since popular music has no sophistication in it harmonically anymore, the sophistication of the audience is not there.

The HUB: I’ve noticed that decline (along with most people). To me, music died in the ’80s—all we were waiting for was someone to put up the tombstone, R.I.P. Rock ’n’ Roll.

Rick Beato: (Laughs) Well, I have a theory about that actually. I really feel it’s more like the mid-nineties. It’s once blues left rock music was really the downfall of rock. Grunge music was still based on blues, whether it was Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Nirvana, Alice In Chains—all of the huge grunge bands used pentatonic scales; they used blues scales; they used blues melodies; and they all grew up with ’60s and ’70s influences that were all based on rock ’n’ roll and R&B, which had blues melodies. They all listened to The Beatles, The Stones (of the “Rolling” variety), they listened to The Who, Zeppelin, and Aerosmith—you know, all these bands coming up in the sixties and seventies. By the time new metal hit, it was virtually devoid of the blues. The chord progressions with bands such as Linkin Park—and I love Linkin Park, began to show a lot of chromaticism in the music, and the melodies never had any relation to the blues. I think as we moved further away from blues, there’s been a huge decrease in the interest of rock music—at least in the American market.

The HUB: Well I think rock and pop wouldn’t have to die if we used more of the technique of music within it. Since you do have the background, what kind of efforts are you making to put more music back in our music?

Rick Beato: (Laughs) I try to get musicians to stay away from those really played-out chord progressions. I try to insert melodies and things that relate back to the blues and how rock originated, such as guitar solos and the roots of what rock is, instead of having some type of a hybrid thing. It’s not that I don’t use any type of synthesis or drum loops or things like that. I do plenty of songs that will use those elements, but on a lot of my projects I try to use natural sounds that harken back to the days of The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, and Led Zeppelin.

The HUB: How musically involved do you become in your productions? Does it vary with the band or do they want you because of your music background?

Rick Beato Performing Piano Overdubs
Rick performing piano overdubs

Rick Beato: Most of the people that come to me, want me because they like the sound of the records that I’ve done. Most people don’t know my background in music. I don’t credit myself if I play on a record. I’m not a fan of that—of producers who have to credit themselves with every little thing like putting on a shaker track—that’s just not my thing. I like for people to think that it’s the band that plays everything, even if I do play parts on records, which I frequently do. I’ll help augment the music if the band is having trouble coming up with parts.

I’ll help them write parts, and I get really involved on a musical level and on a playing level in that way, whether it’s guitar parts, bass parts, drum parts—doesn’t matter—keyboards . . . I’m pretty versatile on all instruments, so that helps tremendously in production.

Historically, the most successful producers were real musicians—guys like Sir George Martin, who produced The Beatles, was an excellent arranger and composer. Obviously his influence was massively big on The Beatles. Certain bands didn’t have producers that had that background and their music didn’t necessarily warrant it, but being an accomplished musician was a big part of being a producer, such as Daniel Lanois—incredibly great musician in his own right making his own records, and a fantastic producer with U2, Peter Gabriel, and a million other great records he’s done.

Editor’s Note: George Martin was a graduate of the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, one of the world’s most prestigious music conservatories.

The HUB: Some producers rule with an iron fist, even not allowing musicians they consider substandard to play on their own record, while others let the band make the record they want to make. Where do you stand on that, especially since your name is going on the record?

Rick Beato: I will try to drive it in a certain direction and lobby for my viewpoint to be heard, but ultimately, it’s not my record. My job is to help the band achieve their vision of their record. If I keep doing “the Rick Beato record,” they’re all going to sound the same. I didn’t get into producing for that. If I want to make my own records, I’ll just make my own records. So, I try to guide the bands facilitate their vision.

The HUB: How do you deal with a musician who you feel just isn’t making it happen; do you hire musicians or head straight to Pro Tools?

Rick Beato: No. I’ll play the parts. Lots of times people can’t execute the parts that they write to the level you need, because they’re not studio players. If I’m producing a country thing, that doesn’t necessarily happen. You get these Nashville session guys and they’re all incredibly great players. For rock bands, if a person can’t play a part, I’m very willing to play it or help them out with it, or we’ll sit there and punch it in until we get it right. Some people have really individual styles that you just can’t mimic, and it really is an integral part of the sound of the band. Those are the things that we painstakingly go through and punch in, measure by measure if we have to. I only play if I absolutely need to. I like records that I don’t have to contribute anything on the playing front and I can just produce. I much prefer that.

The HUB: Describe what you do when, as you say, you’re just producing—do you just focus on getting performances?

Rick Beato: Yeah, focus on performances. I work on the melodies of the songs. I work on the feel. It really starts when we do pre-production; tightening up the arrangements. The beauty of things like Pro Tools is that you’re not locked into any particular arrangement like you were in the days of tape. Although, I’m working on a record right now—I’m actually editing a snare drum part as we’re speaking—(don’t take that personally though) where we recorded all the basic tracks to tape. It’s a fantastic live band and they’re able to do that. And then we go into the computer and do the overdubs just because it’s easier for that.

The HUB: What’s your process for making a record?

Rick Beato and Ken Lanyon Miking Drums
Rick and engineer Ken “Grand” Lanyon miking drums for a live tracking session

Rick Beato: When I’m making a record it starts with the pre-production, where we work on the songs and get the arrangements together. And then, pretty much part by part I go through and figure out, for example, if the bass and drum parts are locked together, if they have the right feeling. I always make sure the songs have the right vibe and right groove—that’s the most important thing.

The HUB: When you track a band, do you always start with a live rhythm section?

Rick Beato: Yes. We always record everyone playing together. On projects where it’s going to be more of an overdub record, we’ll get a scratch track where everyone is playing their parts correctly and then we’ll overdub the drums separately until we get a drum take, and then start overdubbing each instrument after that. That’s usually what I call an overdub session. The record I’m making now is more of a live-band record. We’ll punch in if there’s a part to fix, but all of the rhythm tracks are done live at the same time. Most of the songs are not done to a click [metronome] and then we’ll go in and do additional overdubs—like an old-school record.

The HUB: I think (Pink Floyd’s) Dark Side Of The Moon and Queen albums would not have had the impact they had were they not tracked with a live rhythm section.

Rick Beato: Oh, definitely not . . . Definitely not.

The HUB: I’ve seen sessions where the drummer sits on his own in a live room. It’s a particular skill to get that to sound like a band is playing, but I imagine it’s a lot harder.

Rick Beato: That really started happening in the ’80s where the drummer would go in and play by himself to a click track and then they would overdub everything to it without even any scratch tracks. But I want to have the energy of the live band playing. Even when I’m doing an overdub record with scratch parts, I want to have as much feel as possible. It’s important to have a scratch vocal on there, to make sure you have guitar parts or keyboard parts for example, that are not conflicting with the melody. And you want to have it where the groove is not conflicting with the melody. As many things as you can have on there while you’re tracking, the better. Even if you’re just going to go back and replace the parts later, it’s still better to have them to begin with.

The HUB: Quick question: Which would you opt for, taste or technique?

Rick Beato: Taste, for sure.

The HUB: Earlier you were talking about recording to analog tape. Is that something you normally do, or are there projects where you start with Pro Tools and stay all digital?

Rick Beato: It really depends on the band. The project I’m doing now, to me, sonically required using tape. There’s a certain sound that we’re going for and I thought we had to use tape, because there’s a magical thing that happens with analog tape. Most of the kids that come into my studio say, “what is that?”—they don’t even know what it is—they’ve never even heard of a tape machine (I’ve got a 2-inch machine here).

Rick Beato and Ken Lanyon Otari Tape Machine
Rick and Ken with Black Dog Sound’s Otari MTR 90 MK II 24-track tape machine

On a visual level, if you look at a session recorded to tape versus a session recorded directly to Pro Tools, the waveforms look completely different. If you look at a Pro Tools session with the drums recorded all digitally, and then you see the same drums recorded on tape (transferred to Pro Tools), the waveforms are much more complex. If you’re hitting the tape hard, you’ll see the transients are rounded off or even flat-topped. People who’ve never worked with tape really don’t know the difference, but if you record with it and can actually A-B between all-digital tracks and tracks recorded analog dumped into Pro Tools, you hear the actual sound of tape compression. Plus, you get the editing power of Pro Tools and no need for tape emulation plug-ins.

The HUB: What’s your take on tape-emulation plug-ins?

Rick Beato: I’ve got all of them. Some of them sound good. Some of them sound like tape. I’ve used the Neve Portico 5042 and that sounds like a tape machine. But there’s nothing like using real tape. I think it’s the variations (non-linear response).

The HUB: Do change the way you approach tracking when you work entirely in the digital domain as opposed to analog?

Rick Beato: Yes. There are anomalies that happen in digital recording that just do not happen when you’re recording to tape. When I use Pro Tools, there’s an upper-midrange harshness between 3kHz and 4kHz that’s inherent in Pro Tools, especially in vocals. You can hear these out-of-tune artifacts in vocals, especially if people have used auto-tuning or Melodyne. You have to use really narrow-band filtering to get rid of those out-of-tune, piercing tones in the voice that you just never would hear on analog records. In the old days they had the UREI Little Dipper on sound stages, which was basically a notch filter. Occasionally you’d see them in studios, but not that often. You just didn’t need to do the ton of filtering you need to do nowadays, especially in vocals and the harshness factor inherent in digital recording in the upper mids, which to me is really displeasing to the ear.

The HUB: I’ve noticed that digital handles transients and bass very well, but seems to fall apart in the midrange.

Rick Beato: I agree with that completely. When I was coming up, a lot of the engineers loved digital because you would hear the transients—you know, they wouldn’t be rounded off and it would sound punchier to them. But then, when you record directly into Pro Tools or Logic, for example, there’s all this low-end information that you don’t hear, unless you’ve got a subwoofer, that’s completely clouding the mix—you know, going down to 10 Hertz, which you have to filter out all the time. It’s the constant battle of filtering the bottom end and the top end when you’re recording digitally. You always have to filter out things. I filter the kick drum and the bass guitar. A lot of times I’ll run filters when I’m recording parts—I’m doing something at 27Hz if I’m using my Neve 1081, or if I’m recording a guitar part with my Neve 1073, I’ll filter at 50Hz just to make sure that sub information that you don’t really need isn’t there. And if I’m recording a hi-hat or a ride cymbal, I’ll go up to 200Hz, so you don’t hear all the information that’s not needed, which you’re going to filter out later on anyway.

I’d rather do my EQing with an analog piece of gear before I go into the computer or tape machine. That’s kind of a philosophical thing with me—the analog equalizers are much better. I’ve got Neve 1081s and 1073s that have fantastic EQs. I’ve got API 550As that are great. I’ve got Harrison EQs here. I’ve got some of the new Kush Audio EQs and the Electrodyne 511 EQ—they’re all fantastic-sounding—there’s just nothing like them. You have emulations of them in the computer, but I would much prefer to get the sound that I’m going for ahead of time with an analog piece of gear before it even goes into the computer.

Editor’s Note: Neve’s modular console preamp/EQs, such as the 1073 and 1081 have been out production since the ’70s. The Heritage Audio 1073 duplicates the Neve modules down to the component and build techniques.

The HUB: So basically, get it right going in . . .

Rick Beato: Correct.

The HUB: I guess that answers my next question, which is that I assume you mix outside the box, yes?

Rick Beato: It really depends on the project. I’ve got the Burl Audio Vancouver 32-channel summing mixer, and when I mix outside the box, that’s what I prefer to use. But it depends on the project. If there’s a project where you know there’s going to be a lot of edits and recalls, I’ll mix in the box.

The HUB: Before we get deeper into the equipment, I’d like to circle back to production for a moment. A lot of our readers wouldn’t forgive me if I didn’t ask for your advice on how to get started on a career as a producer.

Rick Beato: I would say, start with local bands. Find friends that have bands and record them for free until you get enough of a reputation that you can start charging people for it. That’s kind of how I started. I began helping friends out while I was playing in a band, and that quickly led into producing full records. I had gotten a call from a friend who was recording his band in his basement with (Alesis) ADATs, who asked me to help them out with melodies, and I wound up producing the whole record—and it took off from there.

The HUB: What do you feel are the key elements that it takes to be a producer?

Rick Beato: Well, it helps to be a musician these days. Because production is so competitive, you really need to have the skills of a songwriter, an engineer, a mixer, and a producer. You need to have a broad knowledge base of all the instruments. The more instruments you play, the better off you are. The more things you can do, the more options you have as a producer. For example, I’ll have a solo artist come in where I’ll play all the instruments on the record. Or I’ll have a band come in and I’ll go out there and tune the drums. I’ll pick out the amplifiers and how to get all the sounds we want to go for. I also mix all the projects that I do, so you have to be really capable in all these different areas to be successful these days. But I think it starts with being a great player on at least one instrument—preferably guitar if you’re producing rock bands. If you can do guitar and keyboards, it’s really helpful.

The HUB: So I guess the days of showing up to the studio in your shorts with a tennis racquet, telling everyone to “be brilliant” and then leaving are over.

Rick Beato: [Laughs] Well, some producers still do that.

The HUB: Jumping around a bit, I hear have a number-one hit with the band, Parmalee. Did you produce?

Rick Beato: I did not produce. I wrote the song with them a few years ago and they recorded it in 2011, and it came out in 2013. Their drummer had been shot in a robbery attempt while they were working on the album, so they took about eight months off while he recovered. They released the song a year ago January and it was number one for two weeks in December of 2013. It was the only country song I’d ever written at the time, and we were lucky enough to have a number-one song with it.

The HUB: Congratulations. We’ve covered your musical education, but we still don’t know where you got your engineering chops.

Rick Beato: Honestly, reading magazines, books on recording, and asking people questions.

The HUB: You mentioned Daniel Lanois earlier—are their any producers that have been influential in your style of production?

Rick Beato: I like a pretty wide range of music so I’ve listened to a lot of producers. I like the old-school producers, such as George Martin, Glynn Johns, Andy Johns; a lot of the guys that made the classic records that I grew up listening to—I love the production on those old records. I like people like Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois. And in rock, Brendan O’Brien [Pearl Jam, AC/DC, Black Crowes]. Basically, anyone that grew up listening to the same records I did. All the ’70s records: the Pink Floyd records, the Queen records, the Aerosmith records, the Led Zeppelin records. . . The Beatles, The Stones, The Who—these are all the bands that I loved, and where I developed my ear for what I think records should sound like.

The HUB: This question may sound kind of high-schoolish, and I normally don’t do favorites, but I’ll ask in this case: favorite album that you didn’t produce?

Rick Beato: (Laughs) Revolver, Beatles.

The HUB: Let’s move on to equipment. A lot of our readers are guitar players and I’m sure would be curious if you have a particular amp or cabinet setup you prefer.

Rick Beato and his Amplifiers
Rick and some of his amps

Rick Beato: I’ve got about 30 amplifiers in my studio and about 12 cabinets—including four 4x12 cabinets with different speakers in them—most of which are miked up all the time. Plus, I have a lot of combo amps. Every project will require a different type of setup. If I’m doing a heavy rock band, a lot times we’ll use two amplifiers. I have a Little Labs distribution box (PCP Instrument Distro 3.0) that lets you run up to three amplifiers simultaneously. I usually run two amplifiers that will be in two different rooms with two different speaker cabinets, each with two mics on them: usually a Shure SM57 and a Sennheiser MD421 on two different speakers, one on each speaker. The SM57 will get the midrange bite, and the 421 will round out the sound, getting the low end along with a nice top end. I’ll blend the sounds through a summing mixer. I might use my Radial (Workhorse) summing mixer or the Burl (Vancouver) summing mixer for tracking, and blend the two amps and four mics to one channel, which then I’ll EQ or compress if needed—usually no compression on heavy distorted guitars. I’ll bring the sound back through a 550A (API) and give it a little more EQ. If I’m recording into the computer, like a lot of people who’ll be reading this do, I like to get as much analog circuitry in the signal path as possible.

In the old days, you’d come back into a console and go through a bunch of transformers in the console, then you’d go out to the tape machine with its transformers. Hitting tape hard, depending on the tape machine’s biasing, produces third-order harmonic distortion, particularly in the low frequencies—that's what makes recording on tape sound so fat. Then, after the tape machine, you’d come back through the console through the summing-matrix line amps and you’d hit more transformers. By the time you're done, every sound has hit 12 transformers and been to tape and then gets mixed down to tape. This is on all the old albums that we heard that sounded great. Now it’s like people plug in, they go through their preamp, which may have input and output transformers, go right into the DAW and that’s it. So, the complexity of a sound that hit all these different things is not there like it was in the old days.

If I’m recording my bass, for example, I’ve got an AKG D30 (sorry kids, it’s a rare vintage mic) on one speaker and an SM57 on another speaker on my SVT (classic Ampeg amp). I’m running that sound through a Teletronix LA-2A, which sounds great on bass, hitting the tubes, and then through a Pultec EQ, which also has tubes—it’s just making the sound more and more complex by using all these different pieces of gear. It gives you what I think is a fat, pleasing sound to the ear.

Most of the time, I’ll use at least two microphones on an amplifier. I’ll use one mic, such as a 57 (SM57) for the bite, and then I might use a Royer R-121 right next to it on the same speaker. Or I might use a 414 (AKG C414), an old 414 on a second speaker. I use one mic to get the bite and one mic to fill out the rest of the sound. They’ll get combined to one track before it goes into Pro Tools.

The HUB: Do you do any distance miking on guitar amps?

Rick Beato: Yes, I’ll usually do that with combo amps. I don’t necessarily do it with the more saturated sounds. If I’m using my Fender Deluxe Reverb, for example, I’ll use distance miking and then use an effect on that mic. I might run it through a plate reverb, spring reverb, or delay. A lot of times you can just use the distance mic as part of the sound, or you can use it as an effect.

The HUB: What signal chain do you like to use for guitar (preamps, etc.)?

Rick Beato: I like to mix it up, but most of the time I’ll use my Neve 1073. If I want other EQ options, I’ll run the 1073 line-in to the Neve 1081.

The HUB: Do you record guitars with compression?

Rick Beato: I’ll record clean guitars with compression. Distorted guitars I don’t record with compression, usually. Sometimes I’ll use my Fatso (Empirical Labs) and add a little bit of the tape emulation to give it a different character in the midrange. Or, I might run something through the LA-2A if there’s a little bit harshness in the sound. If you have a tube compressor, just running through it without any compression gives you a different vibe.

The HUB: I have to ask this next question or they’ll shoot me: How do you get that big, in-your-face guitar sound in a mix?

Rick Beato: To get a really big guitar sound, one of the best things to do is to use different amps on each side (hard left / hard right) having different sounds. It’s difficult to get, especially in the box. It’s very hard to get the guitars in your face and sound wide. That’s generally accomplished by using two different types of guitar amps. I may have a Marshall in one speaker, and a Mesa Boogie in the other speaker—or a 6L6-type amp and an EL34-type amp. One amp that accentuates the midrange and one that accentuates the low mids; that’s how you get that really big guitar sound.

Editor’s Note: 6L6 are tubes found in the power amp section of Fender Amps, EL34 are associated with the Marshall sound—certain Egnater amps offer selectable 6L6/EL34 tube output and blend.

To get a really biting guitar sound that’s in your face, emphasizing frequencies that are between 3kHz and 4kHz jump out at the listener. Another thing to do is use some type of square wave sound, such as fuzz. A lot of records that sound really aggressive—you know, if it’s a heavy guitar—use fuzz. For example, I’ll use a Foxx Tone Machine or a Fuzz Face. I’ve got about 20 fuzz pedals including some custom ones. I’ll use that square-wave sound for doublings and choruses—it makes the guitar sound really in-your-face, like a buzz saw, but it sounds really great. Something that generates a square wave gives the guitar much more aggression. If you mix them in with a regular guitar part and then double the part on the chorus and put some fuzz on them, it’s like, wow!—they just hit you in the face.

The HUB: Do have a limit in terms of how many times you’ll double a part?

Rick Beato: I usually do just two guitars in the choruses, and then I’ll have some auxiliary parts up the center . . . maybe cleaner guitar sounds if you have chords that are more complex and you need them to come out. You might have an AC30 (Vox amp) playing the same part, but with more clarity. A lot of people don’t realize that when you have really saturated sounds, you have no definition and it actually sounds smaller. So, I tend to back off on the gain of amps, almost to the point where guitarists feel uncomfortable because they’re not used to playing with such little distortion. But once the stuff is in the mix and layered, it sounds huge, fat, and has definition.

Rick Beato Working on Guitar Parts
Rick working out guitar parts in the control room

The real key to punchiness is having that definition. When things are all like buzz-saw guitars, they sound like bumblebees and have no definition—you then can’t even hear the chord structure. A lot of times I’ll put something cleaner in there—something that has really good midrange, and also voice the chords differently, rather than just doubling it. I’ll do it in different registers, and a lot of times I’ll have a high guitar part on it as well—so you have to orchestrate your guitar parts to get that big sound.

The HUB: Obviously there’s still a lot of ground to cover, but I know you’ve got a session waiting, so I’d like to start winding things up with your desert island gear. I’m going mention some aspect of recording. Please tell me the first piece of equipment that comes to mind.

Rick Beato: Okay.

The HUB: Microphone?

Rick Beato: Shure SM57.

The HUB: Room mic?

Rick Beato: Coles 4038.

The HUB: Mic preamp?

Rick Beato: Neve 1073.

Editor’s Note: The 1073s that Rick uses were originally taken from vintage Neve consoles and repackaged. The modular version of the Heritage Audio 1073 is an exact replica of those found in vintage Neve consoles. Requires a Heritage Audio Rack 2 to operate.

The HUB: Electric bass?

Rick Beato: I love a Fender Jazz® bass or P-bass®, or Ernie Ball bass, it really depends.

The HUB: Cheapest piece of equipment you’ve ever use to make a record?

Rick Beato: Shure SM57—I use it on every single record.

The HUB: Favorite tool for audio surgery?

Rick Beato: Analog or digital?

The HUB: Your call.

Rick Beato: Honestly, digital EQs are incredibly good. My favorite is the Metric Halo Channel Strip. It has the tightest “Q” and goes to ±24dB. If you have some weird anomalies you want to get out of a vocal or ride cymbal, or some weird ring on a snare that’s out of tune with the song, whatever—some really weird or harsh-sounding frequency—you can just go in and get rid of it instantly.

The HUB: Compressor?

Rick Beato: LA-2A. It has such a classic sound. You have tracking compressors and mixing compressors—the LA-2A is a tracking compressor that I love.

The HUB: Equalizer?

Rick Beato: I use the API 550A all the time, but I think my favorite is the EQ on the Neve 1073.

The HUB: Effects processor?

Rick Beato: That changes all the time, but I’d have to say right now my favorite is the Lexicon 480L, but I have a custom plate reverb that I use all the time.

The HUB: Plug-in reverb or delay?

Rick Beato: The UAD-2 Lexicon 224 and EMT 140 are great, also Altiverb.

The HUB: Okay, last one: What do you use on your stereo bus?

Rick Beato: That will depend. Sometimes I’ll use an SSL G-Series Buss Compressor, either hardware, or the Universal Audio plug-in version or Waves plug-in.

The HUB: I know we’re running a little long, but just a few more questions about mixing if you don’t mind . . .

Rick Beato: Sure.

The HUB: How do you build a mix—any particular order of instruments?

Rick Beato: Usually I’m mixing as I’m recording the song, so by the time it comes to mixing, there’s almost no mixing to be done. I try to record everything so that the fader is at unity and the instrument is the right level in the mix. This way, by the last day of tracking the band knows what the record is going sound like.

The HUB: I guess that avoids all the nasty surprises and politics that professional mixers deal with.

Rick Beato: Exactly.

The HUB: What kind of atmosphere do you like to create in the studio? I assume you want everybody angry and at odds . . .

Rick Beato: Well, I have a saying, “I’m not happy until you’re not happy.” (Laughs). I’m always needling the guys and girls I’m working with. I like to bust people’s chops, but I’m pretty tough when it comes to playing parts. I tell people to come in prepared. I don’t want to sit there for two hours punching in a part. I tell them if we’re going to do that, I’ll just play your part for you. That usually gets them to practice their part and play it, because I actually don’t want to play their parts. Just by threatening to play their parts for them, that makes them do it much better. And then we always laugh about it later.

The HUB: Before we go, can you tell us about your current project?

Rick Beato: Sure. I’m working with a band called, Tyler Bryant and the Shakedown. Tyler is a really great guitarist and singer. He came up as a blues player, but the band is more of a rock band with what I would say is a heavy, but old-school sound. Tyler has opened for Jeff Beck and ZZ Top. The other guitar player in the band is named Graham Whitford. He’s the son of Brad Whitford from Aerosmith. He’s a fantastic guitar player. They’re a super-tight band; they can play the stuff live. This was the band I mentioned earlier, where we recorded the whole record to tape and then did the additional overdubs in Pro Tools, which there are very few of.

The HUB: I’m looking forward to hearing that.

Rick Beato: It’s very cool—it’s a very guitar-oriented record with a lot of guitar solos and cool resonator slide-guitar stuff. Some of the songs will have two guitar solos. It’s very much like an old-school ’70s record.

The HUB: Rick, it’s been such a pleasure taking with you and I could easily keep talking, but I don’t want to max out my credit with you.

Rick Beato: There you go.

The HUB: Thanks so much for talking with us. I know our readers will really appreciate your candor.

Rick Beato: You’re very welcome, have a great day.

Tags: Recording

Comments  

# Matthew Dunne 2015-08-11 04:51
A thought-provoking, informative article, I may try a 57 on guitars again! Thanks Rick!
Reply
# David Butler 2014-12-18 15:27
Rick,
Knowing you growing up you are a true inspiration! Your devotion, passion, talent, and intelligence are second to none! Sincere wishes for continued success my friend!
Reply
# Chris MacKay 2014-09-01 16:43
Awesome!
Reply
# Joe Passamonte 2014-09-01 09:12
fantastic article! Continued success Rick!
Reply
# Chris R. Woodard 2014-08-31 23:39
It's great to see Rick interviewed in The Hub..I enjoyed it tremendously. I'm an old friend (as well as a former jazz studies student of Rick's when he was still @ Ithaca College teaching as an adunct), and I've known Rick since the earlier 80's. He's quite brilliant musically, super intelligent, and, for sure, can be brutally honest (but most always to be helpful). He's a virtuoso jazz guitarist, indeed (and I don't hand out compliments easily, either...I grew in the Nashville, TN area with my older sister having worked the studios as a background vocalist. I grew up hearing incredible guitarists.. and I'm not kidding!) Any ways..it's quite a testament to Rick's abilities and great intelligence reading how he learned/taught himself the complexities and skills of recording, engineering, mixing and producing on his own from the ground up. And he started doing this After he completed his graduate work at New England Conservatory (I finished my undergrad music work when Rick was at IC)!
Reply

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