What gear did you use to record Kandahar Guitar Society?

I know that this will disappoint the gear hounds out there, but the gear I used to record the album is pretty basic -- or cheap -- based on your perspective.  Because of the Spartan environment here in Afghanistan, I didn't want to drag a lot of gear through the US Postal Service and risk losing it all in a war zone.  Note -- there is clearly no boutique gear on this page.  Here is a rundown of what I used:


Here are the only two guitars used for the album.  On top, a Peavey Milestone III bass bought in a Peavey BassPack.  I rewired the bass with Teflon-coated MILSPEC wire, did a fret job on it, and installed new strings.  It sounds great, and was the only bass used on the album.

On the bottom is a Peavey Raptor EXP.  I installed an old Dimarzio PAF and a Seymour Duncan Vintage Staggered in it during the recording process.  I rewound both of the pickups, and I liked their character (oh no...not another tone discussion) even though a great deal of the album was recorded with the stock pickups in place.  I rewired the guitar with higher quality wire and coax, and it wound up sounding pretty decent.  This is the first project in which I didn't use multiple guitars, and I am pleased with how the Peavey held up.  I could have used the stock pickups, but I couldn't leave well enough alone.  Both of the pickups were "dead on arrivals" I bought on eBay for rewinding.

I installed Ernie Ball Pink Slinkys on both, and you can read more about the Raptor on the Play Guitar page.  We also discovered the Dunlop "Sharp" picks during this project, and we are going to permanently use those.  The feel of these picks is very cool, and you should check them out.

Special thanks to KK at KK Music for hooking us up with these guitars.  He has been a great friend, mentor, NAMM Show partner, and music gear provider to us over the years, and we really appreciate his friendship.

Total cost of the guitars:  Approximately $300 for both, not including the pickups and labor.


Here it is -- the entire recording rig.  We'll start at the bottom left and go clockwise.

Behringer V-AMP 2 (the blue one).  This was a $99 Musician's Friend special, and it provided nearly all of the guitar sounds for the album.  I used a number of amp models on the V-AMP, but the JCM-800 and the Dual Rectifier models sounded the most realistic.  All guitar and bass sounds were run direct and recorded in my little room.  I believe I like my POD better, but for the price, nothing can touch this rig.  I also used a Peavey 258 SFX for part of the album, and it is probably one of the best small amps I've ever played through.

Behringer Bass V-AMP 2 (the silver one).  Also a $99 Musician's Friend special, and it provided all of the bass sounds for the album.  I used an Ampeg SVT model generally, and it sounded surprisingly similar.  The tuner is a loser, though.  Really tough to get a good track for tuning your bass...and that is a problem on a bass preamp.

Panasonic ToughBook CF-29 with Cakewalk Sonar 2.0 software.  The ToughBook is a work computer, and I was really pleased at its fantastic performance playing back the songs recorded on Sonar.  The ToughBooks are built like tanks, and the touch screen is pretty cool.  I never found a really good use for the feature, but it is interesting to show people when you are playing Solitaire. 

I've had Sonar 2.0 for several years, and it was pretty much rock-solid during the entire process.  I only got a couple of "blue screen of death" warnings!  The only plug-ins I used were the ones that came with Sonar.  I like the "FX" effects that come with Sonar because you can use automation with them.  Sonar is up to Version 5.0 now so you can score a copy of 2.0 on eBay pretty inexpensively.

TASCAM US-224 USB Interface.  I've had this interface for several years, and I really like having those faders.  Call me old school, but the TASCAM is really transparent sounding and the USB worked great -- no crashes.  The only thing I wish it had is phantom power for condenser microphones and USB 2.0 connectivity.

APEX 850 "professional" microphone.  This came in a package with the ART Tube MP preamp.  It was a give away, but sounded OK.  It is a dynamic mic, and kind of looks like a Shure or AKG.  Not bad -- it has a presence peak much like a Shure SM-58.  The price was right.  I recorded the vocals in our office in Kandahar after hours.  The sleeping quarters are not appropriate for "shout vocals" in the middle of the night.  I don't think I bothered anyone while recording this collection.

Fostex T50 RP headphones.  I bought these on sale, and they sound pretty good.  I got some hotspots on top of my head when I used them for long periods of time, but I found them to be pretty flat without an overly hyped or "phat" bass.

ART Tube MP mic preamp.  I bought this with the APEX microphone, and thought I would use it with the bass as well.  The Bass V-AMP actually sounded better, but I had wanted a Tube MP for my condenser mic at home, and it was incredibly cheap.  This is a great preamp.

Drum loops from Beta Monkey.  I decided to use loops for this project because my drum machine and sound module were in the US.  Two criteria:  they had to be cheap, and they had to ship to an APO (Armed Forces Post Office).  I did a Google Search and found this company, known as Beta Monkey.  Click here for their website.  I bought the three-pack and paid with PayPal.  The loops are pretty cool, but I don't have much to compare them with.  They are Acidised, sound like drums (acoustic, that is) and work great with Sonar.

Cables.  No Mogami or George L's here.  I used a green Fender cable and a Peavey "Bass Pack" cable to hook the guitar to the amps and preamps.  No, I didn't check the capacitance daily or obsess over the number of screws in each preamp's case.  The power at Kandahar was pretty clean and reliable, and there is very, very little line noise on the recordings.

Bottom Line:  With about $600 worth of gear (minus the computer) and $300 worth of guitars, I was able to put together an album.


Thanks for reading about the gear I used on the album.  It was certainly a great way to spend down time while I was deployed.  As Mick Jagger said, "It's a noise we make, that's all. You could be kind and call it music."

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