Artist Name: Christopher Dean Title: The Pikeman’s March Genre: Celtic
Computer – 2017 iMac Retina 5k 27″ 4.2 GHz Quad-Core Intel i7, 32 GB 2400 MHz DDR4 OWC Pro 6G SSD; OS – Big Sur; DAW – Pro Tools 2021.12; Interface – Focusrite Clarett 4 Pre; Control Surface – PreSonus Faderport 8 Controller; Monitors – Behringer Truth B2031; Headphones – AKG K-99 (tracking), Beyer Dynamic DT 990 Pro (mixing/mastering); Microphones – Neumann KM 184 (guitar) Roswell Mini K47 (guitar and Bodhran); Acoustic Guitar – 1992 Martin D16H; Bass – 2016 Hofner Violin Bass; Bodhran – unknown; Plugins – Avid EQ3 7-Band, sonible smart: EQ3, iZotope Ozone 10 EQ, WAVES Vocal Rider (used on backing fiddle track), Brainworks Focusrite (On drum), WAVES Bass Rider Native Instruments Guitar Rig 5 (for Bass Guitar), AudioThing Fog Convolver (Reverb), iZotope Ozone 10 Ozone Total Balance Control, WAVES WLM (Loudness Meter), and WAVES Ocean Way Nashville.
*Note: Fiddle was recorded at Arvel Bird’s studio in Cottonwood, AZ, and rhythm guitars were recorded at The Out House Studios in Ramona, CA, by Jim Soldi.
“The Pikeman’s March”, also known as “The Halting”, is a traditional Irish instrumental written in 1798. Christopher Dean played lead guitar and bass, produced the track, and handled editing, mixing, and mastering. Jim Soldi played rhythm guitar, Keith Jones played Bodhran, and Arvel Bird played the fiddle.
Christopher recorded the lead acoustic guitar with the Neumann KM 184 on the neck (12th fret) and the Roswell Mini K47 on the body. The bass was DI into the Clarett. The Bodhran was recorded with the Roswell positioned slightly inside the drum. Chris had no information on how Arvel Bird recorded the fiddle other than he used only one mic and no signal processing. The rhythm guitar tracks (Jim Soldi) recorded were with one mic and no processing. Christopher had requested Jim double the rhythm tracks in the same register for fullness. Jim sent me three tracks. The first was recorded at the nut in double drop D tuning. The second was recorded with standard tuning, capo 5th fret. The 3rd was with a guitar in Nashville Tuning/High strung. Christopher Had to play with it for a while, but it fit nicely in the mix.
Review By Dave Martin
It’s refreshing to hear a recording of a traditional Irish tune done in a fairly traditional manner. A few things should be mentioned for those who don’t listen to a lot of Irish folk music; first, the melodic instrument typically plays the melody without an improvised solo, while the harmonic instruments (in this case, the rhythm guitar) have more improvisational freedom. So when listening to “The Pikeman’s March”, remember that the lead guitar is taking a traditional approach, and there’s not supposed to be an improvisational guitar solo.
The lead guitar part was played on a Martin D16H and recorded with a Neumann KM184 at the 12th fret and a Roswell Mini K47 on the body. The Mini K47 was also used on the Bodhran (a frame drum played with a beater––also known as a tipper or a cipín) placed just inside the drum. Besides the lead guitar, Dean also played the bass track on a Hofner violin bass, plugged into one channel of a Focusrite Clarett.
Guitarist Jim Soldi and fiddle player Arvel Bird recorded their tracks and sent them to Dean for editing and mixing. As per the above information, both instrumentalists sent multiple tracks/takes––three rhythm guitar tracks (one with a double dropped D tuning, one with a standard tuning with a capo on the 5th fret, and one that was high-strung in a Nashville tuning. A Nashville high strung can either be a standard tuning except for the G string, which is an octave higher than standard, or strung with the two high strings the same as standard tuning, but the bottom four strings an octave high––essentially, like the high strings on a 12 string guitar.
There were five fiddle tracks––a lead melody and accompaniment verse/chorus 1 through 5, with four additional accompanying tracks that were edited and used in the final verse/chorus.
At the end of the day, “The Pikeman’s March” sounds like a group performance; the additional instruments and edit were nicely blended together into a seamless whole; while all of the instruments sounded great, I loved the sound of the Bodhran, and the way that the reverb gave it a very unique sound to start the track.
This track brings up one of the most interesting conundrums about having people record their tracks remotely: what instructions should you give to the musicians you’re asking to record?
There are two ways to handle this question; you can be as specific as possible when telling the musicians what you want, or you can send them tracks to work with and let them take the approach that they think is best.
In this case, the artist requested that the rhythm guitar be doubled and played in the same register. However, he received three different guitar tracks––one with a dropped tuning, one with a capo’d standard tuning, and one on a high strung guitar. I’m guessing that Dean simply asked fiddle player Arvel Bird to play on the song and got five fiddle tracks back to work with, which he used where he felt they’d work best.
The trick is to make sure that whether you tell the musicians exactly what you want or let them play what they think fits the song best, you communicate what you need and want as clearly as possible. It also helps to know the musicians’ styles well enough to ensure you’re asking the right person to play on the track. Most of us (both producers and session musicians) have learned, through trial and error, to be sure that the directions are clear enough to create usable (and, ideally, musical tracks) that will work in the mix. Assuming that what we hear on these tracks is what Christopher Dean wanted, he did an excellent job explaining what he had in mind.
“The Pikeman’s March” is a fine-sounding recording that demonstrates how a producer can collaborate with musicians who can’t be at the same studio working together in person while producing a song that sounds like they were.