Show 199 – Misusing Gear For Creative Effects and more!

This week Jon shows 3 ways to misuse some basic gear to get interesting effects. Using headphones as a microphone, using a dynamic mic as a speaker and using headphones to create guitar feedback.

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21 thoughts on “Show 199 – Misusing Gear For Creative Effects and more!

  1. Great show as always. I appreciate what you guys do more than you will ever know. I’ve been listening to the show for years, but this is my first post. Jon, I’m still a bit fuzzy on how you set up the dynamic mic as a speaker. Can you explain that one more time for me? I’m totally going to use the headphones-as-a-mic trick in my next project. That trashy sounding acoustic sounded awesome in the worst way. I could just hear the possibilities in a mix. Thanks again. And Ryan, did you say Jon is girthy?

    Limit the chicken,

  2. Wowzers trousers, I counted no less than 2 instances of Jon bringing the smut in this episode! What’s happening? Who is that badboy, and what has he done with our Jon?

    Really dug the creative segment of this one chaps. Recently my drummer was tracking along to a loop and his snare was popping like a fat man who’d eaten too many pies. Turned out that he’d used a sample of a tenis racket hit instead of a bog standard snare sample in the guide loop he was playing along to. He has enough restraint to avoid getting embroiled in the technicalities of anything technological, and we got stuck in a sort of incredulity feedback loop, with me being utterly amazed at how good it sounded, and him being amazed at my amazement because he didn’t give two shits what was used so long as it achieved the sound he had in his head. Instant attitude adjustment (that I’m now trying to cling on too as I stare morosely at this screen full of plugins).

    Quick question – I’m going to be tracking a ton of guitars over the next few weeks, and due to space and budget restrictions it’s shaping up to be an “in the box” job. I’ve picked up a copy of AmpKit because I prefered the sound of it to Amplitube for heavy stuff, and I’m taking the gamble that working on guitars in their standalone app will force me to focus on getting good stuff on the way in as opposed to fixing in the mix. Jon’s headphones trick from today was great for that teeth grinding awful feedback that you can bury in the background to give the impression that the guitar was loud enough to kill a pig, but do you guys have any tips on how to create the more musical feedback you can get from a real amp. You know, those moments when you lean into the amp and it grabs onto an overtone as the chord decays. Are there ways of getting that without pissing off your neighbours?

    Ride the fastest method of transport you own, in order to locate and rescue that poor chicken from the clutches of smutty Jon…


  3. Hey guys, just found out about the show over the holidays, and I’ve pretty much stopped listening to any other podcasts. Tons of great info and discussion, but it’s the audio examples that really make this a great learning tool for me. I’m about halfway through the archives and am looking forward to achieving my diploma. Then we’ll see who’s wasting his life on all this music nonsense dad.

    When I was a kid in the eighties, I used to use earbuds to record into my ghetto blaster. Then do overdubs using a second ghetto. A few years ago I had an Epiphone Viola (Paul McCartney bass) running through a distortion pedal into my interface, and was able to hear my voice through the pickups if I got up real close and screamed real loud. I don’t know how that worked, but it was an interesting effect.

    My old roommate is a noise “musician” and does stupid stuff like this all the time. Some real interesting things with a shortwave radio, old hard drive platters and contact mics, and opening non audio files in cool edit, slowing them right down, and finding all sorts of cool glitchy beats. He does this as an ends in itself. But even if you’re working on more normal music, weird nonsense like this can add some little point of interest to your song and set it apart from everything else.

    So, thanks for a great show, and as Charles Mingus once said: “I’m gonna chew it, eat that chicken…”

  4. Interesting show as always, guys.
    Here’s a potential solution for Shawn to consider for his high-frequency hearing loss. Just insert a chicken–urr no–I mean an EQ on the monitor bus or an external hardware EQ between the monitor outs and the amps or inputs if internally amped.
    I assume he either has or can get at least a ballpark figure of where the frequency loss begins. And just to be safe I’d recommend calling his audiologist to make sure this approach will not exacerbate his high frequency hearing loss.
    I don’t think so because I believe they do just this with hearing aids for folks with severe frequency gaps in their hearing.
    He can then compensate with a high shelf. It will require some back-and-forth testing with a fellow engineer, preferably one with good ears, until he can produce something close to the same sound on a mix. It will sound right to him through his monitors and right to everyone else through theirs.
    He should also compensate for the additional overall gain level increase going to his monitors so he doesn’t find himself in the unfortunate situation of having to dodge heat-seeking tweeter missiles.
    The down side of this is that it opens poor Shawn up to the temptation of mind control by his fellow engineer, i.e. I do actually like Shawn’s triangle and finger cymbal symphonies, but I like a dreadfully dark sound. So–
    We’re almost there, Shawn, old buddy. Just increase the high shelf a little. Oh, I don’t know, let’s try 12 dB.
    Yeah, man. That is it! You’ve got it spot on now. Happy mixing, bro.
    Gas the chicken! And keep on keeping on.

  5. GSAA,

    Awesome show. In my youth i would steal my moms acoustic and put a CB mic in the sound hole and send the CB output to our home stereo. I thought i was cool cause i made an “electric” guitar. This episode has me thinking there might be some cool sounds in that.

    I am really excited about the artificial feedback thing. Doing things in the box is never quite as good as the real thing but every trick we can use to garner one more iota of realism is a win in my book.

    Looking forward to the big 200th


  6. Hey guys,

    great show, and entertaining as always. šŸ™‚
    My first question is related to using a microphone as a speaker for reamping: wouldn’t it be wise to tell people to be careful with the volume they playback through the dynamic mic? I could imagine that especially with the peaks in drum sounds the diaphragm could be damaged easily. Is that worth to mention? I mean, I wouldn’t use a good mic for this. Your opinion on that?
    Another question is about mixing into a compressor right from the beginning. Jon mentioned that he uses some setting resulting in 4 to 5 dB of gain reduction. Is there a need to revisit this setting while adding tracks or balancing track volumes? Would it be good to make sure that the gain reduction stays at that range during the whole mix? Or do you tweak this compressor’s settings close to the end to improve the final sound?
    All good things come in threes. So here is my third (and last) question: some shows ago Jon said, he would use layered reverbs for mixing. Thinking about this a bit more I came to the idea that the “smaller” reverb then needed to be fed into the “larger” reverb. Otherwise you would send a track to the small and large reverbs in parallel. Maybe it doesn’t make a significant sonic difference, if the two kinds of reverb are just summed up. Can you please explain, which of these options you use and why you have chosen it?

    Thanx for your comprehensive and helpful answers to all questions in the comments. Take care


  7. The segment on misuse of gear reminds me of an article in TapeOp a few years ago about Nicolas Collins who creates music by bending circuits or adding piezo disks to all kinds of things. It would be really cool to get him on the show sometime!

  8. Hi, guys,

    Enjoyed this episode immensely. I have always been a fan of misusing my gear for effect. I quite enjoy the hands-on approach to production and also taking time out of a session to experiment with unconventional techniques. I find that it can be a great way to break things up when an artist is stuck on a particular portion of a song and winds up too much in his or her own head – especially when the end result is something cool. I have found that doing something in an unconventional way will often times inspire an artist to approach the initial problem with the same kind of creativity when we get back to it, rather than going back to “why can’t I hit the friggin’ F today?”

    I love using headphones as mics. I used to play bass in a band that the mandolin player built on the bottom of a trash can and every time we played out or recorded, I miked it with a cheap pair of Sony headphones into an ART tube MP. That was the sound it needed. Ultimately, for that bass, it was more important that it sounded like it looked than it was that it sounded good. It was awesome because people would ask how I got that bass to sound like it did and then would never believe me when I told them.

    More of this kind of stuff, please. Nothing makes me grin like an idiot more than when someone says things like, “what if we crank this up to 11, slam it into this, run that into a pocket amp in the bottom of a metal can and then mic it with a bullet mic, running into a Marshall half stack.


  9. Hey guys,
    Long time listener. First time commenter. I’ll try to keep this short.
    First off, thank you for this incredible show. My recordings have definitely improved because of it. Keep it up!
    Secondly, Shawn, I hear you bud. Albeit not that well. I was born hard of hearing and, like you, I have trouble hearing higher frequencies. A couple of things I’ve found helpful are: I mix through headphones for the most part and when I mix on my monitors I sometimes cup my hands behind my ears and it seems to help me hear those higher frequencies. Also, it can be humbling but I get my wife to listen and critique. Thankfully she’s very honest and even though she doesn’t know the terms to describe what she thinks is wrong, she is always able to help. So maybe grab a trusted friend and run your mixes past him/her. I don’t say this next part to brag but to encourage you; Lately people have really been saying good things about my mixes! Point being, there’s hope yet for guys like you and me who have no idea their watch alarm is beeping and are sitting there wondering why everyone in the meeting is staring at you. Yup, speaking from experience.
    Thanks again Ryan and John. A devout Canadian listener. Kurt.

  10. I know you, and us listeners, appreciate some fine equipment that we could never afford. I stumbled upon this video from Focusrite. It’s about a Rednet setup at the University of Darby. I’m not here to promote Focusrite (although I think it’s some really cool stuff), but the video has a great peek into what looks like a fantastic studio, complete with a 1985 Neve console. It’s worth the 4 minute watch just to see that.

    Here’s the link:

    KUTGS (Keep up the great shows.)

  11. GSAA

    I’ve been living the content recently but have been too busy to write in because I’ve been working on a rather talented musician’s live album. The stuff I’ve learned from you guys and a few notable others has completely transformed me as a recording and mixing guy. There’s nothing like getting a comment from a musician like “I can’t believe how good that sounds” or “the drums on that song sound great”. So yeah, thanks for the knowledge that I’ve combined with my experience.

    As far as misappropriating gear, I’ve found that if you put an iPhone speaker right next to a pickup in a guitar or bass it gets a really cool gritty tonality which when run through my rig sounds really cool and nothing like a cheap effect. This makes me want to rig up something for synths where I use a speaker into a pickup all housed in a small box that would have 1/4 inch in and out. I’d probably need to find some good tone wood to mount it in and put it near the amp to get the full effect.

    Anyway thanks again and I’m excited to see what you hit me with for EP 200.

  12. Hi all, I would like to offer Chris Whitehurst a “golden rule” of music writing & recording when working with teenagers. That he was seeking in his comment on show 198. I have been a workshop facilitator for many years working with teenagers in music creation, songwriting, production & software recording. So the gem I would offer Chris is a simple rule of physics & that is that ‘Two things cannot occupy the same space at the same time’. This applies to musical arrangements & also for mixing. If you want clarity & separation of the individual elements apply this rule, & when mixing use EQ & pan to give everything it’s own space to exist in.
    This principle is also true when 2 teenagers try to get on the drum kit at the same time & also true if one of the class members wants to be the centre of attention.
    Sadly it also true as in Ryan’s case when a teenager’s head is full of hormones it’s impossible to get good information in.

  13. Hi guys,

    I recently stumbled across the podcast and have been hooked ever since, I can’t believe I used used to try and record music before listening to your show.

    After finishing all of the episodes listed in I-tunes, I staggered into the archives like a junkie in search of my next HRS fix. What I found was great, the early episodes really start at the ground floor which is exactly what I need.
    So I took some notes and went home to put them into action, I was playing with parallel compression and reverb, side chains, picking out offensive frequencies and notching them etc. and was having an absolute blast while getting great results, it was a whole new song.
    If only I had taken more notes from the previous episode on corrupt session files and setting up the auto save function… I guess I don’t have to explain what happened next, needless to say, there was plenty taking the chicken’s name in vain.
    So, to all those who listen to this show with hopes of learning a few new recording tricks, don’t neglect the mundane things, they might just save your bacon.

    Moving forward, I’m now planning to re-record most of the song from the ground up using all of the juicy little tips you guys were kind enough to throw my way. Speaking of tips, It’s about time I put one in the jar.
    I might even send a copy of the track your way when it’s finished, I would love to hear your comments.

    Keep up the great work.

  14. Hey guys. I just wanted to drop a comment and say that I love your show and have been listening to it since I discovered it a few months back. It has really pushed my engineering and mixing chops into a new dimension by spring-boarding the ideas and techniques discussed on the show. I decided to show you some love through the purchase I just made on Amazon.

    In addition, I also wanted to share with you and your listeners my two favorite plugins. DMG Audio’s EQuality and COMPassion, EQ and Compressor plugins respectively (as if the name doesn’t give it away). The fine tuning adjustments you can do with these plugins are amazing. When used right, everything just sits in the mix so well. What makes them so special? First off, COMPassion would be your standard compressor plugin in if it weren’t for the wet/dry signal dial. I found that this gives the same effect as parallel compression built right in to the plugin. Use of this with a side-chain signal gives you just the right amount of pump you need for whatever the situation. EQuality has an adjustable range, gain/q interaction, and a bar at the bottom incase you need to bump all the nodes up or down at once. Adjusting the range changes the depth of the equalizing in the frequencies you select, thereby increasing or decreasing their presence in the mix. Very useful, very fluid. I don’t know what I’d do without these plugins. Especially EQuality.

    So now that I pitched my testimonial for some of the products I love, I will now pitch a slogan for one of the podcasts I love. To quote one Barbara Billingsley, “Chicken don’t want da help, chicken don’t get da help.” Perhaps I misquoted the line, but I don’t speak Jive. I hope you guys appreciate the help as much as I appreciated yours.

    Kyle K
    Mad Science Audio Labs
    Milwaukee, WI

  15. Respect to Ryan for getting through my last comment – seemed a lot longer being read aloud. Going forward, I’ll use shorter words and try to leave more room for cock jokes… you’re welcome.

    So, guitars and getting realistic feedback from plugins. Your advice about using a smaller amp to get the essential feedback parts helped a ton. I close mic’d and cuddled up to a little combo, applied an inhuman amount of gain, and by editing down those takes to just the best squealy stuff, spending time finding lengths of fades that sound natural and using Vroom to create the illusion that those moments were recorded somewhere other than amidst my socks, I’ve ended up with a fake version of rock and roll that sounds passable to my ears. 3 tunes in, and no eviction letter from my landlord as yet, so thanks for that chaps!

    One more quick question. The more I use it, the more sure I am that I can get sounds out of AmpKit that I can live with. That said, it still doesn’t actually respond anything like playing through a cranked up Engl, so I haven’t managed to really enjoy tracking this way yet. Do you have any experience of those units by Palmer, Tube Amp Doctor and the like which would in theory let me use tube heads but still record silently? If you’re unfamiliar, they’re basically a box to take the load (golden MMMM YEAH moment for Ryan surely), and a cab simulated output that sounds reasonable to me. I’m thinking that something along those lines could get me back on an amp that I’m used to, plus have the response to my playing that I’m used to but still be tracking silently. Any experience or advice on manufacturers who do this stuff well would be much appreciated. I’ve got a couple hundred quid as a budget, so somewhere around $400-$500.

    Right, got episode 200 cued up and a nice hot bath at the ready. Fetch me a chicken, I may be some time…

    • Hi Scotticus,

      I’m actually using speaker simulators for recording. I find the sound I get with mine pretty convincing. I chose a Hughes & Kettner “Red Box Classic”, which is fed by the line out of my Engl tube preamp 530. The speaker simulator goes into a mic preamp (in my case a tube preamp, which gives the signal something extra) and that gives a very usable sound for mixing. A friend of mine has an Engl amp head, the “Savage 60”. He uses the Hughes & Kettner “Red Box Pro” and that combination sounds also awesome. “Wait”, you will say, “what about the load for the power amp?” Well, I have no trouble with that, because I just use the line out of the preamp. No tube power amp involved. The “Savage 60” has a master volume and we connected the speaker sim to the FX send, shortcut the FX return and connected an 8 ohms resistor to the speaker output. Turning the master colume down and having the shortcut on the FX return means there is no significant power to soak. A resistor with a power rating of 1 Watt is safe enough in this situation. You won’t get any tube distortion from the power amp tubes in this scenario, but you have a pretty decent and absolutely silent recording setup. Playing through the speaker sim with my Engl preamp is a whole different thing compared to any modeller or plugin! šŸ™‚
      If you were interested in a comparison of some popular speaker simulators (without power soak), you might find my web page useful. I recorded all sorts of guitar sounds through a handful of these devices. A Palmer unit has also been tested and recorded. The “big brothers” of that Palmer PDI-09 come with power soaks and do a really good job, too. Joe Satriani has used these Palmers on an album and recently I’ve watched a video featuring Joe Bonamassa on YouTube. He’s also using the Palmer units and he likes them.
      Here’s my web page about the topic:
      Hope that helps. Take care (of the chicken, too). šŸ™‚

    • ScotErot,

      Check out the BSS AR-133. It’s an active DI but more importantly has up to a 40db pad for patching the cabinet load from your amp direct to your DAW. Works great for me on an old Sovtek Mig tube amp. I’m not sure what the cost of some of the other units are but just wanted to let you know about it.


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