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Run Dan Run – “Recording Normal; The Gear That Made It Happen”

This is Dan McCurry of the Charleston-based indie rock band Run Dan Run. You probably haven’t heard of us. That’s okay, we get that a lot actually. If you hadn’t heard, well, we recently put the finishing touches on our sophomore release Normal (out nationally on 1.10.12 on Hearts & Plugs), which we recorded entirely ourselves. I am a total gear head so naturally writing an article about my favorite pieces of gear came easily.

Here is a list of 20 of my favorite pieces of gear in the RDR arsenal and why I like them:

1. Universal Audio LA-610 mkII (mic preamp) – Excellent for vocals, drums, & bass. They sound quite large and have some real body in the low end.

2. Sennheiser 421 (microphone) – This mic is awesome on horns. I love the 5 position filter. Swiss Army Dynamic mic. Sounds pretty awesome squashed.

3. Fender CIJ Jazz Bass, ’62 RI  (bass guitar) – The Japanese Fenders kill much of the USA Fenders except maybe the custom shops, plus they are cheaper. This bass is just incredible and simply “feels right” when you’re playing it.

4. 1975 Fender Vibro Champ (guitar amp) – Delivers the classic Fender chime at a relatively low volume. Excellent for recording as it is so easy to manage. Just remember to use a reverb pedal.

5. Golden Age Pre73 (mic preamp) – Rich analog sound for little bucks. I ran all of the keyboards (except bass keyboard) through this unit. It seemed to flatter the midrange of the keyboard perfectly where the LA 610 mkII simply did not. After running through this the keyboards needed very little EQ.

6. Massey Tape Delay (plugin) – Very intuitive and simple. Rich & warm delay sound, much better than any of the stock plugins that came with my Pro-Tools.

7. Izotope Vinyl (plugin) – I use this thing like an Pre-EQ EQ. Great for changing the character of an instrument in the mix.

8. Voodoo Labs Sparkle Drive (pedal) – All of the Voodoo Labs pedals are top-notch. The Sparkle Drive for me is a tone pedal more than anything. I rarely turn it off. Very true to the amp+guitar sound with just a bit more beef and clarity.

9. Boss DD-6 Delay (pedal) – Very easy to use digital delay. Sounds awesome and I love the trailing delays on this model.

10. Cascade Fathead (microphone) – This microphone has an entirely different sound. I used this a lot on kick drum as well as guitar amps. It is great on low end and has a lot of body.

11. SPL Twin Tube (plugin) – Excellent for adding a little grit and size to a signal. I like to think of this plugin as sort of an EQ as it can easily push an instrument forward in a mix and give it a little space to exist.

12. T-Racks 3 Opto Compressor (plugin) – Super smooth compression. Barely noticeable. I love this on vocal or any other signal that you’re trying to preserve tonally.

13. Fender Telecaster w/ SCN Pickups (electric guitar) – I am a telecaster man 100% for life. The SCNs are dead quite and have plenty of spank to boot.

14. Vintage Slingerland Drumset (drums) – I love Slingerlands! I think the classic vintage drums have a bit more character than most modern drums. It’s a different complexity, like a finely aged wine. Plus they just have a lot of vibe to them. This is all we used on Normal.

15. Zildjian K 20″ Dry Ride (Cymbal) – So rich and complex! I prefer a good bit of wash in my cymbals. I also like larger cymbals for their generally lower pitch. You won’t be hearing a 10″ splash on any RDR records anytime soon. It’s always 18″ plus when it comes to crashes. I also prefer a thinner cymbal.

16. Various Shakers (Auxiliary Percussion) – Honestly you can never have too many shakers. The size and shape of the shaker and beads inside, as well as the density of the materials influence the sound, decay, projection, and playability of the shaker. Sometimes you want something soft and delicate, something that sounds like sand. Other times you might want something really driving and almost piercing. Or maybe you just want to go with the happy medium. Having 3-5 different shakers on hand is a good place to start.

17. Auxiliary Percussion (Auxiliary Percussion) – I think aux percussion really makes Normal, that and the full drum kit on every song. There is not a track on the album that doesn’t feature at least 2 different auxiliary percussion instruments. Aux percussion can really flesh out a song and fill space that no amount of notes can.

18. Shure Beta 58 (microphone) – Great live and for recording. I like the Beta series a little better than the standards as they seem to be a little more hi-fi to my ears and just not as flat. I might say that they are just a tad more flattering. Plus the super cardiod pattern is a plus in nearly all of the applications I use it in.

19. Electro Harmonix Mini-Synth (analog keyboard) – These are somewhat rare and very hard to play due to the touchpad keyboard but it is sure hard to beat the beast-like sound that comes out of this thing when you’re pushing it through the LA-610 mkII. The sound is simply massive.

20. Fender Rhodes Mark I (electric piano) – There is nothing like a Fender Rhodes. It is its own instrument I think. Sure it has the same layout as any other keyboard instrument but I swear that there must be angels in there singing! I fell in love with the Rhodes when recording it on Normal. I honestly never played one much prior to  this point. It’s unfortunate that I hadn’t. It is hands down my favorite keyboard sound now. I am pretty sure that heaven uses the Rhodes for door chimes.

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