corin nelsen

Frogs in the Studio

Scott Ainslie speaks with Imaginary Road Studios engineer Corin Nelsen (shown here) about recording Froggy Bottom Guitars.

When engineer Corin Nelsen and I were mixing my latest CD at Imaginary Road Studios here in Vermont, Corin pulled up my first track, solo-ed the guitar tracks and listened intently. He made one or two minor EQ adjustments and turned to me:

“What guitar is that?”

“That’s the Froggy Bottom,” I said.

“I knew it,” Corin replied.

This seemed to be more than just a lucky guess. And I wanted to know exactly how he knew that? Here’s what he said:

“The way I can tell it’s a Froggy Bottom Guitar has to do–at least partly–with the shape of the decay, which is smoother and arguably longer than with most other guitars. There’s a smoothness to their sound–a fullness and warmth.

“The volume and timbre of the primary decay across the instrument is stronger than in a lot of guitars. The notes don’t blur as much as they do on other guitars. With a Froggy Bottom, there is an overall cohesiveness to the sound, and yet the individual notes are clear and full.”

“I’ve worked with at least a dozen different Froggy Bottom guitars and they are, hands down, the finest recording guitars. Someone can walk in with their best custom or brand name guitar–and it will sound really good–but if we put a Froggy Bottom in their hands, a whole other tonal spectrum becomes clear.”

In Corin’s experience, it is often a struggle to get a guitar to sound consistently smooth and present throughout its range in any particular the track.

“When I’m recording, I operate in a very empirical way. I will sit down in front of the guitar and with my ears find those spots where the guitar is most balanced and most present.”

“On most guitars there are real dead zones in the three-dimensional space around the instrument. They are like nodal points off the front of the guitar which create an unevenness  in the sound and timbre of the guitar. These, in turn, create mic problems.”

“Other guitars often need a couple of notch filters and a fair amount of massaging throughout the recording to deal with an imbalance of overtones,”Corin said. “With a Frog, I don’t have to do that.”

So, I asked, “Does Michael  do with chisels and block planes what you otherwise have to do with EQ, notch filters, and electronics?”

Corin said, “Yeah.”

“And I’m really glad he does! I don’t want to take a chisel to the sound!

“That’s just the point:  with the Froggies, I don’t have to. They are like great pianos:  there’s a clarity and balance throughout their range, a complexity of tone and an evenness across the sound spectrum. Their clarity, volume, and tone set these instruments apart.

“Having these tools at our disposal, from my perspective, is just great. This is all about making the best music and, for me, recording the best music possible. Having worked with Froggies so many times here at Imaginary Road Studios,” Corin said, “we’re sort of spoiled.”