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Q&A: February 2012, Part III
3/16/2012 (updated 3/16/2012)

Please provide some wisdom for a 58-year-old amateur singer-songwriter who wants to make his first record. Given budgetary constraints, it will most likely have to be voice and guitar with no overdubs. For most efficient use of precious studio time, what would you recommend? Lay down the guitar and voice tracks separately so as to minimize the potential for little mistakes - and endless retakes? Or record voice and guitar together to get the right balance between the two? When practicing at home, I find that getting the right balance is a delicate process.

It's OK to lay down voice and guitar separately.  It's a little better for sound that way, but you can lose a bit of that 'live performance' quality. If your budget is limited, why not do it at home on your laptop? Something like Garage Band is easy to use and good enough for demos. On what you save on studio time, you can afford a large diaphragm condenser mic (Chinese-made, but pretty good quality) and a cheap interface for the computer, and make something that will be sonically reasonable - and you get to spend more time and be more relaxed, rather than 'clock-watching' in the studio.

How long have you had a fan base in Japan? For your shows in Tokyo, will you approach your set list (and stage patter!) differently than you would for American or British audiences?

I have a small fan base in Japan, and I don't get there that often. I do keep in mind that English is not  the first language, and I may go for more guitar-heavy songs in the set. I would likewise keep the Jimmy Logan routines to a minimum.

Going back to Sir Stirling Moss era, who is your favorite British Formula One driver? As always, Richard, thank you for taking the time to answer my probing questions! Cheers, Douglas Alan. New York, NY

Stirling Moss. There is a case for saying he was the greatest driver ever - he could certainly jump into any car and get a performance from it. Some would probably prefer Fangio, or the very discerning might plump for Ascari. A stronger case might be made for Ayrton Senna as the all-time greatest.

I imagine you enjoyed your time on the cruise, looks like lots of musical and magical fun, though not necessarily in that order.  I noticed that James McMurtry was also aboard and I was wondering if you had the chance talk or play with him at all. I see a certain symmetry between the two of you, and though I could be imagining it (I do that sometimes, gets me into trouble) I would think you would get along quite well. Thanks for all your music. Larry Korn - Marietta, Georgia

I did not get a chance to meet him.

Which microphones would you recommend using to record acoustic guitar and vocals? Also have you ever been invited to appear on Transatlantic sessions? Charlie

For guitar, there are many choices, and I'll start at the top end. I use a pair of Neumann km184s, crossed at 90 degrees to eliminate phase cancellation, through good tube preamps. Even better would be original km84s, which I can't afford just now. Any large or small diaphragm condenser will sound good on guitar, as will a good ribbon mic - Royers are good, Cascade make very good inexpensive ribbon mics for all applications. Mic placement is a matter of trial and error, and can be different depending on the instrument and the player, and of course the room. For vocals, well, what can you afford? A great vintage mic like Telefunken 251, an AKG C12, or a Neumann U47 cannot be equaled, but will set you back $20,000 at least. An online company like Sweetwater has a wide range of cheaper large diaphragm condensers, that start around $150, that can sound very good. There are brands like Rode, Blue, Cascade again, and if you can afford a bit more, there is the cheaper end of brands like AKG and Shure.

I think I've done the Transatlantic sessions twice. I would love to do it more often, but it comes at a difficult time of year for me.

I own the DVD Live in Providence but would love to have it in another format such as CD or mp3.  Any plans to issue this in these formats? Thanks. Sharon Skeer

Sorry, I don't know of any plans to do this. There is probably an easy way to do this yourself, that some technically-minded human might suggest.