A guitar pushing a Leslie cabinet toits full-tilt-boogie max is an experienceto behold. The sound appearsto emanate from multiple locations,slathering a searing solo with a deliciousmid-high sizzle, and transforminga rhythm track into a psychedelic wirl circa 1967, activating some primallobe of the brain to squirt groovyjuice to your neurons. No wonder thecool studios have them.
Unfortunately, attempting to interfacea guitar with a Leslie can be abum trip. Your guitar has a 1/4" plug,but a 6-, 9-, or 11-pin Hydra is waiting for you from the Leslie. Unless youpossess mad electronics technicianchops, buy a preamp box—either bytracking down that elusive artifact ofrotational sound lore, the LeslieCombo Preamp (which has 1/4"inputs and accepts the Leslie 6-pinconnector), or by investing $550 in aTrek II UC-1A Combo Preamp (www.trekii.com) . Today, Hammond-Suzuki (www.hammondorganco.com) also makes smaller Leslies designedespecially for guitar with the appropriateinputs—the G37 ($1,495) andG27 ($1,325).
Most engineers record the Lesliefrom the rear—with the backremoved—for a direct and welldefinedtone. For a mono recording,you can get great results with theLeslie cranked to the gills, and bypositioning a single Shure SM58 upto a foot from the treble horn. If themic is placed much closer, a gnarlyamplitude-modulation effect—combinedwith the wind noise from therotor—makes a sound so foul you’llwant to cut out your ears with aplastic spoon. If you want amellower sound, position the mic atthe louvers cut into the sides of thecabinet. If the Leslie is in an openspace, add a large-diaphragm condenserset to its an omnidirectionalpattern about eight feet away tocapture additional ambiance.
However, if you want to capture thetrue spatial glory of a Leslie, stereo isthe way to go. Due to the Leslie notproducing much sonic energybeyond 12kHz, a lack of condensermics is not a handicap. I achieved great sounds using dynamic micssuch as Shure SM57s/SM58s andSennheiser MD421s—all placed abouta foot away. Here’s my basic method:Place a pair of SM57s on each side ofthe top rotor, and the MD421 pointedat the bottom rotor. Create a stereo mix with the top rotor mics pannedleft and right, and keep the MD421track panned center. Of course, youshould definitely experiment withother panning positions until thedesired stereo image is achieved. Ifyou want to really blow the sound up, try positioning a stereo pair ofmics at the top and bottom rotors.During mixdown your options forsonic perfection or mutation areexponential, as, for example, youcould process one of the top andone of the bottom mics (add distortion,delay, etc.), leave the other two mics unaffected, and blend the four signals to taste. For additional spatialityabove and beyond the call ofduty, set a large-diaphragmcondenser set to its omnidirectionalpattern about six to ten feet awayfrom the Leslie cabinet at a height ofabout five feet.