Buddy Emmons Q&A
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Of all of your recordings, which ones come to mind as your favorite and your least favorite? With the exception of one bar, I'm most comfortable listening to I Love You So Much It Hurts or possibly Once Upon A Time In The West. One of my least favorites is Canon in D Major.

Why do you consider Canon in D Major to be your least favorite? I suppose it has to do with knowing how much better it could have sounded had I recorded it a different way.

At the producerís request, I used a different tone setting for each pass. I had previously recorded the song at my home, using equal tone settings that gave the harmonies a much warmer sound. When the album was released, I compared the studio version with the home recording and it was dreadful. Also, I wasn't using equal tempered tuning then, which would have made for better intonation in a few spots.

How did you come up with this particular piece? The song was a suggestion of producer Mike Melford.

How were you able to read all the parts since you have told us you do not read music that well? I had plenty of time to work with it at my home. Once I learned the melody, the second and third parts were a repeat of the first.

Did you have any difficulties during the recording of the many different voices you finally ended up with?
No. Having prerecorded it, I knew what to do when I went to the studio.

Since the composition is quite long, how were you able to do it and have it end where you wanted it to? Songs of this type, or canons, are written for that purpose. The word canon in musical terms is defined as an elementary contrapuntal form of music consisting of the same melody starting at different times. Two of the more familiar canons are Three Blind Mice and Row, Row, Row Your Boat. These are vocal canons that are called "rounds."

Part one of Canon in D Major is the entire melody. Part two is the melody minus the last four bars, and part three is the melody minus the last eight bars. Starting the second pass on the fifth bar and the third pass on the ninth bar allows the parts to end at the same time.

The hardest part of recording was laying a redundant bass line down with the steel and keeping track of the bars.

Were there any problems in timing and/or phrasing, etc blending the various voices in the final mix? The structure of the song takes care of the timing. The album was mixed in Boston so I had no input on that end.

Would you do it again, and if so, would you ever tackle a piece like say maybe Bolero? I was preparing to follow Canon in D Major with two songs: Fanfare for the Common Man, and Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring. Fanfare was one of the strangest and most difficult melodies I'd ever tried to play. I had to use a combination of open harmonics and pedals to find it, which made Canon seem like a walk in the park. I had worked my way through about three fourths of the song when Flying Fish shifted directions for the next album and I scrapped it. It would take a while to get my head back into it but, yes, I'd do it today.


Do you like classical music, or was this just one that particularly stood out because it was being played a lot on radio for a while?
I like classical music under stressful conditions, such as driving home after a day in the studio. It provides a calming effect that keeps me from wanting to run somebody off the road during rush hour.

Did you in fact do all the voices? Yes.

Which steel did you use during the recording? I used an S-12 Emmons with an E 13th tuning. The guitar had three pickups: two at the bridge end and one behind the first fret at the nut. For string sounds, I used three individual single pole pickups that mounted at the end of the guitar.

Could you give me a brief explanation of the swing over pickups you were using on the 12-string push-pull? I came up with the string section idea when the guys around town were using two unison strings and a fuzz tone for a violin sound. Three individual single pole pickups swiveled over the strings I wanted to use for the harmonies. From there, the signal went to three separate fuzz units. It was an improvement over the unison sound but no cigar.

The most fun I had with it was when I was asked to sub for someone at the Opry. At the time, three steel players were doing the fuzz/unison thing behind the singers, with two of them taking a harmony part. I set my gear up on stage and played three parts in one pass. They were still shaking their heads when I was packing up. I'm a country ham laced with a generous pinch of yankee smart-ass, so I laughed about it all the way home.

(A little more about the Emmons 12 string push-pull): The nut pickup was used in the song Top Heavy during a reverse slide. As the notes in front of the bar descended, the notes in back of the bar ascended and created an eerie counterpoint effect from the combined sounds. The pickup had to be flat enough to mount under the strings which made the coil too small to generate the proper output to match the level of the other pickups.

The second pickup had a Fender Strat sound. The main and second pickups were wired to a three-way switch to give me a choice of either sound or a blend of the two. An in/out switch added the nut pickup to the configuration.

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