As a composer, writer, video clinician, bandleader and educator, guitar virtuoso Chris Buono has broken into every facet of music creation.
Buono teaches guitar performance at the esteemed Berklee College of Music and oversees Berklee’s state-of-the-art guitar effects lab. He is also a contributing writer for Guitar Player and has written the M-Audio Guide for the Recording Guitarist [Course PTR]. You can find his work as a session musician on a stylistically wide variety of major and independent label albums by artists ranging from modern cornet innovator and composer Graham Haynes to shred-guitar luminary Dave Martone, all the way to his own compositions on many Viacom productions including MTV’s Real World.
Your solo release Solitaire features a dizzying array of guitar-based electronica. How do you come up with ideas for new songs and guitar sounds?
That usually depends upon who I’m working with or what the project is. For my trios and groups, it’s mostly freely improvised with sound designed through hardware guitar effects. I really admire the process of making high-quality, almost production-complete works and taking them to a live drummer later in the process. Lately, I’ve been making huge progress on integrating a laptop into my arsenal for myriad reasons—mostly for accessing more powerful processing for sophisticated effects. M-Audio interfaces are always plugged straight in.
What does your stage rig look like?
I have two massive pedal boards—one on the floor and one elevated so I can do some tweaking with my hands. In that elevated board I often use the Trigger Finger straight into my laptop to control Ableton Live, and the Black Box with pedal board for tones and real-time control. I use the EX-P expression pedal for many applications such as with my Electro Harmonix HOG for expression pedal control of the assignable parameters and to sometimes manually control my Hot Hand pedals when my hands are busy and I can’t use the accelerometer ring.
When touring, I also bring a mobile, laptop-based studio that consists of a MacBook Pro with Pro Tools M-Powered 7.4, various plug-ins, a Black Box, an Oxygen 8 v2 and my MicroTrack. I use this combination every day to edit sessions and record ideas. Oftentimes, I will record both a wet and dry signal from the Black Box. It’s great to use both the amp models and beat-synced effects while still having the option of sending a dry signal through a plug-in like Digidesign Eleven. You never know what a song might call for and with the release of Eleven I now have even more outstanding amp models to process my tracks.
What is your preferred recording method?
For miking amps, I prefer a multi-mic setup where I utilize the Sputnik, the Solaris and an NRV10. The Sputnik goes very close to the amp so I can get the most out of the tube’s warmth and the Solaris is strategically placed for room ambience. My new obsession is stereo cabinet miking where I run multiple signals—using different effects and pedals—into an NRV10. This allows me to easily record multiple effected signals while allowing me to easily call-up multiple monitoring schemes so I can stay on top of each channel’s input. The main benefit to using a hybrid mixer like the NRV10 is the fact I can transform it into an analog mixer with the push of a button for both studio and live use. I use a lot of self-oscillating units that sound best through a PA system so the lines go into the separate channels of the NRV10, then to my MacBook. From there I can process the oscillators through the NRV10’s onboard time-based effects for more depth.
The NRV10 has also become an integral part of my filming rig. For instance, I am working on a massive gig for Truefire where I am filming hundreds of short introductory tutorials for lessons contained in their "University" series CD-ROM packages. I use the NRV10 in a way that makes it function as both an analog and multi-in FireWire interface simultaneously. The analog end is used for routing and bussing all the incoming signals (miked amp, the lavalier mic, my laptop for backing tracks) from the main outs to the MINI-DV camera. When necessary, I can set up a monitor mix with Aux 1 sends going to the headphone buss.
While I do the filming I need to run a 24-bit, 48kHz session in the background—this is where I utilize the FireWire end of the NRV10. The audio from the session is later synced to the video because of the flexibility the Pro Tools sessions afford the post-production team. I use the Control Room outs to listen back to the session after a take and do some simple editing like trimming dead air and inserting Memory Locations with comments. With Pro Tools M-Powered shortcuts at hand, I do these tasks in a snap.
I set up the MidAir 25 wireless MIDI controller to control Pro Tools M-Powered software's Transport controls remotely, which saves me from getting up between shots and also cuts down on cables. Overall the NRV10's flexible-yet-simple layout and design gives me the luxury of doing this gig with minimal setup time, minimal gear and great results. Combine this with all the other fantastic M-Audio gear I have in the mix and I’m set up to effectively do a massive amount of work in the comforts of my home studio.
What ultimately led you to using Pro Tools M-Powered for your music creation and recording?
Being a session guitarist-for-hire and audio manipulator for many years, I knew I had to get a home studio to take my music to the next level. I choose Pro Tools M-Powered to ensure the changeover from the analog world would be practically seamless. While exploring the different DAWs, it quickly became apparent that Pro Tools was the only choice for communicating with other artists. It offers an elegant GUI for a very efficient workflow, a great-sounding DAE and a huge variety of interface options. With the new Elastic Time properties in version 7.4, I have a totally flexible audio platform that allows me to implement the lunacy in my head without relying upon third-party plug-ins.