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Grammy-Winner Ricky Skaggs Reveals Tricks of the Trade

Multiple Grammy Award-winning bluegrass artist Ricky Skaggs and owner of the Skaggs Family Records label was nominated five times for the 46th Annual Grammy Awards in February 2004.

Multiple Grammy Award-winning bluegrass artist Ricky Skaggs andowner of the Skaggs Family Records label was nominated five times forthe 46th Annual Grammy Awards in February 2004.

Pictured: engineer Lee Groitzsch (left) and Ricky Skaggs in thestudio

Both of his nominated albums, Live at the Charleston MusicHall by Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder (Skaggs Family Records)and The Three Pickers by Earl Scruggs, Doc Watson and RickySkaggs (Rounder Records), were recorded live using Neumann-distributedTRUE Systems Precision 8 8-channel microphone preamplifiers. ThePrecision 8 is designed and built by Sunrise Engineering, a design andbuild manufacturer located in Tucson, Arizona.

Lee Groitzsch, a recording engineer and studio manager of the SkaggsFamily Records Studio, explained that the TRUE preamps fit therequirements of the two projects perfectly. “On both of thoseoccasions, we had a low budget, but obviously had some high sonicrequirements that we had to meet,” he commented. “We wanted to find micpre’s that weren’t outrageously expensive to buy or rent, but woulddeliver sonic integrity when putting it to tape.”

In addition to sounding good, the mic preamps needed to be easilytransportable, continues Groitzsch. “We weren’t going to be renting atruck. We were going to be hauling the gear and setting it up at thevenue ourselves and patching it in ourselves, and cutting to a RADAR[hard disk recorder]. The TRUE mic pre’s sounded good on acousticinstruments and vocals and being a one-rackspace unit with eightchannels, it ended up being one of the key pieces of gear in ourproject.”

Live at the Charleston Music Hall was nominated for threeawards, including Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocalfor the track “A Simple Life”; Best Country Instrumental Performancefor “Get Up John”; and Best Bluegrass Album. The Three Pickers,featuring Scruggs, Watson and Skaggs, received two nominations: BestCountry Instrumental Performance for “Pick Along” and Best TraditionalFolk Album.

“So now we’ve got two projects that the TRUE preamp was used on thatare nominated for a Grammy,” enthused Groitzsch. “We’re just a smalllabel and we’ve got five nominations. Amazing. We’re hardly evengetting played on the radio!”

The Charleston live recording made use of several Neumann KMS 105microphones, reported Groitzsch. “We used a KMS 105 on Ricky’s vocals,the fiddle was cut through one, plus the banjo, and Ricky’s mandolinwas cut through, as well.”

The results were spectacular, he says. “Ricky’s live record,sonically, is probably one of the better-sounding records that we’veturned out. It went way beyond our expectations, especially for theamount of money and time that we had available to us to create it.”

The Precision 8 preamps are also getting plenty of use at the SkaggsFamily Records facility. “I’m using the TRUE pre’s here in the studiojust about every time I cut a piano,” said Groitzsch, “because I’musing the M-S function on it. I use a stereo mic, generally a C24, withthe M-S portion of the mic pre. It’s the best our piano has eversounded. We’re really pleased with the results.”

For more information on the Precision 8, visit distributorSennheiser at