Hi my name is Neal Van and thanks for viewing my profile. I’m a multi-Instrumentalist/Arranger/Producer/Mixer/Songwriter with over 40 years of band and recording experience. I am open-minded; take direction well and am able to provide nearly any instrumental tracks to any song within my skill set on each instrument.
I'm not Steve Vai, not Billy Sheehan, nor Mike Portnoy. I am, however, a very versatile and competent lifelong professional musician who has plenty or feel, groove, and can usually find the right sound, or rhythm for whatever each piece of original or cover songs require. Check out some my performances to hear the quality and versatility of my multi instrumental abilities. From 1982 thru 1995 I owned & operated Merlin Music Recording & Rehearsal Studios in Whippany, NJ. I was all analog in those days, but since have added digital recording to my analog hear in order to have many choices of gear to work with in order to get the best sound possible.
All video clips and audio only tracks were recorded, mixed, and mastered by Neal Van. I'm also playing one of the many instruments heard/seen in those videos as well. I've been playing professionally starting at age 8 as classical pianist my parents hired me out for special functions or private parties. As I got older I wanted to be able to play anywhere. At age 11 I took up guitar, bass, & drums. By age 13 I was lucky to be performing with a female singer same age as a duo.
Tell me about your project and how I can help, through the 'Contact' button above.
- Heart tribute
- SRV tribute
- Pink Floyd tribute
- Iron Maiden tribute
- Southern Rock tribute
- Huge variety of standard cover bands playing multiple instruments
- Ran PA for George Lynch in 2011 for his east coast shows
- Owned & Operated 24-track Pro Analog Recording Studio in NJ 1982 thru 1995 + (6) Rehearsal Rooms
- Built my studio myself from bare walls to finished pro facility. Total size...4000sqft
Reviews (2)Endorse Neal Van*Multi-Instrumentalist
And our working relationship is one of mutual respect and a very simple, yet confident knowledge of what we each bring to any musical project. I'm going to be posting our cover collaboration of the Heart song "Love Alive" where I performed all the music. Her vocals have made me very happy now having a completed project.
I had been working with Neal on a few recordings for his Heart tribute project prior to joining soundbetter.com. He is very professional, very reliable and a very talented musician. He is very easy to work with and I highly recommend him.
Interview with Neal Van*Multi-Instrumentalist
Q: What are you working on at the moment?
A: I'm working on a Heart tribute project playing all the instruments and singing the male backing vocals myself. Karen Warren is doing both female vocals and once done, I will be posting about 20 songs on YouTube and every other music site I can in the hopes of being spotted by an established Heart tribute project or best of all...the original Heart members themselves. I'll relocate to anywhere in the world that has steady work, good people to be around, and wish to sound as close to the original Heart six member band with Roger Fisher as one the founding members used to sound. No Heart band sounds like that including the Wilson sisters Heart themselves. Even the male members who are Heart by Heart don't quite capture the whole sound. Getting older is something we all do, but I honestly doubt that any Heaet tribute band will sound as close to the original as my project will. And as it will be explained in each video. The parts I'm playing are all done at the same time as I would be doing if I were playing live in a real Heaet tribute band. It started as such a project and I thought we were great and could have become very well received. But as bands go, things were taking far too long because of the business manager refused to let us record at least an audio demo which we could have done here for free and done quickly just to start getting our bands name out there and try starting to create a buzz. He saw things differently, so after 18 months of busting my ass...I resigned when it became clear that my experience meant less than his to the others in this group. So I decided to finish what I spent hundreds of hours learning, then creating a rig to allow me to play both Roger Fisher's guitar/mandolin parts as well as Howard Leese's alternating guitar/mandolin and keyboard parts all at the same time by myself. This served two purposes...first was to save one extra mouth to feed making the band more affordable to get us out there in the beginning. Second it was to see if I could do it, plus I was doubted by the manager and the rest of the band one person could do all that needed to be done by himself without using prerecorded tracks of any kind. Then after the first four songs we picked were ready, we got together and I stopped any doubts at that point in time. I was very proud of what I had done, and still am which is why I want to finish this. And if Heart is not what a similar situation wants, but Steve Harris, or Randy Rhodes..just contact me with your situation!!
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: I don't consider music a job. It's lots of work, true...but it's not a job. I've had many corporate jobs...and THOSE were jobs. Music is just fun most of the time even with deadlines, and the pressure to get takes done quickly. It's still not a job in my mind, but rather a joy I can still offer what I've learned in my life to someone else's song project.
Q: How would you describe your style?
A: Very focused once given a project. I strive for getting just the right parts, tones, and amount of tracks needed to capture whatever the goal of each song happens to be.
Q: What type of music do you usually work on?
A: It depends on what is hot. As it has turned out for me when I started Punk and Speed metal were all the rage, so I did thousands of those types of recordings, but every once in a while during that time I'd get a modern jazz band, or a crossover country band, and it was refreshing to do something different each time it happened. I'm currently working on my own Heart Tribute project. I've seen and heard so many Heart tribute bands that never quite sound like the original six member band because of how Heart wrote their songs in those days. Like a classical composition. Those Heart songs had each member playing their own very unique part and when combined made the amazing music that became their trademark until they lost a major member. Most tribute bands of Hearts original music don't even know that Howard Leese doubled the bass lines played by Steve Fossen and octave higher so his bass lines were more like additional guitar lines. That's just one major thing every tribute band has missed. The 80s Heart was very good, but also very formula and much more simplistic. It worked great as their talents never changed and these same songs in the hands of lesser talents would have likely never became hit songs. I just prefer the original bands style and passion to prove something to the world as most new bands try to do.
Q: What's your typical work process?
A: Depends on the project and what I'm expected to do, but if I'm playing one or more tracks, I get the ideas and what the overall finished product sounds like in the composers mind, then try to incorporate those thoughts into my playing. If I'm recording, then I discuss what the end product is to be, how many instruments or musicians will be physically or virtually used then decide what would be the best method of pulling all those resources together in order for the client to get the best result. Word of mouth is everything. If I'm not worth commenting positively about, then I'm not doing my job well. I had a full blown 4,000 sqft pro analog 24-track studio back in the late 70s thru the mid 90s and I earned my reputation by word of mouth. Nothing like a site like this ever existed and your clients were typically locals. Although I made connections with MegaForce Records as Johnny Z. Was getting started and he used me to get demos done for bands he was interested in, plus I would send him finished projects of bands I worked with that I thought would fit his brand. That worked very well and even a few bands I worked with got signed and made it to the big time.
Q: Which artist would you like to work with and why?
A: So many to choose from I'd love to work with...The Wilson sisters as they were in the mid 1970s to why & how they have changed their style of playing to their approach to songwriting and touring over the past forty years, Steve Morse in any era, All the members of Rush, just to see & hear how they compose and work together, and have Geddy let me play on one of his Rickenbacker double necks :-). Nuno Bettencourt because he seems to have as many diverse influences in his music as I'd like to have in mine. Plus I think he's an amazing composer and guitarist. Brian May, just so I can learn how Queen accomplished all that was done and who did what within the context of the band in the studio. And although he has passed...Frank Zappa. Simply because who would not want to watch this incredible madman at work?!
Q: Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.
A: Playing guitar or bass tracks for nearly any style of music presented to me.
Q: Tell us about a project you worked on you are especially proud of and why. What was your role?
A: Please read the paragraph that answer this question. I had no idea that this site would alter the order in which these question I answered would be displayed. Not very bright on their part on this portion.
Q: Is there anyone on SoundBetter you know and would recommend to your clients?
A: Karen Warren. She a terrific vocalist and very easy to work with and also very professional.
Q: Analog or digital and why?
A: I use both because each has its own massive pile of positives and negatives. And being an older guy on here most likely...I grew up in the analog world and was there when the reel to reel machines became cassette machines. And although I never used any porta studios. I was always blown away with those who could get some incredible recordings from them. "Can't touch this" was done on a Fostex Porta Studio. They put MIDI coding on one track and then just used the others for vocals. None of the instruments you hear which are all digital, were ever put on tape until the final mix. What a genius approach to a very limited recording unit. Plus even further back, the Beatles Sgt. Peppers album was done on two four track 2" tape machines tied together where they would "bounce" tracks to make room for even more sounds which is why some sounds are only in one speaker. And in the process set two new precedents in music that changed everything forever after. They mixed classical instruments into a pop/rock genre for the first time. Plus the use of two machines synced together had never been done before. This spawned the next recording evolution...the eight track reel to reel. And let's not forget the Elvis trademark slap back echo which was discovered by accident when the engineer had both the record head and the playback head on at the same time. This slight gap gave what has been referred to since as the slap back echo. And it was not done on purpose, but what an impact it had across the music industry!
Q: What's your 'promise' to your clients?
A: I promise I'll never BS you about anything. I don't pull any punches, especially about myself. If I'm asked if I can do a certain thing, I will always give a truthful answer even if it means I don't get the gig. I take music far too seriously in my love of it to ever play games with someone else's creation by misleading or lying.
Q: What questions do customers most commonly ask you? What's your answer?
A: Can you play like _____________? And I answer truthfully.
Q: What's the biggest misconception about what you do?
A: I don't believe I have any misconceptions about what I do. I type and speak plainly leaving very little room for misconceptions. At least that is what I hope I'm doing?
Q: What questions do you ask prospective clients?
A: How can I help you obtain the end result you're looking for and what's you're budget?
Q: What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?
A: All I ever ask is that any client have a vision, even if a bit hazy at first, of what they want to get from me. Whether it be one instrumental track or a full blown production. Without that insight to what the client wants, it's tougher to zero in, plus it takes up much more time and their money than it should if they come as fully prepared as possible.
Q: If you were on a desert island and could take just 5 pieces of gear, what would they be?
A: One of each of my instruments I play, and a thousands of .mp3 song files on a player, but I'd leave the cowbell and triangle behind! LOL
Q: What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?
A: I've been playing music since age 4 as my parents started me on classical piano, and things just went from there. I had tons of other non music interests, but music has been and still is my first true love and plan to keep playing until I can't. I'm 54 now, and although my body is falling apart, I still can do most of what I used to when I was in my 20s. Career-wise, I've not had the career I wanted because I am an only child and I had to stay close to my parents to help them medically or financially. This kept me from truly exploring much further into the business than I could. Maybe in my next life?
Q: Can you share one music production tip?
A: Sure, I always suggest to any band or single client to hear the drum tracks from each prospective studio or engineer. If those acoustic drums sound like they do live in a recording, then they should have a happy experience and great final product. It seems that acoustic drums are still a mystery to most recording studios and engineers. Not sure why? But I know the problem still exists. And more duct tape is not the answer!
Q: What's your strongest skill?
A: My strongest skill is my ability to get the feeling of what my client is looking for very quickly. Then execute those feelings into music parts, tracks, songs...whatever the client asked for from the beginning.
Q: What do you bring to a song?
A: I bring my very varied life experiences from long time classical training to the freedom of rock, blues, and funk. I also bring all of the instruments I can play, plus my years of working with beginners and pros. I learn what each wants/needs and try to put myself into their head and pick out each part or mix layer that I would want if I were them. If I guess wrong, I've got no problem going back as far as needed to capture what the client wants. I feel that communication between myself and my client is paramount to the success of each project. I'm easy to talk to and even if I might not go in the direction my client wants. I'll always do my best to follow their lead and give them what they want.
Q: Tell us about your studio setup.
A: I'm set up for both analog and digital recording. Typically I'll record basic tracks analog, then transfer to digital for overdub, mixing, and mastering. I can tailor my recording and mixing to suit the needs or preferences of just about any client.
Q: What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?
A: Not enough room here to list all who inspire me, but I'll just go with who on each instrument was my first big influence as a beginner...Guitar = Jimmy Page, Bass = Paul McCartney, Drums = John Bonham. And so readers don't think I'm only about Beatles and Zeppelin, as I got proficient at each instrument...Chris Squire, Geddy Lee, Dave Hope, Steve Morse, E. Van Halen, Neil Peart, Phil Ehart. The a bands from America to Zappa. Pop to Rock, and I especially enjoy any music with a great groove and lots of syncopation like Earth, Wind, & Fire, Chicago, Steely Dan...and the list goes on.