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Monday, January 24, 2011

"Who Are You" - The Who Isolated Synth

Last week we took a listen to Pete Townshend's guitar on The Who's hit "Who Are You." Today we'll have a listen to the isolated synthesizer, as well as a few other tracks like acoustic guitar, handclaps, background harmony vocals and piano thrown in. Here's what to listen for.

1) The arppegiated synth serves several purposes. It outlines the guitar part, serves as a pedal note, and pushes the rhythm. No wonder Townshend used this trick on so many of his songs.

2) The claps sound especially big. There's a fair amount of a nice long delayed reverb that separates them from the other instruments in the track.

3) Next time you listen to the song, hear how Townshend's acoustic guitar during the chorus both pushes the rhythm and makes the color of the section different.

4) The piano flourishes by Rod Argent (yes, that one) during the bridge and out chorus are great.

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noise said...

so is this one of the tracks off the multitrack? In other words, was all this stuff bounced down to one track - due to the limitation of tracks at the time ?

ErictheBastard said...

@ Noise - no, these are typically stem mixes that were produced for Rock Band and Guitar Hero, which I regard as one of the happier unintended consequences of those video game trends.
It seems thousands of stem mixes from the lexicon of classic rock are now available on Youtube (at least until copyright claims are made). Great stuff for the enthusiast, music student or engineer/producer.

CARLOS said...

I've been following your blog and enjoying it very much. I really appreciate the background/behind-the-scenes info that you provide along with the technical stuff, which is also great.

This synth part sounds to me like it was run through some kind of distortion, maybe even a guitar amp. I had always suspected it while listening to the main mix, but this stem mix seems to bring it out clearly. Granted, somethign like that doesn't seem like much in these post-electronica days, but considering when this part was recorded, it was fairly innovative. The processing chain sounds like polysynth -> mono modulated resonant filter -> distortion. At its time, very few were doing that sort of thing... Jan Hammer does come to mind, but hardly any in the mainstream.

Also, if Townshend is indeed playing the part, then I must give him props for his chops. He added some nice, tasteful pitch inflections to that synth part, almost guitar-like (Jan Hammer-like?).

Anonymous said...

I've searched the world over....and thought I'd found it,,,,I desperately need the synth only part (without acoustic and backing vox), for my band who p-lay this number live. Can anyone help me?!!!!!!!!.....

Bobby Owsinski said...

I think the closest you're going to get is this video, unfortunately.

PJS said...

@ErictheBastard: How do you know this is a stem mix? Where did it come from / who got a hold of it?

@Anonymous: The synth part is actually Townshend playing his electric guitar through an Arp 2600 filter with auto-pan and auto-trigger. Here is a cool article on the making of...


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