I don't remember who alerted me to this via a Facebook post, but thank you kindly. I think this is a clip from the Steely Dan Classic Albums: The Making of Aja but I'm not sure. Regardless, it's a pretty cool look into the studio during the making of Adult Contemporary classic. "Peg" is off the Aja album that continues to sell all these years later.
Preproduction is an essential time in making a record. The better prepared everyone is before hitting the studio, the faster and easier it will go. But there's more to preproduction that the music. Here's an excerpt from my latest book, The Music Producer's Handbook, that takes a look at the time even before the musical part of preproduction begins.
Preproduction sometimes is so much more than the process of working out songs. For a producer working with a new artist or band, it’s a time of getting to know each other. It’s important for the producer to learn the likes and dislikes of the artist, be it food, music or politics, as well as their working habits and idiosyncrasies. Knowing these things can help the producer determine how far to push a singer, or discover what gets the best performance out of the guitar player, or the signs of when the drummer is getting tired, or the hot button issues of the day to stay away from. If you’re going to be working closely with an artist even for a short time, the more you know about him, the better you can serve the project.
One of the most important aspects of getting to know an artist is learning what music she loves, was influenced by, and is listening to now. One of the most effective ways I’ve heard of doing this back in the days of vinyl record albums was for the producer to go to the artist’s house and have them throw a bunch of albums from their collection on the floor and have them describe what they liked and didn’t like about each of them. You can still do this with CDs or an iPod playlist. Among the questions to ask might be:
• What do you like or dislike about the artist your listening to?
• Do you like the sound of the recording?
• What recordings do you like the sound of?
• What are some of your favorite records? Why?
• What are your biggest influences? Why?
• If you have a body of work as a producer already, what does the artist like about you? Why?
You can probably add any number of additional questions, but can you see where this is heading? This is the information that you need to help attain the artist’s vision. It gives you a common point of reference so you can say, “Let’s go for a sound like the lead guitar on The Cure’s "Boys Don’t Cry,” and have the artist know exactly what you mean because you’ve found out in preproduction that’s one of his favorite songs. Or if the artist says to you, “Can we get the sound like on the Arctic Monkey’s "Still Take You Home,” you’ll know exactly what he’s talking about.
Once again from Oasis' Morning Glory album that sold 20 million copies, we'll have a look at the isolated drum and bass parts from the hit "Wonderwall." Here's what to listen for:
1) It sounds like there's no artificial ambience on the drum track and what you hear is all the room.
2) This is a really great drum track, well played by Alan White, especially the ghost notes on the snare. It's surprisingly busy for a mostly acoustic song, but oh, so very funky.
3) The sound isn't that great. Actually, it sounds like it's just a room mic as there are a lot of cymbals heard here, but it's not that far from the final sound on the recording.
Here's the bass part for "Wonderwall."
1) It's very surprising how distorted the bass sound is.
2) Bass player, Paul McGuigan, gives a well played and solid performance that changes in intensity in conjunction with acoustic guitar (which we reviewed yesterday). There are very slight tempo flubs at 2:00, 2:22, 2:36, 2:49, and the outro is a bit shaky though.
3) This is a pretty well recorded track but you do hear the compressor snap occasionally on some transients. As with most of the imperfections that I pick out, you never hear it in the track.
1) The part is very consistent, both in level (a slight bit of compression) and in sound.
2) Noel Gallagher is a great rhythm player. His tempo is great and he knows how to push a band. Listen to the second verse as his playing grows more intense and the acoustic part is doubled.
3) The playing of this part is great, but you can hear a slight flub at 1:30 and again at 2:20. You can also hear punches at 2:47, 2:56 (this is a bad one), 3:18, and 3:44. You'd never hear these in the track as they get covered by the double.
4) The sound is pretty much in your face with very little ambience (mostly it's just from the room).
5) During the break at 1:50 you can hear his foot taping, which I love to hear since it usually means that the player is really laying in.
It's Monday again, so let's get to the song of the week to be analyzed. A big hit for the British band Oasis in 1996, "Wonderwall" proved to be the song that broke them big in America and Australia. The song was supposedly fully recorded in a single 6 to 8 session, and was off the Morning Glory album, which went on to sell a reported 20 million copies! Here are some things to listen for:
1) Quite a good vocal by Liam Gallagher, it's very consistent throughout both performance-wise and level-wise. You don't hear any punches or differences in the vocals, exactly the traits of a good engineering job.
2) The reverb is really long with a modulated tail, which is a trait of a Lexicon 480, and a little delay.
3) There are some breaths left in, probably because the song was recorded on tape and spot-erasing was too chancy, since you could also erase a part of the vocal as well. Today, we'd probably take those out during editing.