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Sunday, March 20, 2011

"The Cave" - Mumford & Sons Song Analysis

Today we'll take look at Mumford & Son's "The Cave," a song that's currently #1 on the iTunes Alternative Songs chart. "The Cave" is from their Sigh No More album which recently won a Brit Award for Best British Album of 2011, and is certainly one of the more interesting song analysis done here. As always, the song is broken down into four components - the song itself, the arrangement, the sound and the performance.

The Song - "The Cave" is typical of most folk songs in that it's just a verse and a chorus form. The form looks like this:

Verse, Chorus, Verse, Chorus, Verse, Chorus, Chorus, Chorus, Chorus

The Arrangement - This song is the one of the best examples of dynamics that I've seen in a long time. Listen to how the song breathes in volume from the quiet intro to the roar of the chorus, then back again. Then in the outro choruses, the first one is quiet, and each one builds to a climax at the end. It's proof that even a fairly simple song form in any genre of music can be made interesting with only the addition of dynamics.

The song develops thanks to the introduction of electric banjo harmonics in the second half of the first verse, a piano on the second verse, the introduction of harmony vocals and what sounds like a violin in the second chorus, and what sounds like a recorder counter line in the last chorus.

Here are the arrangement elements:

   * The Foundation - The song uses the hard strumming of the guitar, the bass and simple foot stomps as the foundation. No drums here which is not only unusual, but almost amazing how they pull it off so well.

  * The Pad - The accordion and what sounds like a violin in the chorus acts as a pad.

  * The Rhythm - The rhythm element principally comes from the picking of the electric banjo in the chorus.

  * The Lead - The lead vocal.

  * The Fills - Banjo and piano in the verse, and something that sounds like a recorder in the last chorus playing a counter line.

The Sound - The mix is a bit muddy in that it's sometimes difficult to pick out some of the instruments in the chorus, but it could've been intentionally mixed that way as well. All the instruments sound natural without a trace of over-compression. There's also a very nice short reverb with a timed short pre-delay that just about disappears into the track.

The Performance - Any time you get this level of dynamics from a group of players you have a tremendous performance, since it takes a great deal of concentration to do it both smoothly and in sync with the all the players. Of course, it's just this characteristic that makes Mumford & Sons who they are.


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Factory Yoyo said...

This mix is lousy to me. Way too muddy once things get going. The quiet verse sections sound fine, but the chorus gets totally out of hand.

Alex Moore said...

Musically, it's great. I like the shape and length of the the verb, but this mix would have been better by either low passing the verb aux or high shelving it slightly. It has that high frequency distortion that is similar to 's'ing coming through the unfiltered effects. I agree the 250-450 range needs to be scooped here and there to lighten it up. The bass would benefit from this.


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