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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Savage Garden "To The Moon And Back" Song Analysis

Reader Emanuel Alexandru requested a song analysis of the big 1997 hit "To The Moon And Back" by Australian duo Savage Garden. The song was from their Savage Garden album, which went on to sell over 18 million world-wide thanks to a number of top 10 hits. As with all song analysis, we'll look at the song form, the arrangement, the sound and the production.

The Song
"To The Moon And Back" is a very straight-forward pop song form-wise. It's well written and to the point with few surprises, but it doesn't really need any either. The form looks like this:

Intro, Verse, Chorus, Interlude, Verse, Chorus, Bridge/Solo, 1/2 Verse, Chorus, Interlude, Outro

For me, the best part about the form of the song is the 2 bars at the end of the verse where it breaks down and sets up the chorus. Just this one little twist takes the song to a different level.

The Arrangement
The arrangement is also fairly standard in that it employs 5 arrangement elements.

  * The Foundation: The bass and drums

  * The Pad: A lush synthesizer that plays throughout the song, along some big electric guitar power chords in the solo and outro.

  * The Rhythm: In the first verse it's an arpeggiated 16th note synth and a shaker, which switches to a 16th note picked electric guitar for most of the rest of the song.

  * The Lead: Vocal and nylon string guitar solo

  * The Fills: Electric guitar

Just like all hits, "To The Moon And Back" is well arranged so everything fits together well, instruments enter at different places to keep the interest from lagging, and there's always a couple of twists like the nylon string guitar solo.

The Sound
I like the sound of this record in that it's pretty in your face without sounding squashed, and it's layered really well. The snare is especially punchy and forward in the mix, which is the result of it being slightly compressed, but this makes it propel the song. The lead guitar in the intro and interludes is pushed back a bit thanks to a timed delay, and the synth pad has a longer reverb that adds a nice layer. The bass is really big sounding, but the kick seems a little on the floppy side and gets in the way of it a bit, although I'm being really geeky here.

The vocal is doubled in during the last 2 bars of the verse before the chorus as well as slightly flanged and band-limited, but the effect really works in the song. The aforementioned nylon string guitar solo is recorded really well in that it needs a good amount of compression to sit in the front of the mix as it does, yet it sounds very natural.

The Production
With production, sometimes it's the little things that count. The just mentioned vocal sound changes before the last chorus, the contrast between the clean, distorted and nylon string guitar solo, the slight change in the melody during the last chorus, the interesting little fills that happen during the 2nd verse and outro chorus; these are the things that ultimately take a record to the next level. Add to this the piano and strings that enter at the very end of the song off of a set of different changes and you've got a very well produced hit.

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VIOZ said...

I have no involvement in music making so I don't know a lot of stuff.
1) What is a timed delay? (I know what a delay is.)
2)What is an n-th note? (like the 16th note described in this post.)
3) What is band-limiting? (I know what limiting is.)

Thank you!

TheEmLog said...

Thank you!

Bobby Owsinski said...

Hi Vioz,

Yes, if you don't have any knowledge of music I can see where you'd be in the dark somewhat.

1) A timed delay is one that's timed to pulse with the pulse of the track. That way it blends in better.

2) An n-th note is part of the language of music that describes how long the duration of a note is. A whole note is the longest, an 8th note is shorter, a 32nd note is a lot shorter, and so on.

3) Band-limiting is a poor choice of words on my part as it doesn't have anything to do with limiting or compression. In this case it means that the frequency spectrum of the vocal was shrunk so it sounded like a telephone. Therefore, the vocal (frequency) band was "limited."

Does that help?

VIOZ said...



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