Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Big Picture Production Blog Week In Review

Here are the articles found on The Big Picture Blog from March 3 through 8.

"Rope" - Foo Fighters Song Analysis.
Sounds like a garage band, in a good way. Read more...

How To Pack For Your Tour.
Bassist Paul Ill shows what personal possessions to take and how to pack everything. Read more...

7 Signs Of An Amateur Mix.
Does your mix suffer from any? Read more...

"Clocks" - Coldplay Song Analysis.
A standard song form cleverly crafted into a hit. Read more...

Recording Drums With Mojave Mics.
A live session with Kenny Aronoff and Ross Hogarth. Read more...

----------------------------------

You should follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

Don't forget to check out my Music 3.0 blog for tips and tricks on navigating the music business.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Recording Drums With Mojave Mics

I'm a big fan of anything that David Royer designs, from his innovative ribbon mics (the Royer R-121 has become a standard in mic lockers everywhere) to his condenser mic line called Mojave Audio. If you're not aware of these mics, they're worth checking out because they're a great sounding yet less expensive alternative to all the some of the more popular condenser mics that you already know about.

In the video below, the most excellent Ross Hogarth records session drummer extraordinaire Kenny Aronoff with a variety of Mojave mics. As a learning tool, this video is great because you can hear what the kit really sounds like and how much leakage there is. I've had a few emails from readers lately who indicate that they're not sure of what the drums should sound like during a tracking session, especially one with the caliber of these participants. The following is a great example of what to expect.



----------------------------------

You should follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

Don't forget to check out my Music 3.0 blog for tips and tricks on navigating the music business.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

"Clocks" - Coldplay Song Analysis

Reader Liz Lib asked for a song analysis of a favorite song of mine. One of the most successful songs of Coldplay's career, "Clocks" won a Grammy for Song of the Year in 2004 and has been used in commercials, movies and numerous samples since. The song is from the band's second album entitled A Rush Of Blood To The Head that went on to sell more than 13 million units worldwide.

As with all song analysis, we'll look at the song itself, the arrangement, the sound and the performance.

The Song
Here's another song that has a pretty standard form that's very cleverly crafted into something a lot more interesting. The form looks like this:

Intro, Verse, Chorus, Verse, Chorus, Chorus, Bridge, Interlude, Chorus, Outro

The melody of the verse is very catchy and memorable, although the chorus isn't, unlike most hit songs. But as in most hit songs there is a great hook, and it's the piano part on the intro and choruses.

The Arrangement
If you were to look at the form of "Clocks" on paper you'd think there was nothing special, but as in all popular songs, the arrangement cleverly takes it to a new place. The song develops nicely, with the piano hook re-entering on the first chorus along with an additional synth pad, and harmony vocals on the second verses and chorus. Right after the 2nd chorus, the piano figure moves up a third so it sounds different and the song develops even more. The peak of the song is the bridge, which then breaks back down into an empty piano intro.

Here's a look at the arrangement elements:

   * The Foundation - Unlike most songs, only the bass and the kick carry the foundation (which is the pulse of the song) as the rest of the drums play the piano figure.

  * The Pad - There are two synth pads that are very obvious. The first one enters with the piano in the intro and plays throughout the song. The second enters only on the choruses.

  * The Rhythm - Once again, unlike most songs, the drums play the rhythm element in "Clocks" because they mainly add movement and push the song along.

  * The Lead - In the intro and chorus, it's the piano. In the verses, it's the vocal, which is almost secondary in the chorus.

  * The Fills - On the bridge and the outchorus you hear some subtle guitar lines that fill in the holes.

Once again, the song seems simple on a quick listen, but there's a lot going on beneath the surface.

The Sound
Although the sound is big, the bass doesn't translate well on small speakers and the kick drum is fairly buried in the mix (and the rest of the drums are a little on the low side). The reverbs have some nice long decays that wash over the pads well and the vocal reverb has a short pre-delay that's timed to the track. I'm not sure if the guitar is buried in the mix or it's muted but you don't really hear it until the bridge and then again on the outro.

The vocal sounds really nice. It's very natural and present without being too compressed.

The Performance
Chris Martin sells the vocal very well, but for me, Gerry Berryman's bass is what's cool in the song. He takes a possibly boring 8th note pedal part, plays it dynamically, and takes it to some unexpected places to keep things interesting.

Send me your requests for song analysis, but please include a YouTube link.


----------------------------------

You should follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

Don't forget to check out my Music 3.0 blog for tips and tricks on navigating the music business.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The 7 Signs Of An Amateur Mix

Here's something I posted once before, but an email conversation with a reader prompted me to post it again.

Anyone that's ever tried to mix knows what an art form it is. It's not just a matter of pushing around some faders and balancing instruments, it's a matter of making the mix interesting as well. Sometimes it's easier to understand where your mix is lacking by looking at what makes a mix sound ordinary. Here's a brief excerpt from The Mixing Engineer's Handbook that describes the 7 characteristics of an amateur mix.
------------------------------

Before we can talk about how to make a great mix, it’s good to be aware of the signs of one that isn’t that great. Does your mix have any of these characteristics ?


1. The mix has no contrast - The same ambient texture is used throughout the entire song. 
2. The mix has no focal point - There are holes between lyrics where nothing is brought forward in the mix to hold the listener’s attention. 
3. The Mix Is noisy – Clicks, hums, extraneous noises, count-offs, and sometimes lip-smacks and breaths are all signs of an amateur mix.
4. The mix lacks clarity and punch – Instruments aren’t distinct, and the low end is either too weak or too big.
5. The mix sounds distant - The mix sounds distant because too much reverb or other effects has been used. 
6. The element levels are inconsistent – Instrument levels vary from balanced to soft or too loud. Certain lyrics that can’t be distinguished.
7. The sounds are dull and uninteresting — Generic, dated or often-heard sounds are used. There’s a difference between using something because it’s hip and new and using it because everyone else is using it.



----------------------------------

You should follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

Don't forget to check out my Music 3.0 blog for tips and tricks on navigating the music business.

Monday, April 4, 2011

How To Pack For Your Tour

Here's a video from the DVD that accompanies The Touring Musician's Handbook. It features session and touring bassist Paul ILL as he describes what personal possessions he takes, and how he packs, before setting out on the road.

You can read some excerpts from the book on my website.



----------------------------------

You should follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

Don't forget to check out my Music 3.0 blog for tips and tricks on navigating the music business.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

"Rope" - Foo Fighters Song Analysis

"Rope" by the Foo Fighters is one of the best rock songs I've heard in a long time. The first single from their Wasting Light album, the song is currently #1 on Billboard's Rock Chart. As with all song analysis, this one covers the song itself, the arrangement, the sound and the performance.

The Song
"Rope" has a somewhat typical song form but makes it different thanks to an altered feel and some unusual anticipations in the verses, and a very interesting bridge/solo section. The form looks like this:

Intro, Verse, Chorus, Interlude, Verse, Chorus, Bridge/Solo, Chorus, Half-intro, Outro

The song is really quite sophisticated in its creation even though it seems simple on the surface, which is a sign of a mature writer(s).

The Arrangement
This arrangement of the song is very much like a garage band playing, but in a good way. There's a lot of thrashing and energy and a certain amount of freedom in the parts, just like a garage band, but at the same time it's all a very controlled chaos. Of course, this album really was recorded in singer/guitarist Dave Grohl's garage, so maybe they took it to heart.

The song is interesting in that it has a couple of rhythm guitars playing tremolo parts (the intro), then both guitar players banging away on rhythm guitar during the verse and choruses, instead of formulated parts like you hear on most songs. An overdubbed guitar that enters only at the syncopated verse turnarounds is about all the layering you'll find in the song other than the solo.

The bass is free floating and creates a nice tension against the chords in spots that's very cool, as is the drum solo in the bridge (when's the last time you heard one of those?). Interestingly, some of the cool lines that Nate Mandel plays are in the first verse rather then the second, where you'd typically change things up to sound different or develop the song.

Another interesting thing is that the second verse doesn't change much from the first so the song doesn't develop much, but I never notice this when listening to the song.

The Sound
Taylor Hawkin's drums have sort of a high-class garage feel to them in that they sound great, but they also sound like they were recorded with a single stereo mic and maybe a kick drum mic. Notice that one drum, especially the snare, never feels separated from the other drums. That's something else you rarely hear these days.

The vocal seems pretty buried in the mix, but that only emphasizes the band more.

The song is pretty compressed but done well since you never notice it. It's also pretty much in your face ambience-wise with no long reverb tails. I'd venture to say that what you're hearing is natural ambience of the room most of the time.

The Performance
The performance of all the players is what makes the song. Just as you'd expect from a band that's been together 10+ years, they smoke. You can feel the energy and enthusiasm that I wish more tracks had. Want an example of a great rock band? It's the Foos. And great production job Butch Vig.


----------------------------------

You should follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

Don't forget to check out my Music 3.0 blog for tips and tricks on navigating the music business.

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...