Thursday, April 28, 2011

Rhianna "S&M" Song Analysis

Reader Clayton Felt asked for an analysis of Rhianna's "S&M," so here it is. This is a song from her fifth album Loud that charted top 10 in twelve countries. As with all song analysis, we'll look at the song itself, the arrangement, the sound and the production.

The Song
"S&M" is a bit different from most pop songs in that it has two choruses. The form looks like this:

Chorus, Verse, B Section, Chorus, Verse, B Section, Chorus, Chorus 2, Bridge, B Section, B Section, Chorus, Chorus 2

The Arrangement
The arrangement is a pretty good study in song dynamics. The choruses are loud, as are the B sections, but the verse and the bridge are somewhat mellow. For the most part, there's a big dance kick and claps instead of drums in the chorus and verses, but the song gets smaller with a drum kit during the B sections.

  * The Foundation - The huge kick and claps, synth bass line.

  * The Pad - Electric piano-like pad in the verses, and a synth pad in the bridge.

  * The Rhythm - A very subtle high hat sound

  * The Lead - The lead vocal

  * The Fills - The background vocal loops and answers

The Sound
The sound is really quite excellent. It's huge sounding, and compressed without sounding too much so. This where the depth is created with different timed delays, some of which have a touch of reverb added to the trail.

The Production
Excellent pop production, especially with the layered vocals and the song dynamics. There are not a lot of instruments (at least it doesn't sound that way), yet it sounds huge, with each section sounding distinctly different.

Send me your song requests.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

George Massenburg Demonstrates His Parametric Equalizer

Here's a great video of audio and recording great George Massenburg demonstrating his famous GML8200 parametric equalizer. The 8200 is revered for its lack of color and clean transparent sound and that's certainly in evidence here.

It may not be obvious in the video exactly what George is doing so let me outline a couple of EQ methods that he's touching on.

The first that he's showing is subtractive EQ, where he's turning up the gain of a band, then sweeping around the frequencies until he finds one that really sticks out. That's the frequency that needs to be attenuated.

The second is a technique called frequency juggling, where a frequency of one instrument (in this case the piano) is attenuated so that it leaves room so you can hear another better (in this case it's the vocal).


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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Shania Twain "Any Man Of Mine" Song Analysis

A number of readers have asked for song analysis of more country music and Mutt Lange productions. Here's both in one song with Shania Twain's "Any Man Of Mine." This was the first #1 for Shania as well as her first crossover into Top 40 radio. The song was the second single from her 1995 breakthrough album The Women In MeAs with all song analysis, we'll look at the song itself, the arrangement, the sound and the performance.

The Song
"Any Man Of Mine" is a pretty formula pop song wrapped in country instruments like fiddle and steel guitar. The form is simple, yet the arrangement makes it interesting and different. The song form looks like this:

Intro, Verse, B Section, Chorus, Half-intro, Verse, B Section, Chorus, Solo, Chorus, Outro

The solo is taken over half a chorus while the outro is just the intro repeated over and over.

The Arrangement
The arrangement is what really makes this song go, and it's a Mutt Lange trademark. His productions are always dense and you can bet if there's a hole between vocal lines he'll find something to tastefully fill it with. As far as song development is concerned, listen to how the verse starts out sparse and gradually gets larger as it goes along and instruments are introduced. Also, listen to how the 2nd verse develops so it's different from the first.


  * The Foundation: Bass and drums

  * The Pad: The steel guitar, but it's subtle.

  * The Rhythm: The fiddle actually serves dual duty with the lead by pushing the motion of the song along.

  * The Lead: Lead vocal and fiddle in intro and outro.

  * The Fills: In the chorus it switches between guitar, fiddle and steel.
 
The Sound
This album was one of the first batch of "new country" contemporary sounding records that used serious rock and pop techniques combined with traditional country instruments. When have you ever heard a John Bonham-like kick on a country record before? Well there's one here. And in the verse the snare is doubled with claps with a nice long reverb, which is far from traditional country.

Another of Mutt's trademarks is sonic layering, which you'll find everywhere in this song. First of all there's a good amount of reverb on the vocal but it blends so well into the track that you don't hear it, but listen to the guitar slides and fills during the first verse - dry as a bone so they seem like they're right in front of you. The background vocals also go from Shania singing a harmony with herself to big Def Leopard-like answer vocals. You can learn a lot about production from this record for sure.

The Performance
While all of the performances here are top flight, Shania's vocal does stand out, especially the ad libs. Everything is just great and disciplined playing.

Send me your requests for song analysis.


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Monday, April 25, 2011

More Sinatra In The Studio 1967

The last Frank Sinatra post was so popular that I thought I'd post another, this time from 1967. Here Frank is recording the classic show tune "Some Enchanted Evening" as only he can do. I'm not sure where this was recorded at, but hopefully someone out there can help us out. I suspect it was United Western again.

What I find interesting is how much reverb is on Frank's vocal and how long the decay time is. There's not much top end on it so it melts into the track and you only notice it in relatively empty spaces. Also, notice how in between takes the control room leaves the talkback on, so the studio mics are dimmed.

It's always fun to listen in on a session by any major artist, but these early recordings are so classic that they're indeed something special.


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Help support this blog. Any purchases made through our Amazon links help support this website with no cost to you.

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Sunday, April 24, 2011

AC/DC "Back In Black" Song Analysis

Reader Efarmosmenos Stokos requested a song analysis from AC/DC's seminal Back In Black album, so here's the title song - "Back In Black." This was actually the 6th album by the band, but the first without singer Bon Scott. The band considered disbanding following his death, then hired Brian Johnson as their new lead singer and lyricist. Mutt Lange, who had previously worked with AC/DC on Highway to Hell, was again brought in to produce. The recordings were made at Compass Point Studios in Nassau, Bahamas, and Electric Lady Studios in New York, where the album was also mixed.

What most people don't know is that Back In Black is the 2nd biggest selling album of all time, with 49 million copies sold world-wide (22 million in the US alone). As all song analysis, we'll look at the song itself, the arrangement, the sound and the performance.

The Song
"Back In Black" is a very typical rock song form-wise. It uses mostly arrangement techniques to develop the song rather than varying too much from the form. It looks like this:

Intro, Verse, Chorus, Verse, Chorus, Verse/Solo, Chorus, Bridge, Chorus, Verse/Solo

As you can see, it's basically two sections - a verse and chorus. The solo happens over a verse, and a line is added to a verse later to change it into a bridge.

The Arrangement
In their typical style, AC/DC keeps this song as pure as possible with almost no overdubs, and just relies upon a few changes in the verse part to keep it interesting. First of all, listen to the turn around  between 8 bar phrases during the solos. It's still a verse, but it sounds different thanks to this slight change of bass and rhythm guitar. There's nothing added to the 2nd verse to develop it, which is unusual, but it still works great, and background answer vocals are added to the last chorus.

The arrangement elements look like this:

  * The Foundation - like most songs, it's the bass and drums, with the addition of the rhythm guitar/lead guitar.

  * The Pad - none in this song.

  * The Rhythm - this is unusual for a rock song, but the vocal is in double time to the pulse of the song in the verse so it adds motion.

  * The Lead - The lead vocal and solo guitar.

  * The Fills - The lead guitar between the vocal lines in the verse

The other thing that's interesting is the dual countoff, first with a guitar and then the high-hat. Countoffs are almost always cut off from a song (they're the sure sign of a demo), but it just adds to the live feel here.

The Sound
The sound of this record is great - big, pristine, very real and in your face. But there's a lot more going on beneath the surface than it seems. Although the record seems bone dry, the rhythm guitar has a long reverb tail that only appears on the same side (the right) and the lead guitar has a short double that's panned to about 1 o'clock of the rhythm guitar side.

Brian Johnson's vocal also sounds like it's doubled, but the second voice is not at the same level, instead just there for a bit of support. The snare has a nice room ambiance, but also an ever so slight bit of delayed reverb as well. Angus Young's solo guitar is overdubbed and placed up the middle.

The Performance
"Back In Black" is such a band oriented song in that what you hear live is exactly what you hear on the record, with just a couple extra parts for support. In order to pull this off, the band has to be exceptionally tight during recording, which AC/DC certainly is.

The thing to listen for is how disciplined the band is. They play only what's necessary, with no extra ghost notes, slides or other things that you'll hear most copy bands play when doing this song. Also note the way the attacks and releases are played by the bass and two guitars. They're perfectly in sync.

I especially love how drummer Phil Rudd plays on this song. Listen how far behind the beat he is, giving it that tension that the song needs to really work well.

Don't forget to send me song analysis requests.




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Help support this blog. Any purchases made through our Amazon links help support this website with no cost to you.

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.

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