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Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Hooters "All You Zombies" Song Analysis

My homie Tim Donmoyer requested a song analysis of "All You Zombies" by The Hooters, a song that was unusually on both the band's first and second albums. The version below is from their second album Nervous Night, which was produced by Rick Chertoff and recorded at the Record Plant in New York City. As with all song analysis, we'll look at the song form, the arrangement, the sound and the production.

The Song
"All You Zombies" has a highly unusual song form in that except for the solo section, all other sections are the same and use the same chord progression. The only difference between the verse and chorus is the lyrics and a slight arrangement change. The form looks like this:

  Intro, Verse, Chorus, Verse, Chorus, Intro, Solo, Verse, Chorus, Chorus, Outro

The Arrangement
This is a rather long song and it takes a bit of skill to keep interesting since it's virtually the same chord pattern repeating over and over.


  The Foundation: Kick, hi-hat, bass

  The Pad: Synth/organ

  The Rhythm: Reggae-style guitar

  The Lead: High and low unison/harmony vocals

  The Fills: Lead guitar

The arrangement changes from the verse to the chorus by adding a strummed guitar, doubling the vocals, and adding an additional synth pad. The second intro also features a synth solo, which makes it different from the first intro.

The Sound
The song is swimming in effects, which is totally appropriate and very much a product of the 80's. Everything (especially the vocals) has a lot of delay, which doesn't seem to be timed to the track so it sticks out. The drums have a lot of short room reverb when they enter in the guitar solo, which makes the part stand out from the rest of the song. The song isn't all that loud by today's standards, but remember that it was recorded during a time gentle compression during recording and mastering, rather than take-no-prisoners crushing that we hear today.

The Production
The only way this type of a song doesn't get boring is with great production. Producer Rick Chertoff got great performances from the players, and they have to be special in a song like this. I especially like the tom fills at the end of the sections, which are both played well and sound great. Having the low unison vocal change to a harmony at the end of the lines is an inspired idea, and having the arrangement change enough to separate the song sections is a must, and it's done well.

Send me your ideas for song analysis.


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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Paul McCartney On Songwriting

I went to a Paul McCartney concert a few years ago, and just like most people, I was totally blown away. As a Grammy winning producer/songwriter friend explained, "It's like watching Beethoven!" The funny thing was that a while later I ran into Brian Ray, one of Macca's guitar players, and when I told him how much I loved the show, he said, "You've got to come hear us now. We're so much better!" Sounded very much like a club band player, but it made me realize that musicians are still musicians and bands are still bands no matter what level you're on.

Here's a great video from the Michael Parkinson talk show of Paul talking about songwriting in general, writing a song for Sinatra, and playing a few of his lesser-known songs. Note a rather bored looking David Gilmour in the background, which is understandable since he wasn't doing much.


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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Next Step In Soundproofing Technology

Soundproofing a room has always been a rather simple, brute force process - the more mass you add, the more isolation you get. There are some newer materials like mass loaded vinyl and Green Glue that make the soundproofing process slightly more efficient, but they can increase the cost considerably and still aren't any magic acoustic bullet for everyone that wants to stop bothering the neighbors.

That said, there may actually be a new technology that can change all of that. Researchers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have created a tunable acoustic diode, a device that allows acoustic information to travel only in one direction at controllable frequencies, according to a paper published in the journal Nature Materials.

The acoustic diode acts very much like an electronic one and allows sound to pass in only one direction, while blocking it in the opposite direction. This new technology would enable someone in room A to hear sound coming from room B, but would block the same sound in room A from being heard in room B. The other possibility is that any sound that was transmitted could be directed to a transducer that could convert the sound into electric energy, while keeping it away from the listener.

It doesn't seem like this is something that will be hitting your local Guitar Center anytime soon, but it's exciting to hear of a new class of acoustic devices that might be a major answer to the prayers of many home studio owners.

A paper on the subject is titled "Bifurcation-based acoustic switching and rectification," and was supported by the National Science Foundation, the Office of Naval Research, and the A. S. Onassis Benefit Foundation.
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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 social media and the new music business.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Who "Who Are You" Isolated Vocals

We all love to hear inside of a hit, regardless of whether it's on the charts now or from 50 years ago. Here's a look at the vocal track from The Who's hit "Who Are You" that shows us just how good Roger Daltry and crowd sang together as a band.

What's interesting is that the first half of the harmony vocal phrase isn't there except for the beginning of the song. That suggests that either it's on another track or whoever was doing this mix wasn't putting it on purpose so we could hear the lead vocal clearly.

Also it's interesting to hear the distortion on the lead vocal, especially towards the end, and the fact that a the three part harmony breaks down to two on the outro.



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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, July 31, 2011

3 Steps To Improve Your Band's Performance

I love to help bands get better. Most of the bands I see either in a club or in the studio generally don't need much to improve, but they usually don't know exactly what that little last bit is, which is where I come in. When you’re making records, you get to listen to everything under a microscope, and after a while you begin to understand that there are a few universal truths about making your band sound tight and professional.

Here’s a brief summary of perhaps the 3 most important steps to improve your band’s performance and take it to the next level. I promise you that if you spend even a little time on each of these items, you’ll see positive results immediately.  

Dynamics
Playing with dynamics is the greatest key to making your band sound great. It’s an improvement that both you (the band) and your audience will notice immediately, and will automatically separate you from about 90% of other bands on the planet.

So what are dynamics? Simply, it means playing quietly or with less intensity in certain places in a song, and  louder or with more intensity in other places. Most bands are oblivious to dynamics and play at one volume throughout the entire song, song after song, set after set. This gets boring and tedious for the audience very quickly.

There are a few byproducts from playing dynamically too. The vocals can be heard better because there’s more space and fewer loud instruments to fight against (easier on the singer as well). Songs become more fun to play because there’s true interaction with the other players to make it work, and as a result, the band automatically gets tighter. And the audience perceives dynamics in a way that you wouldn’t expect - suddenly they’ll start telling you how tight you sound.

Attack and Releases
Attacks and releases (the formal name is "articulations") are one of the most overlooked, yet most important elements in playing together. Attacks and releases usually refer to a phrase that you’re either playing or singing.

The attack part is usually easy - everyone starts to play or sing at exactly the same time in the same way. The releases are what’s overlooked. A release is how you end a phrase and it’s as important as how you start it. Once again, everyone has to end it at exactly the same time in exactly the same way.

Getting your attacks and releases are one of the essential parts of making a good record (you hardly ever hear one off anymore) and they’re essential to making you sound tight as well. Listen to a song that everyone knows, The Eagles "Hotel California," for a great example of both attacks and releases (and phrasing) of both the guitars and vocals.

Turnarounds
Another often overlooked portion of a song that needs to be tight is the turnaround between sections, like the one or two bars between the verse and chorus, chorus and verse, verse and outro, chorus and bridge, etc.  This part requires a lot of focus because it’s usually played a little differently from the rest of the section of the song.

For the drummer, it’s usually a tom or snare roll into the next section, but unless it’s a build, most of the other players usually just randomly play something over the roll.  If you’re playing a song that you’ve written, chances are that you’ve not thought about the turnaround too much, so now is the time. Make sure that every player has an exact part to play and that all parts work together and sound tight (a good idea for the rest of the song as well).

These tips and a lot more can be found in my band improvement book "How To Make Your Band Sound Great."
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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 social media and the new music business.

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