Thursday, September 1, 2011

Motley Crue "Dr. Feelgood" Song Analysis

My hommie Fran Doyle requested a breakdown of a track produced by the great Bob Rock, and what better way to illustrate his technique than with Motley Crue's big hit "Dr. Feelgood." Released on September 1, 1989, the album of the same title was recorded at Little Mountain Studios in Vancouver, and eventually went on to sell 6 million records. The song "Dr. Feelgood" is the Crue's one and only gold single, and was named the 15th greatest rock song by VH1. As with all song analysis, we'll look at the song form, the arrangement, the sound and the production.

The Song
"Dr. Feelgood" starts off with a rather common form, but since the sections are short, repeats them in an interesting way. The form looks like this:

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

What's interesting is that the bridge is repeated 4 times, once being used as a solo. In that respect, you can almost think of it as a second chorus.

The Arrangement
Like with most guitar trios, the arrangement is fairly sparse, with a doubled rhythm guitar and lots of lead guitar overdubs. Same with the vocals; the lead is doubled with the occasional harmony vocal for support, and a lot of vocal answers.

  * The Foundation: Bass and drums

  * The Rhythm: Rhythm guitar, hi-hat

  * The Pad: None

  * The Lead: Lead vocal and lead guitar

  * The Fills: Lead guitar and unison gang vocals

The Sound
Once again, with a guitar trio, everything has to be bigger than usual to fill up the frequency spectrum. In this case, the drums are huge sounding not only frequency wise, but ambiance-wise as well. In fact, the drum sound came to be known as the "Tommy Lee sound" among drummers and engineers. This is basically a bigger than usual kick drum sound and a snare with a very short, but very loud room ambiance that's timed to the track. The hi-hat is also very loud in the mix, since sometimes it's the only instrument pushing the rhythm.

The rhythm guitars are doubled and spread left and right except for the solos, where the lead is panned a bit to the right and the right double is lowered in the mix. This makes for a nice sonic panorama.

The vocals are doubled as well, along with a big gang vocal sound that provides the "Dr. Feelgood" answers. As with most songs from this period, there's a lot of ambiance on everything, which amounts to a timed delay and long timed reverb. Everything is also very compressed, although not so much that it alters the sound and makes it fatiguing to listen to, as happened towards the end of the century.

The Production
Bob Rock is one of the great rock producers and this song shows why. Just go down to your local bar and listen to a hard rock copy band play it. Doesn't sound the same, does it? That's because Bob managed to take some very ordinary hard rock/metal licks and make them sound exciting. Just listen to the intro as an example.

The second thing is the arrangement. This could have been a 2 minute song with another producer, but Bob manages to not only lengthen the song, but make it exciting each time a section is repeated. This occurs by changing it a little (listen to the last Chorus/Intro where it plays without the bass, as compared to the song Intro), adding harmonies, guitar fills, and additional gang vocals.

Lastly is the guitar solos and fills, especially the fills. Sometimes Mick Mars is only playing sustained harmonics, yet they manage to be exciting because they're placed in exactly the right place to keep you from losing interest. Listen to the wah dive-bombs right at the end of the intro; it just lifts the song up, then takes you into the next section. No wonder this song has become a hard-rock classic.


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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The 5 Steps To Set Up Your Monitor Speakers

It's time for another book excerpt. This time its from The Studio Builder's Handbook and covers the basic setup of your monitor speakers.
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"While most home studios set their monitors up rather randomly, there are a number of general guidelines you can use to optimize your setup. Since most rooms are unique in some way, you may have to vary from the theoretical, but these are good places to start from.

1. Check The Distance Between The Monitors - If the monitors are too close together, the stereo field will lack definition, and if the monitors are too far apart, the focal point or “sweet spot” will be too far behind you and you’ll hear the left or the right side but not both together. The rule of thumb is that the speakers should be as far apart as their distance from the listening position. That is, if you’re 4 feet away from the monitors, then start by moving them 4 feet apart so that you make an equilateral triangle between you and the two monitors (see the graphic on the left).

That being said, it’s been found that 67 ½ inches from tweeter to tweeter seems to be an optimum distance between speakers, and focuses the speakers just behind your head (which is exactly what you want).

2. Check The Angle Of The Monitors - Not angling the speakers properly will cause smearing of the stereo field, which is a major cause of a lack of instrument definition. The correct angle is somewhat determined by taste, as some mixers preferring the monitors to be angled directly at their mixing position while others prefer the focal point (the point where the sound from the tweeters converges) anywhere from one to two feet behind them to widen the stereo field.

It’s been found over time that an angle of 30 degrees that’s focused about 18 inches behind the mixer’s head works the best in most cases.

A great trick for finding the correct angle is to mount a mirror over each tweeter and adjust the speakers so that your face is clearly seen in both mirrors at the same time when you are in your mixing position.

3. Check How The Monitors Are Mounted - If at all possible, it’s best to mount your monitor speakers on stands just directly behind the meter bridge of the console or edge of your desk. Not only will this improve the low frequency decoupling, but it will greatly decrease any unwanted reflections off the desk or console that can interfere with the frequency response.

Monitors that are placed directly on top of a computer desk or console meter bridge without any decoupling (isolation) are subject to comb filter effects, especially in the low end. That is, the sound travels through the desk or console, through the floor and reaches your ears first (because sound travels faster in denser material) before the direct sound from the monitors through the air gets there, which causes phase cancellation and a general smearing of the audio. This can be more or less severe depending if the speakers are placed directly on the wood or mounted on a piece of carpet or similar material (very popular). If you must set your speakers on the desk or console, the best way to de-couple them is to use the same method used when a commercial studio soffit mounts its main monitors. Set the near fields on a 1/2 or 3/4” piece of open cell neoprene, a thick mouse pad, or something like the Prime Acoustic Recoil Stabilizers, and de-coupling will no longer be an issue (although comb filtering from the reflections still might be).

4. Check How The Monitor Parameters Are Set - Almost everyone uses powered monitors these days, but don’t forget that many have a few parameter controls either on the front or rear. Be sure that these are set correctly for the application (make sure you read the manual) and are set the same on each monitor.

5. Check The Position Of The Tweeters - Many monitors are meant to be used in an upright position, yet users frequently will lay them down on their sides. That makes them easier to see over, but this results in a variety of acoustic anomalies that narrow the sweet spot and may result in holes in the frequency response. That being said, if the speakers are designed to lay on their sides, most mixers prefer that the tweeters be on the outside because the stereo field is widened. Sometimes tweeters to the inside works but that usually results in the stereo image smearing. Try it both ways and see which one works best for your application.

If your speakers are placed upright, be sure that the tweeters are head-height since the high frequency response at the mixers position will suffer if they’re too high and firing over your head. Sometimes it’s necessary to even flip them over and place them on their tops in order to get the proper tweeter height."

To read more book excerpts, follow this link to my website.
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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Music Is The Artwork

Here's an interesting twist on album artwork by Instrumenti. They're using the music itself to generate a custom album cover. There's nothing like thinking outside the box when it comes to your music or the way it's packaged, so this is very cool. I wonder how much time it took to do one?

Making of TRU. Vol. 1. from Instrumenti on Vimeo.
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Monday, August 29, 2011

Your Vintage Instrument May Be Confiscated!

Federal agents raided the Memphis and Nashville factories Gibson Guitar last week, seizing several pallets of wood, electronic files and guitars. Fish and Wildlife Service agents were looking for banned wood like Madagascar ebony and Brazilian Rosewood, even though the company claims to purchase all of their wood from only certified suppliers.

While it's easy to think that a large company like Gibson routinely skirts the law all in the name of guitar tone, the problem is that the Feds are only enforcing some overly broad mandates, which can also apply to a typical guitar owner. Here's how that might work:

If you own a vintage instrument and try to travel into or out of the country with it, you're subject to a statute called the Lacey Act that requires anyone crossing the U.S. border to declare every bit of flora or fauna being brought into the country, which includes wood. Your are under what's known as a "strict liability" to fill out the paperwork without any mistakes.

It would be easy if you could just declare the guitar as a single instrument, but an overzealous border agent can follow the letter of the law and require that you declare every part of the instrument. You have to declare where the wood from the body came from, where the ivory was harvested if there's an ivory nut or inlays. What about the neck? Is it made from ebony with maybe a rosewood fingerboard? You better know not only what it is, but where it came from as well.

So what if you don't know, or you just guess? First of all the Feds can confiscate your instrument (and may never give it back), then fine you $250 for false or missing documentation. If you happen to have any banned wood in your instrument, you can be fined thousands of dollars and even go to jail.

I know it's a good thing for the world we live in to be environmentally safe, and I hope we begin to find other materials that sound as good as the woods we've been using that make vintage instruments sound the way they do. But in the meantime, it would be great if the Feds back off on being so stringent about the materials of an instrument that might be 50 years old; something that virtually no one could ever source (and probably couldn't even when it was originally made). There are too many things in the world to worry about. Having your instrument confiscated by the government shouldn't be one of them.

You can read more in this article from the Wall Street Journal.

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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, August 28, 2011

Making A Mic In Your Kitchen

Okay, I admit that this is a little off-the-wall, but at the same time it's very cool. If you've been around audio for awhile you've heard of piezoelectric mics and tweeters. They're cheap and not abundantly useful, but they are interesting in that they're built around crystals that have the unique characteristic of developing an electrical signal when the crystals are physically compressed, even by something as small as sound pressure.

Here's an interesting video about how you can make your own piezoelectric crystals in your kitchen, and turn them into a microphone. Below the video is a recording using the kitchen-made mic. Thanks Marsha Vdovin for turning me on to this post.




First recording using Rochelle Salt piezo crystal made from baking soda and cream of tartar by leafcutterjohn
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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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