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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Rod Stewart "I'm Losing You" Song Analysis

Reader Chris Benedetto requested an oldie but a goodie, a song from Rod Stewart's first solo album Every Picture Tells A Story in 1971called "I'm Losing You." The song featured all of the members of The Faces, Rod's, band at the time, but the credits were vaguely listed because of contractual reasons. "(I Know) I'm Losing You" was actually a hit for The Temptations in 1966, but Rod and The Faces version is a much more energetic, rockin' cut. Like all song analysis, we'll look at the song form, the arrangement, the sound and the production.

The Song
You can tell that "I'm Losing You" is basically a live cut in the studio due to it's looseness and the fact that not everyone hits the cues on time, but that doesn't mean it doesn't have an interesting form. The song looks like this:

Guitar/Bass Intro, Song Intro, Verse, B Section, Chorus, Bridge, Solos, Drums, Guitar/Bass Intro, Verse

The song is basically a jam based around a song and very much in the spirit of be bop jam where the head of the song is played, there's a lot of soloing, then the head is played again at the end. In this case, the basic sections of the song are stated at the beginning, but only the very intro is returned to at the end.

The Arrangement
There's not much of an arrangement, since there are no real set parts and everyone is playing more or less free form. Here's what the arrangement elements look like:

The Foundation: The drums, tambourine during the drum solo

The Rhythm: Bass, guitar, piano

The Pad: None

The Lead: Lead vocal

The Fills: Piano, guitar

The Sound
The Faces were known for some pretty thin-sounding recordings, but this is not one of them. The drums are very full sounding and recorded in stereo, as is the piano (something not found much in 1971 recordings).  

Ron Wood's guitar was always kinda thin sounding until he joined The Stones. Here's it's panned to the left a big with a nice long reverb wash. Ronnie Lane's bass does sound very thin and distorted and is panned slightly to the right, and instantly disappears in the mix when all the instruments enter. Rod Stewart's vocal is clear and not overly compressed, with a touch of the same reverb as on the guitar. Ian McLagan's piano is very dry and in your face, which adds a nice layering element to the recording.

The Production
Rod was the producer of the album, but as was many the case back then, that probably meant more of selecting the take and getting the feel rather than directing the show like it is today. That's pretty much what happens when the recording is built around a jam.

Send me your requests for song analysis.


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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

An Excellent Nashville Adventure


Ken and Bobby at RCA Studio B and their excellent piano.
Let me tell you about an excellent adventure that the esteemed producer/engineer Ken Scott and I just returned from. We were invited to speak at the TI:ME Conference in Louisville over the weekend, but the trip was extended to include engagements at Belmont University and SAE in Nashville on Monday and Tuesday. Although we usually each give separate presentations, we decided to combine what we both do because of the time restraints. In three of the sessions, I interviewed Ken about his past work with The Beatles, Bowie, Supertramp and more. On the other session, Ken interviewed me about my various books.

Amp stands in Studio B so the musicians didn't play too loud.
We gave two presentations in the lovely city of Louisville (home of the Kentucky Derby), where one night we were treated to an excellent concert by the US Army Field Band. It certainly makes you proud that a service band can be composed of so many great musicians, and their big band music was the equal to any great concert by just about any band today, bar none. Good music is just good music, no matter the genre.

On Sunday we drove up to Nashville, where we were met by studio designer Carl Tatz and multi-platinum engineer Bob Bullock (I absolutely love the Shania Twain records that he's done). Carl took us to a home studio that he built that features his Phantom Focus System. This turned out to be an incredible treat. Carl's system is more about the interface and tuning of the speakers rather than the speakers themselves and the results are tremendous. I've never heard such pin-point panning in the stereo field, or depth of field. You've got to hear a PFS system to believe it Everything else pales in comparison. We spent of a lot of the afternoon just listening to music for the sheer enjoyment of it. When was the last time that happened?

After that we had a great Indian dinner with award-winning film composer and former LA native Chris Boardman. I think it's very safe to say that he does not miss the City of Angels one bit.

On Tuesday it was off to Belmont University were they drowned us in southern hospitality, first with a lunch with their music and recording faculty, then off to a tour of the their excellent studio facilities. Belmont is lucky to have an endowment from Mike Curb to buy up some of the greatest studios on the planet rather than see them turned into parking lots.  First we were off to Owen Bradley's former studio "The Quanset Hut," home of such classics as Patsy Cline's, "Crazy", Brenda Lee's "I'm Sorry" and Bobby Vinton's "Blue Velvet." Then it was off to the former RCA Studio B, where we were amazed to see the same room and gear that Elvis, Roy Orbison, Ernest Tub, Porter Wagoner, Floyd Cramer and Chet Atkins used. Wow! Then it was off to see the church turned studio at Oceanway. That's a full day in itself, but there was more.
The cabinet that Elvis kicked and broke (and refused to fix).

At 5:30 we addressed a packed house of students at Belmont and unfortunately, they had to turn a few students away due to fire codes. That said, it was really great to feel their energy and enthusiasm, and we both really enjoyed their questions and interactions. Belmont has a truly wonderful program that touches so many facets of the music industry (I could go on and on about how impressed I was), but a college is nothing without it's faculty, and it was great to see the high caliber of pros that the program employed. Thanks to all for a great time and your hospitality, especially Professor Flo (Mark Volman, of The Turtles, Zappa and Flo and Edie fame) for arranging our visit and Sara Cates and Jim Kaiser for facilitating our tour and talk. One thing that was interesting though - there were more females than males in the audience (which is highly unusual in the audio business), probably thanks to Ken's animal magnetism.
Ken, Bob Welch, Bobby

That night, we were lucky enough to have dinner with former Fleetwood Mac singer/writer/guitar player and solo artist Bob Welch. "Ebony Eyes" has always been one of may favorite songs so it was a treat to finally meet him. But wait, there's more.

On Tuesday we started the day off over at Mayfair Mastering, where the legendary (and new AES Fellow) Glenn Meadows played us some choice Steely Dan cuts in his fine new room. If you know Glenn, then you know that everything he touches can only be excellent.

Then it was off to SAE to speak to more inquiring minds. SAE is different from most recording schools in that it's a fast track program designed to get students on their way into the business in a minimum amount of time. Once again, it was great to have the opportunity to address a great group of future professionals. You could just see the hunger to learn in their eyes. Thanks to Crystal Armentrout to facilitating our talk and Alan Shacklock for the great introduction.

Then it was off to the airport and back to LA and business as usual. Thanks Mike Lawson (my champion) for all your help and being our tour manager, and to Alfred Music Publishing for sponsoring our trip. Nashville, I have a feeling we're going to see you again soon.
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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

6 Steps In Avoiding A Conflict

If you're in the music business in just about any way, shape or form, you're creative on some level. And let's face it - if you're creative, you have a vision. That vision can be about how a song should be written, how the music should sound, how your project is marketed, or any of a million other similar things.

But whenever creative types get together, sooner or later the sparks may fly as those visions come into conflict. That's why it's essential to have a strategy in place to deal with the head butting as it arises. Here's an excerpt from Chapter 11 of my book The Music Producer's Handbook that covers just how to handle those inevitable disagreements.
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"Being in any relationship requires at least some compromise and working with a group of musicians is no different from what you’d expect between family, friends, girlfriends, boyfriends, wives, husbands, bosses and co-workers. There are times where you just have to bend in order to keep the peace. 

While compromise is easy for some people, others have a personality that would never allow it and a conflict occurs. Here are some effective steps that you can take to state your case in a way that should resolve or mediate the conflict.

1. Cool off first - Conflicts can’t be solved when emotions are running hot. Take some time to get away from the problem for a bit and brainstorm on exactly what the conflict is, how it was caused, and most important, a possible solution.

2. Present accolades, support and respect - The first thing to do is acknowledge the person’s accomplishments and talent. Something like, “I want to start by saying that I think the tracks we’ve captured are really great, and you’re playing your parts way better than I ever thought possible.” 

3. Analyze why the problem occurred - If you give a clear explanation of why you think there’s a problem or why the problem or conflict has occurred, you set the initial groundwork for solving the conflict. If the other person knows exactly what your side of the story is, you might find more often than not that you’re both on the same page, but on different sides of it.

4. Take responsibility and use “I” messages
- If you have a part in a conflict that you’re aware of, take responsibility and own up to it, but make sure that everything is from your point of view. For instance, it’s best to say, “I think you were really flat on that part,” rather than “Everybody knows that you always sing that part flat,” or worse, “You’re singing sucks, man.”

5. Describe what I or we need so the problem doesn’t happen again
- This is the solution from your point of view. “We really need you to be here a half-hour before the session so you have time to warm up. That way we won’t waste any studio time, which is costing us money.”

6. Support their success - Tell him that you want him to win, because if he wins, so do you. “The better you sound, the better we all sound,” or “Do you know how great this is going to sound once you get that part down? It’s going to kill!”

To read additional excerpts from this and other books, go the excerpt section of bobbyowsinski.com.
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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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Monday, January 9, 2012

If Songs Were Programmed

This one comes via my buddy Gary Myer. Imagine if songs were programmed the same way as software. We'd probably have something like what appears on the left.

If this doesn't make sense, go here to have a listen to "Hey Jude" and take special note the lyrics.

As a brief aside, former Beatles engineer Ken Scott told me an interesting story about "Hey Jude." The song was actually recorded at Trident Studios instead of Abbey Road because Trident had a 8 track recorder while Abbey Road was still 4, and The Beatles felt they needed more tracks for the song. After the mix was completed, it was brought back to Abbey Road for mastering where they found out that there was absolutely no high frequencies on the mix because the speakers at Trident were so hyped on the high end, making it sound muffled. Ken, George Martin and the boys frantically spent the next day EQing to try to save the mix, and the final version that we now all know is the result. There's more to the story, but you'll have to wait for our upcoming book, Abbey Road to Ziggy Stardust, to read the whole thing.
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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.

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Sunday, January 8, 2012

6 Tips For Auditioning For The Tour

It's the dream of many musicians to get a gig with the touring band with a major artist. I wrote a book called The Touring Musician's Handbook that covers the ins and outs of what it takes to get that gig, so I thought it might be a good time for an excerpt. Here's a bit from Chapter 5 - "Becoming A Touring Musician."
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"Depending on how you look at it, an audition can be really fun or so stressful that it makes you want to loose your lunch. The more prepared you are, the less likely you are to do the latter, so here are a number of things to help you through the process.

1. Know The Material
You can be a great player with chops that came from Mount Olympus, but the only thing that the artist or MD (musical director) cares about is if you can play the artist’s material well show after show. If you go into an audition thinking that you’re going to wing it, you’re wasting everyone's time, in which case you should be prepared for a very short audition.
First off, I want the person auditioning to play the music exactly like the record. I don’t want to hear them improvise, and I don’t want to hear their take on it. I want to hear them play it exactly with the right feel, just like they were playing Mozart or Beethoven. I want them to respect the music regardless of if it’s Pink’s music, or Cher’s or Janet Jackson’s, I want them to play it exactly as you hear it on the record. Then if I ask them to change it, they’re changing it from a place where I know that they know what it is so they can take their own spin on it after the fact.
Paul Mirkovich
Go-to guys like guitarist Peter Thorn (Melissa Etheridge, Chris Cornell, Jewel, Don Henley) will learn as much of the artist’s catalog possible before the audition, going as far as to dial in the tone of the parts as well. It’s a lot of work, but if you’re up against another guy that did that and you didn’t, who do you think will get the gig?
The other thing is that you have to be not only better than everyone else, but you have to be different. It’s basically a sales pitch. In five or ten minutes, you have to prove to them that if they hire you, they’ll get more for their money than hiring anybody else.
Ed Wynne
2. Don’t Be Late
This will just about eliminate you right from the start. Being late indicates that you have a reliability problem, which is the last thing anyone wants on the road. There are a lot of great players out there, and most of them are punctual and reliable. Who do you think they’re going to pick?

3. How You Look Counts
Not only does clothing and grooming make a good first impression, but it’s important to see how you visually fit on stage with the rest of the band. It’s possible to fit the bill perfectly as a player but still not get the gig because of the way you look.

As an example, an accomplished touring player that I know recently got a gig with a major artist that lasted one day. He went back to the hotel and received a call saying, “We’re good. Don’t come back to rehearsal tomorrow.” They just didn’t like the way he looked against the other players in the band.

You might get rejected because you have a shaved head and so does the artist or another player player in the band and they don’t want two people on stage with that look. Or you might have blond hair and so does the artist. Or you have facial hair and no one else in the band does. Nothing personal, sometimes you just don’t fit in.
I always felt that if someone is auditioning players that he’s not already aware of, it’s a clue that he’s looking for something else besides the way you play or the gear that you have. It’s a good tip that they may be looking more at how you look or at your age. I’ve seen that a lot.
Mike Holmes
4. Your On-stage Demeanor Also Counts
If possible, get a DVD or watch a video of the artist and her band playing live and take notice of the on-stage demeanor of the players. A lot of people get gigs because their physicality is right, which means how they look when they’re playing the music. Maybe the artist wants energy on stage and really likes it when a player is so into it that he’s moving all around. On the other hand, some artists just want you to stand there and play, leaving any showmanship up to them. You’ve got to know your place, so you have to tailor your demeanor to the artist.

5. Bring The Right Gear
You’ve got to tailor the gear to the gig. If you were auditioning for the job as the Strat player for Lynrd Skynrd, it wouldn’t be a great idea to bring a Les Paul or what some perceive as a metal guitar like a Jackson. If you were auditioning for the touring band of 50 Cent, you wouldn’t bring a drum kit with the snare tuned up high for reggae or ska. Can the artist or MD imagine how you’d play with the right gear? Sure they can. But once again, if everything were equal between two players, the one who will get the gig is the one that has the right sound at the audition. That way, no guessing, imagining or wondering come into play. Remember, what the artist wants most is security and one less thing to worry about. Whoever can provide that gets the gig.

6. Be Nice To Everyone
It’s important that you’re nice to everyone, including the crew, while you’re at the audition. If these people are going to spend months on a bus with you, they’d prefer that you didn’t have an attitude of superiority and were very easy to get along with. Remember, if it’s a toss-up between you and someone else, the one who will get the gig will be the one that everyone believes they can live with."

To read additional excerpts from this and my other books, go to bobbyowsinski.com.
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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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