Thursday, September 13, 2012

KISS "Detroit Rock City" Song Analysis

JW asked for a song analysis of "Detroit Rock City," the third single from KISS's hit album Destroyer. Although the song didn’t initially go anywhere on the charts except in Detroit, it eventually caught fire as the B-side of the single “Beth” during a release a year later. Today, "Detroit Rock City" is still a KISS concert favorite, while "Beth" is.........that KISS song with strings. Like with all song analysis, we'll look at the song form, the arrangement, the sound and the production.

THE SONG
"Detroit Rock City" is basically a simple song based around a verse and hooky chorus, but is skillfully put together both to add some length and some interest. The song form looks like this:

intro ➞ verse ➞ chorus ➞ verse ➞ chorus ➞ 1/2 chorus ➞
bridge ➞ verse ➞ 1/2 chorus ➞ solo ➞ chorus ➞ verse ➞ chorus

The lyrics tell a story and rhyme where they have to. They’re not too clever but they never seem forced in rhyme or cadence.

THE ARRANGEMENT
"Detroit Rock City" is cleverly arranged to make it more interesting. The intro is a combination of a harmony guitar line played with the bass leading into the chord progression of the chorus. When the vocal enters you hear the basic instrumentation of the band with the drums playing a double time feel, the bass playing a counter line, and both guitars panned left and right and playing power chords.

During chorus, the lead vocal sings in the holes left by the background vocals harmony (quite the opposite of most songs), while the guitar power chords are augmented by a low octave piano and at the end, a reprise of the guitar intro in the left channel. What’s different from most hit songs is that both the verses and chorus are mostly identical in instrumentation throughout the song, without adding or subtracting any instruments with one exception towards the end of the song.
The second chorus changes in that it’s a half-chorus vocally, then modulates up a whole step to act as a bridge with the same guitar figure playing over it, then drops back down and ends with the chords to the chorus.

After the next verse, there’s another half chorus, then everything is muted except the drums for 4 bars, then a lead guitar line plays 4 bars, which is joined by a harmony guitar for the next 4 bars. When the next chorus plays, a third harmony guitar is added and only the hook of “Gotta lose your mind in Detroit rock city” is sung in harmony.

The next chorus has the first half vocals, then a 4 bar hole with a drum fill at the end, back into the chorus with the harmony lead line playing on the right side to the hard ending with a high guitar and low piano note.
  • The Foundation: drums
  • The Rhythm: bass
  • The Pad: power chord guitars
  • The Lead: lead vocal, guitar line in bridge
  • The Fills: background vocals in the chorus
THE SOUND
The lead vocal is doubled, but singer Paul Stanley does a great job because the double is so close to the lead vocal that it almost doesn't sound like a double at all. The vocal also has a short regenerated delay and very bright long reverb on it. The sound is state of the art for that period in time (1976). Stanley has a pretty dynamic voice, and you can sometimes hear the compressor flattening it out as a result, but it doesn't sound too bad in the track. When you're listening, check out how apparent the vocal double becomes in the chorus at around 2:10.

Both the drums (especially the toms) and the lead guitar lines have a long reverb on them, probably the same on as on the vocal.

THE PRODUCTION
“Detroit Rock City” is a great production job by Ezrin, not for how good it is but for how bad it could have been. Just about all the instrumental parts are shaky. They’re pretty good, but they’re not precise in the articulations, and certainly not as good as the band would become in later years. As a result of the playing, the song just doesn’t have much of a groove, although everything is in time. Still, several million kids at the time could care less, and loved the song anyway. Chalk that all up to Bob Ezrin's most excellent production.


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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The History of The Leslie Speaker

If you love the Hammond organ as I do, then you're probably a Leslie speaker lover as well. The venerable rotating speaker system has been with us from even before the Hammond, and has taken on a life of its own when used by guitar players, electric violinists, and experimental musicians everywhere.

Here's a great short video on the history of the Leslie.



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

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

5 Best Audio Editing Apps?

Adobe Audition Timeline from Bobby Owsinski's Big Picture production blog
Adobe Audition Timeline
Lifehacker recently ran a survey trying to find the 5 best audio editing tools, and it turned up some interesting and surprising choices. Granted, Lifehacker is not a site with a core audience of audio professionals, but it's still interesting to see exactly what computer literate people consider when it comes to their audio editor of choice. So here we go:

1. Audacity (56% of the votes) - I can see why this was chosen since it's a fairly powerful audio app and the price is right (free). Plus, it's cross platform.

2. Adobe Audition (14%) - I think that a lot of people use this because it's included as part of the Adobe Creative Suite.

3. Avid Pro Tools (10%) - The big daddy in the pro world, Pro Tools has dominated music, film and broadcast for the last decade. If you're going to be a real-world pro, use anything else at your own risk.

4. Reaper (10%) - Here's a DAW that's coming on strong. The price is only $60, and so many people rave about it that I can see it taking over as the top dog if Pro Tools should ever falter.

5. Ableton Live (10%) - If you're making or working with electronic music, then Ableton Live is the center of your universe. If electronic music isn't on your radar screen, then probably neither is Live.

There was also honorable mention for Goldwave, which I wasn't even aware of, and Soundforge, which as noted in a previous blog, is coming to the Mac soon after a long run as a PC-only app.

So now it's your turn. Think the survey got it right? Oh, and if you decide to purchase any of the above workstations, help support this blog by starting from this link.
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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, September 10, 2012

10 Ways To Compose Music More Effectively

songwriting image from Bobby Owsinski's Big Picture production blog
Marcel Thomas recently had a wonderful post on Music Think Tank regarding "8 Ways To Compose Music More Effectively." You can read the entire article to get Marcel's take on the first 8, but I added a couple of extra points that I found to be particularly useful.

1) Don’t disregard your ideas too quickly
2) Write something every day
3) Go for a walk before you start composing
4) Listen to your music with fresh ears
5) Write out a structure
6) Seek the advice of other musicians and friends
7) Write in a style you have never done before
8) Learn from other composers, songwriters and producers

9) Don't feel you have to be perfect right away. Too many writers feel that if they don't have a masterpiece right way, the song is no good. While some writers are lucky enough to channel a hit in 10 minutes, that doesn't happen the vast majority of the time. It takes some time and work to polish your idea. Which brings us to:

10) Don't be afraid to refine what you first wrote. While your initial ideas may be the best, the entire song probably isn't. It can take a lot of passes before you get it right, so don't feel like you might be losing some of your mojo by doing a rewrite or two or five.
Songwriting is just like any other creative endeavor. For all but the lucky few, it takes time and effort to polish an idea into a song that other people want to hear.

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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.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

New Musical Instrument Monday: The Tonara App

For those of you who don't read music this won't be too earth shattering, but if you do, you know the problems of having to turn the pages of music while you're playing. Even worse, with a number of the sheet music apps available, if you don't swipe your iPad correctly, you can move pages ahead and never be able to easily find your place again.

That's where Tonara comes in. It's an intelligent music page turning app that actually follows the music as you're playing and automatically turns the page at just the right time, regardless of the tempo that you're playing at. Even better, it can even be used with multiple instruments.

Check out the video.



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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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