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Thursday, January 2, 2014

Foo Fighters "Best Of You" Song Analysis

Foo Fighters live image from Bobby Owsinski's Big Picture blog
A group that I have the greatest respect for is the Foo Fighters. They rock hard, but always feel like they're coming from the right place, with all the emphasis on their music and their fans. That's probably because leader Dave Grohl experienced superstardom previously with Nirvana, so he was beyond the trappings of success as a result. Here's a song analysis of their song "Best of You," an excerpt from one of the editions of my new Deconstructed Hits: Modern Rock & Country.


In their nearly 20 years of existence, the Foo Fighters have had a lot of hits, but “The Best Of You” is the only one to go Platinum, with sales of over a million units. The first single from their In Your Honor double LP, the song topped the Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart for four weeks, won the Karrang! Award For Best Single and was nominated for a Best Rock Song Grammy.

Although credited to all four of the Foo Fighters, the song was written by singer/guitarist Dave Grohl while he was supporting John Kerry for president in 2004. Like what has happened with so many other hits by various artists through the years, Grohl didn’t think it was worthy enough to be included on the album, but was persuaded by his manager to put it on. “Best Of You” was also covered by the artist Prince during his 2007 Superbowl halftime appearance.

The Song
“The Best Of You” is typical Foo Fighters, meaning it’s quirky in many ways. For example, each verse and each chorus changes in length and in feel, which is quite unusual for any song. For instance, a verse can be 12, 16 or 24 bars long while a chorus may 12 or 16 bars in length. The bridge is also odd in that it’s a combination of guitar solo, feel change and verse. The form looks like this:

verse (12 bars) ➞ chorus (12 bars) ➞ verse (24 bars) ➞ chorus (16 bars) ➞ bridge/solo (16 bars) ➞ chorus (16 bars) ➞ verse (16 bars) ➞ chorus (16 bars) ➞ outro (8 bars)

The song is built around the same general chord pattern that’s repeated in various combinations in the different sections of the song with the exception of the outro, which is a series of accents on the same chord as it builds to a crescendo. 

The song’s melody is strong although it doesn’t change much from verse to chorus. The lyrics are well-crafted in that they both read and sing well, tell a story and even rhyme well too. 

The Arrangement
“The Best Of You” unusually begins on a verse with no intro whatsoever with just the vocal and guitar playing clean 16th notes (another Foo technique). At bar 9 a second clean guitar doubling the first is added on the right side, then a clean guitar playing an ascending line is added on the right side at the beginning of the chorus. Once again at bar 9 of the chorus, the bass is added as well.

On the downbeat of the second verse the drums enter and guitars switch from clean to dirty and the intensity is increased by several notches. The snare and the bass play the same feel while the drums play 8th notes on the kick with a cymbal crash every other bar, and a harmony vocal is added on what almost might be considered a B-section at bar 9. At the chorus, the drums switch to playing the snare on every beat with a crash cymbal every bar, while the same ascending guitar as in the first chorus enters again, but this time more distorted.

At the bridge the feel of the drums changes once again, with the playing being much more free with a lot of tom fills and cymbal crashes. There’s also a written lead guitar solo, and on the chord change at bar 9 the vocals enter singing “Oh,” which are followed by full band accents.

The next chorus begins with a lyric change for 8 bars before the main chorus lyrics enters for another 8, with the bass doubling the same ascending line as the left chorus guitar. On the next verse, the intensity is brought down to what it was on the intro, with the guitars playing a soft, clean picking part against the lone vocal. At bar 9 the full band enters with yet another different 8th note feel with a full band stop on the downbeat of the last bar. For the last chorus, the drums return to the same 1/4 note snare feel as the second chorus while the bass plays again plays an ascending line. The outro is a series of high-energy accents on the same chord as the intensity builds at the end with a guitar playing a high octave bend.

Arrangement Elements
  • The Foundation: bass and drums
  • The Rhythm: rhythm guitars
  • The Pad: none
  • The Lead: lead vocals
  • The Fills: none (although the ascending line in the chorus could serve that function)
The Sound
“The Best Of You” is the typical Foo Fighters wall of sound, which is a sonic blitz from the time the entire band enters in the second verse. The mix is very compressed, especially singer Dave Grohl’s doubled vocals, where you can hear the attack of the compressor grabbing onto some words, especially in the intro.

The mix features some nice panning to keep multiple guitars out of each others way. The main rhythm guitar sits slightly left of center while another rhythm guitar doubling the part enters on the right, then a third guitar playing an ascending line enters on the left to balance the panning out.

The drums sound pretty good but the kick is slightly lower in level in the mix compared to other rock songs. They’re also panned almost in mono with the cymbals only slightly panned to the left and right. The cymbals are mixed well in that they’re played a lot in each chorus that the band plays, but they never seem to take up a lot of sonic space like in many rock mixes.
Listen Up:To the big breath on the vocal at the beginning of the song.
To the guitars spread left to right in the soundfield.
To the different drum feels in each section.
To the compression on the vocal in the first verse.
The Production
The Foo Fighters are known for their intensity in concert and they’re one of the few bands that are able to capture it on record as well. That’s partially due to the performances and partially because of their use of dynamics, in this case going from quiet to loud, back to quiet and ending with a fury of intensity.

On “Best Of You” the production shows it’s sophistication with making a song that’s basically built over the same repeating chord pattern interesting, which is not a particularly easy task. This is done not only by the dynamics mentioned above, but also by the feel changes between the sections, as well the stops and accents, so that each section feels unique.

While you’d probably never call any of the Foos except for perhaps drummer Taylor Hawkins a particularly great player, the intensity of the band overcomes musicianship ever time. Capturing that is the essence of production.

To read other excerpts from the Deconstructed Hits series, go to the excerpts section of bobbyowsinski.com.

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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.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

9 Jobs That Every Music Producer Must Perform

Bobby Owsinski conducting BG vox image
Bobby O conducting background vox
As anyone who’s ever produced any sort of entertainment project knows, one of the first questions you might get from a non-music person (like your mother) is, “What exactly do you do?” or, “What’s a producer?” It’s totally understandable since producers in music, television and film take on so many roles, some honorary and some deep in the trenches of the creative tasks at hand, yet are mostly out of the public eye.

But a music producer in the most basic description is different from his similarly named film and television counterparts (where a “line” producer and “coordinating” producer are specific jobs), because the producer on a musical project is many job descriptions rolled into one. Here's an excerpt from The Music Producer's Handbook that explains each of the 9 jobs that every music producer must perform.

1. He’s the creative director. Just like the director on a movie has the overall vision for that movie and is the boss on the set, so is the producer in the studio. The producer sees the big picture in terms of how all the songs of the album will fit together into a cohesive package, but can also control the day to day minutiae of how a part is played or even what notes are in the part.

2. He’s a diplomat. The producers number one job is to bring harmony to the creative process so that everyone can create at their very highest level. Although some producers have used terror as a method to get what they want, most successful producers make everyone feel comfortable about contributing and make the environment comfortable for creativity.

3. He’s the decision maker. A good producer will be the final decision maker in any creative argument (especially between band members). Even if the producer defers to the artist’s creative vision (which most producer’s will do), it’s still his decision to defer.

4. He’s the go-between. The producer keeps the pressure from the record label or the outside world away from the artist or band while making the record. In some cases, he may speak for the artist during a session with studio musicians, and generally shield the artist from anything she might deem uncomfortable.

5. He’s the financier. The producer is responsible for the budget. He makes the deals with the studio, engineer, mixer, mastering studio, rentals, studio musicians, arrangers, songwriters, food delivery and anything else that might need to be negotiated or paid. In some cases, he’ll also administer union contracts and submit cue sheets as well.

6. He’s the casting director. A good producer will choose the right group of musicians to get the feel that the artist is looking for, which might change from song to song. He might even help choose material for the artist that best showcases her musical attributes.

7. He’s a project manager. A good producer knows just what needs to be accomplished in a given amount of time and for a given budget. His job is to turn in the project on-time and on or under budget and he must manage each project accordingly.

8. He’s the “bus driver.” No matter how or on what level a producer is involved, he’s the one that sets the direction for the project. He determines the artist’s artistic vision and helps her achieve it, or may even help her find it with a vision of his own. Either way, he’s the leader that everyone will follow. He “drives the bus.”


9. He’s the one responsible. In the eyes of the record label and artist, the success of the project is the direct responsibility of the producer. Although the public will judge the artist on the project, ultimately how it turns out falls squarely on the producer’s shoulders.

You can read additional excerpts from The Music Producer's Handbook and my other books at bobbyowsinski.com.
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You should follow me on Twitter and Facebook 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.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Have A Happy And Prosperous 2014!

New Year 2014 image from Bobby Owsinski's Big Picture blog
To all the readers of The Big Picture Production Blog, Music 3.0 blog, my Forbes blog, or my books and programs, I want to thank you for a great 2013 and wish you a fruitful, successful, and most importantly, a musical 2014!

Let's remember the phrase "When I lift my brother, I lift myself" so together we all have the best year ever.

Bobby
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You should follow me on Twitter and Facebook 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, December 30, 2013

Is JamBandit A Game Or Musical Instrument?

Is it possible for an app to be both a game and musical instrument, or neither? On some level, JamBandit is very cool, as it takes an existing hit song and allows you to play along with an appropriate instrument via the screen on your iOS device. You always stay in tune, you can hold a note as long as you want, play a lick, change the vibrato, and have the general power over the performance, but is that actually performing?

Watch the video and decide for yourself, and please share your views below.


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You should follow me on Twitter and Facebook 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, December 29, 2013

The 5 Best Audio Products of 2013

As we take a final look back at 2013, I thought I'd pick the 5 audio products that struck me as the most innovative from the last year. This was actually pretty difficult since there were so many great products, but at least to me, the following 5 stood out.

Triad Orbit Mic Stands image from Bobby Owsinski's Big Picture Blog
1. Triad Orbit Mic Stands: Mic stand technology has remained pretty stagnant for 50 years or so until the Triad Orbit articulating mic stands were introduced. What makes the Triad-Orbit stands different is that each leg of the base has four ratcheted positions that provide up to 65 degrees of pitch. The Orbital boom is built around a stainless steel ball swivel mechanism to deliver a very wide range of motion (360 x 220 degrees), and the Orbital 2 boom is also way different than anything you've seen since it's basically 2 booms on one stand. Triad Orbit stands aren't cheap at $179 for a standard stand, $139 for the standard arm boom and $259 for the dual boom, but they're built like tanks and very well may last a lifetime.



Sound Radix SurferEQ image from Bobby Owsinski's Big Picture Blog
2. SoundRadix SurferEQ: Here's an idea that could totally change the way we think about equalization. The SoundRadix SurferEQ plugin is different from other equalizers in that it tracks the pitch of an instrument or vocal and changes the EQ on the fly, staying relevant to the music or program.

SurferEQ uses a real-time pitch detection engine that triggers a low pass, high pass, bell, shape or harmonic filter (that's a new one) to make sure that the EQ is working at the right frequency during the song. It's available for Mac or PC in RTAS, VST and AU, and retails for $199.


Apple Logic Pro X image from Bobby Owsinski's Big Picture Blog
3. Apple Logic Pro X: The latest version of Logic may not overtake Pro Tools in the pro world, but there not much that can beat it when it comes to creating music. There's a lot to like in this new version, including a new streamlined look, a new collection of virtual instruments (including the incredible virtual Drummer, with sounds from Bob Clearmountain), built-in pitch correction and remote control from an iPad. Best of all, Logic Pro X is only $199.



Sennheiser Laser Drum Mics image from Bobby Owsinski's Big Picture Blog
4. Sennheiser Laser Drum Mics: This isn't actually a product yet, but just the idea of it gets points for innovation. Actually, the laser mic is a misnomer. It's actually a laser mic clip for Sennheiser's e904 and e604 clip-on mics that's the innovative piece. By placing a laser and a sensor in the mic clip, the laser can then precisely measure when the drum head is struck and open up a noise gate, so what you're actually hearing is a laser-controlled mic (we'll get to those real "laser mics" someday soon, as this is the just a glimpse into the future).

The laser drum clips are still in the prototype stage, so there's no pricing yet, but you can see and hear how well they work in this video.


UAD Ocean Way Studios Plugin image from Bobby Owsinski's Big Picture Blog
5. UAD Ocean Way Studios PluginThe Ocean Way Studios plugin takes room simulation to the next step by modeling the sound of two of the studio's famous Bill Putnum-designed tracking rooms (Putnam was the original owner of both United Studios (now Ocean Way) and Universal Audio when it manufactured hardware starting back in the 1960s. Bill Putnam jr. runs Universal Audio today). You're able to choose from a number of Ocean Way owner Allen Sides' great vintage mic emulations and place them any distance in the room, as well as mix and EQ multiple combination of mics.

This could be a great addition to a home studio owner who only has a small room to record in, but wants it to realistically sound like a larger one - and with the Ocean Way sound to boot. The Universal Audio Ocean Way Studios plugin works on the UAD platform and can be purchased for $279.

Winter NAMM is coming up in less than a month, and I'll probably have a new list afterward, but for now, this list above are the products that caught my attention in 2013.
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You should follow me on Twitter and Facebook 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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