Take Your Mixes To The Next Level

Friday, December 11, 2015

Lynyrd Skynyrd "Free Bird" Isolated Guitar Solos

Allan Collins
Here's something that I posted a few years ago that I got a request to post again. It's the isolated guitar solo tracks to Lynyrd Skynyrd's iconic "Free Bird."

There are a number of really interesting things that you hear when the tracks are isolated that you don't notice in the final mix.

1. The solo is doubled (and towards the end tripled), but each one begins to vary from around the 1:30 mark. Since the song was composed two years previously and played live over that time period, the solo was mostly composed before it was recorded, so there were several takes. When both sounded so good together, they were allowed to stay in the mix.

2. Until 3:48, the sound of the guitar is exactly the same (and even when it changes, it only sounds like a coil-tap of a pickup), as all the tracks were played by the late Alan Collins on a Gibson Explorer.

3. As is many times the case, the record label didn't want this song on the album, yet it went on to become the song that defined the band and has remained a rock anthem 40 years later.

4. Guitar World Magazine rates the solo as the 3rd greatest ever.

You can go here for a full analysis of the arrangement of the solo section.



Thursday, December 10, 2015

Jimmy Page On How "Stairway To Heaven" Was Written

Jimmy Page on how "Stairway To Heaven" was written
"Stairway To Heaven" has been a staple of classic rock radio since the song was released in 1972 on Led Zeppelin 4 and for many, it's the song that epitomizes that era of music. Have a listen to Jimmy Page describe the creation of the song to BBC News.

One of the cool things Page describes is how the song intentionally accelerated as it went along, going against the sensibilities of the band's studio musician mindset.




Wednesday, December 9, 2015

10 Steps To Troubleshooting An Arrangement

Band Rehearsal image
Anyone who's ever played in a band has run into the situation where the band begins to play and instead of sounding tight and exciting, it sounds like a train wreck. Sometimes it's easy to figure out what went wrong, and sometimes no one can quite put their finger on it.

Here's a checklist I made from some points from both How To Make Your Band Sound Great and The Music Producer's Handbook that will take you through the steps needed to troubleshoot an arrangement either live or in the studio.

1. Do all the players in the band know their parts inside out? Is there a part that someone is unsure of?

2. Are all the players performing their parts the same way every time (assuming that you’re not recording some forms of jazz and blues where you want a different performance)? Any variation can lead to a section not gelling or not being tight.

3. Is the band playing dynamically? Does the music breath volume-wise? Does the verse have less intensity than a chorus or bridge?

4. Does the band lose its drive when playing with less intensity? Does it forget about attacks and releases when they play quieter?

5. Is everyone playing the song and section starts and stops the same? If not, ask every player, “How are you playing it?”

6. Does the band sound tight? Are the attacks and releases of phrases being played the same way by everyone? Are the builds, turnarounds and accents being played the same way by everyone? If not, ask every player, “How are you playing it?

7. Is the band in tune? If not, make sure everyone uses the same tuner and tunes the same way.

8. Does the song have a groove? Is the rhythm section playing in the pocket? Is the drummer or bass player slightly wavering in tempo?

9. Is the tempo right for the song? Try it a bpm or two faster or slower and see if it feels better.

10. Are all vocals in the best range for the singers? Does the singer have trouble hitting all the notes? Does the singer sound comfortable singing and is the vocal sound right for the song?

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Eminence Speaker Factory Tour

Eminence Speaker Factory Tour
Here's a great video that takes you through the different departments and steps in making a speaker in the Eminence Speaker factory in Eminence, Kentucky.

It's very cool to see how a speaker is designed and built to the customer's specifications.

It's especially cool to see how the compression drivers are made.

Find out more about Eminence Speakers here.



Monday, December 7, 2015

New Music Gear Monday: Acme Audio Motown DI

Acme Audio Motown WB-3 DI image
As we all know, direct boxes are not created equally. Buy a cheap one and you'll get a limited bandwidth with not enough bottom end, or a choked high-frequency response. That said, when you find a great DI, you know it right away.

That's why the new Acme Audio Motown WB-3 DI is so interesting. It was patterned as closely as possible on the original DI used by Motown back in the day that not only captured James Jamerson's bass, but many of the guitar sounds on those records as well.

As far as features, it's a pretty basic passive DI, with 2 parallel inputs, a Direct/Attenuator switch that puts the variable attenuator in the circuit, and an XLR output and ground lift on the side.

You're not buying this box for its features, but for it's sound, and the WB-3 has garnered a lot of praise from top hitmakers in a short period of time thanks to the extra low end that this box provides.

The Acme Audio Motown WB-3 DI isn't cheap at $449, but if there's a lot of people more than will to pay a little extra money for the sound it provides.



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