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Friday, September 18, 2015

Katy Perry "Wide Awake" Isolated Vocal

It's always fun to hear what happens inside a song, which is why our Isolated Tracks Fridays are so much fun. This week we'll take a look at the isolated vocals from Katy Perry's big 2012 hit "Wide Awake."

The song was a world-wide hit, going top 10 in most countries and as high as #2 in the U.S. It was the last single from Perry's huge Teenage Dream album. Here's what to listen for.

1. The vocal begins with an interesting delay effect on the doubled background vocals (which are slightly spread left and right), with a med delay that has a long regeneration and long half-note delay with a slight ping-pong. This delay continues even on the lead vocal.

2. The vocal is very compressed and you can especially hear it work on the attacks in the B section and choruses.

3.  There's also a lot of auto-tuning going, sometimes more obvious than others.

4. Check out the cool stereo delay effect at 2:45 that's spread hard left and right.

5. The harmony background vocals in the choruses sound like they're Katy vocal samples triggered with a keyboard.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Decade Specific Words In Song Titles

Decade specific song titles image
Rhythm, feel, chordal structure and melody of popular songs change with the decades, so why shouldn't song titles change as well? A study by shows that they do, and much more than you might think.

The informal study looks at the Billboard charts from 1890 to 2014 and came to a number of interesting conclusions (as excerpted from the article).

  • The 2010s seem both more vulgar ("hell" and "f*ck") and more inclusive ("we" instead of the "you", "ya" and "u" of the 1990s and 2000s).
  • The 1990s and 2000s featured "U", "Ya" and "Thang". and "U."
  • Lots of the decades can be made into intelligible five-word sentences. For example: "Hell Yeah, We Die, F*ck!" (2010s). "Ya Breathe It Like U" (2000s), "You Get Up, U Thang" (1990s), "Don't Rock On Fire, Love" (1980s), "Sing, Moon, In A Swing" (1930s)
  • As anyone who listens to the radio in December knows, all the Christmas songs are oldies, and that shows in the results for the 1950s, with "Christmas" and "Red-nosed".
  • You can track genres with the keywords: "Rag" (1910s), "Blues" (1920s), "Swing" (1930s), "Boogie", "Polka" (1940s), "Mambo" (1950s), "Twist" (1960s), "Disco" (1970s), "Rock" (1970s and 1980s). After that, people realized you don't have to actually name the genre in the song title, people can figure it out by listening. (N'Sync must not have gotten that memo for 2001's "Pop".)

There's a lot more including a great chart on

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Good Things Happen With Alternate Guitar Tunings

Alternate Guitar Tunings image
I received a few requests lately about alternate guitar tunings, so I thought it was time for a repost on the subject from 4 or 5 years ago (since Blogger doesn't make looking through the archives easy).

Sometimes changing the tuning of a guitar from standard to some alternate tuning can create a different sound that really makes a song sparkle or a guitar stand out from the track. In this excerpt from The Ultimate Guitar Tone Handbook, we'll take a look at the different types of tunings available as well as provide a few examples on songs that you've probably heard before.

"Like an electric, the standard tuning for an acoustic guitar is E-A-D-G-B-E (low to high), where the pitch of each note is referenced to a standard pitch (A = 440.0Hz). However, the guitar is an easy instrument to change tunings with in order to create a whole new palate of sonic possibilities. These tunings can be placed into several subcategories, such as open tunings, lower tunings, higher tunings, dropped tunings and double drop tunings.

Open Tunings
Open tunings allow the guitarist to play a chord without any fretting, and has long been a favorite of the blues greats, especially those specializing in the slide guitar. You’ve heard Open G tuning, D-G-D-G-B-D, on many of the Rolling Stones hits including "Start Me Up," "Brown Sugar" and "Honkey Tonk Women." It was also a favorite tuning of Mississippi Delta bluesmen Son House, Charlie Patton and Robert Johnson.

Open A tuning, E-A-C#-E-A-E, was famously used by The White Stripes on "Seven Nation Army" (although that’s not acoustic), and Open D, D-A-D-F#-A-D, is favored by 60’s folk giant Richie Havens.

Another popular tuning, D-A-D-G-A-D, is sometimes called D modal or Celtic tuning. You’ve heard it on Led Zeppelin’s "Kashmir" and "Black Mountainside," and the Doobie Brothers’ "Black Water."

Drop Tunings
Drop tunings lower just the 6th string of the standard tuning, with Drop D being one of the most popular. Drop D is tuned as D-A-D-G-B-E and is used by Soundgarden ("Spoonman"), Creed ("Higher"), Radiohead ("Optimistic") and Led Zeppelin ("Moby Dick"). Drop C, C-G-C-F-A-D, would be a full step down from Drop D.

With double drop tunings, the 1st and 6th strings are dropped a full step, so Double Drop D is laid out as D-A-D-G-B-D. This was used by Neil Young on his hits "Cinnamon Girl," "When You Dance," "The Loner" and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s "Ohio." Double Drop C, C-G-C-F-A-C, is a full step down from Double Drop D.

Lower Tunings
With lower tunings, all six strings are tuned down. An Eb tuning drops each string down a half-step and has been very popular with some of the greatest guitar players of our time such as Edward Van Halen, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Jimi Hendrix and Slash.

D tuning, D-G-C-F-A-D, where each string is tuned down a full step, is a favorite of John Fogarty, Dream Theater and the Nirvana hit "Come As You Are."

C tuning would be down two full steps to C-F-Bb-Eb-C-G, and has been used by Queens of the Stone Age and other metal bands. Tunings even lower are favored by Swedish death metal bands, but string tension will be quite low on some of these tunings, causing tuning and intonation problems.

High Tunings
Higher tunings, which are not used as much with acoustic guitars, will increase the string tension. F# tuning would be one full step up from standard with the strings at F#-B-E-A-C#-F# and G tuning (also sometimes called Third tuning) is G-C-F-A#-D-G. Not all acoustic instruments can handle these tunings, so it might be better to use a capo instead."

To read additional excerpts on this and my other books, check out the excerpts page on my website.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Simon Phillips On Drum Tuning

Simon Phillips on drum tuning image
Here's a terrific video where the great Simon Phillips (Jeff Beck, The Who, Toto, Eric Clapton, and many more) shows legendary engineer Alan Parsons some tips and tricks for drum tuning. This is one of the most insightful interviews on drum sounds ever.

You'll never look at a paint can the same after watching this video.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Deezer US CEO Tyler Goldman On My Latest Inner Circle Podcast

Tyler Goldman - CEO US of Deezer image
You may not be hip to the streaming network Deezer yet, but it's available in 189 countries and has an impressive 6 million paid subscribers. Deezer's US CEO Tyler Goldman joins me for a conversation about the what's happening in streaming music now and what might happen down the road.

In the intro I'll also take a look at why the "Happy Birthday" song is not in the public domain and the new evidence that might finally get it there, as well as the things you should know if you're going to book your private studio out to other people.

Also, I'm happy to announce that the podcast has been selected as one of the Top 10 music industry podcasts by Indie Connect.

Remember that you can find the podcast at, or either on iTunes or Stitcher.

New Music Gear Monday: Roland System 100 Software Synth

Roland System-100 Plut-Out software Synth image
Back when synthesizer technology was young, the Roland semi-modular Model 101 synthesizer and 102 expander unit was a favorite of many keyboard players because of it fat sounding oscillators, sample and hold, and ring modulator.

Roland recently introduced a software version of this great synth called the SYSTEM-100 Plug-Out that reproduces all of the features, patching and sound of the revered hardware version.

SYSTEM-100 also combines the features of the 102 expander, along with integrated reverb, delay, phasor and arpeggiator.

While the old analog synth required patchcords to connect the various modules and single paths, the SYSTEM-100 software uses a matrix with virtual patchcords to accomplish the same thing with ease.

The Roland SYSTEM-100 is available in for Windows or Mac in VST, AU and Plug-Out configurations, and includes a free trial period. It's retail price is $195.


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