Category Archives for "Production"
The band Toto has some of the most acclaimed studio musicians as members, which is why it’s always a pleasure to listen inside one of their songs. Today we’ll take a listen to the isolated drums, keyboards and horns from the Grammy-winning song “Rosanna.” This one’s a real treat! Here’s what to listen for:
1. The late great Jeff Porcaro is on drums playing a version of the half-time “Purdie shuffle” feel. The isolated drums lets you hear why he was one of the most in-demand session drummers ever, with rock solid time and a feel that pushes the track along perfectly. His drums sound great, with just a touch of reverb for ambience.
2. The arrangement is based around David Paich’s (another great session player) piano, which starts in a middle register and moves up an octave for the B section of the song, then back down for the C section and chorus. It also has a nice stereo spread with the left hand panned to about 9 o’clock and the right at around 1:30.
3. Listen to the way Steve Porcaro’s synthesizer strategically weaves in and out of the song. It’s mostly on an organ patch, but you can hear the patch morph into a string patch at the end of the chorus.
4. In the solo section around 3:20, percussion is added that gives that section some movement.
5. Check out the horn section on the turnaround to each chorus and playing a fill line in the chorus. It’s a section of 2 saxes, 2 trumpets and a trombone that are doubled and panned in stereo.
6. The outro jam is a real treat.
If ever there was a track that let you hear why the guys in Toto were all first call session players, this is it.
In what could become one of the more entertaining court battles in music history, Led Zeppelin is being sued for stealing parts of “Stairway To Heaven” from a song by the 60s band Spirit called “Taurus” more than 45 years after the song was written. The estate of Spirit guitarist and “Taurus” songwriter Randy California filed the lawsuit, which is going to trial on May 10th.
All this stems from the fact that Zep opened for Spirit several times during their first tour of the United States during which Spirit performed “Taurus” as part of their set. OK, we get that, but why wait 40+ years to sue?
If you listen to the Spirit song below, you’ll hear some vague similarities to the intro of “Stairway,” but it’s of a rather generic guitar pattern and nothing like the song’s melody. That said, after last year’s “Blurred Lines” plagiarism lawsuit won by the estate of Marvin Gaye, suits like this are now leaning more in favor of the plaintiff than ever before.
It’s been estimated that “Stairway” has made the Zeps $540 million over the years, and the California estate is obviously hoping for at least a reasonable piece of that, but songwriters Jimmy Page and Robert Plant (who are the only Zeps named in the suit) obviously have deep pockets and are willing to fight as necessary.
So songwriters beware, there’s nothing new under the sun given the 12 note scale that western musicians use, so you’re probably copying a previous song without even knowing it. And today, that’s enough to get you sued.
Go to 0:45 on the video below to hear what’s considered to be the similarities between songs.
(photo: Jim Summaria via Wikipedia)
Paul McCartney is one of the most influential bass players ever, and it’s always very cool to be able to listen to his isolated bass tracks. Today we’ll take a listen to The Beatles “Drive My Car” from the Rubber Soul album. Here’s what to listen for.
1. Listen to the pickup notes at the end of the bass phrase during the verse. He doesn’t play it all the time, but it makes for a very funky bass line when he does.
2. Paul plays the bass line of the chorus differently, sometimes even within the same chorus. Sometimes each note is held out, and other times it’s very staccato.
3. The bass track is far from perfect, with a major clam at 1:57 and some minor ones along the way. That said, it took another 10 years or so until production techniques really focused on each individual part and how it interacted with the other elements of the song, as well as how consistently each part was played.
In other words, it’s a great track for its time, but would have been fixed or replayed in today’s production environment.
Many times the ear candy of an overdub session can really make or break a song, but sometimes it’s not easy to create to capture that magic.
Here’s an excerpt from the upcoming second edition of my Music Producer’s Handbook that can act as either an outline or as a reminder to check a number of critical points both before and during your overdub session.
“1. Do you have a list of overdub priorities? Do you know which overdubs absolutely must get done and which ones are less important? A list will keep you on track budget-wise and time-wise.
2. Can you record in the control room? Most players prefer to record in the control room because they like to hear what you’re hearing and they like the immediacy of the communication.
3. Are there too many people in the control room or studio? The fewer the people, the fewer the distractions. It’s best to keep all friends, associates, and hangers-on out of the studio when you’re working to keep the distractions to a minimum.
4. Did you move the vocal or the instrument into the big part of the studio? All instruments sound best when there’s space for the sound to develop, so move the vocal or the instrument into the big part of the studio for overdubs (after you’ve done any basic track fixes). You can cut down on any unwanted reflections from the room by placing baffles around the mic and player.
5. When doubling, are you trying to do something a little different on each track? Using a different mic, mic preamp, room, singer, or distance from the mic will all help to make the sound get bigger.
6. When doubling or adding more guitars, do you have a variety of instruments and amplifiers available? Two guitars (a Les Paul and a Strat, for instance) and two amplifiers (a Fender and a Marshall is the classic combination) combined with different pickup choices will allow a multitude of guitar tracks to live in the mix together more effectively.
7. Are you making it sound better, not just different? Changes aren’t always for the better. Is there a big difference between what you just recorded and the original part? Does the new part make everyone in the studio go crazy in a good way?
8. Would it be better to try recording the part tomorrow? You’d be surprised how much more you can accomplish when you’re fresh.
9. Do you have the studio talkback mic on? Can you hear the musicians in the studio at all times between takes? If they’re talking to you but you can’t hear them, they’ll feel isolated.
10. Do you always have the control room talkback mic on? Can the musicians hear you at all times in between takes? Periods of silence can be a mood killer.
11. Does a musician want to play his or her part again? If a player feels strongly about playing it over, he probably can do it better. Be sure to keep the last recorded part before recording again.”
You can read more from The Music Producer’s Handbook and my other books on the excerpt section of bobbyowsinski.com.
Regardless of your age, you’ve no doubt heard much of Rumors over the years, the great Fleetwood Mac album from 70s. The songs from that record are still heard everywhere today, and a tribute to the contributions to the project (as well as 3 others by Fleetwood Mac) by my guest on this week’s podcast – producer/engineer Ken Caillat.
Ken has a long list superstar credits including The Beach Boys, Frank Sinatra, Pat Benetar, Herbie Hancock and many more. He’s also the father and producer of singer/songwriter Colby Caillat.
During the interview we talk about how he first connected with Fleetwood Mac, the recording of Rumors (including an interesting tape loop story), as well as what it’s like to produce your daughter.
In the intro I’ll take a look at how EDM has peaked and its popularity is slowing, and the implications of SoundCloud’s new Go paid tier.