Category Archives for "Video"

Journey “Don’t Stop Believin'” Isolated Vocal

Journey Don't Stop Believin'“Don’t Stop Believin'” is one of those classic rock songs that keeps on going and refuses to fade away. You hear it at sporting events, on television and movies, and on the radio even after 35+ years since it was recorded. Journey had a lot of success at its peak, but this may be song that defines them in the end, so today we’re going to have a listen to the isolated lead vocal from the song.

“Don’t Stop…” is an interesting song in that the chorus only comes once in the song and it’s at the end. I can’t think of another song where that happens but it’s not a song structure that you’d teach an aspiring songwriter, and yet here it is in this huge hit. Let’s get into it.

1. Journey vocalist Steve Perry truly has one of the most incredible voices in music and it’s perfectly on display here. The song was recorded as we entered the age of perfectionism in the studio (thanks to the 24 track tape machine), but this performance is still scary good.

2. I didn’t hear one slight imperfection at 0:33 where he went slightly sharp on “…anywhere” but that’s really splitting hairs.

3. The audio quality of this video isn’t great, but you can still hear that the vocal has in a nice long delayed reverb. If you listen carefully to the decay, you can hear a midrange ring to it.

4. On the B sections you can hear a double slightly to the left and an octave below the lead slightly to the right.

5. The vocal is edited together so there’s no big gaps from the instrumental sections of the song.

Best And Worst Isolated Live Vocal Feeds Of 10 Top Artists

live vocal feedsUsually on a Friday I post an isolated track from the studio mix of a hit song. The studio is one thing, since we’re after perfection and there are many tools to help achieve that (including hard work). That said, top artists make most of their money from live performances, so maybe we should take a listen to the isolated live vocal feed from those.

Here are 10 of today’s most famous artists live on stage with just their bare naked isolated vocal track. You be the judge as to how good they are.

The performers are Selena Gomez, Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, Rihanna, Beyonce, Britney Spears, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Demi Lovato, and Mariah Carrey.

Please note: The comments on the video are not mine, but I agree with them.

Ozzy Osbourne “Crazy Train” Isolated Guitar

Randy RhoadsThere are few guitar players that you can truly say are influential, but Randy Rhoads is certainly one of them. His playing on Ozzy Osbourne’s initial solo album set the guitar world on fire, and for many metal players, it’s still the bar that everyone aims for. When “Crazy Train” exploded onto the radio guitar players everyone said to themselves, “What the f$*k was that?” and that’s exactly what we’re going to listen to today – Randy’s isolated guitar track from that hit. Here’s what to listen for (the guitar enters at 0:19 on the video).

1. Yes, that’s two guitar parts spread left and right and not an electronic double (actually producer Max Norman claims that there’s a third part in the middle but for the life of me I can’t hear it). You can hear some inconsistencies with some of the harmonics and chords, but there are very few. Pretty amazing how close the parts are.

2. The ambience that you hear on the guitars is mostly from the room, again according to Norman. There’s also a little bit of an AMS 1580 delay set to a light flange.

3. The solo at 2:49 is just one guitar panned a bit to the left with a short delay from the AMS on the right.

4. Randy used a fully cranked Marshall 100 watt amp (no master volume) with 2 cabinets, so it was a full stack – unusual for recording. The mic on the cabinet was an SM-58 (!!), with an AKG 451 a few feet back outside the amp room, and a couple of Shure SM87s in the room. The use of microphones intended for live may have come from the fact that Norman was primarily a live sound engineer before moving over to the studio.

Wild Cherry “Play That Funky Music” Isolated Vocal

Wild Cherry isolated vocalsSo many of you really like these Friday isolated tracks, but I’ve recently had some comments like, “Why do you keep posting old songs?” Fair enough question, and there are 3 reasons.

1. Plain and simple, the isolated tracks are much more available for older classic tracks than new ones, which are much more closely guarded by labels, artists and producers.

2. More people know the songs. Even if you weren’t born when some of these songs were recorded, you still know them because you’ve heard them on the radio, in movies or on commercials (probably over and over).

3. They present a great learning opportunity. Today’s tracks are scrubbed upside down so they’re perfect, but hits of the past were pretty raw in comparison. They were still hits anyway, so listening to an isolated track with imperfections can be a great lesson on just what’s important when it comes to a hit (hint: it’s performance, not perfection).

With all that said, today’s isolated track we’ve heard a lot through the years. If you lived through the disco era, it represented a sort of surrender of the rockers to a new trend that was taking over at the time. Here’s the isolated vocal track from Wild Cherry’s “Play That Funky Music.”

The story behind it is that Wild Cherry frontman Rob Parissi wanted to write a hit song, and decided to copy a hit, but make it just enough different to avoid getting sued. The #1 song at the time was “Fire” by The Ohio Players, and that was the inspiration for “Play That Funky Music.” The title came from a real life situation where a black audience member shouted, “Play some funky music, white boy,” while the hard rock band played a gig. Here’s what to listen for.

1. Listen for the cowbell on the intro, B sections and chorus on the right channel. You’ll also hear handclaps on the B and chorus sections.

2. The vocal is pretty squashed and has a medium decay delayed plate effect that gives the vocal ambience yet it still sounds dry if you don’t listen closely.

3. Listen for the stereo horn replies after the verse phrases. Sometimes there’s just a baritone sax on the left and trumpets on the right, and sometimes they’re spread in stereo.

4. Unison stereo background vocals are introduced in the B sections and choruses.

5. You can hear the two rhythm guitars spread left and right during the solo at 2:42.

6. You usually don’t hear the 3 part harmonies on the outro at 4:00 onward because the song is faded by then.

The Real Scoop On AC/DC’s Angus Young’s Guitar Sound

Angus YoungIf you were to place one electric guitar sound up on a pedestal as the one to copy, it would probably be the one from AC/DC’s Angus Young. “Back In Black” is still looked upon as an iconic record and sound, and guitar players, engineers and producers have been using a variety of methods to reproduce it every since. The fact of the matter is that his sound in some ways is dead simple, with just a guitar and amp and no pedals, and in another way pretty complex, as you’ll see in this video.

One of the things I liked here is that every aspect of Angus sound is detailed, right down to the amp settings (which are not what you might think), strings and pots on the guitar. It all comes from Angus guitar tech Trace Foster as interviewed by Premier Guitar’s Chris Kies. At the end of the video, guitar tech Greg Howard goes over rhythm guitar player Stevie Young’s very unique (at least guitar-wise) rig as well. You can find out more details about their touring rigs here.

Now let’s all go back to basics by working with the guitar and amp first to get the sound before you introduce those pedals.

[photo: weatherman90]

February 28, 2017

Butch Vig’s Smart Studios Story

Smart StudiosProducer Butch Vig set up Smart Studios with bandmate Steve Marker in Madison, Wisconsin, and thanks to big hits from Smashing Pumpkins and Nirvana, the studio helped define the grunge sound of the ’90s. Now a documentary has been made about the studio by former studio employee Wendy Schneider. Here’s a clip of the Wendy, Butch and Steve talking about the film, studio and gear and the studio’s legacy.

One of the cool parts about the film is you’ll see just how they used some lower-end studio and music gear and still got some great sounds.

Read more about the documentary and gear behind the studio here: https://goo.gl/byUgHr

Edgar Winter Group “Free Ride” Isolated Guitars

Edgar Winter Free RideFor years now we’ve heard The Edgar Winter Group’s “Free Ride“on classic radio, movies and commercials, and as with all hits, there’s a lot of subtle expertise that’s gone into the track. Let’s take a listen to the isolated guitars.

1. The opening guitar riffs, played by songwriter Dan Hartman, is one of the prettiest Strat sounds you’ll ever hear. It’s panned slightly to the left, and you can hear a nice long delayed reverb on the right.

2. The B section feels likes it’s rushing just a bit. That might be because he was following the drums (remember this was before people started to record with a click track) when tracking.

3. Rick Derringer’s lead guitar is up the middle with less reverb (Ronnie Montrose played on the album version). You can hear some of the noise that we’d normally mute today on the second time through.

4. The guitar solo is double an octave up.

5. There’s an ending that you don’t hear on the record as there’s a short jam and a full stop ending if you listen all the way through.

February 17, 2017

Journey “Any Way You Want It” Isolated Organ

Journey isolated organUsually less is more, and that’s what you’ll find in today’s isolated track. Greg Rollie is a great Hammond player and his performance on Journey’s big hit “Any Way You Want It” shows why. There’s feel, tone and dynamics – all the things that lifts the level a performance. Here’s what to listen for.

1. The organ is recorded in mono and it has a boatload of delayed reverb on it that’s very apparent right in the beginning of the song.

2. Greg is playing with two hands (for the most part) – one on each keyboard. You can really hear the difference in the few times that his left hand drops out.

3. The part calls for the organ to shadow the guitar until the end of the verse, then a big swell into the upper keyboard on the chorus.

4. There’s a lot of disciple in this part. It doesn’t vary much in any section, and considering that its so sparse and Rollie has some chops, it’s pretty cool that he puts that aside for the betterment of the song.

5. The chorale setting of the Leslie is used throughout. I’m surprised that he didn’t use the fast rotor setting somewhere in one of the choruses.

The last couple of minutes are same so there’s really nothing new to hear beyond about 1:30.

February 10, 2017

Toto “Rosanna” Isolated Guitars

Rosanna Isolated GuitarsToto is a band of musician’s musicians, with a precision about their work that’s almost unrivaled. Of course that comes from years of top studio work before the band formed, something that can clearly be heard in Steve Lukather’s isolated guitar part on their hit “Rosanna.” Here’s what to listen for.

1. The precision of the playing here is as good as it gets. On time, perfect tempo, and a groove all built into the tracks.

2. The guitar has a short delay (I’d say around 50ms) that’s panned to the right for a great wide stereo effect. You’ll also hear a chorus, longer delays and some different reverbs as well as the song goes from section to section.

3. Listen to how often the guitar sound changes as well. It’s differently in just about every single section of the song.

4. The middle solo 3:15 is still in stereo but it’s very narrow compared to the rest of the song.

5. Check out the solo on the outro. Pure Luke!

The Bee Gees “Staying Alive” Isolated Vocals

Staying Alive The Bee GeesSome might argue that “Staying Alive,” both song and the movie, heralded in the disco age. It’s certainly a song that everyone knows as it was iconic for the time as has seeped into our musical heritage. Whether you like disco or not, the Bee Gees had a sound that was entirely unique and hasn’t been duplicated since. There’s something about brothers singing together that produces a blend like no other, and it’s evidenced here on this isolated vocal track. Here’s what to listen for.

1.  There’s a quarter note delay with a single repeat on the vocals that also has some short room on it. This delay is pretty loud when you hear it by itself, but it disappears into the mix when all the instruments are added (that’s what timed delays do).

2. Barry Gibb’s lead falsetto vocal is by itself, but you’ll hear certain phrases doubled that aren’t obvious in the final mix.

3. The B-section and chorus harmonies are doubled, which is why they’re so thick.

4. The bridge (“Going nowhere…”) full voice track is doubled, but it has a different sound to it than the other sections of the song, which makes me think it was an overdub done on a different day.

5. You can hear a lot of breaths in between words on the lead vocal. Today a producer would be tempted to eliminate them, but they add urgency to the track here.

The Bee Gees were certainly artists of the highest caliber. Great melodies, great changes (although not so much in this song), great lyrics, great harmonies. Always a pleasure to listen to.

1 2 3 9