tchka-tchka-tchka-tchka thru-out "Legs" ZZ Top. studio: synth++ ok. but Live?

billy logan

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10 minutes ago I was gonna post "How ZZ Top make that sound???" Instead I ended up at Wikipedia and learned it was, paraphrasing:

a synthesizer triggered every 1/16 note, 125 BPM, by a noise gate triggered by a hi-hat sample from a drum machine. Ok good! search Wiki for: "Legs (song)" (it wouldn't cut and paste for me) But now I wonder:

1) The synthesizer sound that is being triggered: it is a percussive sound, right? I mean, I don't hear any pitch

2) How much, if any, of the drum machine's hi-hat sound is recorded?
In other words, could just a click at the correct rate do the job of triggering (as long as the click was strong enough to "open" the noise gate?) - In other other words, that drum machine hi-hat sample in specific was chosen not for its hi-hatness, but for its noise gate-controlling ability? right? [*see edit]

3) When they recorded it, did they just hold down a synth key for 5 minutes and let the technology turn a continuous synth percussion effect into a propulsive "better than a tambourine :)" part for "Legs" ?

but then what's with the
Live version? playing to a tape?:


warning- if you go find it, the visual little drama in the 1984 official video is kinda dumb ime - at least skip to 0:29

[edit - thinking about that hi-hat a little more- Probably the noise-gate CLOSING ability of a certain drum machine's hi-hat's profile figures in - ? -holding the noise gate open a VERY specific teeny tiny length of time until the hi-hat sound decays and the noise gate closes?
So, a click wouldn't have a controllable, adjustable decay point to choose? unlike the hi-hat?
guess that's 4+ questions]

[now- how would you customize a tambourine to make it a "practically no-sustain" tambourine - low-quality jangles? shorter jangle travel? :)]

Roseanne Rosannadanna voice: sry. I'll leave the thread up in case it helps another technology straggler ;-)
 
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W.L.Weller

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I remember seeing them on the La Futura tour and being unable to reconcile the percussion sounds I was hearing with what Frank Beard's arms and legs were doing while they played ("played"?) Legs. But it was only that song.
 

regularslinky

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The Wiki entry says that Frank and Dusty played on the album recording, but it also says (below the sound sample) that's it's all BFG and programmed synths and drum machines. My ears tell me it's all BFG and machines. I don't think Frank or Dusty had much to do with ZZ Top's recordings in that era.

That was the hot sound in 1983, when you heard more programmers than musicians on the radio. I'm not knocking ZZ Top - they embraced the technology and made something cool with it, which is more than most of their contemporaries can say.

And live, they are certainly playing that song (and many others as I recall) to a recorded track.
 

scelestus

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Live they use backing tracks as discussed. I'm skeptical of a hihat trigger, though. It'd be far easier to use an arpeggiator built into the keyboard itself. That could be synced to a LinnDrum pretty quickly in those days.

I also think it's a pitched tone, as it seems to change by my recollection with the tonics of the chords.
 

soul-o

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Neither Frank nor Dusty played a note on Eliminator, it was all Billy and Terry Manning, the engineer.[/QUOTE

Terry Manning is an unsung hero in rock history; played guitar on “I’ll Take You There” and “Respect Yourself” by the Staple Singers, house engineer at Ardent in Memphis when all the Big Star stuff was done and he also engineer a bunch of JimmyPage’s guitar overdubs on Zeppelin 3. As noted, he created the 80s ZZ Top sound with Billy and he went on to run Compass Point studios in Nassau where he worked on things like Tom Tom Club, Joe Cocker, Iron Maiden, Talking Heads, etc.
 

Blrfl

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That was the hot sound in 1983, when you heard more programmers than musicians on the radio.

I've been meaning to write a blog post about this, but anyone who writes music is a programmer.

Software and music have a lot in common: statements (play note X for duration Y), jumps (da capos, dal segnos, codas), function calls (choruses), loops (repeats), switch statements (first and second endings), barriers (fermatas), specializations (accidentals) and probably a handful of other things that escape me at the moment.

What's different between most music and most software is that with music, the program is run by humans who've been trained to execute the instructions imperfectly in ways other humans find pleasing.
 
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