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

Discussion in 'Bad Dog Cafe' started by billy logan, Oct 11, 2021.

  1. billy logan

    billy logan Tele-Holic

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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 ;-)
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2021
  2. Fiesta Red

    Fiesta Red Poster Extraordinaire

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    Yes, probably playing to a tape…

    However, I had an occasional jam-mate who had some kind of synth that could be triggered based on which button he pushed in order to play songs like that.
     
  3. W.L.Weller

    W.L.Weller Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

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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.
     
  4. Greg70

    Greg70 Tele-Holic

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    Suzanne Vega's "Widow's Walk" has a similar effect throughout, although not as prominent in the mix.

     
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  5. regularslinky

    regularslinky Tele-Afflicted

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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.
     
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  6. Peegoo

    Peegoo Doctor of Teleocity

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    It is a pitched tone, either a saw or square wave, heavily processed. Playing live, they probably ran a sequencer, operated by a stage hand, sync'd to a click that drummer Frank keyed on.
     
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  7. Fiesta Red

    Fiesta Red Poster Extraordinaire

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    I was at the filming of that concert…you can see me and my drummer moving around in the audience at one point.:cool::cool::cool:

    Buddy Whittington was in the audience as well…
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2021
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  8. tap4154

    tap4154 Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    ZZ Top uses backing tracks in concert. I've seen them several times and that was clear.
     
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  9. scelestus

    scelestus Tele-Holic

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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.
     
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  10. loudboy

    loudboy Tele-Meister

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    Neither Frank nor Dusty played a note on Eliminator, it was all Billy and Terry Manning, the engineer.
     
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  11. soul-o

    soul-o Friend of Leo's

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  12. Blrfl

    Blrfl Tele-Afflicted

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    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.
     
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2021
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