This song as a template: what's the magic's secret, recording- & producing-wise?

Discussion in 'Recording In Progress' started by RoscoeElegante, Nov 8, 2019 at 8:24 AM.

  1. RoscoeElegante

    RoscoeElegante Friend of Leo's

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    I've always thought that this song was just perfectly produced. Not a bit of mush. Just crisp resonance, in every aspect.


    Lots of separating, really nice reverb on the drums, lots of drum mics.

    But what else? In particular, how do you get the drums so front and center, yet also so perfectly separated?

    Pretty nice tune, singing, lyrics, and playing, too, I might add.\

    (The babe on the beach only happened to be click-bait. This was the warmest YouTube version aurally, I swear!)

    Oh, Canada, again!
     
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2019 at 8:41 AM
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  2. beyer160

    beyer160 Friend of Leo's

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    That's a good example of the dry, '70s drum sound- Steely Dan is another great example.

    The formula is pretty simple-

    -You need a drummer who can control his dynamics- that means hitting evenly, and knowing when to lay in to accentuate a part, or pull back.

    -Well tuned drums- no rings or other funny business, drums need to sound tight and dry.

    -Small, well treated room or drum booth to eliminate any ambiance. Again, you want tight and dry.

    -Mics on each drum. Again... tight and dry. Are there any cymbals except hat? You may not even use overheads.

    -No compression. The drums can be upfront because they don't take up a lot of sonic real estate- the toms thump and quickly decay. I do love epic tom hits that go "BOOOOOMmmmmm", but that's not the name of the game here.

    -A good plate reverb to add back in a little ambiance so it's not too dry, the plate allows you to control it later on instead of printing to tape.

    That's basically it.
     
  3. RoscoeElegante

    RoscoeElegante Friend of Leo's

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    Thanks!

    About the separation: record everything by itself, and space hard left or right, but how about the overlapping aspect? E.g., how much lead acoustic do you bleed into the middle, or mix a bit right? I know that I'll sort it out as I go, but is it best to have things strictly left and right to leave drums, voice, and bass in the middle?

    Finally, maybe I'm just missing it, but why isn't it done this way much anymore? Seems an ideal way to record three- or four-instruments-& -voice songs.

    Dylan's "Meet in the Morning" is done similarly and also sounds great. It's amazing how often great drum tones are lost when not recorded this way.
     
  4. beyer160

    beyer160 Friend of Leo's

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    Not sure exactly what you mean about "recording everything by itself"- this song was probably tracked live with all instruments going at once, but the drummer was probably in a booth for isolation and the other players had baffles around them/their amps. The lead vocal was most likely overdubbed later, and a couple other parts may have been added/changed, but dollars to donuts the drummer tracked this along with a full band playing.

    I hardly ever hard pan anything (like, beyond 9 and 3 o'clock), but that's me. You don't really need to do it to get the separation you're talking about- that's about two things: EQ and arrangement. As for EQ, it's about making sure each instrument has its own sonic space to live in. The bass guitar and the bass drum need to emphasize different frequencies, the guitars and vocal need to have their own zones as well. Arrangement means not having different elements vying for attention at the same time- notice how the 12 string lays back when the vocal kicks in, and the tom hits (and that cool fill I never noticed before at 3:03) come between vocal lines. There is a little guitar noodling while he's singing, but the real lead part stands on its own.

    As to why no one does this anymore, it's the same reason on one wears big collars, wide ties, earth tones and platform boots anymore- fashions change.
     
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  5. RoscoeElegante

    RoscoeElegante Friend of Leo's

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    Thanks again!! Very helpful. This makes the song even more amazing to me, as doing the parts in isolation seems like would make the song's neatness easier to achieve. I'm glad to know this was done likely live, with just voice overdubbed, as I much prefer to do things that way.

    And I hear you about fashions changing, but this is eternal good taste. Sorta like black Tele pickguards being decreed by Zeus and Mother Teresa as better than white ones.
     
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  6. Frontier9

    Frontier9 Friend of Leo's

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    I'd really like to know how that high strung guitar part was done. Sounds like it was open tuned.

    Funny, I probably haven't heard this song since I was a teen, when I was really into Lightfoot - 45 years ago (lord!).
    But I still remember that hum that comes in around 3:15 and really picks up at around 3:20 until the song begins to fade out. The song is in F# and the errant note is a D, so obviously it was unintentional. I used to wonder what it was and why they kept that version.
     
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  7. RoscoeElegante

    RoscoeElegante Friend of Leo's

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    Good ear, Frontier9!

    Offnote from the bass, which likely wasn't capoed, as the 12-string likely was....?

    This may lend credence to beyer160's belief that it was recorded largely live. Maybe they had such a good take overall that, if they heard this (which I'd think they'd had), they considered it not too damaging to retain.

    Just guessing, though.

    I often wonder if such imperfections help make songs and tones sound more natural to us, and thus more evocative....
     
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  8. schmee

    schmee Poster Extraordinaire

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    I don't really hear drum reverb..?
    Yeah, It's a nice mix. Also, the snare is not one of those big deep stadium snares so many drummers use. I like thinner wood snares for that slap sound instead of big boomy hollow sound.
     
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  9. Frontier9

    Frontier9 Friend of Leo's

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    It's a medium dwell plate or chamber reverb that's mixed in at a low volume. Brilliant way to add something to drums without becoming overpowering or obvious.
     
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  10. RoscoeElegante

    RoscoeElegante Friend of Leo's

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    Offhand, do you know if Logic Pro X has those? Or is this pretty much the same set of options: https://support.apple.com/kb/PH27833?locale=en_US&viewlocale=en_US ?
     
  11. Frontier9

    Frontier9 Friend of Leo's

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    I'm sure you can find some nice plate and chamber impulse responses online that you can use in Sound Designer. I don't use Logic Pro, so I can't offer any useful tips on using Sound Designer, though.
     
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  12. Geoff738

    Geoff738 Poster Extraordinaire

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    Arrangement. The arrangement is the mix is the production. More or less.

    It’s pretty spare. Fairly dry drums. Mostly just kick snare and hats. Bass. Guitars. High rhythm that stays out of the way of the vocals bass and drums. And fairly understated acoustic and steel accompaniment, more prominent lead towards the end. Lead and backing vocals. The parts just fit. I bet it almost mixed itself.

    Cheers,
    Geoff
     
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  13. 4pickupguy

    4pickupguy Poster Extraordinaire

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    Sounds like an acoustic in Nashville tuning. No low strings basically.
     
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  14. Bob Womack

    Bob Womack Tele-Holic

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    The snare has reverb but it is delayed before it enters the reverb tank. They probably inserted a tape deck at 15ips before the plate. The delay gives more space to the snare and allows the reverb influence without overwhelming. The guitar is heavily compressed and EQ'd with the limited EQs of the day. Before about 1975 the EQs on consoles often didn't go above 10k. The first really popular outboard parametrics by Orban and UREI came out somewhere around '75-'76. This song is from '74. Here's my personal UREI 545 sitting on top of a Lexicon Prime Time delay from 1979:

    [​IMG]

    Also, do remember that the popular studio monitors of the period had horn tweeters that didn't go up much beyond 14k so period engineers were clustering their EQ work lower where they could hear. They also used Auratone monitors to create a mix that appealed to AM radio and high fidelity be darned - what sold and punched on popular radio was what was sought. These days people sneer at Auratones but I can't say enough about their effect upon mixes of the period. I've collected a few examples as some studios have dumped theirs.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Geez, we are getting the tour of "Bob's Studio Survivors," aren't we?

    There's a fascinating anecdote that might interest you from Val Garay, who was mixing for Linda Ronstadt at the time that relates to period EQ. He recorded a song and mixed it for a particular artist and thought it was on its way to mastering. A couple of days later he got a call from the artist who asked to come see him. The guy said, "I thought I owed it to you to come see you myself to let me know we didn't use your mix so that you weren't blindsided. You see, 'so-and-so' (another engineer) is able to get a much crisper sound than you and I took it to him for a mix." Val appreciated the courtesy and asked for a copy of the mix to study. The mix indeed was brighter and crisper. He took the multitrack into the studio and began to fiddle around and discovered the high frequency EQ. He had literally never used it up to that point because his mentor hadn't and didn't teach him about it. He'd been using the sweepable midrange EQ to do everything. You can go back and listen to his period Ronstadt recordings and hear it. Listen to Orleans' "Still the One" and you can hear it as well.

    So there were philosophical approaches, technical influences, and limitations that were contributing to that sound. If you put your head in the philosophy and adopt some of the tech (monitors) you can influence yourself to create that sound. Auratones are now available again.

    Bob
     
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  15. RoscoeElegante

    RoscoeElegante Friend of Leo's

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    If only I had, well, whatever skills I lack to have been an audio engineer. Because that stuff really is fascinating to me. As much in terms of what it indicates about human ingenuity as anything else. It's fascinating that people figured this stuff out, devised hardware (and later software) to manipulate sound and electric impulses so creatively, etc.

    And yeah, I'd love something like this song's sound for a majority of the stuff I'm beginning to record.

    Thanks again, everyone, for the replies here. I'm learning a lot, even if the technical stuff is at yet over my head.
     
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