Rock n' roll song (about rock n' roll)

June 15, 2008 10:02 AM

We know that rock about rock rarely rocks. And we know that rock about rock about rock rocks. But how about covers of rock about rock about rock?

Hey man, is that Freedom Rock? Well turn it up, man! Seriously, turn this up as loud as you (or your woofers) can stand.

Everybody's recording these interesting, unexpected covers for this month's MeFiMuCha. I figured I'd take it the other direction and give umbú's silly-awesome rocker the ass-kickin', beer-swillin', groupie-bangin' treatment. I hope this meets or exceeds his (and your) arena-rock expectations.

posted by uncleozzy (11 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

This is rockin
posted by BrnP84 at 6:27 PM on June 15, 2008


I can honestly say that I can die happy now--that's what I wanted it to sound like.
posted by umbú at 10:43 AM on June 16, 2008

Awesome; I hoped you'd approve. I actually sequenced the drums the day you posted the original, but didn't get around to tracking the rest until last week. Would have posted it sooner, but I couldn't sit and mix until yesterday. I tried to hit all the stupid-mixing-tricks high points that would befit such epic rock.

I just realized that I left out the cowbell. Damn.
posted by uncleozzy at 11:38 AM on June 16, 2008

Needs more c-- ...nevermind.

uncleozzy: add the mefimucover tag! It's what all the cool kids are doing.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:28 PM on June 16, 2008

This, in fact, rocks.
posted by andrewraff at 10:10 AM on June 17, 2008

Cool kids indeed. I have two words for ya there, uncleozzy...FUCK YEA!!!

(I'm sure my neighbors are pissed right now, but effe 'em, they're always moochin' beer and shit anyway!)
posted by snsranch at 2:43 PM on June 19, 2008

I burned this song, and have been blasting it out of my car. When you have a minute, could you detail some of the mixing tricks that you mentioned. A lot if it was eq, right: squeezing the frequency response of certain sections, so that the next ones will sound huge. And I heard some delay, and gated reverb. What else did/do you do to make the rock rock?

Oh, and I hope you don't mind being outed. What do you use to program the drums so well?
posted by umbú at 10:58 AM on June 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

(Wow, this turned out long. Bear with me, or skip to the end if you just want to see what I recommend for programming drums.)

Well, when I say stupid mixing tricks, I really mean stuff like the telephone delay, the (as you noticed) squeezed telephone EQ, the preverb, and the dry ending (mostly). Stuff you hear in silly pop rock on the radio. (But done only half as well, of course.) In any case, I'm no pro, and I'm really not satisfied with the mixes I'm turning out at home yet, but since you asked, here's a little more about this mix:

I'll skip the obvious (but actually most important) stuff (EQ and compression, among other things, on damn near everything to make them sit well, punch, and gel) and get to the stuff you're meant to notice. When I mix, I stick (almost) all my effects on sends. So what you've got here is:

- a short reverb (just to give things space)
- a long reverb (the selection of which I regret; it sounds cheap); this one probably has a tempo-synced pre-delay
- a mono eighth-note delay (the backup vocals hit this hard; you hear a lot of it at the end)
- the stereo multi-tap (right-left-right), quarter-note, "phone" EQ delay
- a stereo harmonizer effect (one channel is delayed maybe 9ms and detuned -9 cents, the other delayed a little more and tuned +9 cents)--this is good for giving a little width to vocals without being a noticeable "effect"
- a flanger (which was used mostly on the clean guitar line and lead guitar)

I EQ all the sends; so before the reverb plugin, for example, there's an EQ plugin to roll off the bottom (to keep the tails from getting muddy) and the top (to sit it a little further back and keep transients from making it ping so much). And so forth.

As for making things dramatic, that's the whole trick of mixing, if you've got quality tracks (which I didn't, but that's beside the point). The big punch in this song happens in the first chorus, which I think I've managed to make huge (as you noted). Part of it is fader riding (which can't be underestimated), but there are also other tricks.

When the song starts, we've got that fat guitar arpeggio swirling all over the place. The acoustic guitar is doubled with a very short delay and hard-panned to make it wide, but is otherwise really, really thin. So all the meat comes from the guitar and vox (which are actually too thin, I've noticed). There's a little extra space around the vox in this section courtesy of the long reverb.

So as we enter the pre-chorus, the drums and a nasty distorted guitar come in. We EQ everything with this notch between, say, 500Hz and 7.5KHz (it's actually probably a bit narrower). We also lose a lot of the reverb on the vox, so they move a little closer, and the drums are squeezed to mono. So when we launch into the chorus, not only do we get this explosion from the bass (which is very hairy) and the crunchy guitars (which are hard-panned), but also from the drum overheads, which start to sizzle left and right.

Going back into the next verse, once again things get really thin (with that acoustic guitar). We EQ the vox again for the pre-chorus, and launch again into the chorus, which doesn't seem quite as big this time (oops).

As we head into the final section, we get heavier guitars that sizzle a little more, and a third guitar down the middle (since you lose impact with more gain). The "no-no-no" bits are swirly and narrow and EQed to sound a little less present. The result is that when the main vox come back in, they punch just a little bit harder and sound a little bit closer. And everything is actually a dB or two louder in this section.

Then, at the end, we've got a little (extra-wide) vocal preverb that sucks you into the "rarely rocks" bit, which is almost totally dry. We ride all the verb and delay sends down to -inf so the last moment is punchy and a bit surprising (and really, really cheesy). Of course, I managed to miss the last tail of the lead guitar until after I'd bounced it, but whatcha gonna do?

And the drums: that's Addictive Drums, which I think is the best bang-for-your-buck drum virtual instrument. Natural and versatile. I'm not super-psyched with the sequencing I did here, but it's workable. The big thing in natural-sounding drum programming is dynamics and variety, though. I usually de-quantize things (the hihat especially), but didn't get around to it this time. I also could have done a much better job of treating the drums in this mix; they don't gel as much as they should.

In any case, I hope this is helpful. I do think that this is a reasonably good mix (especially considering how quickly it came together), with a few big warts. Hopefully breaking it down helps you understand the process a little bit.
posted by uncleozzy at 6:39 AM on June 23, 2008 [2 favorites]

Nice. Thanks for such a thorough explanation. I'm in the midst of moving right now, but in a couple days I'll read it carefully.
posted by umbú at 12:53 PM on June 26, 2008

Wow. Thanks again for all of that. Independent of the specifics of what you did, the process that you outlined made me realize that I need to focus on the minute details of a mix a lot more.

What software do you use? I have some questions that are probably fairly basic, since I’ve fumbled around on logic self-taught for years. So, when you are changing the eq/reverb/etc. on a given track from one section to the next, are you using automation within the application, moving the recording to a different track with different settings, or do you actually have a mixing board and do it that way?

As you mentioned at the beginning, you skipped talking about eq and compression. Could you write a little about how you go about finding the sweet spot with eq and compression? I always feel like I pinch things too tight, or over or under compress. I know that a lot of it is just listening, but I feel like there must be more method to the madness than I’m currently using.
posted by umbú at 7:12 AM on July 5, 2008

Glad the rambling was a little helpful. I mix (and track) in Logic 8, and the majority of shifting effects and whatnot is automation. Once you get the hang of it, it's dead simple, and really powerful. Stuff that you couldn't even dream of doing with an analog desk unless you had a dozen hands or more.

Honestly, as far as EQ and compression go, take a look at the gear thread. Subtractive EQ is probably the most important tool in your arsenal as a mixer; you've got to make space for all those tracks, particularly in a dense mix. Solo an acoustic guitar in a rock mix and it sounds comical. But in the context of the whole mix, it's just right. Same for vocals. You've got to make sure to emphasize the fundamental (for male vocals, often around 200Hz) without muddying up the bottom end. With digital effects, which are often clean and characterless, you can get away with some pretty dramatic boosts and cuts without ruining your sound. Everything should gel; EQing things in solo is usually a sucker's game.

Compression is another story entirely. Honestly, in a rock mix, you're nuking everything. The amount of limiting on my vocal tracks in a dense mix is almost embarrassing. In a more sparse arrangement, I might compress just enough to round off the peaks and bring up the low bits, and ride the fader to keep the level consistent. On drums or percussive acoustic guitar, I'll often compress reasonably hard and try to get the attack and release working to make it "pump" a little bit, just to give it a little extra bump on the beats. No way to do that but to play with it, really.
posted by uncleozzy at 6:26 AM on July 7, 2008

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