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View Full Version : How to get that 'Steely Dan' kind of clarity?


drybij
02-20-2011, 11:23 AM
I was comparing one of my mixes to a Steely Dan reference track (Godwhacker) and was once again impressed with the clarity and punch of the mix.

I noticed that my mix was so much thicker and full. Too much in your face. It was a good mix of individual tracks but each individual instrument sounded to thick.

So what to do first:

I though extreme EQing - remove all but the frequencies that I want to have cut through. This seems to yield a marginal improvement, but it's no silver bullet.

I also noticed that the 'space' in the SD mix is so quiet and pronounced. Could compression and noise gating help my mix?

Also, the sounds in the SD mix are so punchy and cut through like a hot knife. Could an exciter help out?

The answer is obviously some combination of all of the above, and I'm about to head downstairs to the studio to subject my g/f of yet another afternoon of hearing the same parts over and over, but I guess I was looking for some insight from someone who may have achieved this kind of mix.

Sonically yours,

d

Ed Zeppeli
02-20-2011, 02:27 PM
I'm interested in hearing a response to this too.

I'd like to be able to give each instrument it's own space without eqing so dramatically that it doesn't sound natural.


Cheers,

Warren

dub3000
02-20-2011, 02:50 PM
most of it is the source and arrangement: expert players who don't stomp all over each other's parts, playing immaculately maintained instruments through great amps, into classic mics and outboard, in a room with a lot of effective sound treatment.

Fritz
02-20-2011, 02:51 PM
Quote from Roger Nichols, Steely Dan Producer

I have added a few microphones to my collection over the years. An AKG Gold Tube Mic, a couple of AKG 451s, a few Sure SM-91 condensers, a B&K 4006, a matched pair of Neuman TLM-150 transformerless microphones, a couple of PZMs, an Altec 623c (figure that one out), Beyer ribbons, some Brooke Siren direct boxes and a few other miscellaneous items crowd my closet. I drag them out, set them up and they sound great, most of the time. Every once in a while, though, I am forced to use equalization to get the sound that I want. Capital YUCHK. I hate EQ. Especially if something needs a lot of it. (Is 3db a lot?) Vocals start to get sibilant when you brighten them, drums start to loose their nice attack because of the phase shifts added around the equalized frequency.

A few projects over the years have allowed me the time necessary to change whatever was needed to get the sound right. Change drum heads, change drums, change drummers, change room placement, change rooms, change studios, change cities, change the weather, anything before equalization. Most projects involving mere mortals, however, do not offer such luxuries. Well, maybe if I just use a little EQ and then twist the knob around on the shaft so that it looks like it points to zero. Naaaaaaaah.

dub3000
02-20-2011, 02:52 PM
also, i wouldn't be using an exciter to try and get that sound!

the best practice exercise would be to try and cover one of their songs. in the mix, identify each part and try and mix your part to sound exactly like their part.

but... instruments/playing/room is like 80% of it. at least.

robo
02-20-2011, 03:00 PM
Or find one of the guitar hero moggs.

Ed Zeppeli
02-20-2011, 03:04 PM
Fritz; love that quote. It stresses the importance if getting things sounding great right at the mic.

The more I hear pros mixing stuff, (Kenny Goia, some dude on GearSlutz has a thread), the more I realize I have to get the sound going in!

The mixes sound awesome before it's even 'mixed'!

henge
02-20-2011, 03:06 PM
but... instruments/playing/room is like 80% of it. at least.

More like 90%! LOL. The room is so important. Most of home recordists don't have beautifully tuned rooms that are specifically for recording. That's where alot of depth and imaging comes from. Also like dub said the players were some of the best in the world recorded by some of the best engineers in the world!
Tough to acheive that sound without those ingredients.;-)

drybij
02-20-2011, 03:36 PM
...all good replies. Thank you. Alas, it's much further off than I had hoped.

junioreq
02-20-2011, 03:49 PM
Hey, fredonia, about 40 mins down the 90 from me :) Unfortunately, for us home recordists, we dont have mic choices :(

~Rob.

dub3000
02-20-2011, 03:51 PM
Hey, fredonia, about 40 mins down the 90 from me :) Unfortunately, for us home recordists, we dont have mic choices :(

~Rob.

playing and arrangement is more important than mics and outboard.

room treatment is probably in the middle.

Sheppola
02-20-2011, 03:53 PM
I agree with all the of the above.It may or may not be possible to reproduce a classic sound/engineer/production at home but I say,"Why Bother".Why not try and get,"Your sound" e.g a good clear decent quality sound that doesn't sound bad played on most things.

I recently watched a small Biog on TV of Tom Petty.He came out with a classic quote something like,"People who listen and like a piece of music don't care how it was recorded"

Seems pretty close to spot on to me :)

chrisharbin
02-20-2011, 03:56 PM
It might have already been covered here but you ever notice that you have to turn up steely dan pieces? That's right, they are not squished and smashed aka the metallica method.

Sorry if it's been mentioned.

mixer
02-20-2011, 04:19 PM
I was comparing one of my mixes to a Steely Dan reference track

Stop comparing to Steely Dan. Things will be much easier. :)

I've always been amazed at the clarity and precision of their mixes. Truly an art form! Keep practicing, I guess. If you discover the secret, let me know. (No one else, just me.) As mentioned, I think a lot of it is getting the original recording as good as possible.

subject my g/f of yet another afternoon of hearing the same parts over and over

I hope she's into music and/or the technical side of things. Otherwise, a future post will be titled "How I lost my g/f." :) I used to get 30 seconds (max) bi-monthly for wifely music analysis. I don't bother at all now. Just not her thing.

numi
02-20-2011, 04:40 PM
I would start by putting a high pass filter on every track except the bass and kick with a 80Hz shelf. This would open up the low end.

Then, take some time to see how the bass guitar and kick are competing with each other and use a sharp notch filter to cut where needed..only -3db max here and there until they are not competing with each other anymore. It might be a good idea to roll of any excess frequencies on the kick drum and bass also depending on the mix.

Then take some time notching out where the vocals set in the rest of the mix(meaning, make space for the vocals to sit so they are not fighting for the same eq space). If you guitars sound a little too full...take out a little form the mid range.

Oh, and check your panning. I imagine for the track you are comparing to, the kick is in the middle..along with snare slightly off center. Vocal down the center, toms panned a little to the left and right emulating a drum kit's perspective. Guitars lightly panned off center.

Boost a little in the highs on the vocals to help give them air and cut through the mix.

Compress the drum buss with a nice transparent compressor but don't over do it.

Make sure your reverb for everything is not too much and make sure your vocal delay effect if any is side-chained so it doesn't smear over itself.

Couple this with a light parallel compressor just gentle bussed and raised in the background..along with a decent limiter but not to smashed and you should get a nice clean mix.

These are just a few tips I use when mixing for myself...not sure if this helps..but maybe there is something in here you haven't tried yet.

P.S. There is no reason why you shouldn't be able to get a good solid clean mix, as long as what was put in was of good quality to begin with.

Ed Zeppeli
02-20-2011, 04:55 PM
playing and arrangement is more important than mics and outboard.

room treatment is probably in the middle.

I'm not trying to be disrespectful but I disagree w/ the premise somewhat. Can we take a Steely Dan song, simplify the technical playing aspects to our own levels of musicianship and come out with an equally great sounding album? No.

Sure, musicianship is crucial but it sure sounds like (based on Roger Nichols quote above)gear, mic placement and environment were the real fundamental defining factors into attaining their technical (not musical) sounds.


Cheers,

Warren

dub3000
02-20-2011, 05:03 PM
I'm not trying to be disrespectful but I disagree w/ the premise somewhat. Can we take a Steely Dan song, simplify the technical playing aspects to our own levels of musicianship and come out with an equally great sounding album? No.

Sure, musicianship is crucial but it sure sounds like (based on Roger Nichols quote above)gear, mic placement and environment were the real fundamental defining factors into attaining their technical (not musical) sounds.

Cheers,

Warren


if you have two players that have instruments in the same frequency range and they are playing exactly in the pocket, or are leaving plenty of space around their phrasing for the other player, it'll just sit nice in the mix. if they're smearing all over each other's parts, then you'll be forced to start using EQ boosts/cuts so that they're distinct from one another, and all of a sudden you start losing little bits of fidelity.

i'm going to say it again, and from experience: a single decent mono omni mic in the middle of a nice-sounding room full of excellent musicians will sound better, even from a fidelity point of view, than a crap high-school band in a top-class studio - every time.

steveo42
02-20-2011, 05:13 PM
Arrangements, top quality musicians and meticulous production.

I would suggest getting one of the Steely Dan charts and studying the arrangements. There is a book out with a few of their tunes pretty much note for note and when you study these the first thing you will notice is that each of the instrument parts, for the most part, is not playing anything overly complex.

However when you put them all together, they sound very complex.
Like others have said, a key trick is to have the musicians not step on each other.

Just my 2 cents and I'm a huge Steely Dan fan from a listener POV. I don't really know much about them as people other than their having a miserable experience with dbx on one of their sessions.

Ed Zeppeli
02-20-2011, 05:14 PM
You make a great point. Good musicians essentially arrange the piece themselves.

I'm not sure if this conversation helps the OP at all though in trying to get that Steely sound in his own recordings.

junioreq
02-20-2011, 05:29 PM
btw if your using ezdrummer and some crap ampsim and a digital reverb umm hahah forget it!


~Rob.

chrisharbin
02-20-2011, 05:31 PM
btw if your using ezdrummer and some crap ampsim and a digital reverb umm hahah forget it!


~Rob.

darn it, well that just ruins my dreams hehe

dub3000
02-20-2011, 05:34 PM
i should probably point out - i'm really not a big fan of steely dan :-)

but i can recognize amazing production when i hear it.

PitchSlap
02-20-2011, 05:59 PM
Ok, here's the secret if you aren't Steely Dan and Roger Nichols with millions of dollars in equipment...

(Keep in mind this approach is almost the complete opposite of how they achieve clarity)

The short answer is to spectrally edit the f#ck out of every track.

We all know how important high/lowpassing is and this just takes the same concept to extremes.

BEFORE
Notice all the faint blue 'fuzz' in the top and bottom. This is the exact opposite of clarity. Multiply this by every track in your song and you lose clarity and definition. Everything sounds exactly how it looks, 'fuzzy'.
http://stash.reaper.fm/oldsb/1071067/before.gif

AFTER
This is the exact same audio after spectral editing. Notice how much more 'clear' it is? It doesn't matter how many tracks you have, when summed, nothing is still nothing. Then when you have a track that fills that space it's not competing with all the other junk and sounds 'clear'.
http://stash.reaper.fm/oldsb/1071071/after.gif

I discovered this trick last year and it made a huge difference, although it's laborious so I only did it for a few tracks.

Hope that helps! :D

Geoff Waddington
02-20-2011, 06:04 PM
i'm going to say it again, and from experience: a single decent mono omni mic in the middle of a nice-sounding room full of excellent musicians will sound better, even from a fidelity point of view, than a crap high-school band in a top-class studio - every time.


This man speaketh the deep truth grasshopper !!

dub3000
02-20-2011, 06:12 PM
This man speaketh the deep truth grasshopper !!

...i was once that high-school kid in a top-class studio (we won a competition). let's just say: i learnt the hard way.

Coachz
02-20-2011, 06:23 PM
Can you name a specific song that shows simple parts that make a complex sound?

Arrangements, top quality musicians and meticulous production.

I would suggest getting one of the Steely Dan charts and studying the arrangements. There is a book out with a few of their tunes pretty much note for note and when you study these the first thing you will notice is that each of the instrument parts, for the most part, is not playing anything overly complex.

However when you put them all together, they sound very complex.
Like others have said, a key trick is to have the musicians not step on each other.

Just my 2 cents and I'm a huge Steely Dan fan from a listener POV. I don't really know much about them as people other than their having a miserable experience with dbx on one of their sessions.

Coachz
02-20-2011, 06:26 PM
What are the axes labels here? What are we looking at?


Ok, here's the secret if you aren't Steely Dan and Roger Nichols with millions of dollars in equipment...

(Keep in mind this approach is almost the complete opposite of how they achieve clarity)

The short answer is to spectrally edit the f#ck out of every track.

We all know how important high/lowpassing is and this just takes the same concept to extremes.

BEFORE
Notice all the faint blue 'fuzz' in the top and bottom. This is the exact opposite of clarity. Multiply this by every track in your song and you lose clarity and definition. Everything sounds exactly how it looks, 'fuzzy'.
http://stash.reaper.fm/oldsb/1071067/before.gif

AFTER
This is the exact same audio after spectral editing. Notice how much more 'clear' it is? It doesn't matter how many tracks you have, when summed, nothing is still nothing. Then when you have a track that fills that space it's not competing with all the other junk and sounds 'clear'.
http://stash.reaper.fm/oldsb/1071071/after.gif

I discovered this trick last year and it made a huge difference, although it's laborious so I only did it for a few tracks.

Hope that helps! :D

steveo42
02-20-2011, 06:48 PM
Can you name a specific song that shows simple parts that make a complex sound?

Aja is one.

Listen to the intro. Hear how when the instruments add up the simple start sounds much more complex, like there is a lot going on?

The drum stuff at the end is of course quite complex and unbelievably well recorded IMHO. Probably one of the best drum sounds ever IMHO.

Kid Charlemagne is another.

chrisharbin
02-20-2011, 06:49 PM
Ok, here's the secret if you aren't Steely Dan and Roger Nichols with millions of dollars in equipment...

(Keep in mind this approach is almost the complete opposite of how they achieve clarity)

The short answer is to spectrally edit the f#ck out of every track.

We all know how important high/lowpassing is and this just takes the same concept to extremes.

BEFORE
Notice all the faint blue 'fuzz' in the top and bottom. This is the exact opposite of clarity. Multiply this by every track in your song and you lose clarity and definition. Everything sounds exactly how it looks, 'fuzzy'.
http://stash.reaper.fm/oldsb/1071067/before.gif

AFTER
This is the exact same audio after spectral editing. Notice how much more 'clear' it is? It doesn't matter how many tracks you have, when summed, nothing is still nothing. Then when you have a track that fills that space it's not competing with all the other junk and sounds 'clear'.
http://stash.reaper.fm/oldsb/1071071/after.gif

I discovered this trick last year and it made a huge difference, although it's laborious so I only did it for a few tracks.

Hope that helps! :D

Fascinating. Is this the izotope RX?

nightscope
02-20-2011, 07:10 PM
The BBC aired a great Steely Dan programme in their Classic Albums series some years ago. A few clips from it below:-

The Making Of "Peg" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=waIBA6_0GQc&feature=related

The Making Of "Home At Last" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pXfdxlsc9hA&feature=related

The Making Of "Aja" The Making Of http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u9MusH-QijY

The Making Of Deacon Blues http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SfS5zCCZGWI

Aja Oddments http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xip4IArEMhQ

ns

PitchSlap
02-20-2011, 07:11 PM
What are the axes labels here? What are we looking at?

0Hz-20,000Hz and the file is around 10 seconds long.

Fascinating. Is this the izotope RX?

Yes. It's really cool.

This is the type of editing you want to do offline so Schwa's Spectro doesn't work as well, although if he made it standalone and tweaked a few things to make it closer to iZotope RX it should work just as good.

The best part is that unlike tradition EQing you can listen to just the frequency selection and make sure you aren't removing anything you don't want to. You can even edit the space between the notes, but I didn't find much additional benefit to that.

Also it works best for 'real' recordings that aren't quite ideal and most synthesizers are already really clean, so it doesn't help there.

Another important thing is to make sure there is something that actually utilizes this space (back to arrangement), otherwise it will sound dull and unnatural.

Even so, it might be necessary to add a little 'sizzle' back in using something like a multiband harmonic exciter (like in Ozone), especially if you overdo it, which I did initially.

chrisharbin
02-20-2011, 07:51 PM
Of course now you've opened up a can of worms and sound examples are necessary :D

steveo42
02-20-2011, 08:30 PM
@nightscope

Great stuff!

Thanks for posting.

70srocker
02-20-2011, 08:32 PM
Check out the Classic Albums:Aja DVD. You'll learn a lot about how they record/produce/perform...the whole process. Check out Michael McDodalds backing vox on Peg. He's singing Chords. Unusual stuff like that makes a record....the grooves on these songs are all so tight and locked....GREAT players make a huge difference on how the final product is going to turn out.

drybij
02-20-2011, 09:06 PM
The BBC aired a great Steely Dan programme in their Classic Albums series some years ago. A few clips from it below:-

The Making Of "Peg" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=waIBA6_0GQc&feature=related

The Making Of "Home At Last" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pXfdxlsc9hA&feature=related

The Making Of "Aja" The Making Of http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u9MusH-QijY

The Making Of Deacon Blues http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SfS5zCCZGWI

Aja Oddments http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xip4IArEMhQ

ns

I was hoping someone was going to post this stuff. Thanks! Great stuff!

drybij
02-20-2011, 09:08 PM
Hey, fredonia, about 40 mins down the 90 from me :) Unfortunately, for us home recordists, we dont have mic choices :(

~Rob.

yessir! do you ever play down this way?

musicbynumbers
02-20-2011, 09:34 PM
Just watched the peg one... just blows me away the musicianship :)

What a fu*king groove! ;)

I play this song to my students and they look confused most probably thinking it's "un-cool" (just like parenthesis are!) ;)

amazing stuff! ;)


The BBC aired a great Steely Dan programme in their Classic Albums series some years ago. A few clips from it below:-

The Making Of "Peg" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=waIBA6_0GQc&feature=related

The Making Of "Home At Last" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pXfdxlsc9hA&feature=related

The Making Of "Aja" The Making Of http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u9MusH-QijY

The Making Of Deacon Blues http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SfS5zCCZGWI

Aja Oddments http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xip4IArEMhQ

ns

pbk
02-20-2011, 10:17 PM
BTW, if you are not aware of it, Nichols is fighting pancreatic cancer since last year. He has his studio here in South Florida. Very unfortunate, he is one of the best.

chrisharbin
02-20-2011, 10:40 PM
I did hear that and I am sorry, really for anyone who has to battle that.

jmcecil
02-21-2011, 07:11 AM
I don't think the SD crew had spectrum analyzers in the 70s. :P

Although Aja is probably the first time they went for the ULTRA detailed sound, you can hear the same sort of attention to detail on all of their 70s recordings.

I doubt there is any one thing that makes it possible. I'm pretty sure this is a "sum of the parts" situation.

Immaculate song structure/construction. Every instrument is crafted. From what I recall the songs were completely written and rehearsed prior to going into the studio. There is some one off moments of improvisation and "trying things", but only within the frame of the finished song.

"A" list musicians...
"A" list engineers...
"A" list mixers ....
"A" list mastering .....

You get the idea. When people are meticulous at every single stage, you get a meticulous product. But, from the interviews and specials I've seen, it's pretty clear that those songs sounded incredible before mixing ever started.

I'm pretty much a "can't polish a turd" person. Good musicians with a good recording crews will make mixing more an act of "attention" focus, instead of fixing the sound.

jmcecil
02-21-2011, 07:18 AM
Oh yeah, forgot to finish answering the question...

1)Completely write the song. Every instrument, every note. Score it out so you know what's going on. Give the song shape and room.

2)Don't use distortion and/or multi-tracking offset as a "background" filler. Stage each instrument like you would an orchestra. Make sure you have sonic balance across the pan.

3)Rehearse your ass off so that everyone know wtf is going on.

4)Use exactly the right pieces of gear to get exactly the correct tonal quality that makes the instrument fit the desired staging you mapped out in step 2.

5)Spend a lot of time trying out different rooms and treatments to get a good ambiance that fits the song(s)

6)Hit record

stratman
02-21-2011, 09:12 AM
I marvel at the clarity of Steely Dan tracks.

most of it is the source and arrangement: expert players who don't stomp all over each other's parts, playing immaculately maintained instruments through great amps, into classic mics and outboard, in a room with a lot of effective sound treatment.

I think this is probably the essence of it.

The clarity suits the style of music, where numerous well recorded and well played instruments occupy their own time space (i.e. leave space in the rhythm for other instruments) and frequency space. All of the instruments knit well together to create a great composite groove, with a generally understated feel.

I'm not convinced the Steely Dan type of clarity can work once you get into the area of high energy stuff, big power guitars, big synth pads, big epic tracks (with strong reverbs), big powerful drums sounds (i.e. any tracks using big sustained sounds). But I'd be happy to be proved wrong :)

Pete

jas
02-21-2011, 09:48 AM
I was comparing one of my mixes to a Steely Dan reference track (Godwhacker) and was once again impressed with the clarity and punch of the mix.

I also noticed that the 'space' in the SD mix is so quiet and pronounced. Could compression and noise gating help my mix?

d

Many years ago, as a 2nd engineer, I met Bill Schnee. He recorded overdubs on Aja at Producer's Workshop in Hollywood. I knew him from a studio nearby called Audio Arts.

http://www.computeraudiophile.com/content/Grammy-Winning-Engineer-Bill-Schnee-Talks-Computer-Audiophile-Part-1

I remember him saying once that Elliot Scheiner:

http://mixonline.com/recording/interviews/audio_elliot_scheiner/

mixed Aja using an outboard bank of compressors on every channel.

That was extremely unusual for us, as we were very much of minimal electronics and the straight line school of thought. But the result was brilliant.

Another great engineer who worked with them slightly thereafter was Daniel Lazerus:

http://www.granatino.com/sdresource/21lazerus.htm

Magicbuss
02-21-2011, 10:00 AM
More like 90%! LOL. The room is so important. Most of home recordists don't have beautifully tuned rooms that are specifically for recording. That's where alot of depth and imaging comes from. Also like dub said the players were some of the best in the world recorded by some of the best engineers in the world!
Tough to acheive that sound without those ingredients.;-)

Yup, world class musicians playing world class instruments through world class mic chains in an uber expensive acoustically tuned room with a world class engineer calling the shots.

I am a big fan of Roger Nichols but I would LOVE to see him record and mix without EQ using your typical Hobby recordists rig and room. Ain't gonna happen. Ditto for Alan parsons and his well known lack of compression on Dark side of the moon.

lunker
02-21-2011, 10:54 AM
Can you name a specific song that shows simple parts that make a complex sound?

I was listening to "Deacon Blues" on the drive in this morning, and (as always) I was mystifyingly impressed with how subtle Larry Carlton's guitar is. It stands out when it needs to, but takes a back seat most of the time while still contributing to the track. The bass is amazing, too -- the timing is excellent, and the note choice really drives the tune without overwhelming it. The horns come in and out as needed. In the link posted above, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SfS5zCCZGWI, at 6:30 they highlight a synthesizer line that is extremely simple, but adds so much to the song. The same for the background vocals they discuss at 8:34.

Altogether, fairly simple parts adding up to a full sounding, complex mix.

msore
02-21-2011, 12:55 PM
The lessons passed on in this thread apply to all kinds of projects.

To software/programming. The after-the-fact process of fixing bugs is typically full of more bugs [look at Windows], so design the thing carefullly in the first place!

When running a business, quality of the product will get you further than constantly making it up to customers for their buying faulty products.

Government?
Brewing?
Cooking?
Songwriting?
And parenting???

Peter Richan
02-21-2011, 01:23 PM
So if you can't change the room...
And yes, arrangement and performance come first, but the following are very important in making a mix sound clear and punchy.

Search for some articles on the frequencies of each instrument, and suggested eq for each, ie if you boost Kick @ 85hz, dip the bass @85, and boost it at 65hz, both have fullness, but are not masking each other. Check these articles out:

http://www.digitalprosound.com/2002/03_mar/tutorials/mixing_excerpt1.htm

http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/1995_articles/mar95/eq.html

Additionally - REAPER RULES!!
I just started trying out parameter modulation, which is related to side-chaining and ducking. Really amazing stuff, check out the article in Sound on Sound:

http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/oct10/articles/reaper-technique-1010.htm

karbomusic
02-21-2011, 06:12 PM
I am a big fan of Roger Nichols but I would LOVE to see him record and mix without EQ using your typical Hobby recordists rig and room. Ain't gonna happen.

I agree but let me add my old timer's comment...

I'll bet a nice sum that 90% of the hobby recordist could get much, much less needed for EQ tracks my simply realizing and practicing getting it right at the source, arranging for the song instead of themselves and knowing why they play what they play instead of trying to fit a guitar part for example that is clearly a square peg being forced into a round hole.

I'd even take a stab and say your average hobby, semi-pro and possibly higher think VSTs are the magic dust (if not main tool) for getting a good mix these days. Seriously, how many people here "shave" an amp anymore much less know the term?

Karbo

Coachz
02-21-2011, 06:29 PM
Yeah it sounds great. It is moving over many chord changes too

Aja is one.

Listen to the intro. Hear how when the instruments add up the simple start sounds much more complex, like there is a lot going on?

The drum stuff at the end is of course quite complex and unbelievably well recorded IMHO. Probably one of the best drum sounds ever IMHO.

Kid Charlemagne is another.

steveo42
02-21-2011, 08:24 PM
Yeah it sounds great. It is moving over many chord changes too

That's just it, it's NOT moving over chord changes!
Believe it or not, and I didn't till I looked :)

It's all Bmaj7 up until the last word of "Up on the hill, people stop and stare" where on the word "stare" it changes to a B11.

It's the arrangement that makes it sound like there's a lot going on.

It's all Rhythm Guitar playing simple notes, electric and acoustic piano also playing mostly simple notes and of course the bass and percussion.

I'm looking at the score from the Hal Leonard "Transcribed Scores Series " "The Best Of Steely Dan".

Tedwood
02-21-2011, 08:50 PM
Seriously, how many people here "shave" an amp anymore much less know the term?

Karbo


...erm, how embarrassing!

I never "shaved" an amp, or have the foggiest what you are on about Karbo

I did however, make a nice set of fairly convincing Steely Dan chains. See my Tone Factory

These are there:

Peg try lead picking Bridge/middle pup

Kid (Charlemagne)- Neck pickup

Bod Bodhishatva neck/middle

Grainy Dan slightly over the top, suitable for all steely Dan type solos

karbomusic
02-21-2011, 09:37 PM
...erm, how embarrassing!

I never "shaved" an amp, or have the foggiest what you are on about Karbo



hehe... You don't use a razor to shave it... :D Maybe the term isn't that well known but it is the act of turning the guitar amp and mic pre up (louder than it should be) so you can hear the hiss coming from the speaker. You then move the mic around with headphones on listening to the tonal and phase changes. Its the poor mans method of finding the sweet spot when micing an amp without playing the guitar. Some people I know call it shaving the amp due to the sound the hiss makes as you move the mic around in front of the amp as if you were shaving it.

Will check the chains sometime.

Karbo

jas
02-21-2011, 09:47 PM
That's just it, it's NOT moving over chord changes!
Believe it or not, and I didn't till I looked :)

It's all Bmaj7 up until the last word of "Up on the hill, people stop and stare" where on the word "stare" it changes to a B11.

It's the arrangement that makes it sound like there's a lot going on.

It's all Rhythm Guitar playing simple notes, electric and acoustic piano also playing mostly simple notes and of course the bass and percussion.

I'm looking at the score from the Hal Leonard "Transcribed Scores Series " "The Best Of Steely Dan".

Okay, so take a Bmaj7. I hazard to say that you can't find a chord with more voicing on a guitar than a maj7. Now, put on your arranger hat and play complimenting voices. There is great wisdom to the method Steely Dan employ by writing out the arrangements ahead of time. It gives everyone a chance to orchestrate. I'd add the big influence of black music to their pieces. We all worked often in black gospel in the day, or as Jay Graydon would call it Rock Around the Cross.

mrufino1
02-21-2011, 11:12 PM
hehe... You don't use a razor to shave it... :D Maybe the term isn't that well known but it is the act of turning the guitar amp and mic pre up (louder than it should be) so you can hear the hiss coming from the speaker. You then move the mic around with headphones on listening to the tonal and phase changes. Its the poor mans method of finding the sweet spot when micing an amp without playing the guitar. Some people I know call it shaving the amp due to the sound the hiss makes as you move the mic around in front of the amp as if you were shaving it.

Will check the chains sometime.

Karbo

Nice. I do that, he talks about it in Mixing with Your Mind, except he uses a pink noise generator, and since I don't have one, I use his suggestion of touching the end of the guitar cable so it buzzes and using that sound, and on amps that are hissing, I do use that. I think it is a very effective way to learn about miking.

Artbay
02-22-2011, 02:22 PM
...think VSTs are the magic dust (if not main tool) for getting a good mix these days.been there done that, and before vst it was hardware exciters like the aphex. reaper forum is curing me of that habit :)

icarusi
02-22-2011, 03:04 PM
I also noticed that the 'space' in the SD mix is so quiet and pronounced. Could compression and noise gating help my mix?

Also, the sounds in the SD mix are so punchy and cut through like a hot knife. Could an exciter help out?

An exciter will only boost the apparent 'top' on something already recorded which is too muddy sounding or would sound very hissy or it's level would be too high, if eq was used to the same effect. It can work well on a full mix though.

I've used gating and compression to clean up a busy mix. Also used hand drawn volume envelopes where that wasn't sufficient and also 'ducking' to make a main-sound lower the volume of backing tracks.

A lot of the time the SD tracks have been arranged to sound sparse and clean with expensive reverbs used to make it sound less dry. At one time those reverbs were always expensive but now DAWs have some very good ones free or included in the budget packs.

You may find only some sections of your own track are over-busy, so you could loop playback at those points and mute each track, or groups of tracks, to see if you can get it sounding clean, then do something about how much of the muted tracks you let back into the mix.

One advantage of hand drawing envelopes is the accuracy, and repeatability, compared to moving sliders on a big complex mix.

stupeT
02-23-2011, 02:05 AM
Check out the Classic Albums:Aja DVD. You'll learn a lot about how they record/produce/perform...the whole process. Check out Michael McDodalds backing vox on Peg. He's singing Chords. Unusual stuff like that makes a record....the grooves on these songs are all so tight and locked....GREAT players make a huge difference on how the final product is going to turn out.

Michaels voice is a good example for what I learned from the Aja-DVD: So many tracks of those songs - when soloed - sounded ridiculous, wimpy, unusable, odd, and what more. But the combination... just fantastic. In terms of clarity as well as musical arrangement.

EddieRoss
02-23-2011, 08:40 PM
Just Remember, Those guys are not on any timeline. If they want to record they do and if they don't want to they don't. Also, I don't really know about this but they proably just buy the studio they want to work in then bring in Roger Nichols. Then it's recording for a year or more. There's no telling how many times they record a song or mix it. Once the basic tracks are down they can bring any amount of players that look good to them, use them or not.

And lastly, I remember reading from roger Nichols website He was editing out by the pool on a Island in the sun. Ah... They're not like us? E.

chrisharbin
02-23-2011, 09:43 PM
This thread has for what ever reason reminded me just how much I used to love to play bass (won't touch one anymore) SD tunes were always a ton of fun (I think peg was my fav) the way it went from fingered to slap...but kinda in a subtle way.

stupeT
02-24-2011, 01:04 AM
Once the basic tracks are down they can bring any amount of players that look good to them, use them or not.

And lastly, I remember reading from roger Nichols website He was editing out by the pool on a Island in the sun. Ah... They're not like us? E.

I try to copy the Island-mixing thingie, seems to bring more clarity to my mixes :)

On that DVD they are soloing like 6 or 7 guitar solos from different guitar player heroes for just one song. And at the end of the day they didnt like it and played it on their own. So you guessed right, I think...

stupeT
02-24-2011, 10:27 AM
For those who want the proof of how great STeely Dan is playing and how clear their sound is:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I2uidYRrrUo :)

mixer
02-24-2011, 09:31 PM
For those who want the proof of how great STeely Dan is playing and how clear their sound is:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I2uidYRrrUo :)

Too funny!

bogo
02-24-2011, 10:17 PM
Too funny!

Yeah it's funny but the santana shred is unbeatable.

stupeT
02-25-2011, 02:01 AM
Yeah it's funny but the santana shred is unbeatable.

Yeah, Santana is great.

If you are into jazz: Check out the Miles Davis / Coltrane shred. I died laughing in front of my PC - at the office...

jon_siebert
02-25-2011, 04:24 PM
This thread has for what ever reason reminded me just how much I used to love to play bass (won't touch one anymore) SD tunes were always a ton of fun (I think peg was my fav) the way it went from fingered to slap...but kinda in a subtle way.

Hey! Why not anymore! Bass is the funnest :D

Ed Zeppeli
02-25-2011, 04:26 PM
Hey! Why not anymore! Bass is the funnest :D

uh, not to be a stickler but I believe that's 'more funner'.

mixer
02-25-2011, 09:11 PM
uh, not to be a stickler but I believe that's 'more funner'.

"Most funnest," I believe is the correct useage.

For the superlative, it would be "mostest funnest."

mixer
02-25-2011, 09:26 PM
Check out the Miles Davis / Coltrane shred. I died laughing in front of my PC - at the office...

Just did. Now that's jazz.

I love the guys from 3:10 to 3:18 you can hear yakkin' in the background.

And, man, that drummer cuts loose from 8:40 to 9:00!

This stuff is genius.

chrisharbin
02-25-2011, 09:47 PM
Hey! Why not anymore! Bass is the funnest :D

I want to hold down distorted power chords and listen to blistering distortion. Just not the same on a bass (plus bass is harder on the ol' senior body)

That's what trilian is for :D

PitchSlap
02-26-2011, 01:18 PM
This thread has made me take a 'Roger Nichols approach' to mixing over the last week or so.

Basically I didn't use any plugins or EQ at all and tried to focus on the sound quality of the starting material, and making sure there's a natural blend from the start.

I've been pretty impressed with the results, not surprisingly things sound more open and natural, with plenty of depth and space. The downside is it places a lot of limitations on what can be used sonically, but maybe those are the things that I'd find out don't work anyway when trying to mix?

Makes me almost want to go back to tracks I've mixed the shit out of, remove everything and see if I wasn't just fooling myself.

It takes a lot of discipline to do nothing, when the option is everything... :)

drybij
02-26-2011, 01:51 PM
When I started this thread I was hoping to get some hints as to what kind of processing would help achieve the sound. Since then I learned (for this type of sound at least) that "less is more".

producer
02-26-2011, 03:47 PM
Just Remember, Those guys are not on any timeline. If they want to record they do and if they don't want to they don't. Also, I don't really know about this but they proably just buy the studio they want to work in then bring in Roger Nichols. Then it's recording for a year or more. There's no telling how many times they record a song or mix it. Once the basic tracks are down they can bring any amount of players that look good to them, use them or not.

And lastly, I remember reading from roger Nichols website He was editing out by the pool on a Island in the sun. Ah... They're not like us? E.

Hmmm....
Think Roger Nickols is broke due to illness, at least seems like on some web sites. Guess Stealy Dan will fund the hospital bills, since he did the recordnings Or is it not working this way in USA......

Hardrock69
03-04-2011, 11:22 PM
Not too long ago I read a bio of SD.

When I saw the title of this thread, my first thought was
"you have to be suffering from extreme Obsessive/Compulsive Disorder, and/or be the kind of person who hears things that do not exist who is willing to go through 4 dozen drummers and 24 takes per drummer with no guarantee you will be satisfied". :D

Simply being the best at what you did could not guarantee that SD would use what you had done for them, at least as far as the music end of it went.

That said, their albums are some of the most perfect-sounding albums I have ever heard.

Thanks for asking the question, though, as this is an interesting thread, and even though trying to achieve something even close to their level of quality is most likely an exercise in futility, it gives us a standard to shoot for. :)

hardplay
03-05-2011, 02:26 AM
I agree with all the of the above.It may or may not be possible to reproduce a classic sound/engineer/production at home but I say,"Why Bother".Why not try and get,"Your sound" e.g a good clear decent quality sound that doesn't sound bad played on most things.

I recently watched a small Biog on TV of Tom Petty.He came out with a classic quote something like,"People who listen and like a piece of music don't care how it was recorded"

Seems pretty close to spot on to me :)


In my opinion this would be be your best option, get the best of what you have and make it trademark.

Tedwood
03-05-2011, 05:09 AM
When I started this thread I was hoping to get some hints as to what kind of processing would help achieve the sound. Since then I learned (for this type of sound at least) that "less is more".

In a nutshell I reckon the "besr" processing is no processing, if you diregard preamps and guitar FXs and quality reverb of course. You would want some compression as well, but not so as you can hear it as such.

bigtop
03-05-2011, 09:34 AM
Or find one of the guitar hero moggs.

that's GUS GRISSOM right?

karbomusic
03-05-2011, 09:53 AM
Simply being the best at what you did could not guarantee that SD would use what you had done for them, at least as far as the music end of it went.

I think there was a very smart, yet non-pretentious reason for this. Take 30 guitar players and have them each track a song. One of them and only one of them is going to, by their very nature play and feel exactly what the song needs without even knowing it. Even though they all may be very good at what they do, the song is just going to simply fit one of those players without their even trying.

You could hire a musician that was the best in the world at recreating something described to them but it still wouldn't sound as good as someone who just happened to play that way naturally. By taking such an approach, I could see why their albums sound like they do, they cycled through musicians until magic happened which equipment, production and engineering simply cannot reproduce. Much of that SD clarity is parts that do not step on each other and fit very well. Achieving this increases clarity exponentially without the use of additonal tricks and tools in post. Getting it "right" at the source includes how it is played as much as mic postition etc.

Karbo

msore
03-05-2011, 11:38 AM
What worked out for any band is part skill, part audience, part accident.

What "seems right" is always a post hoc judgment.

You do something, gambling on it. Nine times out of ten the gamble does not work and you gamble again. Some people may get better at gambling but it is still gambling. But when it works, you can look BACK and say how cool. You cannot, however, look forward very often and say "how cool".

What people accept as good or cool or just right depends on so many things, things that are out of the control of the artist. Like style, like the market, like the neighborhood, like mood.

Every day a thousand good songs get written but only one of them will get recorded by someone who does it well so that it is judged (after a while) to be "good". The other 999 get washed back into the creative ocean.

Every day a thousand restaurants with good chefs and good concepts go out of business. But when we look from now into the past, we can glibly say that they were "good" while the failures were not good enough.

Every day there are creative, vibrant children in the world ready to be "great". Some of them will be nurtured so they keep trying. Others will be beaten down or ignored so that they stop trying. From the "omniscient" point of view of looking back at the lives of these kids after they become adults, we can say, "THIS one was good."

And there are some musicians and bands (like the Beatles) who were so successful ($$$) that they could never do anything that was ever judged by fans or critics to be bad. It was all good by the time they were more famous than Jesus. No failures, because they were successes, right?

Good thing for successful people that they are remembered ONLY for their successes.

jas
03-05-2011, 12:02 PM
+1 This is a great argument for the bright side of selective memory. Just forget about the bad stuff and use what works.