The Importance of Panning

The Importance of Panning

The above article is about how bands are mixed on record.  I think it is simple enough to follow that even someone that doesn’t understand recording could get something out of it.

I have mentioned that I am obsessed with AC/DC lately.  One of the things that I love about their records is the simplicity.  I especially love the sound of their guitars and the way that they are mixed.  All of AC/DC’s records feature the brothers Malcolm and Angus Young.  (Malcolm Young just retired, but he is on all of the band’s records except their soon to be released new record.)  On AC/DC records there are very few recorded tracks that the band can’t play live.  When you listen to their records you hear a band mixed like you were seeing them live.  When you see AC/DC live Malcolm’s amps are on stage left and Angus Young’s amps are on stage right.  When you listen to their music on a stereo or headphones you therefor hear Malcolm’s guitar on the left ear or speaker, and Angus’s guitar on the right.  Angus later adds his solos and they are mixed mostly in the middle or only slightly off to one side.

When something is only on one side or the other, or more on one side than the other, this is called panning.  When things were recorded in mono everything was equal in both speakers.  Stereo allows you split what instrument is on what speaker or side of your headphones.  This helps with clarity as everything is not fighting for the same space.

However, like with AC/DC, it can actually make a record more interesting as well.  You can listen to one of their records and tell what each brother is playing and how their guitars compliment each other.  I used AC/DC as an example not only because they are featured in the above article, nor because I am really enjoying them right now, but their mixes are really a simple and clear way to understand panning.  Listen to one of their songs sometime on headphones, and notice how each headphone features a different guitar that is complimenting the other one.  You will realize how well constructed the guitar parts.

If you have even the slightest interest in how a group of musicians can create something that is more than the sum of its parts, these kinds of records are a great place to start.

Some Thoughts On Recording

I was in the studio all day cutting a track for the upcoming tribute album to the late great Ted Hawkins.  There is no place I would rather be then the studio.  Today it was a crack commando unit backing up the singer of the Turnpike Troubadours, Evan Felker.  We knew the song we were going to do, and the key, but aside from that the arrangement was born in the studio.  It was pretty old school in that for basic tracks we just jammed until something sounded right, with Kevin Russell, who is producing, guiding our ship when we would get too far out.  It also never hurts to have an engineer like Stuart Sullivan running the technical side of things.  It was a good mix of thought and feeling today.  Never allowing the conscious mind to get in the way, but just enough thought so that the song ebbed and flowed in just the right way.

I like to do my homework before recording.  I like to know the chord changes so I’m not learning the song on the spot and wasting other people’s time.  I like to have a couple ideas stockpiled in my back pocket in case things hit a rut.  However, I am always happy to go another direction and land somewhere unexpected.    A song is like a frame.  There are certain boundaries that it dictates.  However, in that frame there are a lot of different ways that you can color it.  It is good to have a place to start from, but to not be afraid to throw everything out the window as new ideas present themselves.

When I am doing a session where I am just the bass player, I try to listen to the other musicians and be complimentary to what is going on.  I try to find that balance between giving someone what they want and making sure what I do is unique and interesting in some way.  I never want to take the focus off what is most important in the song, yet I don’t want to just deliver meat and potatoes, unless that is what is called for.  Sometimes you will find that the stock thing is what works, but I usually feel that arrangements are helped when everyone is adding a little bit of their personality to them.  The way that session players in places like Nashville play is just atrocious to me.  They may be technically amazing, but there is no soul.  I’d literally rather hear an electronic dance record by someone that knows how to make them than that shit.

So that’s what I did today, and what I’m thinking about.  I’m about to dive back into Ken Burns’s Civil War series.  Now for something completely different…

Let There Be Rock

Was listening to the album Let There Be Rock by AC/DC all day.  It is an absolutely fantastic rock n roll album.  I have no idea how the album was recorded, but it sounds like an album recorded by a band live in a room while rolling some fat tape.  It may seem simple to some, but the playing, writing, and recording are tremendous.  Every groove is deep in the pocket.  The guitars sound like snarling dogs.  The lyrics are funny and witty and delivered for maximum effect by Bon Scott.  There aren’t many overdubs that couldn’t be performed live, a guitar part here and there.  I love records like this, that sound like an actual band.  A great deal of the magic is from the way the musicians interact with each other.  This is primal physical stuff.  At the same time there is more sophistication going on in the arrangements then appears.  This can be seen in the way there are long pauses on the title track, and then all of a sudden the band explodes back into the song.  That’s not amateur hour there.  Angus Young’s lead work sounds like he is taking the paint off of an entire countryside of barns.  There is a reason that every one from metal bands to Fugazi’s Ian MacKaye love this band.  They are the very best at what they do.  The title track, which may be my favorite AC/DC song will be posted above.  It’s also one of my favorite rock videos.

Shows, Shows, Shows

This is a rundown of this week’s Shinyribs show, as well as current upcoming solo gigs.

Shinyribs this week (All Texas):

Thursday – Fort Worth – Capital Bar – 9pm – Free Show
Friday – Lubbock – The Blue Light – 11pm
Saturday – Roscoe – The Lumberyard – 8pm

Kev will also be playing at the Volcano in Houston tonight at 8pm I believe.  This is a solo show and I will not be making it.

Get more info at:

http://shinyribs.org/shows.html

Solo gigs on the books are at Strange Brew in ATX:

November 5th – 6pm – with Kacy Crowley
December 21st – 4pm – with Kacy Crowley

Basically the gigs with Kacy are song swaps, although my partner in crime, Alex Moralez, comes out and plays drums, and I will play bass when Kacy is singing.  I am working on building a solo website, but it will probably take a little time as I am pretty busy between gigs and working on a campaign to get public transportation passed in Austin.  I love Austin, but the traffic here is pretty hellish.  If we could fix that it would be a huge step forward.  We are trying to get the first major step in public transportation passed this November, but all the usual people are fighting it.  The city is supposed to double in size by 2040, so if we don’t do something now it is going to only get worse.

So anyway, at some point I will build a website, and I should have footage of the TV show I did coming to me so that y’all can here what my solo material sounds like.  I hope to make an album at some point next year, as soon as possible.  Working on getting more solo gigs which I will hopefully announce soon.

in the future when all’s well…

Jefferson

The Misfits Halloween

In honor of October and the approaching holiday, I thought I would post this song from the Misfits, one of my favorite punk bands.  A great deal of The Misfits work sounds like it was recorded in a trash can.  However, I view this as actually adding properly to the atmosphere of their work as their lyrics often deal with B-horror movie themes.  Their recordings also have never dated because of this.  A great deal of the time, although there are exceptions like U2’s Achtung Baby, music that is recorded with the latest technology dates the fastest.  Meanwhile, music that sounds primitive often never dates.  I am talking strictly from a recording perspective.  The Misfits were always one of the best punk bands to me because they had a singer with a truly great voice in Glenn Danzig.  The music could be very aggressive at times, but sometimes, although he could scream with the best of them, he would croon, which created a great juxtaposition.  They are one of the bands I listened to as a teenager that has never gone out of rotation in my record collection.

Hold On, Hold Out

In honor of Jackson Browne’s new album coming out, Standing in the Breach, I wanted to post one of my favorite songs of his which is off his most underrated album Hold Out.  The song is called Hold On, Hold Out.  This isn’t one of his deepest albums lyrically, but it is one of his most musical and melodic.  It is also a high point of studio recording.  It’s one of those albums that just sounds great.  I’m not saying that this album in particular was an influence, but when Daft Punk created Random Access Memories, this is the era of recording that influenced that record.  Everything is warm and inviting sounding, before the technology made mainstream recordings start to sound clinical.

I have been so exhausted lately that I am bordering on insane.  I put this song on today while I went to meet a friend and it instantly lifted my spirits.  Every time I hear this song I want to be on Pacific Highway 1 with a giant spliff in my possession.  Some of you might find the end spoken word part cheesy, but I don’t give a fuck, I love every minute of this song.

Marah’s Melody of Rain Video

My last posts may have been too dark for a Monday morning.  I’m stuck in the airport and I’m sure many of you are stuck at work. (Which is where I surfed the internet so much I once thought I found the end of it!)  Here is a little joy in the form of music.  This is Melody of Rain by Marah from their Marah Presents Mountain Minstrelsy of Pennsylvania album.  In my humble opinion they are the best band from my home state of Pa and at the height of their powers they are one of the greatest rock n roll bands out there right now.  Like many great bands they can’t be properly defined by one genre, but even when they are doing something like this that has one foot in folk music, they always have another in rock n roll.