This blog documents the process I took in order to complete the song explored project. This project gave me the task of taking a song and producing it in the style of a producer of my choice. For this project I picked one of my all-time favorite producers Paul Epworth. Paul Epworth is a multi-Grammy winning producer with the likes of Rihana, Beck, Maroon 5, Lana Del Ray, Coldplay and Adele under his belt. There were countless reasons I picked him to follow in this project, one of them being his unique approach to production of the song. Paul has produced music across many genres and has left a very unique touch on each of them respectively. From massive sound pianos on ballads by Adele to very modern sounding electronic synths with maroon 5 Epworth has produced amazing sounding records. Personally being a big fan live recorded pure analogue sounding music is another reason Paul Epworth stood out for me when have to pick a producer. From the time I was first told about this project I knew my producer was going to be Paul Epworth but I had no clue as to what song I was going to do. They say inspiration strikes when you least expect it, it was one day while watching something on YouTube the trailer for Grease showed up on the suggestion bar. It was then it stuck me “hmmm why not do a song from the movie for my project”, and so I picked the song “You’re the one that I want”.
Having researched a fair bit about mu producer I decided instead of copying the production style of one song I’d copy different style of production across a range of songs he has produced over the years. Since Paul was most known for his production of the Hit “Skyfall” the soundtrack to the James Bond film with same name performed by Adele I decided to do the song in the style of a ballad. After having played around with the song on the piano I randomly thought I’d add a very grand sounding intro complete with a string section as similar as something that my producer of choice has added in the start of the song Skyfall. I was extremely eager to record a live string section but unfortunately I couldn’t manage to find access to a string section so I had to commit to MIDI. Having recorded a demo of the song first on MIDI to be present to my tutor. After having presented the demo I proceeded to recording live instruments. I first recorded bass, Paul Epworth tracks are very popularly known for a nice rounded bottom end for which I used a synth sub-bass to give me the real deep bass I was looking but also I used another technique Paul uses got add a bit of spice to the bass line which is distorting the bass and crunching it up with pre amps on the desk for which I used the BAE audio 1073 in the Large Audient studio.
After having a basic structure of the song I proceeded to record piano, this was one of the most important elements of the song. Paul Epworth is most popular for his big piano ballads and big ballads call for a big sounding piano. Having done some research I found out that Paul uses a Steinway grand piano in one of the best recording facilities in the world “Church Studios” London which he also happens to own. The sound I was after was the piano sound on Adele’s 25 album. The studio they recorded the album boasts a massive live room which was turned out of an old church. The way he gets the very grand sounding piano is by putting good mic’s on a very good sounding piano (a Steinway grand in this case) in a very big sounding live room. To achieve this sound I had no acess to a grand piano so I had just two options which were either go MIDI or use the live room in the Neve studio to get the best sound possible. Having also learnt through research that paul usually like to use live instruments in his productions to keep the authenticity of the song I decided to use the piano in the neve studio and instead of close mic it I used a pair of Royer Ribbon microphones to mic the room to give a grand sounding piano. Once I had placed the microphones in a position I like, I proceeded to record a couple of layers just to give the piano a bit more body.
The next thing I recorded was Vocals, this was the hard part….. Scrolling down Paul’s discography on his official website I knew vocals were for sure going to take center place on the track. From the likes of Adele to Rihana vocals were for sure key!!!! The song I chose was a song with lyrics which was a conversation between a boy and a girl but I was not able to find a girl who I was comfortable with who would match the style of the song. So I proceeded to change up the lyrics slightly as it were guy only talking to a girl. As for vocals I got pretty lucky as my good friend Minesh happened to be visiting Melbourne on holiday. Minesh is a Sri Lankan musician who I’ve played with for around 6 years now. He was a fantastic match for the song and was just what I was looking for, so you could I say I got really lucky there.
Once I was happy with the vocal take I went on to record electric guitar which was a technique Paul uses which was pretty straight forward and simple. I used a fender strat through and Ibanez ts-9 pedal into a vox amp which I put a Royer ribbon mic on and recorded. I recorded a coupkle of layers with the electric guitar changing pickup positions in between to give the tone a slight of variation between each layer. I added in a small riff just to spice things up at the end for this I went full crunch on the pedal as well as used the gain staging of the Neve desk to get some distortion off the pre amp.
The final process of the recording was drums I knew this was one of the important bits and would defiantly affect the sound of the song . As for a drummer I needed someone who could play well playing slow and half time. For this I entrusted the drumming to a drummer I had worked with in a project before, SAE tech Gene. To match the song I was looking for a very roomy sounding drum sound. Although I spot mic’d the drums in the mixing stage i mainly used the room mics and over heads. As for drum mic technique it was pretty straight forward the only difference was I used a techniauq paul uses which was a pencil condenser on the snare top for which I used a Neumann KM184.
Mixing this song was absolute fun, most of Paul songs were mixed by my favorite engineer Tom Elmhirst so in the process I did learn many techniques used by him as well. Overall I had absolute blast of a time doing this project and for sure did learn a lot .
Link to Drum Set up video :- https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B4GTnnRl6tvAYU5aMXg1U0VhZjg/view?usp=sharing