Old 07-11-2019, 10:43 AM   #1
kirk1701
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Default I'll jump on the Elton bandwagon

It appears I'm not the only one on an Elton John kick lately. Here's my latest effort. I think I started working on this in February, then sort of whittled away at it. The piano and drums were the toughest to sound anywhere near authentic. They're still not ideal, but I learned a good deal.

As good as sampled pianos are these days (I used Analog Lab 4), without some sort of virtual pianist, it's going to sound plunky. The piano is a terribly complex instrument.

The 70s Trident drum sound is also very idiosyncratic. I think I got in the ballpark (or pitch, since it's an English studio?). As usual, the key is tone shaping via eq, transformer/desk/tape saturation, and less compression than you might think. At this point, I think the vinyl mastering process made a huge tonal impact on those classic albums. I think I'm going to try to replicate that process next.

Thanks for listening!

https://www.dropbox.com/s/uclutka1xu...%2011.wav?dl=0
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Old 07-12-2019, 07:51 AM   #2
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I should say you're welcome to provide constructive criticism. I know this isn't perfect. In fact, it's probably rife with issues. That's why I do this. Paint myself into a corner, then analyze how I got there.

No doubt this is NOT my song vocally. I have the range, but not the tone, if that makes sense. I'm aware of all this. I just happen to love this song and wanted to try it.

I always tally up what I learned after these projects so:

-Vocals: On pitch, but not effective. Discovered song is impossible to sing unless you're Elton himself in the 70s.

-Tempo mapping per Kenny Gioia is the best approach. Anything else makes for knots down the line.

-Compression: less is more. Long release is very helpful to make virtual instruments like piano sound more realistic.

-Drums: it IS possible to approximate the Trident/Ken Scott drum sound with SMDrums. Toms require severe EQ.

-Bass: song sits atop the bass like a boat rolling on a lake. Bass has to be big and deep. So 60 to 100hz, under the kik.

-Strings: first outing with this. I composed them entirely myself. The actual charts exist in midi form, but I wanted to compose something. Even if you can't hear them, it's a win for me.

-Guitars: Acoustic guitar was Tod's idea. And a good idea at that. I really should fix the rhythm on that instrument. It doesn't start to work till the hook kicks in.
Leslie guitar was challenging. I was pleased to read the engineers at Trident had trouble mixing that guitar on the original. It was stereo and panned hard left and right. It kept clipping. Mine did the same thing. So I re-cut with mono mic and zeroed the eq on the warble, which kinda sits in the middle. It really wants to take over.

So all this adds up to a win for me, even if it doesn't sound like it.
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Old 07-12-2019, 10:13 AM   #3
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Hats off for trying for sure - I did a similar thing (as RDBOIS on my channel last year where I recorded a few acoustic versions of covers where I had to perform and sing at the same time with no take chopping or punchins) - these things will put hair on ya chest if you know what I mean so congrats..

Performance:

The vocal is the roughest, feel is the second roughest. Two things on the feel...

1) Drums/rhythm seem off from time to time but I'd prefer that or rather continuing to try as non-quantized. If is quantized then something is kind of wrong to my ears. Point though that if you can get the feel right, then it will be far better not quantized.

2) I think there is a lilt/swing in the original, that needs to be here. I think you may have some but the few rhythmic snags make it hard to tell. It does sound like you are trying to get it right though.

What I mean by lilt/swing is that most great rock music that is notated in 4/4 (and not notated as a shuffle or swing) almost always swing just a little bit or more - that's the thing that separates the wheat from the chaff and is often accidentally overlooked. I think even the original vocal has that bounce/swing FWIW.

Mix:

I didn't take time to tear it apart but when the ride cymbal comes in, it seems too bright and/or frequencies that are too high being prominent - so much so that whenever it comes it, it sounds like someone cranked 10kHz on the EQ knob FWIW.

I still think it is a grand effort to be commended.


Edit: I glanced at the sheet music, it actually notates the swing feel so that's good.
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Old 07-12-2019, 11:00 AM   #4
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Well done. Gosh you're going to make my version suck! I had to lower the key way down because I can't sing that high up - heck... even lower I still can't pull it off...

Question: did you put some chorus on the vocals? Yes or no, no matter, I like the effect.

Listening in my headphones, I'm hearing the kick drum all that much. But, it's not a big deal.

There a few places where the timing is just a hair off; for example, just before the "what do you think you'll do" (1:39). Most people would not notice it, but I have OCD when it comes to song tempo, beats, timing, etc. hehehe
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Old 07-12-2019, 11:05 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by karbomusic View Post
Hats off for trying for sure - I did a similar thing (as RDBOIS on my channel last year where I recorded a few acoustic versions of covers where I had to perform and sing at the same time with no take chopping or punchins) - these things will put hair on ya chest if you know what I mean so congrats..

Performance:

The vocal is the roughest, feel is the second roughest. Two things on the feel...

1) Drums/rhythm seem off from time to time but I'd prefer that or rather continuing to try as non-quantized. If is quantized then something is kind of wrong to my ears. Point though that if you can get the feel right, then it will be far better not quantized.

2) I think there is a lilt/swing in the original, that needs to be here. I think you may have some but the few rhythmic snags make it hard to tell. It does sound like you are trying to get it right though.

What I mean by lilt/swing is that most great rock music that is notated in 4/4 (and not notated as a shuffle or swing) almost always swing just a little bit or more - that's the thing that separates the wheat from the chaff and is often accidentally overlooked. I think even the original vocal has that bounce/swing FWIW.

Mix:

I didn't take time to tear it apart but when the ride cymbal comes in, it seems too bright and/or frequencies that are too high being prominent - so much so that whenever it comes it, it sounds like someone cranked 10kHz on the EQ knob FWIW.

I still think it is a grand effort to be commended.


Edit: I glanced at the sheet music, it actually notates the swing feel so that's good.
Thanks for listening! Appreciate the notes!

A cover is not necessarily a recreation. I like to allow it to become it's own thing.

For me, the rhythm snags are mainly in the acoustic guitar. It's on my list of fixes.

The drums are on the swing grid. I have had the same thought about the swing. On the album, everyone is behind the beat.

The ride cymbal is very prominent, I agree. I've been trying to zero in on that. I'm not sure what it is, tbh. I've definitely NOT cranked 10k. It might be the velocity. I have a month or two of failed mixes that are way worse. Once I got it to Pink Floyd territory, I decided to let it go.

I think we all need to agree that no one can sing this song except Elton in the 70s.
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Old 07-12-2019, 11:13 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by RDBOIS View Post
Well done. Gosh you're going to make my version suck! I had to lower the key way down because I can't sing that high up - heck... even lower I still can't pull it off...

Question: did you put some chorus on the vocals? Yes or no, no matter, I like the effect.

Listening in my headphones, I'm hearing the kick drum all that much. But, it's not a big deal.

There a few places where the timing is just a hair off; for example, just before the "what do you think you'll do" (1:39). Most people would not notice it, but I have OCD when it comes to song tempo, beats, timing, etc. hehehe
Thanks!

Vocal effect is ADT, so it's a flanging effect. There's one point where a huge clash happens. I decided to leave it.

I also did a true double-track for the choruses to thicken it. It's a very syrupy number.

You ARE or ARE NOT hearing the kik?

Thanks for being specific about the rhythm snags. I like specificity. I can fix specific things.

Again, I think the culprit is the acoustic. It's ahead of the beat, which makes everything else feel wobbly. I'll have a closer look at that.

Thanks again!
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Old 07-12-2019, 11:17 AM   #7
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I've definitely NOT cranked 10k.
I didn't expect it was, it was just for description purposes.

Quote:
I think we all need to agree that no one can sing this song except Elton in the 70s.
Something to shoot for is I know a number of local friends I play with regularly that could nail that song but that's different than us hanging out here on the forum and often out of our wheelhouses. My singer from my duo from 2009-2013 could nail it but I never recorded any of the Elton tunes we covered, I do have a sample of her singing, this is just straight out of a powered mixer head, aka a mic/guitar and a line out straight to the recorder, just a snip of lights by Journey from some random show:

http://karywall.com/music/robinkary/LightsTeaser.mp3

I'm not saying that's record deal material, just that there are plenty who can sing Elton without issue - also see Coachz post in another thread. I still appreciate your effort, because effort is far more important than not working towards a goal; the biggest thing is the strain to sing it sounds a little extreme - It would if I sang it too.

Quote:
Now, are there any specific rhythmic snags you can point to?
0:29, 0:33, 0:43 but I stopped there as I have to head out for a bit not sure what those flammy things are.

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Old 07-12-2019, 11:26 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by karbomusic View Post
I didn't expect it was, it was just for description purposes.



Something to shoot for is I know a number of people I play with regularly that could sing nail that song but that's different than us hanging out here on the forum and often out of our wheelhouses. My singer from my duo from 2009-2013 could nail it but I never recorded any of the Elton tunes we covered, I do have a sample of her singing, this is just straight out of a powered mixer head, aka a mic/guitar and a line out straight to the recorder, just a snip of lights by Journey from some random show:

http://karywall.com/music/robinkary/LightsTeaser.mp3

I'm not saying that's record deal material, just that there are plenty who can sing Elton without issue. I still appreciate your effort, the biggest thing is the strain to sing it sounds a little extreme - It would if I sang it too.



0:29, 0:33, 0:43 but I stopped there as I have to head out for a bit not sure what those flammy things are.
This song is a cakewalk for a woman, no doubt, but it changes the impact for me. I know very few men who could, is my point. No man does the Frankie Valli/Brian Wilson thing anymore.

Elton also strains a bit, if you listen closely. "You can't plant me..." is very open-throated. He sang into a U67, which smoothed out a lot of the edge. It sounds "just right" on the record.

What you're hearing as straining is actually where my head voice breaks into falsetto. I used that on purpose. It's raspy and gritty. Lends the piece some raw emotion.

If I can fix the rhythmic stuff (again, I'm certain it's the acoustic guitar), it should help the vox "speak" better, if that makes sense.

Appreciate it.
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Old 07-12-2019, 12:09 PM   #9
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All good, again I applaud the effort but I'd spend the time working to get the vocal up to the next level. It actually reminds me a bit of before I quit smoking where there's a weakness holding the note pitches that aren't falsetto - Your vocal rendition bothers me less after multiple listens (that's good) but me thinks the first listen often tells the tale of what needs the most work - take that from a fellow who deals with similar personal challenges in various areas - I've posted my cover vids here, you'll see a similar challenge so I'm not speaking from authority or superiority at all, but rather experience in the field. I wouldn't mention if I didn't think it was important but either way good job!
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Old 07-12-2019, 12:54 PM   #10
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All good, again I applaud the effort but I'd spend the time working to get the vocal up to the next level. It actually reminds me a bit of before I quit smoking where there's a weakness holding the note pitches that aren't falsetto - Your vocal rendition bothers me less after multiple listens (that's good) but me thinks the first listen often tells the tale of what needs the most work - take that from a fellow who deals with similar personal challenges in various areas - I've posted my cover vids here, you'll see a similar challenge so I'm not speaking from authority or superiority at all, but rather experience in the field. I wouldn't mention if I didn't think it was important but either way good job!
Totally appreciate!

Oh yeah, certain notes are shaky, no doubt. Breath support is lacking in some spots. Other bits are just my voice. I've sang everything from classical to Broadway and a certain amount of thickness (for lack of a better term) remains. I have strange nasal passages that contribute to this. e.g. Constant stuffy nose and a bit of a snort when inhaling. I breathe not unlike a horse, lol. I can see how being a smoker would be similar.

If I do re-cut some of the vox, I'm considering renting a U87 or some such high-end vocal mic. If nothing else, it'll give me a microscopic view of my voice.

Oh, another fun fact I learned while doing this: the u47 style mic doesn't suit me because of the rise around 5k. It accentuates all those ugly nasal issues I have. I spoke with Dave at Advanced Audio who recommended the U67 family of mics. That's always good to know.
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Old 07-12-2019, 01:03 PM   #11
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I breathe not unlike a horse, lol. I can see how being a smoker would be similar.
That made me laugh. Before I quit, I couldn't make it through two or three vocal lines and I'd cough for two minutes, and it would sound terribly weak. I'm really glad I quit in 2013, I'm not even a real singer but my vocals vastly improved and I at least have some power back where everything was strained and breathy before - I'm still a little pitchy but that's because I'm not a real singer. I'm pretty sure there's at least one or two collab songs I posted back then and I can still hear me struggling - Bruce's Spirit in the Night is one of them if memory serves - talk about lots of words to sing as a smoker.

Good luck!

Ha it's still here: https://forum.cockos.com/showthread.php?t=151830

Edit: I can't say how much I appreciate your doing this for real and not faking it in post/mix/autotune etc. btw. I prefer to hear people not machines.

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Old 07-12-2019, 01:28 PM   #12
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That made me laugh. Before I quit, I couldn't make it through two or three vocal lines and I'd cough for two minutes, and it would sound terribly weak. I'm really glad I quit in 2013, I'm not even a real singer but my vocals vastly improved and I at least have some power back where everything was strained and breathy before - I'm still a little pitchy but that's because I'm not a real singer. I'm pretty sure there's at least one or two collab songs I posted back then and I can still hear me struggling - Bruce's Spirit in the Night is one of them if memory serves - talk about lots of words to sing as a smoker.

Good luck!

Ha it's still here: https://forum.cockos.com/showthread.php?t=151830

Edit: I can't say how much I appreciate your doing this for real and not faking it in post/mix/autotune etc. btw. I prefer to hear people not machines.
Thanks bud!

To be fair, I did use ReaTune on some notes, but manually and only on the lead vocal track. The pre-chorus stuff is all me. All the vocal tracks are comped as well.
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Old 07-15-2019, 08:47 AM   #13
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Watch this space...
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Old 07-15-2019, 11:06 AM   #14
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Damn, I'm no singer, but this strikes me as a real tough one to nail lol (at best, a very difficult artist to emulate!). I thought the falsetto parts were much better sounding than the non-falsetto parts. I liked those parts the most, especially the chorus. Overall I liked this cover though. Elton John was never really my cup of tea and I'm not a great critic, and while it may not be a technical master piece, I'm familiar with the original and I enjoyed this cover!
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Old 07-15-2019, 08:43 PM   #15
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Edit: I can't say how much I appreciate your doing this for real and not faking it in post/mix/autotune etc. btw. I prefer to hear people not machines.
I was looking for the right words to comment, but I think you nailed it, so I'll just say "me too".

Also, directly to Kirk I know I <push> your buttons a bit dood, but I'm one crusty old mofo, and roll like that. Don't take anything I say too seriously. Life is for laughing!
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Old 07-16-2019, 08:38 AM   #16
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I was looking for the right words to comment, but I think you nailed it, so I'll just say "me too".

Also, directly to Kirk I know I <push> your buttons a bit dood, but I'm one crusty old mofo, and roll like that. Don't take anything I say too seriously. Life is for laughing!
Thanks bud.

Also thanks cstooch, I appreciate your comments.

FYI, I'm working on an updated mix incorporating a good deal of everyone's suggestions.

I also downloaded a demo of Softube's Trident A-Range channel.

It's...ugh...so good.

Really good on submixes.

Totally the missing piece of the puzzle for this sound.

At least it seemed like that last night. It seemed so much different than the Neve sound. It was also more obvious than the Arturia I tried.
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