Know how this Elvis Costello Big Boys Demo was recorded?

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banana brains
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Know how this Elvis Costello Big Boys Demo was recorded?

Post by banana brains » Mon Jun 16, 2014 4:40 pm

Sorry for such a simple question, but there is something I really like about the sound of this demo:

http://youtu.be/6Ku2U5YQaDY

Just curious about what mic(s) it sounds like was used. One or two mics. What type of compression if any and what type of reverb?

To me I can hear some reverb (really smooth), perhaps room? I can't tell if it is just one mic, but I'd guess not because both the vocal and guitar sound really up front and present to me. I can't really hear any compression, but probably used a little.

That's my guess, but my ear is not that trained. I'd love to hear what you think.[/url]

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Post by Gregg Juke » Wed Jun 18, 2014 1:02 pm

I have no idea what microphones were used, but I did listen and came-up with these very tentative conclusions: tight slapback (or actual room sound with low ceiling?) with tiny (tiny) bit of reverb (?). The guitar sometimes sounds like a clean electric rather than acoustic (then not; hard to tell)... I wonder if he used both? It sounds like two guitars in certain spots, but the rhythm was played pretty dad-gum closely each time. The vocal sounds great, and is typical Elvis C., but do I detect a tiny bit of preamp distortion/peaky-ness on some of the louder notes?

I'm only listening on cheesey little Dells spaced half-an-inch apart, so if anybody else hears something different, feel free to chime in.

GJ
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Post by jgimbel » Wed Jun 18, 2014 11:57 pm

Sounds exactly like my Jaguar unplugged to me. Kind of like an unplugged Tele but with a little more resonance to it since it's got the extra section of strings open after the stopbar. I like the sound, but it doesn't sound like some big production with compression/slapback/reverb to me. It sounds like him playing an unplugged electric, singing (at the same time or not) in a room that has a little reflection to it, recorded a little too hot so it's pushing on clipping, basically limiting it.
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Post by lyman » Thu Jun 19, 2014 7:19 am

That's a cool song. I think it's one guitar....the notes in the lower register have a chunkiness to the palm muting that sound more acoustic than unplugged electric imho. But then when he lets the higher notes ring out it does have that unplugged electric sound. Maybe an unplugged hollowbody electric? Or just an unconventional acoustic sound.

Verb sounds artificial, based on the way it trails off (you can hear pretty well in the beginning of the song). EDIT: tho maybe i'm just hearing the gate cutting the room off

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Post by Gregg Juke » Thu Jun 19, 2014 3:01 pm

Yeah, confusing little "simple song," isn't it?

I agree with (myself and) jgimbel; I think it's two guitars, not only because I can hear that clean electric and also acoustic tone, but there's that lower-strings chunky muted rhythm you mentioned-- it seems to chug through a couple of sections where some of the higher string stuff couldn't really be played without four hands, if you know what I mean. Listen again and check it out; if you real guitar players don't agree, I will defer to your expertise (I'm more of a "guitar owner"). But I don't think the chunky rhythm and the ringing 4-beat chords can exist at the same time without two guitars (starting at about :45, and again at the end at 2:10).

GJ
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Post by banana brains » Thu Jun 19, 2014 7:50 pm

there's another demo song in that collection (running out of angels) that sounds exactly the same (to me). he starts and stops and says "sorry I blew it" then begins playing again. This leads me to believe it is one guitar and he is singing at the same time.

When he speaks that part you can hear the reverb really well too, which is more than you might think.

Personally, I can only hear an acoustic guitar. When the high strings ring I think he is just strumming all six instead of the top few strings. I'm going to listen more carefully tomorrow. Below is the link to the song he stops and restarts:

http://youtu.be/eBRqZ2G0pSo

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Post by jgimbel » Sun Jun 22, 2014 9:21 pm

I listened on different monitors today. It definitely does sound more acoustic to me than I originally thought, but there are some of those high string parts that really sound unplugged electric. It doesn't sound like two guitars to me. Maybe it's a parlor acoustic with some funky high strings, or an unplugged hollow/semihollow? Certain parts really sound like my Jaguar but I hear other parts that I don't think my Jaguar could sound like. I've recorded an unplugged Epiphone Casino before and depending on the playing it can be convincing as both acoustic or electric. Pretty curious recording!
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Post by Jarvis » Sun Jun 22, 2014 11:52 pm

Elvis C, Hell yeah.
I hear acoustic & electric guitars, but that's my 58 yo beat up rock 'n roll ears.
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Post by RoyMatthews » Mon Jun 23, 2014 5:46 am

Well, who am I to throw a guess into the ring? No, one but I will anyway. It definitely sounds like an acoustic to me and just one guitar. There are times when the higher strings have an electric quality but I can't see the point in overdubbing another guitar on a demo like this. Maybe the guitars ad a pickup and had some of that blended in. Maybe it was capo'ed? I can't tell by how low the notes go when he plays but that could also make the higher notes sound electric.

There definitely artificial reverb on the vocal. I'd guess a room sound.

I think the more engaging part of the demo is the slight distortion, especially apparent on the vocal throughout. There's so many ways that could have occurred that it's hard to say what caused it. Who knows what the signal chain was. I'm assuming that since this was a session of demos for the songs then I'm assuming they went for simplicity and speed. It looks like the demo was recorded in January of 1978 at Eden studios. One could probably make some guesses based on that.
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Post by Gregg Juke » Mon Jun 23, 2014 11:51 am

OK, so what have we established?

Multiple ears seem to think that:

* There are two separate guitar sounds, but they may or may not be made by one or two guitars(??)... I think the "hollow-body unplugged" theory might be on to something

* There is reverb (and maybe some delay)

* There is some peak-y distortion on the vocal when the dynamics are pushed a bit

The detail "1978 at Eden Studios" is interesting (I did more than a little Google searching and couldn't really find any details; where did that come from?)... Maybe we can find out what mikes/pres were used after all?

GJ
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Post by RoyMatthews » Mon Jun 23, 2014 11:56 am

Gregg Juke wrote: The detail "1978 at Eden Studios" is interesting (I did more than a little Google searching and couldn't really find any details; where did that come from?)... Maybe we can find out what mikes/pres were used after all?

GJ
I found that info here:
http://www.elviscostello.info/wiki/index.php/Big_Boys
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Post by banana brains » Tue Jun 24, 2014 7:27 pm

i just listened to it on a pair of focal spirit professionals (decent headphones).

This could definitely be a hollow big body electric unplugged, it could be a parlor too.

If it is an acoustic, it doesn't sound like a condenser mic to me because there is very little high end detail. Ribbon or dynamic perhaps?

Definitely artificial reverb.

I don't hear any room and the mics sound pretty close to the source. Could be one mic, could be two.

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