Hey guys, in a previous blog I talked about the track “Otherside” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Today I want to dive into some comparative analysis, looking at the differences between the original track and the cover we finished recently.
Here is our mix
And here is the original
In terms of instrumentation we had all the critical components such as guitar, bass, drums, percussion, vocals and backup vocals. The only differences were all the little nuances you find in equipment like guitar pickups, drum heads etc. We used research and critical listening skills to try achieve the best outcome.
Starting with the guitar comparison, it sits prominent in the mix and was crucial to achieve a similar sound. Luckily we had a great guitarist who gave a solid performance and brought a nice tube amplifier which brought some much needed warmth to the sound. Some extra desirable coloration and distortion was added with his pedal board, the Universal Audio 6176 Pre amp and 6176 compressor. Furthermore some eq and amp simulation was used in pro tools during the final mix down. The Sans Amp plugin was automated to turn on after the intro simulating Frusciante's pedal fx. To me the sound is very close with only some minor differences in terms on eq and natural attitude stemming from John Frusciante's playing style.
With the drums the performance was again rock solid we couldn't have asked for much more. We used almost identical mic's and similar sounding drums, the only thing we were missing was the acoustics of the room. The original drums were recorded in studio B, East West studios L.A on a raised platform which had a certain acoustic vibe. To try and imitate this and make it a little more “roomy” we added a plate reverb to the snare and experimented with our room mic. With some extra time I think some parallel compression on the kick drum combined with a boost at around 8-12 Khz on that parallel bus would help to imitate the natural high end acoustics heard on the original kick. Similar to the kick I think our snare drums seems to be lacking some crack and airiness which could have been helped along by some Eq in the upper mids.
For the percussion section used during the bridge we could only use our ears and assume it was a shaker and a cowbell. We experimented a little and ended up recording a maraca and grabbing a woodblock sample as it was a closer tonal match to anything we had access to.
With the bass we didn't end up getting access to a bass cabinet but we did have a nice jazz Fender guitar. We tried to really dirty up the clean D.I signal by running it through a Neve 1073 replica pre-amp and a outboard Sansamp fx rig. It was a great performance and we achieved a similar sound but I think having a bass cab mic'd up would have yielded better results. The original bass seems to sit a little nicer in the track, almost like it was compared and Eq'd against every instrument individually. It seems like they fine tuned the freq's to find it's place in the mix and gel to track together. Overall thought... it's pretty damn close.
The difference in timbre between lead singer Anthony Kiedis’ and our vocalist proved challenging. With Kiedis’ vocal mixed very dry (little to no effects) made it even more challenging as reverb can sometimes help makes things a little more cohesive. The fact that the vocals sit on top of the instruments (in terms of the mix balance) makes it the most noticeable, demanding your ears attention straight away. It was a good performance and a big ask to try and sound like Kiedis'. In terms of fx on the vocals eq, delay or compression helped to narrow the differences but nothing could change the vocal timbre. Pitch shifting was experimented with and the gap got closer but some notes ended up unnatural. Melodyne was used on the backup vocals and the lead vocal to help gel things together.
I think our track has more dynamics (not as compressed) but less controlled. The original sounds very compressed, but very controlled and balanced across the board. When listening to the sides of the original you can hear a fair bit of clipping occurring. We didn't do any mid/side processing on mix down, something which may have brought some much wanted compression and loudness like the original.
The vibe in the original comes across as more wild and out of control. I think this stems from the musician's ability to go a bit crazy with their own style and come out with some nice little varieties.
Given more mixing time some areas of improvement would come down to some more automation and experimentation with effects on every component. Below is a spectrum analyser showing the overall eq pattern of our mix (the white line) and the original (blue line). As you can see we got close with only a bit lacking in the bottom end and top end.
Trying to sound like one of the best bands in the world who have a unique style of performance is by no means easy, so overall I think we did a pretty good job getting a similar vibe and sound. We have learnt a lot of critical listening skills, mic techniques and outboard processing approaches during the making of this track, helping to further the success of future projects.
McCarthy, Richard. (2015, July 8). OtherSaEde. [video file]. Retrieved from https://vimeo.com/132807218
Red Hot Chili Peppers. (2011, July 15). Otherside. [video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rn_YodiJO6k