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Unusual Recording Techniques

David Byrne of the Talking Heads ran around in circles to hyperventilate himself before singing a verse on one of their old songs, "Drugs" to get that panic-attack vibe which Byrne wanted. There's actually tons more that the Heads did with producer Brian Eno that were quite uncommon.

Brian Eno did a lot of experimentations in the studio, like his deconstruction/ reconstruction production in a couple of Talking Heads albums, and Frippertronics, (an analog delay slash tape loop of some sort) which he used along with Robert Fripp.

Martin Hannett, another legendary producer, had Joy Division's Stephen Morris record each drum (bass drum, snare, hi-hats) separately. Hannett demanded this sound separation to get a disjointed feel, and oh how marvelous it worked.

I heard from somewhere that Matthew Herbert sampled actual surgical lasers that he used to form beats. He's also fashioned out tracks from such everyday objects like kitchenware and silverware.

The Flying Lizards' "Money" had a bass drum that's not really a bass drum. It's actually a bass guitar being hit with a stick. The banjo-like piano sound meanwhile was created by throwing objects like rubber toys, a glass ashtray, a phone directory, etc. inside the piano.

I'm sure this is common but Melody of Sugar Hiccup was a little tipsy from Tequila if I remember correctly, when she hit that high note at the end of "5 Years".

My band also used an "unusual" technique (it was unusual to us then) of putting a guitar amp and a mic inside a bathroom while laying down a guitar part to get an actual reverb.

Oh and should I mention John Cage?


  • last.dodo.birdlast.dodo.bird PEx Veteran ⭐⭐
    The Led Zeppelin version of "When the Levee Breaks" features a distinctive and often-sampled pounding drum beat by John Bonham recorded in a three-story stairwell ;)
  • Guillemots used a typewriter for Who Left The Lights Off, Baby? I think. Does that count?
  • Jim Morrison of The Doors recorded the vocals on one of their songs (I forgot which) while a girl was, um, performing ***** on him. Ayos!
  • Gameboy is listed as one of the instruments used on the album "The Information" by Beck.

    cool thread. *okay*
  • Living in opposite coasts in the US, the members of Casino Ashtrays snail-mailed each other DATs to record their parts. E-mailing wav files nowadays are pretty much common, though it's still quite a new idea. The Dreamers, The Haircuts and The Young Tradition are just three bands that come to mind off the bat, whose members live in different states or countries that use e-mail so that the other member(s) could record their part.

    In the song "3:38", post punk band The Pop Group took the music of their single "Beyond Good And Evil" and ran it backwards psychedelic-style and then built a rhythm track for it.

    My Bloody Valentine used a number of different studios to record Loveless. It took them two years to finish the album. A style of guitar playing that Kevin Shields developed during the recording was holding onto the whammy bar while strumming. Rollerskate Skinny also tried to use this style of playing in their album Shoulder Voices the only difference was their guitar player (who is actually Kevin Shields' brother) was pulling the tremolo bar outward while strumming.

    Einsturzende Neubauten used construction materials, power tools, and various metal objects as percussions.

    The recording of Pet Sounds by Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys back in 1966 deserves mentioning. Wilson used a wide array of sound effects plus unconventional instruments like bicycle bells, the Tannerin (aka Electro-Theremin) and dog whistles. There's a lot of musical layers (like Phil Spector, Wilson double-tracked guitars, bass and keyboards - it's essentially Spector's Wall Of Sound concept) on the album and it's rather amazing to think that all of these, plus the elaborate layers of vocal harmonies were laid down using 4-track and 8-track recorders (multi-track studios didn't exist yet).
  • Elliott Smith's From A Basement On A Hill Trivia

    If the song "Little One" is played backwards, one can hear some acoustic guitar lines as they were originally recorded, unreversed.
  • mugadxmugadx PEx Rookie ⭐
    When im in college there is Fine arts artist who used & tried the body of bicycle (batalya)still it has a pick-up with strings re-assemble like to electric guitar its not that technical but how its been done and the sound its produce is like very noisy bouncing yet not sharp when a gadget already installed.

    Why very few using loops programming, moog and other FX in recording here in the philippines? pansin ko kulang sa experimenting
    or may be walang sariling STUDIO para totally makagawa n sariling tunog at style which can distuingish him from other foreign or local artist?

    Autumn, do you have idea about flaming lips more technically gadget used bukod sa gadgets and how they recorded this any idea?
  • mugadxmugadx PEx Rookie ⭐
    Ive tried recording in tape sound of elevator opening, vacuum cleaner on/ off sound, water in glass with different level the used a spoon to hit it. closing opening of cabinet, water tank inside.
    I let my dj friend to help me to separate it and reduce some unnecessary noise then he and transfered to CD so i can play it and loop in my computer and try to extract a beat. what happen really is the possibilities without help of electronic programmed sound which sometimes not available in some small STUDIO. the problem is the time consuming if you have no enough materials to make you r life easier heeheh.
  • mugadx, I remember a Pinoy band who played during the Dredd Cubao days using their own brand of instruments (guitars made out of steel tubes, etc. which they call "sandata" 1 and 2, or something like that). And when they played, they had people doing some impromptu paintings. Their drummer would sometimes leave the drum set and hit whatever he fancied, like the wall behind him. I wonder if they were into the Dada art movement or Fluxus, but they were pretty far-out. I think their name was Intermidya (sp?). Not sure if they're still around.

    In regards to the Flaming Lips, I think they did some backwards-run vocals in one of their older albums. I don't recall which however. A quick Wikipedia search yields their album The Soft Bulletin being much like Pet Sounds and the impossibility of the band playing the songs off the album live without help of an extensive usage of pre-recorded music. Wayne Coyne said, "If someone was to ask me what instrument do I play, I would say the recording studio."

    And in relation to the Flaming Lips, Jonathan Donahue (together with fellow MRer Grasshopper) invented the Tettix Wave Acumulator for his other band, Mercury Rev. I have no idea what it does. I tried googling it too, nothing came up.

    Btw, that reverse guitar playing was also done by the Chemical Brothers, if I'm not mistaken.

    My other band has experimented with loops and samples. We've actually sampled some Stone Roses and Ride on a couple of our songs and then looped them.
  • mugadxmugadx PEx Rookie ⭐
    Yeah tama ka intermedia nga sila sa TUP buti natandaan mu nalimutan kuna kais name nila.sso nakapag perform pa la sila dun sa DREDD kilala ko yung isa dun si LEXUS nauna sa min sa fine arts ng 2 years ahead. maari disbanded na sila kasi full pledge artist sila talaga
    When one time ng nagperform sila sa school namin. nakanga-nga lang yung mga nakakikita.

    balak ko sana bumili ng BOSS yung DR. rhytmn DR-670.. pero me maraming capabilty enhance multi-rhythm included. kaso hirap bawal mag test dito. magandang pang experimentation. kelangan ko pa ng maraming INFO bago siguro pa bumili.

    Did you hear the Ceddar room ng DOVE nun. kasi dun sa live nila naruon yung ambient na tunog still hindi naman gawa ng keyboard which some of keyboard like roland maari pre-recording but not a sampler. kaya napakalaki talagang bagay me sarili ka studio with this all gadget you need to experiment ng mas maganda.
  • I was able to try those Akai sequencers/ samplers years ago like their MPC series, it's quite an astounding piece of equipment. There's so many things you can do but it takes a little bit of time of getting used to it, I guess. I didn't even think of buying one since it doesn't suit our sound. And it's too expensive.

    Akai was supposed to set up shop in Manila, I don't know if it pushed through. This was back in 2002, I think.
  • I just read that Steve Albini and the Pixies recorded Kim Deal's backing vocal tracks to "Gigantic" and "Where Is My Mind?" inside a bathroom. While in "Something Against You", Black Francis' vocals was filtered through a guitar amp.

    Sonic Youth deserves some mention. Their song "Providence" from my favorite SY record, Daydream Nation, has a piano solo by Thurston Moore which was recorded using a Walkman. The song also has the sound of an amp overheating and some telephone messages left by Mike Watt (from The Minutemen) dubbed over one another. And I think in most of their albums, the band used dropped tuning, although that's not really that unusual anymore.
  • Some Velvet Underground trivia now... In the songs "All Tomorrow's Parties" and "Venus In Furs", the band used a guitar tuning they call the Ostrich - all the guitar strings are tuned to the same note. Also in "Venus In Furs" and in "Heroin", John Cale used a viola that had mandolin and guitar strings.

    Kraftwerk used phrases from a Language Translator on their album Computer World.
  • In regards to the Flaming Lips, I think they did some backwards-run vocals in one of their older albums. I don't recall which however. A quick Wikipedia search yields their album The Soft Bulletin being much like Pet Sounds and the impossibility of the band playing the songs off the album live without help of an extensive usage of pre-recorded music. Wayne Coyne said, "If someone was to ask me what instrument do I play, I would say the recording studio."

    Oohh I love The Soft Bulletin. Gustong gusto ko talaga yung drum sounds on that record. DAMBUHALA talaga haha!!

    Well this is how they did it. The Flaiming Lips Drum Sounds.

  • Interesting read! Like what he said, there are many happy accidents that do happen in the studio. I remember reading somewhere that when Keith Levine (of Public Image Ltd) made a little one-note mistake on one of their songs, instead of stopping and correcting it, he continued playing and in the succeeding line, played the same exact guitar line including that one-note mistake he did previously, and he loved the discordant effect.

    And this I just remembered, Tortoise does a lot of studio trickery as well. And John McEntire is hugely responsible for this, most notably in the classic Millions Now Living Will Never Die. The percussions in Tortoise are usually electronically altered, fed through McEntire’s vintage synthesizers, or twisted, sliced, diced, and looped via computer programming. I'm still trying to find some more specific techniques... Btw, I saw McEntire play drums for his other band The Sea And Cake, just amazing.
  • Phil Collins popularized the "gated reverb" effect, which became a signature of 1980's music. It achieved prominence after it was featured in Peter Gabriel's third eponymous album (released in 1980) and Collins' 1981 hit song, "In the Air Tonight".
  • Disco Inferno's album, D.I. Go Pop has some odd samples like running water, fax machines, car crashes and breaking glass.

    Speaking of samples, here's a video explaining the most important 6 second drum loop, the Amen Break.

    Here's a quote from the YouTube video:
    This fascinating, brilliant 20-minute video narrates the history of the "Amen Break," a six-second drum sample from the b-side of a chart-topping single from 1969. This sample was used extensively in early hiphop and sample-based music, and became the basis for drum-and-bass and jungle music - a six-second clip that spawned several entire subcultures. Nate Harrison's 2004 video is a meditation on the ownership of culture, the nature of art and creativity, and the history of a remarkable music clip.
  • jack johnson using solar power(to power the studio) to record his latest album.
  • interesting thread :) any new tricks to share here?
  • I mentioned John Cage in the beginning, but for the uninitiated, Cage was known for his track "4'33"".
    ...Best known for his 1952 composition 4′33″, the three movements of which are performed without a single note being played. A performance of 4′33″ can be perceived as including the sounds of the environment that the listeners hear while it is performed, rather than merely as four minutes and thirty three seconds of silence and became one of the most controversial compositions of the twentieth century.

    So basically, the track is just silence. To illustrate, listen/ view here. Of course, considering his philosophy, there is no such thing as silence.
    "They missed the point. There’s no such thing as silence. What they thought was silence, because they didn’t know how to listen, was full of accidental sounds. You could hear the wind stirring outside during the first movement. During the second, raindrops began patterning the roof, and during the third the people themselves made all kinds of interesting sounds as they talked or walked out."

    — John Cage speaking about the premiere of 4′33″.

    It seemed that his performances were the start of the Fluxus art movement.

    *Quotes are from wikipedia.
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