I was recently watching a movie with my wife called French Kiss (1995) with Meg Ryan and Kevin Kline. It’s a lightweight romantic comedy but there was one scenr that I found interesting. It takes place in the childhood home of the Kevin Kline character, situated in the middle of French wine country. There, Kline demonstrated an old science project he did as a kid. He asked Meg Ryan to take a sip of wine and describe the taste. Then he asked her to sample several different natural fragrances that were stored in small glass bottles. He then had her take a second sip of wine and describe it. To her amazement, she now detected aromas and tastes in the wine she never noticed before.
This made me wonder what would be the musical equivalent of such a science project. What I came up is the following:
1) Listen to a given song.
2) If possible listen to one or more isolated tracks of the song. Fortunately, there are numerous YouTube videos that provide such tracks.
3) Re-listen to the song again. See if you are more aware of elements in the song that you never noticed before.
Below are several videos that present isolated parts of some of the more iconic songs from rock. Here are two videos that present isolated tracks from Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit. First,the guitars only, then the isolated drum and vocal tracks mixed together.
Nirvana – Smell Like Teen Spirit (Guitar Only)
Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit (Drums and vocals only)
Below are the isolated guitar and bass parts for Guns N’ Roses Sweet Child O Mine:
Guns N’ Roses -Sweet Child O’ Mine – Slash Only (Lead Guitar)
Guns N’ Roses -Sweet Child O’ Mine – Izzy Stradlin Only (Rhythm Guitar)
Guns N’ Roses -Sweet Child O’ Mine – Duff McKagan (Bass)
For the recording of the classic record Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, the Beatles used two 4-track tape machines. They would record parts onto the first tape machine and then mix those parts onto tracks of the second tape machine, freeing up tracks to record additional instruments (digital recording technology makes this unnecessary now). The video below presents a interesting visualization of the process. The audio of the second 4-track tape machine has each of the four tracks represented by a different color. Track 1 (green starting at 0:00) has drums, guitars, and bass (Paul and/or John or George on two electric guitars, Paul on bass, Ringo on drums). Track 2 (blue staring aat 2:24) has horns and a punched-in lead guitar played by Paul. Track 3 (red starting at 4:40) are vocals and track 4 has the three previous tracks plus some audience sounds.
Deconstructing Sgt. Pepper
So go listen to the songs in question, then listen to these video and then re-listen to the songs. You just might hear something new.