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The Smith's How Soon Is Now - Finally know how he did it
Old 6th September 2014
  #1
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The Smith's How Soon Is Now - Finally know how he did it

The Smith's How Soon Is Now - Finally know how he did it


I loved this song the first time I heard it and have loved it every since. That oscillating riff heard on first listen which cuts through the entire song….was never done before and frankly how it done has been a huge mystery for most people. It all at once sounds like a synth and a guitar.

Here's the recipe:
"The vibrato sound is ****ing incredible, and it took a long time. I put down the rhythm track on an Epiphone Casino through a Fender Twin Reverb without vibrato. Then we played the track back through four old Twins, one on each side. We had to keep all the amps vibrating in time to the track and each other, so we had to keep stopping and starting the track, recording it in 10-second bursts... I wish I could remember exactly how we did the slide part – not writing it down is one of the banes of my life! We did it in three passes through a harmonizer, set to some weird interval, like a sixth. There was a different harmonization for each pass. For the line in harmonics, I retuned the guitar so that I could play it all at the 12th fret with natural harmonics. It's doubled several times." - Johnny Marr
Imo this is a truly WICKED way to suss a synth like sound and behavior from guitar work. Reading this, I was simply blown away.

Apologies if this is old news to some of you.
Old 6th September 2014
  #2
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by marcgood View Post
The Smith's How Soon Is Now - Finally know how he did it


I loved this song the first time I heard it and have loved it every since. That oscillating riff heard on first listen which cuts through the entire song….was never done before and frankly how it done has been a huge mystery for most people. It all at once sounds like a synth and a guitar.

Here's the recipe:
"The vibrato sound is ****ing incredible, and it took a long time. I put down the rhythm track on an Epiphone Casino through a Fender Twin Reverb without vibrato. Then we played the track back through four old Twins, one on each side. We had to keep all the amps vibrating in time to the track and each other, so we had to keep stopping and starting the track, recording it in 10-second bursts... I wish I could remember exactly how we did the slide part – not writing it down is one of the banes of my life! We did it in three passes through a harmonizer, set to some weird interval, like a sixth. There was a different harmonization for each pass. For the line in harmonics, I retuned the guitar so that I could play it all at the 12th fret with natural harmonics. It's doubled several times." - Johnny Marr
Imo this is a truly WICKED way to suss a synth like sound and behavior from guitar work. Reading this, I was simply blown away.

Apologies if this is old news to some of you.
and it's a 100% fabrication. It's a lie propagated by Mr Marr himself.
this is side-chained compression synced to the hi-hat track of a drum machine (or the drum stems themselves). Multiple youtube videos confirm this by perfect replication. 0 youtube videos replicate that fender twin nonsense (even Marr's own cover sounds off and unlike the recording) . besides, in 1988, if he'd explained it any other way, no one in Guitar Magazines would know what the hell side chain means. also, the smiths had an ethos that eschewed studio trickery so the truth would be contrary to that image, but the dude was a wiz in the studio. this old yarn is getting tiresome and it's time it's buried at sea....
i say this entirely in jest as I wasn't there, but the simple truth is even the man himself is unable to replicate the recipe described above in live settings (understandably so), and yet mr Wicker below nails it with side-chain. given the heavy use of eventide, i'm inclined to think that there was more going on than parlor tricks with fender twins.

Exhibit A: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SeE4mjS1BKM
Old 6th September 2014
  #3
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It would be impossible to get any continuity restarting the guitar track every 10 seconds. Such a trick would be completely obvious. I can't imagine being able to produce anything even remotely listenable using such a method.

I'm not totally sold on the side chain method. Why couldn't it just be a square wave tremolo set to a click or tapped tempo? Tapped tempo would explain why the two tracks drifted out of sync throughout the song.
Old 6th September 2014
  #4
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Completely do-able on Fender Twin Reverb as described by Johnny Marr. The sidechain simulation is a good one, but you can clearly hear the compression effect. The original and the live version posted here both sound far smoother.

As for constantly dropping in and out to keep it in time, you'd be amazed what people used to have to do when recording with analog or digital multitracks. People used to do stuff like that all the time. Probably simpler to play the track to the vibrato effect though.

Old 6th September 2014
  #5
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I've seen that Jimmy Fallon video before but it's weird as hell to see Marr singing Morrissey's part. Their voices are quite different but every now and again they sound eerily similar, he copies Morrissey's intonation and articulation very exactly.
Old 6th September 2014
  #6
181483
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No disrespect to Johnny Marr but he is no Morrissey and looks kind of silly at his attempt to sing like him. This performance isn't that impressive either.

Morrissey had a grandeur like no other, without seemingly doing anything, just being present and doing his thing. I saw Morrissey live at the Orpheum in Boston, USA (2007?) and he was nothing short of breathtaking. He was a lot better than he was 20 years prior. He performed "How Soon Is Now?" and by god if it didn't sound close to exactly like the classic recording... It was mind-blowing. If his hired gun guitarist can recreate live everything Marr did in the studio in the mid-'80s, then it couldn't have been t h a t difficult or complex.

If you listen carefully to the recording there is a human-like feel to the rhythm guitar that drifts subtly and kinda grooves in a way. Neither sounds side-chained from a perfect drum machine nor from an LFO.

Honestly, I really don't care to know what is behind the magic of that masterpiece. That slide guitar hook puts more goose-pimples on my body than any sex I've ever had. I would like to leave it at that.
Old 6th September 2014
  #7
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TheBrightSide's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Redleo View Post

Impressive!
Old 10th September 2014
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mixtree Audio View Post
No disrespect to Johnny Marr but he is no Morrissey and looks kind of silly at his attempt to sing like him. This performance isn't that impressive either.

Morrissey had a grandeur like no other, without seemingly doing anything, just being present and doing his thing. I saw Morrissey live at the Orpheum in Boston, USA (2007?) and he was nothing short of breathtaking. He was a lot better than he was 20 years prior. He performed "How Soon Is Now?" and by god if it didn't sound close to exactly like the classic recording... It was mind-blowing. If his hired gun guitarist can recreate live everything Marr did in the studio in the mid-'80s, then it couldn't have been t h a t difficult or complex.

If you listen carefully to the recording there is a human-like feel to the rhythm guitar that drifts subtly and kinda grooves in a way. Neither sounds side-chained from a perfect drum machine nor from an LFO.

Honestly, I really don't care to know what is behind the magic of that masterpiece. That slide guitar hook puts more goose-pimples on my body than any sex I've ever had. I would like to leave it at that.
I saw Morrissey years ago at the Hollywood Bowl. Great show and I've been a fan since the Smiths. Just wish he wasn't such an ass off stage.

The Marr performance is okay but clearly the live act is lacking the studio magic. Not to take from Marr.

Also, I did not know there was such controversy on how the sound was made or that many claim Marr is lying...
Old 11th September 2014
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Redleo View Post
Completely do-able on Fender Twin Reverb as described by Johnny Marr. The sidechain simulation is a good one, but you can clearly hear the compression effect. The original and the live version posted here both sound far smoother.

As for constantly dropping in and out to keep it in time, you'd be amazed what people used to have to do when recording with analog or digital multitracks. People used to do stuff like that all the time. Probably simpler to play the track to the vibrato effect though.

this is literally the first youtube clip that backs up his fender twin claim - my mind is blown -this sounds freaking fantastic.

I'm not convinced though that he himself isn't using the side-chain trick in this very video because it's the first time he's played it that sounded "proper". that or some guitar-pedal has finally nailed its replication.

1000% opinion ahead: I think they came up with cool-ass effect in the studio and forgot how it was done long after the tapes were cooked.. but i still don't buy the twin reverb sync story - it's too perfectly synced with the hi-hats... no disrespect intended -this guy is my ultimate guitar hero... and this performance just nails it.. but people have clamored to replicate this for decades (even Marr himself), but nobody nailed the recorded version sound until that dude on youtube posted the side-chain trick.. who knows, maybe Marr's magic fingers make fender twins ocillate a certain way...or he also stumbled on that youtube video and unlocked his own drunken discovery from 27 years ago.
Old 11th September 2014
  #10
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I've never once thought this sounded like a synth - doesn't sound anything like a synth, I lol'd a little now when I read that.
Old 15th September 2014
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by m4thlab View Post
I've never once thought this sounded like a synth - doesn't sound anything like a synth, I lol'd a little now when I read that.
Given how percise the studio recording version is it could sound very much automated. Clearly from the comments here and elsewhere this sound garners many differing opinions.
Old 16th September 2014
  #12
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What synths were "automated" in 1985? What does that even mean? Do you think they threw it into a DAW and drew in a nice automation line controlling sylenth?

I'd call it syncopated before I'd call it automated, but nothing about that means it's the exclusive domain of the mid 80s synth. Guitar pedals can produce a syncopated effect, such as a vibrato or a gate, with speed and depth - given that Marr is a guitarist and that he plays the part with a guitar live, and that it sounds like a guitar, I struggle to understand why anyone would postulate that it could be a synth. I'm a guitarist first and foremost, so that's probably why it's a no-brainer for me.
Old 16th September 2014
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by m4thlab View Post
I've never once thought this sounded like a synth - doesn't sound anything like a synth, I lol'd a little now when I read that.
I don't think anyone has ever thought it was a synth?

A couple of layers of tremolo guitar at different speeds.
Old 16th September 2014
  #14
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Morrissey is my God and he is even BETTER OFF STAGE than on. He tells it like it is and is a big time animal activist. Perfect. People don't like the truth, it makes them uncomfortable. Who else stands up for what they believe more than Morrissey? And if he wants to be a **** about it, SO BE IT - he's earned the right to do anything he wants as far as I'm concerned.

The last time I saw him was January of 2013 and it was simply spine tingling. He was amazing and the music was sounding incredible, beside one or two smiths songs that were botched. Speedway nearly gave me a ****ing heart attack at that show. Still Ill was absolutely insane. I'll never forget that show. I have most of it taped too.

Anyway I love Johnny but to me there is equal amount if not MORE classic material in Morrissey's solo catalog, there is just more crap too, so it's hard to sift through but after about 25 years I have haha. The last 2 albums were **** but this new album is actually quite amazing. The mix, of course, is spectacular. You have to get the collector's edition because those extra songs are the best they made in those sessions.
Old 16th September 2014
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by m4thlab View Post
What synths were "automated" in 1985? What does that even mean? Do you think they threw it into a DAW and drew in a nice automation line controlling sylenth?

I'd call it syncopated before I'd call it automated, but nothing about that means it's the exclusive domain of the mid 80s synth. Guitar pedals can produce a syncopated effect, such as a vibrato or a gate, with speed and depth - given that Marr is a guitarist and that he plays the part with a guitar live, and that it sounds like a guitar, I struggle to understand why anyone would postulate that it could be a synth. I'm a guitarist first and foremost, so that's probably why it's a no-brainer for me.
That assumes everyone has seen this performed live. Personally I had not until this thread. Nor was I aware Marr played that line until I read it recently.
Old 16th September 2014
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by marcgood View Post
I saw Morrissey years ago at the Hollywood Bowl. Great show and I've been a fan since the Smiths. Just wish he wasn't such an ass off stage.

The Marr performance is okay but clearly the live act is lacking the studio magic. Not to take from Marr.

Also, I did not know there was such controversy on how the sound was made or that many claim Marr is lying...
as far as I know, I'm the only person claiming Marr's story is total fabrication. and I wasn't there so I'm just a twit on the internet with an opinion.

But - i've cited some evidence that I feel makes a strong case for my claim:
1. dude has NEVER been able to play it live properly until very recently
2. Youtube abounds with sloppy-assed covers. This song, is either 100% or missed by a mile. Nobody, even Marr himself, struck gold until that Daniel dude posted the side-chain trick
3. sure enough, 3 years later, Marr is on stage performing, at long last, a spot-on approximation of the recorded version. And is he using the mythical 4 fender twins? Nope, it's a single amp.. is it a MAGIC fender twin?

My speculation: the fender twin story was bogus. It's so perfectly in sync with those high-hats, I simply can't sustain my disbelief that he compelled 4 fender twins to not only sound totally unlike any fender twin ANY of us have ever played, but to synchronize them perfectly to the high-hats.. if it's a true story, i'd like to see someone on youtube replicate the sound IDENTICALLY using the exact same tools (which shouldn't be difficult to do).
Old 16th September 2014
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by idealflaw View Post
as far as I know, I'm the only person claiming Marr's story is total fabrication. and I wasn't there so I'm just a twit on the internet with an opinion.

But - i've cited some evidence that I feel makes a strong case for my claim:
1. dude has NEVER been able to play it live properly until very recently
2. Youtube abounds with sloppy-assed covers. This song, is either 100% or missed by a mile. Nobody, even Marr himself, struck gold until that Daniel dude posted the side-chain trick
3. sure enough, 3 years later, Marr is on stage performing, at long last, a spot-on approximation of the recorded version. And is he using the mythical 4 fender twins? Nope, it's a single amp.. is it a MAGIC fender twin?

My speculation: the fender twin story was bogus. It's so perfectly in sync with those high-hats, I simply can't sustain my disbelief that he compelled 4 fender twins to not only sound totally unlike any fender twin ANY of us have ever played, but to synchronize them perfectly to the high-hats.. if it's a true story, i'd like to see someone on youtube replicate the sound IDENTICALLY using the exact same tools (which shouldn't be difficult to do).
The precision of that sound is why my assumption there was automation of some kind at work....perhaps an arpeggio with fx on it. It's too exact. That's what made the Fender explanation so mind blowing for me.

I have no real dog in this fight beyond being a Smiths fan. But it would be nice to know definitively how the hell that sound is made.

Even now the later live versions are still off the mark imo.
Old 17th September 2014
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by marcgood View Post
The precision of that sound is why my assumption there was automation of some kind at work....perhaps an arpeggio with fx on it. It's too exact. That's what made the Fender explanation so mind blowing for me.

I have no real dog in this fight beyond being a Smiths fan. But it would be nice to know definitively how the hell that sound is made.

Even now the later live versions are still off the mark imo.
no dog either, here. Marr is my freaking hero and anything he does is golden in my book. I agree with you regarding the precision - it's the root of all my skepticism about the mythology of that song's recording process. musicians make up myths all the time - robert smith was saying he put all his pedal knobs in symmetrical alignment to get his sounds which is just silliness. my theory is that in the 80's there was an ethos around the smiths that eschewed studio wizardry, synthesizers and anything 'inauthentic'. an explanation (and one was needed, because it still sounds out of this world to anyone who's ever owned a fender twin or even 4 of them) that alluded to a studio gimmick would have been totally contrary to their carefully cultivated NME image.
Old 17th September 2014
  #19
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doozle's Avatar
 

doesn't sound like much other than a guitar w/tremolo, or for the synth folks: an LFO on the amplifier level. Classic tune.
Old 4th December 2014
  #20
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Doesn't sound like a synth to me.

It does sound great though!
Old 4th December 2014
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ignorantape View Post
Doesn't sound like a synth to me.

It does sound great though!
There are maybe 5 sounds I've heard in Smiths songs, as a guitarist, that I would have ever disputed as being synth sounds. This one is so far off the mark I'm shocked and amused that it is even a topic. How Marr did it is one thing, but it sounds as synthy to me as Hendrix. There are probably 20 sounds on "The Queen is Dead" that I would suspect as being synth-oriented over "How Soon Is Now?"
Old 4th December 2014
  #22
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Sofine's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by mike vee View Post
Morrissey is my God and he is even BETTER OFF STAGE than on. He tells it like it is and is a big time animal activist. Perfect. People don't like the truth, it makes them uncomfortable. Who else stands up for what they believe more than Morrissey? And if he wants to be a **** about it, SO BE IT - he's earned the right to do anything he wants as far as I'm concerned.

The last time I saw him was January of 2013 and it was simply spine tingling. He was amazing and the music was sounding incredible, beside one or two smiths songs that were botched. Speedway nearly gave me a ****ing heart attack at that show. Still Ill was absolutely insane. I'll never forget that show. I have most of it taped too..
Well said. I saw Morrissey on Monday night in Dublin. It was a great gig. You're right, he's earned the right to do and say what he wants. At the midway point the (great) band were jamming a heavy rock riff as the background to a 10-15 minute animal-slaughter-cruelty video, which was pretty graphic. Some people couldn't bear to look, some left! After this he played Meat is Murder!

2 Smith songs at the start and 2 at the end.

It was a memorable gig for sure.
Old 4th December 2014
  #23
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Why do people struggle so much with the concept of a magic guitar sound being impossible to replicate? Hardly news, is it? On that day they got it to dance that way, but never quite again. What's hard to grasp about that? To think everything is redoable is fallacy. Same with most magic guitar tones that happened on the day.

And to doubt the story with the punch ins is to not understand old studio behaviour. The amount of manually achieved tricks would stun the young digital guys......
Old 4th December 2014
  #24
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Johnny Marr says that he's pretty much sticking to a Boss GT-100 to replicate his sounds onstage these days. Of course there's also a second guitar player in his band playing additional parts.

We may question his claim that there is no difference between using pedals vs. doing everything with the Boss unit. But then again, it works really well for Mr. Marr. He is not a blues-based player and so he probably doesn't fuss over say a great warm overdrive pedal vs. replicating that sound with a digital unit.



FWIW, in the past weeks I had to totally restrain myself from NOT ordering a Johnny Marr Fender Jaguar. I think it's a signature model that really improves on the original design without losing the Alt/Surf/Spy-coolness of the Fender Jag.
And he pretty much sticks to that guitar for live performances these days.
Old 4th December 2014
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mike vee View Post
Morrissey is my God and he is even BETTER OFF STAGE than on. He tells it like it is and is a big time animal activist. Perfect. People don't like the truth, it makes them uncomfortable. Who else stands up for what they believe more than Morrissey? And if he wants to be a **** about it, SO BE IT - he's earned the right to do anything he wants as far as I'm concerned.

The last time I saw him was January of 2013 and it was simply spine tingling. He was amazing and the music was sounding incredible, beside one or two smiths songs that were botched. Speedway nearly gave me a ****ing heart attack at that show. Still Ill was absolutely insane. I'll never forget that show. I have most of it taped too.

Anyway I love Johnny but to me there is equal amount if not MORE classic material in Morrissey's solo catalog, there is just more crap too, so it's hard to sift through but after about 25 years I have haha. The last 2 albums were **** but this new album is actually quite amazing. The mix, of course, is spectacular. You have to get the collector's edition because those extra songs are the best they made in those sessions.
He hates women.
Old 4th December 2014
  #26
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Ol' Betsey's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by marcgood View Post
I wish I could remember exactly how we did the slide part – not writing it down is one of the banes of my life!
Maybe the reason he can't remember it is because I heard it was actually John Porter (producer & guitar player FWIW) who played that part...

I know. I know. Controversial. But c'mon. Wouldn't be the first time, right?

P.S. To add to Karloff's point: Dropping in tremolo parts (or whatever else time-based) so they stayed in (relative) sync was done ALL THE TIME back then.
Old 4th December 2014
  #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by marcgood View Post
I saw Morrissey years ago at the Hollywood Bowl. Great show and I've been a fan since the Smiths. Just wish he wasn't such an ass off stage.

The Marr performance is okay but clearly the live act is lacking the studio magic. Not to take from Marr.

Also, I did not know there was such controversy on how the sound was made or that many claim Marr is lying...
Wouldn't (Morrissey) buy his round, when it was his twist (back in the day about 15 years ago in a Dublin bar) had to more or less urge him into it, bad form, famous or not!
Old 4th December 2014
  #28
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mike vee's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by empirix View Post
Wouldn't (Morrissey) buy his round, when it was his twist (back in the day about 15 years ago in a Dublin bar) had to more or less urge him into it, bad form, famous or not!
how is he an ass? he just stands up for what he believes in and calls out the scumbags of the world. seems great to me. we need a lot more people like him.
Old 4th December 2014
  #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 181483 View Post
No disrespect to Johnny Marr but he is no Morrissey and looks kind of silly at his attempt to sing like him.
Personally, I was impressed that someone that was never billed as a singer (AFAIK) could pull off such a decent performance. Sure, he's not as good as Morrissey, but you can't blame him for singing in a similar vein when they share so many musical influences and worked together for years.

It's often the same in other bands...when you finally get to hear the non-vocalist sing on their own, it sounds the same because they spent years doing backup vocals or working on songs with the same kinds of melodies. Whether its subconscious or deliberate, inevitably musicians who work together for a long time will rub off on each other.

Quote:
Originally Posted by m4thlab View Post
I've never once thought this sounded like a synth - doesn't sound anything like a synth, I lol'd a little now when I read that.
I never thought it was anything but a guitar, but I had a similar reaction the first time I heard it; basically that it had an unusual quality normally ascribed to synths. You can compare to i.e. the intro to Depeche Mode's "It's No Good" and its essentially the same articulation and atmosphere achieved through different methods for a different song.

I'd also say that in effects-heavy production there is a point where the guitar and synth world intersect, especially in genres like ambient and shoegazing... arguably when enough production is layered on, the guitar just becomes another oscillator in a chain of electronic processes.
Old 4th December 2014
  #30
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Ol' Betsey's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gnalvl View Post
...arguably when enough production is layered on, the guitar just becomes another oscillator in a chain of electronic processes.
Not to join the "Is it a guitar? Is it a synth?" discussion (because it's obviously not a synth ) but that's actually a really nice sentence Gnalvl!

"another oscillator in a chain of electronic processes" has a really nice organic ring to it.

Might have to use that in an interview at some point. And since I can't even pronounce your name I think I'll just claim it as my own, OK?

R.
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