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Walter Becker [Steely Dan] on music & technology Effects Pedals, Units & Accessories
Old 16th September 2011
  #1
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razorboy's Avatar
 

Walter Becker [Steely Dan] on music & technology

[It's a 2003 interview, but I think it's just as relevant now. razorboy]


What are some of your feelings about surround sound and high-res release formats?

Becker: Regarding surround sound, I know musicians too well to want them behind my back. But because of the additional speaker separation, the surround mixes I've worked on can make 2-channel sound somewhat low-fi by comparison. But I still prefer stereo overall. The music holds together better.
It's funny, but as the sonics improve, the focus on music doesn't improve. For example, there are a lot of ways to record piano, and a lot of people do much better piano recordings than Rudy Van Gelder ever did. But when you listen to a Van Gelder piano recording, you're listening to the sound of the guy's piano and the notes in his solo. When you listen to more hi-fi recordings of pianos, you might hear more high-end detail and clarity, but you may be listening more to the overtones of the piano and less focused on the intention of the musician, which is in the fundamental pitches of the notes, rather than the often-clangorous overtones.


That's one thing I've noticed with a lot of modern musicians who are sometimes more concerned with the sound of the patch or setting than the overall performance. If you sat Ray Charles down on a Rhodes piano, magic could happen. And if you sat Chick Corea down in front of that same piano, it's a completely different — yet wonderful — sound.


Becker: I remember going to a concert at Hunter College when I was a teenager in New York. There was a jazz pianist named Billy Taylor — who was also a promoter and DJ — and he had a show with himself, Mary Lou Williams and Thelonious Monk. One after another, they sat down and played the same piano and it was amazing how different the piano sounded. In fact, when Monk played, it didn't even sound like a piano anymore! It's the same with guitar, drums and anything else. I think that's one of the unfortunate by-products of the fascination with and proliferation of technologies now: It's essentially a distraction from music and its fundamental aesthetic considerations.


http://mixonline.com/recording/inter...an_everything/

Last edited by razorboy; 16th September 2011 at 05:00 PM.. Reason: Adding link.
Old 16th September 2011
  #2
Gear Nut
 

a great read! thanks!
Old 17th September 2011
  #3
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guitarmax_99's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by martinb View Post
a great read! thanks!
I'll second that sentiment.
Old 17th September 2011
  #4
Gear Guru
I agree about surround.
Great for movies, but for music I prefer stereo.
Old 17th September 2011
  #5
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Nowak's Avatar
Now Walter, go get some guitar lessons so you can do more than just noodle on SD records.

Stef
Old 17th September 2011
  #6
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nowak View Post
Now Walter, go get some guitar lessons so you can do more than just noodle on SD records.

Stef
.

lol

i have to admit......i LOVE my dan.

don't know what or who i'd be without them.

some of the greatest records ever - and for a gagillion reasons - imoshfo

.
Old 17th September 2011
  #7
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Nowak's Avatar
Love em too.

I however think Walter's an average musician.

Stef
Old 17th September 2011
  #8
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nowak View Post
Love em too.

I however think Walter's an average musician.

Stef
.

I hear ya. Especially, as a guitar player.

And I'm not a fan of his tone very much - especially, live.

Although, SD seemed to really dig that plain dry - and distorted dry - e. gtr, and plain dry vocal sound.

Never really understood that, since so many of their instrument sounds were more interesting.

I guess it creates some kind of ambient balance, but...

.
Old 17th September 2011
  #9
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synthoid's Avatar
 

I saw Donald Fagen live a few years back, and that was one mfing nervous looking band he had, haha. I could actually (well, I think so any way) see the guitar players counting out bars and beats as the parts went flying by. I think I caught them pretty early in the tour so maybe they loosened up a bit. The only song they really seemed to let go on was Third World Man, which is about 6x easier than anything else they've written haha.

All of which is to say that WB should get a break about his guitar playing, haha, even the sidemen they hire don't seem to find the music to be all that easy to play.

-synthoid
Old 17th September 2011
  #10
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Nowak's Avatar
I saw them live here in Sydney a couple of years ago, the best thing on the night was the chinese meal we had before the gig.

And the ice cream after the gig.

The band was SO rigid. I'm a HUGE SD fan so was really disappointed by the whole thing.
Old 17th September 2011
  #11
Gear Guru
 
Drumsound's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by razorboy View Post
[It's a 2003 interview, but I think it's just as relevant now. razorboy]


What are some of your feelings about surround sound and high-res release formats?

Becker: Regarding surround sound, I know musicians too well to want them behind my back. But because of the additional speaker separation, the surround mixes I've worked on can make 2-channel sound somewhat low-fi by comparison. But I still prefer stereo overall. The music holds together better.
It's funny, but as the sonics improve, the focus on music doesn't improve. For example, there are a lot of ways to record piano, and a lot of people do much better piano recordings than Rudy Van Gelder ever did. But when you listen to a Van Gelder piano recording, you're listening to the sound of the guy's piano and the notes in his solo. When you listen to more hi-fi recordings of pianos, you might hear more high-end detail and clarity, but you may be listening more to the overtones of the piano and less focused on the intention of the musician, which is in the fundamental pitches of the notes, rather than the often-clangorous overtones.


That's one thing I've noticed with a lot of modern musicians who are sometimes more concerned with the sound of the patch or setting than the overall performance. If you sat Ray Charles down on a Rhodes piano, magic could happen. And if you sat Chick Corea down in front of that same piano, it's a completely different — yet wonderful — sound.


Becker: I remember going to a concert at Hunter College when I was a teenager in New York. There was a jazz pianist named Billy Taylor — who was also a promoter and DJ — and he had a show with himself, Mary Lou Williams and Thelonious Monk. One after another, they sat down and played the same piano and it was amazing how different the piano sounded. In fact, when Monk played, it didn't even sound like a piano anymore! It's the same with guitar, drums and anything else. I think that's one of the unfortunate by-products of the fascination with and proliferation of technologies now: It's essentially a distraction from music and its fundamental aesthetic considerations.


Everything Must Go Steely Dan Interview with Donald Fagen and Walter Becker by Mix magazine talks to Steely Dan about Everything Must Go
This should come up every time someone logs in here, or any of the forums we all go to. Each of us should have to read it before continuing on to the boards.
Old 17th September 2011
  #12
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sqye View Post
.

I hear ya. Especially, as a guitar player.

And I'm not a fan of his tone very much - especially, live.

Although, SD seemed to really dig that plain dry - and distorted dry - e. gtr, and plain dry vocal sound.

Never really understood that, since so many of their instrument sounds were more interesting.

I guess it creates some kind of ambient balance, but...

.
So you're not intelligent enough to comment on what he actually said?

Thats ok, dont feel bad. Just keep questioning the abilities of those
whom have achieved what you never will. Thats what people that
lack intellect often do.

TK
Old 17th September 2011
  #13
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Nowak's Avatar
I think people that lack intellect are people that can't string 2 words together and probably struggle with simple mathematics.

Gearslutz is a DISCUSSION board, sure sometimes they go off the rails, but your personal attack is what makes this place truly suck at times.
Old 17th September 2011
  #14
Gear Guru
 
Drumsound's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Todd View Post
So you're not intelligent enough to comment on what he actually said?

Thats ok, dont feel bad. Just keep questioning the abilities of those
whom have achieved what you never will. Thats what people that
lack intellect often do.

TK
Skye has been posting here for years, has plenty of intellect and seems to be a truly kind person, as well as an intelligent thinker. He followed the discussion, someone mentioned Becker's playing, he reacted to THAT. What's the problem?
Old 17th September 2011
  #15
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BOWIE's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by razorboy View Post
I think that's one of the unfortunate by-products of the fascination with and proliferation of technologies now: It's essentially a distraction from music and its fundamental aesthetic considerations.
Have been in strong agreement with this idea as of late, especially on a personal level.
Old 17th September 2011
  #16
Gear Addict
 
capnreverb's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nowak View Post
Love em too.

I however think Walter's an average musician.

Stef
Really? Average as compared to what. What kind of standard are you holding him against: Guitarists? Songcrafters?
Dude certainly has a vision and is able to make it happen which is a lot more than I can say for a lot of above average musicians.
Old 17th September 2011
  #17
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Nowak's Avatar
Becker plays nothing but blues motifs on guitar, on bass he plays nothing interesting. That is average (to my ears).

Stef
Old 17th September 2011
  #18
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capnreverb's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nowak View Post
Becker plays nothing but blues motifs on guitar, on bass he plays nothing interesting. That is average (to my ears).

Stef
So, dudes like Steve Vai and etc. are better musicians than say Lightnin' Hopkins because they can play more styles or notes? From what I can gather from this is that Yngwie Malmsteen is a better musician than John Lennon?

I'm still not getting it. I think having a vision and something to say are what makes a musician above average.

Brian Ferry used to say Brian Eno was a terrible musician, but almost everyone I know worships Eno and could care less about Brian Ferry. Shoot, Miles Davis was not the best trumpeter of his generation, but his vision and choices were stronger than any other trumpeter of his time, and I think that makes him the better "musician".

Most of those hired guns on those Steely Dan records were just that, hired guns. Very few of them, if any, produced music of that quality and vision on their own even though they could play more than just "blues motifs". Fagen and Becker's vision and their abilty to manifest it into reality is what makes them amazing musicians.
Old 17th September 2011
  #19
Fezzle
Guest
If anything I would say his guitar playing can be a little average, however I dont reckon he ever set out to be a great guitarist. As a musician hes excellent, and not to forget his strengths lie in many other areas of musicianship as a whole including writing, recording, arranging and orchestration, awareness of tasteful groove, a penchant for american literature and a deft sense of aesthetic in jazz and rhythm and blues music and artistry as a whole. A bigger picture if you will
Old 17th September 2011
  #20
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razorboy's Avatar
 

Yes, Walter's pretty good at the Big Picture.

Fagan himself is not an instrumentalist in the way that most of the sidemen are. They could play circles around him. However, his general understanding of music is extraordinarily good and creative.

Hey, George Martin wasn't the best oboe player..........
Old 17th September 2011
  #21
Quote:
Originally Posted by razorboy View Post
Becker:. For example, there are a lot of ways to record piano, and a lot of people do much better piano recordings than Rudy Van Gelder ever did. But when you listen to a Van Gelder piano recording, you're listening to the sound of the guy's piano and the notes in his solo. When you listen to more hi-fi recordings of pianos, you might hear more high-end detail and clarity, but you may be listening more to the overtones of the piano and less focused on the intention of the musician, which is in the fundamental pitches of the notes, rather than the often-clangorous overtones.


Becker: I remember going to a concert at Hunter College when I was a teenager in New York. There was a jazz pianist named Billy Taylor — who was also a promoter and DJ — and he had a show with himself, Mary Lou Williams and Thelonious Monk. One after another, they sat down and played the same piano and it was amazing how different the piano sounded. In fact, when Monk played, it didn't even sound like a piano anymore! It's the same with guitar, drums and anything else. I think that's one of the unfortunate by-products of the fascination with and proliferation of technologies now: It's essentially a distraction from music and its fundamental aesthetic considerations.


Everything Must Go Steely Dan Interview with Donald Fagen and Walter Becker by Mix magazine talks to Steely Dan about Everything Must Go
It's peculiar that Becker feels this way considering they were the kings of splicing takes and performances together. They were also the kings of sample replacement at the time!
Old 17th September 2011
  #22
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Old 17th September 2011
  #23
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12ax7's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by razorboy View Post

Hey, George Martin wasn't the best oboe player..........
.
"Without George Martin, the world would have been a different place."
--Ringo Starr
.
Old 17th September 2011
  #24
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audiogeek's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by capnreverb View Post
So, dudes like Steve Vai and etc. are better musicians than say Lightnin' Hopkins because they can play more styles or notes? From what I can gather from this is that Yngwie Malmsteen is a better musician than John Lennon? ...
Yes. If you change the word "musician" back to "guitarist". That's what is being discussed.
Old 17th September 2011
  #25
Gear Maniac
 

OMG! That was EFFIN" BRILLIANT!!! How cool!! Where can I find the whole interview!!!! Jeff
Old 17th September 2011
  #26
Gear Addict
 
capnreverb's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by audiogeek View Post
Yes. If you change the word "musician" back to "guitarist". That's what is being discussed.

Musician was Nowaks word, not mine. If Nowak said guitarist, that would leave a lot less room for conflicting viewpoints. As a snobbish sidebar, I would much rather hear John Lennon or Lightnin' Hopkins play guitar than Yngwie or Vai. You gotta have something to say with all that technique unless all you are after is the centerfold in Guitar Player magazine.
Old 17th September 2011
  #27
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tekis's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by razorboy View Post
Yes, Walter's pretty good at the Big Picture.

Fagan himself is not an instrumentalist in the way that most of the sidemen are. They could play circles around him. However, his general understanding of music is extraordinarily good and creative.

Hey, George Martin wasn't the best oboe player..........
HELLO

Quote:
Originally Posted by henge View Post
It's peculiar that Becker feels this way considering they were the kings of splicing takes and performances together. They were also the kings of sample replacement at the time!
Thelonius Monk was big on editing takes too.
Old 17th September 2011
  #28
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SteelyDani's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nowak View Post
Becker plays nothing but blues motifs on guitar, on bass he plays nothing interesting. That is average (to my ears).

Stef
The question is not what he plays but how he plays it. He is an excellent performer full of expression and a wonderful sound (we're on GS, right?)
Old 31st October 2011
  #29
I saw Steely

This Saturday just past in the Yarra Valley here in Victoria. The Rochford Winery. Steve Winwood was supporting.

I'll skip details of Steve and cut to the chase. If you are in any doubt at all, definately see them live. Their current tour ('Shuffle Diplomacy tour 2011') is superb. The four piece horn section, the three backing vocalists (The Embassey Brats) and the rest of the band.. all stellar musicians completely digging and playing the hell out of the music. Many members of the band have been playing with the Dan for a few years now. All have a shot at delivering great solos, that are not long-winded.. but are in tune with the songs.

Both Walter and Donald were in fine form.

Now onto Walter... I'm a guitarist (playing 20+ years). I've also played clarinet in a small Orchestra and have a fair bit of experience playing live. I can recognise what's going on on-stage. We saw them twice, Thursday nignt at an arena gig (we had good seats, off the floor) and at the Winery where we had third row.. good enough to see them thinking! It was an awesome vibe.

Walter is not flashy but he knows his stuff. He doesn't make a grab for the limelight like a lot of guitarists. At the Winery gig I was close enough to see what parts exactly were being played by Walter and by the 'lead' guitarist Jon Herrington (who was awesome).
Walter knows these songs inside out. He doesn't put on a show of making it look harder for him than it is. He quietly delivers the lines.. which you can actually hear but are literally like falling off a log for him.. ie: it's pretty effortless. His had movements look like he's moving up and down the neck trying to pick the next notes.. but upon closer inspection (and listening) you can see it's just a style thing and he moves into other rhythmic or lead(ish) lines, with very little right-hand movement (barely looks like he's playing) but he's spot on the rhythmic figures. It was quite a lesson actually.

Don't trash the man, unless you've seen him up-close, first hand. It's a lesson in taste and craftsmanship. By the way, I'm also a huge Vai fan - any guitarist could learn a lot from both these players.
Old 21st December 2014
  #30
Gear Maniac
 
escape set's Avatar
[QUOTE=Nowak;7039731]Now Walter, go get some guitar lessons so you can do more than just noodle on SD records.

Stef[/QUOTE
just curious what players u would prefer to hear "noodling" on SD records. turn me on...
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