Ramble On... Gotta Find The Queen (or the Tone) of Our Dreams
RAMBLE ON... GOTTA FIND THE QUEEN (OR THE TONE) OF OUR DREAMS
What is your favorite part about music? We all love music, but the reasons we gravitate towards certain styles depends on a variety of things. What do you love about your favorite songs? Is it the singer’s voice? The beat? The vibe you get? The lyrical content? Do you find yourself chasing down music that reminds you of what you loved back in high school or college, or do you love the thrill of discovering something new and exciting? Do you love hearing experimental ideas or does something more “traditional” and familiar fit the bill? Do you prefer to sit alone and listen to a full album, or just let Spotify do the work for you as your own personal DJ? In a day and age where we have the entire recorded history of music in our pockets at all time, there is quite literally too much good stuff to listen to, which is both thrilling and daunting.
When it comes to the nuances and stylistic trademarks that attract you to an artist’s work, one of the reasons for their unique sound and vibe is due in large part to the efforts of studio engineers and record producers. These individuals work behind the scenes to make your favorite artists sound more like themselves and set them apart from others. Cool, right? Keep calm and read on ...
Most artists end up making it big because they have a sound or a ‘voice’ that is uniquely their own. The intangible “it factor” is both elusive and magical, and is the very thing that people like Simon Cowell have built their career on discovering. Capturing this philosophical idea of one’s signature sound is no small feat, especially when it comes to packaging and distributing it to the masses. For instance, if Barbra Streisand sang a hit song into a tape recorder, it would still sound like her, but without the studio and producers to record it properly, most people might skip right over her talented voice because it lacked the quality packaging to best represent her sound. It is here that we begin to see the true magic that lies within the field of sound engineering and the recording arts. Have you been thinking of your favorite song or artist this whole time? Take a moment to really think about not just how they sound, but why they sound that way. That song you may be envisioning in your head is an end result of an ingredient-intensive recipe of carefully-chosen gear, expertly-crafted melodies, harmonies, beats, and dozens of other facets that all add up to create “that sound.”
Let’s focus on one of the most famous classic rock bands of all time and one of their classics. As soon as the characteristic acoustic guitar comes on, you instantly know who it is, and more importantly, what the song is. In Led Zeppelin’s single: “Ramble On,” the tune features almost every trademark #LedZep trick the band is famous for - yet the whole tune kicks off with a very simple singular guitar part, played on nothing more than an acoustic.
At the time, it was simply a riff recorded with the best technology. However, it ended up forging a sound and sonic style that would be emulated and sought-after to this day. So, if you were to record a tune that needed that jangly, folk-y, easy listening acoustic sound; how would YOU go about creating that? Perhaps that “Ramble On” tone is the perfect image of the acoustic guitar tone in your mind, but hell, you aren’t Jimmy Page, and you certainly don’t have a huge studio at your fingertips. Would you believe that getting close to this iconic tone might be a bit easier than you think? All it takes is a keen ear and a bit of guidance from a seasoned professional.
Enter Rick Beato, a veritable renaissance man in the music industry. In addition to being a famous record producer, Rick is a classically trained musician in both music education and jazz studies, with songwriting credits on endless hit songs. If you’ve heard songs by Shinedown, 12 Stones, Crossfade, Boys Like Girls, Dark new Day, Fozzy or Submersed - then you have heard Rick’s work. Lately, he’s been enjoying the fruits of a highly successful YouTube career, in which he has amassed over 1 million subscribers as he shares his immense educational knowledge on “Everything Music.”
In addition to his regular vlog posts, Rick’s channel is also well known for recurring featurettes like “What Makes This Song Great” where Rick takes the actual studio stem tracks (you have to KNOW people to get your hands on these gems!) and breaks down legendary hit music to its bare bones to examine why and how a song became the hit it did. One of Rick’s newest segments is “Recreating The Sound,” where he takes ideas that are similar in concept to “What Makes This Song Great,” but rather than just hearing them as the artist performed it, Rick actually shows the creative process that goes into how he (or YOU) can emulate and achieve that very tone in the modern era!
Rick begins this tonal sleuthing process with an Instagram post by none other than Jimmy Page. Jimmy posted the following image, where you can see him playing an acoustic during the recording of Led Zeppelin 2, and Rick identifies the A major chord in the fifth position as the chord from the “Ramble On” lick. The actual guitar itself eluded his keen eye, so he turned to luthier and guitar expert Dave Onorato (of #DojoGuitar), who was able to ID the guitar as a Vox Acoustic. Seriously, did you even know that Vox made acoustics, AND with a bolt-on neck? But this odd guitar itself is just a small piece of the tone puzzle that made “Ramble On” so identifiable. When it comes to making a great piece of music, there are many other factors that go into creating that instantly identifiable tone.
If you hear this exact acoustic guitar recording, how would you go about achieving it (or re-creating it) in a studio? Do you think you could come close to the original? Well thanks to this great video, the answers may be as simple as the right mic in the right spot, the right axe, and knowing how to get the pre-amps just right. And as you’ll see in the video, Rick comes to within about 98% of nailing Jimmy Page’s iconic sound!
“As a music producer, I always loved the way songs were put together, especially the sonic elements. Beyond the melodies and lyrics, I love sounds: guitar sounds, bass sounds, drum sounds etc. And one sound I’ve always wondered about is the acoustic guitar sound from “Ramble On” by Led Zeppelin.”
Who knew that a simple Instagram post could help reverse-engineer one of the most iconic recording tones in all of music history! What a time to be alive!