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The sound of a mix - Sultans of Swing

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The sound of a mix - Sultans of Swing

Postby CS70 » Tue Jun 02, 2020 1:09 pm

I was driving the other day and had Spotify on. My driving playlist has hundreds if not thousands of songs on it, and I shuffle play every time so sometimes I don't listen to a specific song for quite some time.

So "Sultans of Swings" (studio version) comes up - it's a masterful piece in so many ways, but it played just after a much more recent production (something from Eminem I think).

I couldn't help noticing the specific sound of the mix: the guitar leads are high (I can see Mark asking to put them up and front), bass is bold but EQd to perfection (and the playing is what matters, with a clear attack followed by a nice "buum"), drums are very dynamic (the snare, really) but also well EQd.

And the vocals.. the vocals are very soft (if Mark posted the song here, I'm pretty sure someone would come up with "your vocals are too low"). :D

The rhythm guitars are just so - far quieter than one would think. Which I always find amazing in lots of records (when learning to play, I listened for hours at the rhythm parts of loads of songs, and I always get surprised to see how quiet rhythm guitars tend to be in a good mix). Some glue compression but nothing excessive at all.

The result is that a kind of vintage, nostalgic, story-telling feeling which makes so much of that song. And the loud lead lines really scream "hei I'm a guitarist!!" - something which sometimes I have the guts to do when I mix my own songs, and sometimes not (fear of too much guitar ego.. the 80s hadn't yet happened back when Mark recorded this).

The car has, I think, a JBL system and boy it does sound different than others I've had - and different than any hi-fi system or proper monitor. The first time I listened to a mix of mine there I was horrified ("what a mess I've done") but then I played well known commercial stuff right after and it was identically changed... sigh of relief!! Still, that car is no longer a very valuable referencing tool..
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Re: The sound of a mix - Sultans of Swing

Postby S2 » Tue Jun 02, 2020 1:50 pm

One of the best things about that song for me, is the drum sound - or more specifically, the cymbal sound. The hihat and ride cymbal sound are just perfect. A really lovely glassy ping sound from the ride and a beautifully subtle hihat sound, again almost slightly glassy.
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Re: The sound of a mix - Sultans of Swing

Postby innerchord » Wed Jun 03, 2020 1:50 am

Interesting choice. Sultans of Swing takes me back! That song is a duet of course, the voice and guitar taking dual lead throughout. I remember being surprised when it came out because it didn't really sound like the band did live, at least not to me. So much more polished. A nice job by Rhett and Muff, one of the reasons Dire Straights went so far in my opinion.
I like it when a mix doesn't conform to some norm or other, and the 'vision' of the artist/producer can speak.

Interesting facts for me are that Rhett Davies assisted on one of my favourite records of all time (Genesis' Selling England by the Pound) and Muff Winwood produced one of my earliest favourites, Sparks' Kimono My House. Fascinating!
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Re: The sound of a mix - Sultans of Swing

Postby CS70 » Wed Jun 03, 2020 8:08 am

Yeah it just stroke me how different it sounded from modern productions, and how much the mix sound really contributes to the atmosphere.

The car's system is merciless with mixes, exposes differences to extremes, much more than any other system I have (or any other car system I had before).

But maybe it was different also from other productions of the same time, I guess?
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Re: The sound of a mix - Sultans of Swing

Postby Arpangel » Wed Jun 03, 2020 9:17 am

Sultans Of Swing brings back memories of when I first moved to London, it was on all the time in our attic bedsit.
I love Dire Straights, always have done, when I was at uni it was considered so uncool to like them, some people would whisper "do you know Tony likes Dire Straights, NO!"
It was a contemporary modern music degree, so I guess it couldn’t have been more uncool....

:thumbup:
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Re: The sound of a mix - Sultans of Swing

Postby Ramirez » Wed Jun 03, 2020 9:36 am

Listening now. And agree with pretty much everyone.

The bass playing, especially, is wonderfully controlled. It really shows the importance of note duration. And he almost always lets the drum or guitar take over when you expect a fill.
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Re: The sound of a mix - Sultans of Swing

Postby AlasdairEaston » Wed Jun 03, 2020 1:15 pm

Here's a great YouTube clip with just the guitars. Well, some of the guitars.

What a great ducking set up! Lets those lead lines really stand out. Way more extreme than I'd have the courage to go, but then that's just another lesson learned for me. How much time must this side-chaining have saved during mixdown?!

I say "some of the guitars" because on listening to the full track, there are other background guitars carrying on in the rhythm guitar "gaps" where the lead is playing. They're more floaty though, maybe just to add colour and help conceal the extreme ducking. The ones getting ducked completely are the "choppy" ones that would more easily distract from the lead lines.

https://youtu.be/Hh3U9iPKeXQ

Fascinating to hear.
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Re: The sound of a mix - Sultans of Swing

Postby CS70 » Wed Jun 03, 2020 1:24 pm

AlasdairEaston wrote:What a great ducking set up

Woah!!

I thought I ducked my guitars hard but this is insane! And works brilliantly! No wonder the leads are so upfront!

But yeah I guess one would have to "fill up" a little. Perhaps the sends to a main reverb can help, they would not be in the guitar bus I guess.

But what a crazy move. Uber cool. Thanks for that!
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Re: The sound of a mix - Sultans of Swing

Postby desmond » Wed Jun 03, 2020 1:26 pm

AlasdairEaston wrote:What a great ducking set up! Lets those lead lines really stand out. Way more extreme than I'd have the courage to go, but then that's just another lesson learned for me. How much time must this side-chaining have saved during mixdown?!

In that guitar stem on YouTube, whoever put the stem together had the rhythm and lead parts, and they chose to duck the rhythm to focus on the lead parts which to them were more interesting.

That's nothing to do with the mix on the record, where this does not happen (on a quick listen on laptop speakers!)

Don't assume that leaked audio tracks appear exactly as on the final mix, they don't, they are often combined, edited, and mixed out from the raw audio recordings, and bear no relation to the mix, effects and routing used on the actual mix at the time.
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Re: The sound of a mix - Sultans of Swing

Postby CS70 » Wed Jun 03, 2020 1:30 pm

desmond wrote:Don't assume that leaked audio tracks appear exactly as on the final mix, they don't, they are often combined, edited, and mixed out from the raw audio recordings, and bear no relation to the mix, effects and routing used on the actual mix at the time.

A good point, perhaps it's not the real guitar bus. Gonna try and see what I can do with a move like that and some fill-up guitars.

If I am not mistaken, Mark recorded the rhythm part himself, and then his brother (whom he thought was a little less than talented) did another take.. I could see this second RG being used as a backing.

But as you say, who knows..
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Re: The sound of a mix - Sultans of Swing

Postby Martin Walker » Wed Jun 03, 2020 3:22 pm

CS70 wrote:
desmond wrote:Don't assume that leaked audio tracks appear exactly as on the final mix, they don't, they are often combined, edited, and mixed out from the raw audio recordings, and bear no relation to the mix, effects and routing used on the actual mix at the time.

A good point, perhaps it's not the real guitar bus. Gonna try and see what I can do with a move like that and some fill-up guitars.

Just had a listen to the release mix, and it's not the same as the leaked guitar tracks (I'm not sure I could hear ANY ducking of rhythm when the lead cuts in), but what a fascinating way to listen to the guitars!


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Re: The sound of a mix - Sultans of Swing

Postby desmond » Wed Jun 03, 2020 3:41 pm

Yep. I can't imagine all the rhythm guitars drop out completely for the duration of the guitar solo...

A lot of these stems are ripped from other formats (like video games) and have parts combined in various ways. It's not like you're getting the raw multitracks... However, they still can be fascinating to the likes of us.

One of my fave snare sounds, for example, is A-ha's "Take On Me". The multitracks are out there, and the snare on the recording (just a dull drum machine snare) is *nowhere near* how it ends up on the final mix - which is heavily compressed and eq'd, and also has I believe live sample replacements from an AMS. Which was disappointing... :tongue:

(However, who knows what version the leaked multitrack was from? - there were a few goes around of that song...)
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Re: The sound of a mix - Sultans of Swing

Postby CS70 » Wed Jun 03, 2020 4:13 pm

desmond wrote:Yep. I can't imagine all the rhythm guitars drop out completely for the duration of the guitar solo...

A lot of these stems are ripped from other formats (like video games) and have parts combined in various ways. It's not like you're getting the raw multitracks... However, they still can be fascinating to the likes of us.

One of my fave snare sounds, for example, is A-ha's "Take On Me". The multitracks are out there, and the snare on the recording (just a dull drum machine snare) is *nowhere near* how it ends up on the final mix - which is heavily compressed and eq'd, and also has I believe live sample replacements from an AMS. Which was disappointing... :tongue:

(However, who knows what version the leaked multitrack was from? - there were a few goes around of that song...)

Ahah I can go and ask if u like.. :)
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Re: The sound of a mix - Sultans of Swing

Postby desmond » Wed Jun 03, 2020 4:47 pm

CS70 wrote:Ahah I can go and ask if u like.. :)

:lol: :thumbup:
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Re: The sound of a mix - Sultans of Swing

Postby innerchord » Wed Jun 03, 2020 8:53 pm

CS70 wrote:A good point, perhaps it's not the real guitar bus.
:!: Of course it's not. There's no ducking on the record. The integrity is maintained because the rhythm guitars are split left/right, and the solo guitar centre. The dry, un-effected central vocal presentation is important, too.
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