1. #1
    JarredMcAdams's Avatar Ubisoft SF Game Designer
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    BackTrack Spotlight: "More Than a Feeling" by Boston



    Each week we showcase an existing song from our extensive Rocksmith song library on the weekly Twitch stream, in addition to the current week's offerings. We’ll announce the BackTrack here each Wednesday and offer some thoughts about the featured song.

    This week's BackTrack Spotlight comes from notetracker Matt Montgomery.

    Boston -- "More Than a Feeling"
    Originally released as RS2014 DLC on November 15, 2011
    Notetracked by Matt Montgomery
    All arrangements in E Standard Tuning


    In 1970, Tom Scholz graduated with a master’s degree from MIT, which landed him a senior position at Polaroid. He used the money he earned there to purchase recording equipment. For five years, Scholz worked on several songs in his basement, all the while trying to obtain a record contract. When he finally was able to drum up interest, the record company wanted him to re-record what would become Boston’s self-titled debut album in an LA studio. However, Scholz just sent the rest of the band to LA to work on other material, while he secretly rerecorded the original demos in his basement studio.

    There are two ways to go about recording a song. One is to capture a performance as it occurs and present it as faithfully as possible to the listener; the other is to construct a recording one instrument at a time. It’s like working in a laboratory: you have the ability to tinker, experiment, or indulge any creative whim your time and tools will allow. Boston’s entire first album—and “More Than a Feeling” in particular—shows the awesome potential of this approach, having been recorded almost entirely by one man in his home studio. Though common today, this was virtually unheard of in 1974.

    The advantage to recording using this track-by-track approach is that you can experiment with layering and create sonic landscapes that wouldn’t be easily achieved by a live band. If you listen closely to “More Than a Feeling,” you can hear that almost everything has been recorded twice, and then hard panned to the left and right sides of the stereo mix. This approach allows the acoustic guitars in the verses to surround and envelop the listener, while the distorted guitars in the chorus sound massive when they appear. This is all achieved by doubling and panning. The lead vocals are also layered, with gobs of reverb placed on the doubling vocal. This keeps the vocals clear while still creating a cool, spacey sound. In key moments of the song, the reverb-soaked vocals get cranked, emphasizing the lyrics: “And I slipped awaaaaaaaaaaaay…”

    Today, nearly all recordings use this track-by-track approach. In addition to the ability to build up layers of sound, it also gives the mixing engineer a greater degree of control. When bands record together, you end up hearing drums in the guitar mic, guitars in the drum mics, and bass seeping into everything. While this “live in the studio” approach is not inherently a bad thing, it does mean that there’s less control and isolation in the mix. It also means that you can’t edit an individual instrument without it affecting all the others.

    Of course, too much control can lead to sterile recordings. When music is edited to perfection, it loses something—a sense of life. Autotune is an infamous example of studio magic taken to an unhealthy extreme, but even simply over-editing a track can drain the life from a song. Music listeners crave some degree of imperfection, but with modern tools, we have the ability to make everything sound “perfect.” Though recorded track by track, “More Than a Feeling” thankfully does not suffer from this “perfection.” The guitars are not perfectly in sync, the vocal layers shift slightly out of tune, and the tempo moves up and down in a very natural way. Though recorded with a laboratory approach, it has a rawness and energy that have kept the song popular for decades.
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  2. #2
    b_lex's Avatar Member
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    Thanks Jarred, really enjoyed this read.
    I admit that most of the song breakdowns that focus on theory sometimes go over my head, I enjoyed this different approach discussing the recording process.
    Just yesterday I had a Boston marathon playing RS (minus Amanda, haven't had a chance to pick it up yet) and it reminded me how fun they are to play - all of them.
    Great pick this week.

    Also, how do we go about suggesting songs we would like to see one day as a BackTrack?
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  3. #3
    JarredMcAdams's Avatar Ubisoft SF Game Designer
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    Originally Posted by b_lex Go to original post
    Thanks Jarred, really enjoyed this read.
    I admit that most of the song breakdowns that focus on theory sometimes go over my head, I enjoyed this different approach discussing the recording process.
    Just yesterday I had a Boston marathon playing RS (minus Amanda, haven't had a chance to pick it up yet) and it reminded me how fun they are to play - all of them.
    Great pick this week.

    Also, how do we go about suggesting songs we would like to see one day as a BackTrack?
    Glad you liked the approach - that was all Matt's idea.

    What song would you like to see us tackle, and why?
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  4. #4
    rcole_sooner's Avatar Moderator
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    A really cool write up....

    ...but what about the keys, scales, and chord theory?

    I guess this one is simple, but that is probably just about my level.
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    b_lex's Avatar Member
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    Well I could pick a few, but if I had to narrow it down to one, Alter Bridge - Blackbird would be my pick.
    I understand this to be one of their crowning acheivments, and just resonates with me as one of my all time fav songs.
    Needless to say I was thrilled when this was available as a dlc.
    Feel there is lots of of technique involved and I love the twin solo, lots of feel/emotion from both myles and mark.
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  6. #6
    SeattleSauve's Avatar Senior Member
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    I really love playing the solo to this song, one of my favs. All of the Boston songs we have are just so great.
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  7. #7
    Awww.. I was so hyped about the new music theory lesson.

    It's not that the inside view into recording process isn't interesting, it's just that I kinda knew all this stuff before:
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    rcole_sooner's Avatar Moderator
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    The thing I remember finding fascinating reading about that back in the day... was the album being recorded on an "amp the size of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich". I believe Tom had built the little amp himself. There were some little pocket amps on the market back then that were supposed to be based off his little amp.
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  9. #9
    Gold_Jim's Avatar Senior Member
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    Thanks for that article, Jarred. I was 10 when that song came out, and it completely changed the way I saw rock and roll as a genre. Tom Scholz was a guitar icon and by the 2nd album, I was totally hooked on Boston. I was only surprised that you omitted that he used devices that he constructed himself to record those huge guitar sounds. Instead of tracking huge guitar amps, he built what would morph into the Rockman line of recording equipment. I actually still have a Rockman from way back when, but it's the headphone amp model. This pre-dated Line 6 by over a decade, but it wasn't trying to be a bunch of amps, just one - itself. Here's a great PBS special on Tom, his recordings, his gear, and his look at guitar soloing.

    I played More Than a Feeling for years, and with the exception of a few fingering choices, I guess we got it the same. I chose to play the C chord at the 8th fret of the E sometimes, just because I found it easier to transition from the C chord to the E chord up the neck. Probably because I sang and played, and I wanted that tonality of the lower strings through my tinny amp to ring against the high notes I was singing. As you mentioned, Delp's voice was more than doubled (I think it was doubled for each track and panned if I remember, plus soaked in reverb) and I was singing dry (no effects) on stage through a pair of 15" main speakers. For the solo, I move some of the notes from the G string to the B string for the exact opposite reason. Sholz plays a Les Paul and I used to play one as well, but when I played live, the G string didn't cut through as well as the B string for some notes. I still play the same notes, but a different location. Must be out of habit.
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    BazzTard61's Avatar Banned
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    Kinda sucks that some of my fave basslines were played by a guitarist lol
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