Driving Music, Music Tutorials

Hotel California – electronic cover

Eagles “Hotel California” was on in the car as we drove home the other day and I just really felt I wanted to have a go at it with pure electronic sounds. Here is a cover that is true to the original Eagles song (well as true as the MIDI File I downloaded) only with pure synth sounds (no samples). It is such a super track, I wouldn’t want to mess with it as that would feel like ego. The few covers & remixes I found felt that way.

My aim was to deliver the track very recognizably only as though done by an electronic performer like Steve Winwood, Gary Wright or even OMD. I deliberately matched a lot of the feel of the original mix.

If you would like me to do something like this for something of yours, I have a Fiverr Gig for it https://www.fiverr.com/share/wklEDB

Hotel California Synth Rack
Hotel California Synth Rack

For the Technical

For the inveterate synth spotter, here is the lowdown:

  • DrumsRD-19 Drum Module x 8 in a Combinator + M-Class Compressor
  • Bass – Thor + Sweeper Phaser
  • Piano – Europa + The Echo
  • Main Acoustic Guitar – Europa + Scream 4, Sweeper Phaser, The Echo
  • 2nd Acoustic Guitar – Subtractor + Scream 4, The Echo
  • Mute Strum – Europa
  • Guitar 1 (brass left) – Europa + The Echo
  • Guitar 2 (brass right) – Europa
  • Guitar 3 (square lead) – Europa + Sweeper Filter, The Echo
  • Vocal Melody – Europa
  • Bus Reverb – RV-7000 Room Shape 3
  • Masters – Reason Classic Master Bus Compressor (SSL), M-Class EQ, Softube Saturation Knob, Selig Gain, iOx Onyx 430i Tube Limiter

I will heartily recommend doing these sorts of covers for your learning as not only do you get to dig into in great work and duplicate some of it, but to deliver something that works, means you have to put aside some personal ego as this is not your song so you have to deliver it how it should be, not how you want it to be. Great Sound Design & Mixing experience.

I downloaded a MIDI File from the internet and after loaded it in Reason (after checking for viruses). Thankfully the file was reasonably well made so all the ID8 Romplers opened with passable patches. This made arranging the tracks into a usable order easy.

Now, I am pretty sure that some of the notes aren’t exactly right. I thought about trying to solve them but none are out of key so I figured it was best to accept them as they were.

I also loaded the original song in the timeline and adjusted the overall Tempo until the sections lined up pretty well to be sure I had the right sort of pacing. This also let me flip back and forth to understand the line I was working on.

Drums I knew I wanted to be very early drum box feel so my RD-19 Combinator was the obvious choice. Initially I used the default sounds as I moved the Note triggers to the right sounds. I then put the drums aside.

Bass was easy, I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go but the amazing thing was that the lines are so nicely written that almost anything would fit – at least in Solo. I really didn’t want to make this seem about me so I worked on a nice simple solid sound that moved well with the playing. The Phaser helps it to move a bit better overall.

Piano just kinda had to be a bit FM. The piano doesn’t play a huge role but at times it echos the vocal line so needs to cut through there. Simple FM does that.

That Acoustic Guitar is just the center of the first part of the piece so it has to be something. Again tempting to try to re frame the overall piece with a very different sound, but that would be arrogance. i worked on a sound that has recognizable elements of the original steel string but was still comfortable unique.

The lower guitar line took me by surprise as I have never noticed it. But, it is there low in the mix to provide a bit more interest & drive seeing the intro is pretty long for a radio song. It is lovely and so I pushed it a bit harder in the mix but still kept the low tone. Sub’s locked OSC is great in this case as it gives a bit more punch which allowed me to keep the sound low.

Mute Strum is a muted Wah line that sits on the right among the high hats but pushes things along a bit. Europa’s tone sculpting & Mod Matrix were perfect for this. Kinda wah guitar, kinda SH-101 Seq (a bit of Ring Mod helped there).

Guitar 1 + 2 were supposed to be guitar type synths but G1 became a Synth Brass sound and it seemed just perfect. It was time to let the track develop its Benedictfulness. That meant the G2 had to be a complimentary Syn Brass sound. Pan em like Titpon & Halford and they sat really nicely, innocuously enough in the first half but waiting for the Duel.

Guitar 3 is the bit we all wait for. Joe Walsh may have saved the day in the studio but his line was a bit of a PITA for me. Not because there is anything wrong with it (bar maybe a few imperfect notes) but because it was a bit of a battle in how to voice it. I came in assuming guitar synth with overdrives etc. The track had its day though and it was a far simpler Phase Modulated Sine (read Pulse) that saved my day. A bit of the lovely Sweeper Filter to place the tone perfectly and it was about right. In the first part this line needs to stay low to support the other instruments but then as the solo starts it needs to increasingly take over. Volume automaton to the rescue.

I wasn’t sure what to do with the vocal line. I am not exactly a singer and Don Henley is not an easy one to follow. I considered vocoding or even leaving the melody out as we all know it well enough and the rest of the songs plays so well… But really it is nicer with the vocal melody there; it completes things. So I did what I did with my Alan Parsons Project cover and launched another synth. Europa is a great “what kind of synth do I want to use” synth because it can do almost anything. In this case Don gets replaced with a mutated Pulse and a Vocal Formant filter. I’m sure he’d be delighted.

Hotel California Electronic Cover
Hotel California Electronic Cover

I then made the cover art. How to make a cover for this. It wasn’t to be an album cover seeing this will only ever be a stray track.

Seeing I had already covered the Hotel California song, it seemed amusing to cover the cover too!

I got the album cover, opened Inkscape and set about carrying the shapes I could see onto the virtual canvas. Soon enough I had something uncannily like the famous cover but suitably synthetic.

Blocked by BMG & YouTube

I made it into a video and uploaded to YouTube. All good until, YouTube immediately Blocked it totally based on BMG. Bugger.

Sadly these days YouTube are brutal. I have already had to un-block my own “Run from the Sun” album twice in the last few months. I don’t get told that my video of my music has been canned by CD Baby, I have to find it myself by chance. Several people have tried to claim my “Plugged-In Bach” which is absurd seeing Bach is seriously dead and the works public domain.

YouTube gives some record company the rights to my rights – my performance legally entitles me to payment for playing my performance even if someone else wrote it. YouTube decide to pass any money I could make to someone who has never been involved in my record! How messed up is this?

Now I am all for rights being protected but common understanding has always been that a cover that acknowledges the originators and pays dues is never punished. These sorts of Fan covers are actually tribute and good for the original work. To add insult, there are already covers & remixes on YouTube so why deny mine? Is that prejudice?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.