Guess I’m Doing Fine

  • Artist: Beck
  • Album: Sea Change
  • Label: Geffen Records
  • Year: 2002
  • Producer: Nigel Godrich
  • Engineer: Nigel Godrich
  • Studio: Ocean Way, Los Angeles, CA.


Can a vocal be treated with a long reverb and still be intimate? Yes, when the reverb is mono, band limited so as not to have distracting upper mids or competitive low end richness, and has a pre delay that pushes the reverb back into an eighth note pocket. This reverb decorates the lead vocal, giving it support and sustain. Most importantly, it creates an introspective, isolated, haunting feeling. The effect is motivated by and contributes to the meaning of the song.
The overall vocal sound in the recording has the exaggerated intimacy that comes from close-microphone placement. That present, detailed, timbrally-rich vocal sound is never obscured by the reverb -- the long reverb -- because the close-microphone part of the vocal sound is stereo, full band, and placed well forward of the reverb in time and level.

While we're here, it's worth paying attention to the piano figure that enters at the end of the first chorus, after "Guess I'm doing fine." (about 1:30, with additional sparse phrasing thereafter). Played by Robert Joseph Manning, Jr. (of Jellyfish fame, among other musical accomplishments), it is mono, panned dead center, and severely compressed. The typical motion of harmonics within the tone of a piano as it decays naturally are -- after this high ratio, low threshold compression -- pulled up in level and essentially not allowed to decay. The piano notes hold an almost fixed level like an organ, allowing the later elements of tone to be as loud as the initial burst of harmonics. This sound is a good fix for piano fans and timbre junkies like us. Check out The Beatles "Lady Madonna" for a similar approach. For the full, classic effect, try a ribbon microphone.


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