Production Breakdown: Hodad from Mars by Mark Marshall

http://theproaudiofiles.com // A production breakdown of the song Hodad from Mars by Mark Marshall. // Loop Loft: http://bit.ly/looploft

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Hey, this is Mark Marshall with guitaristmarkmarshall.com and theproaudiofiles.com.

I want to do another production breakdown. In this episode, I'm going to talk about a composition I wrote called Hodad from Mars. I was writing for a TV show, and they were looking for a bit of a 60's sci-fi with a little bit of humor in it, so I thought that I would go down the surf route, and I was really interested in getting a little bit of a theremin type vibe in there, because those early 60's, late 50's sci-fi films always seem to have a theremin or something of that nature creating those weird UFO sounds.

But I did something a little bit unusual to get the theremin sound.

[mix]

Knowing that I was going for an early 60's style production, I knew that I wasn't going to layer too many guitars and get too fancy. A lot of those recordings were fundamentally live with maybe a few orchestral overdubs if they had them, but there weren't a lot of fancy guitar overdubs.

So I tried to think of it a lot like a band like The Ventures or something, what they would have done if they were in the studio cutting a song, which meant two guitars, an organ, drum kits, some percussion, and then this theremin track.

Let's listen to each of the tracks and talk about them real quick.

We're going to start with the drum loop, which I pulled from the Billy Martin collection from Drums on Demand.

[drums]

I really liked this loop because it wasn't 100% true surf. It implied that though, so to me it kind of put it almost in between vintage 60's surfer and a modern feel to it.

The bass I used a Fender Bass Six, which is like, an octave lower than a guitar and has six strings. I used this as opposed to a Fender P-Bass or J-Bass, because the pickups that are in it just have a little bit of a unique tonality to it. There's just something in the twanginess to them that's a little different than the heavy thudiness of a P-Bass.

Let's listen to it.

[Fender Bass Six]

I played the bass with a pick and just ran it pretty much DI. I was running it through the Ampeg SVT bass head, which I do a lot.

This is the Bass Six that I was using, and you can see, it has these single coil pickups and I'm not sure of the specifics of the pickups, but you have some adjustments here to be able to mess with which pickups are being used and how much bass is on them.

So I may or may not have used the switches to roll off a little bit of the low end, but sometimes, I was doing some of these old style recordings, I'll do that just to thin out the sound a little bit so it's not super woofy.

Probably at this time, they weren't even DI'ing guitars too much, so it was mostly through a miked amp. So I did the best I can to kind of emulate a little bit of that vibe.

Tambourine can kind of be important in a lot of these early 60's music, so I did this.

[drums and tambourine]

I want to talk about the organ before we move on to the guitars. I got this really cool organ sound.

[organ]

It's super vibey and I used the M-Tron plugin, and I just have it on the organ. It's the Mkii organ sound, which you'll see there. I didn't do any modifications to it. I just found it and rolled with it, because it had a lot of character to it.

We're going to move on to guitars, and I'm going to start with the basic rhythm guitar track, which is going to be fairly clean and have a lot of reverb on it.

[clean guitar]

I tracked that with the reverb, just like they would in the 60's. Let's listen to the next guitar part, which is the melody line.

[clean guitar 2]

These are all real guitar amps. I used a Stratocaster into a Princeton Reverb, and miced with a good mic, and that was pretty much it.

Now, I harmonized that guitar melody with a second line that was just a third up. It's just kind of a bit of a Ventures thing, so there's technically three guitars on this, but the two melody lines are harmonized. Let's listen.

[clean guitars, harmonized]

You're going to notice that there's not a lot of low end on the guitars. If I pop all three of them in at one time…

[guitars]

On their own they might sound a little thin. I did this intentionally just to keep a lot of the low end from interfering with the bass guitar and bass drum, and also things that were recorded in the early 60's did not have a lot of depth and low end to them, so a lot of those surf and twangy guitars are actually a much narrower range of frequencies than you'd expect.

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Ace Healey

Producer & Songwriter
Producer & Songwriter from Toronto, Canada. Entrepreneur, and founder of LearnProducing.com.SoundCloud

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About Ace Healey 699 Articles
Producer & Songwriter from Toronto, Canada. Entrepreneur, and founder of LearnProducing.com.SoundCloud

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