Forums > Queen - Serious Discussion > Queen in studio: how did they record the songs, takes and demos

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Seven_Seas_Of_Rhye II user not visiting Queenzone.com

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Posted: 29 Mar 06, 14:51 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

After hearing fantastic "Funny How Love Is..." take5 I have some questions to musicians and Queen lovers. Especially FriedChicken and Sebastian could know much.



I thought they always recorded each instrument SEPARETLY. Beatles - yes, they recorded all instruments together for a song - it was 60's. I thought Queen could do it this way but only for a trying of the song - for a jam.

The second question - from which instruments they started - what was the order of instruments?


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Posted: 29 Mar 06, 15:34 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Some of your questions may be answered in The Making Of Bohemian Rhapsody and the Making of A Night At The Opera.


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Posted: 29 Mar 06, 16:17 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Drums are usually recorded first. Then bass is next. Then guitar. Then vocals.

Thats how my band did it anyway, but drums first would just make a lot more sense.


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Posted: 29 Mar 06, 16:25 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

It depends, with my band we record drums and bass together, but I think that it's different every time (but most of the time drums+bass or drums alone I think)


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Posted: 29 Mar 06, 16:30 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Thank you. I didn't get these making's yet. I only have GVH I extras when Brian talks about Bohemian Rhapsody - does Bohemian Rhapsody documentary have this part?

Yeah, we do almost the same way - drums-bass-rhythm guitar(that will be deleted - just lead chords)-piano... But FriedChicken said about "Funny How Love Is..." take5 that all instruments WERE RECORDED together. Did they record the songs on Queen II this way or it was just "a jam"?


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Posted: 29 Mar 06, 17:24 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Basic track was laid down live. It was more often than not piano + bass + drums (eg Flick Of The Wrist), or guitar + bass + drums (eg Tie Your Mother Down). There are of course some exceptions, for instance:

- Sail Away Sweet Sister (piano, bass, drums and rhythm guitar)

- You're My Best Friend (piano & drums, educated guess)

- Sheer Heart Attack (guitar, educated guess)

Some tracks in the later days (Hot Space onwards) could have been originated by a drum-machine loop and then the creator of the song laid down synth-bass and/or some guitar.

As far as I know, they returned to the live backing tracks for The Miracle and especially Innuendo, again with exceptions (Headlong's guide track was programmed).

Vocals (especially lead) weren't always the last thing recorded, since they didn't always know how would the song eventually evolve. For instance, if they found out certain vocal line was weak they could double it or cover it with instruments or backing harmonies. You And I acoustic guitars were added up after Freddie recorded the vocal parts, same goes for Rock It synths and Rog's voice.


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Posted: 29 Mar 06, 19:10 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Laying a guitar line first is very unlogical. Since it's a really hard task to record drums to a guitar part. Especially in those days when you didn't have stuff like Pro Tools


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Posted: 29 Mar 06, 19:13 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

But Sebastian is right. They used to play a couple of instruments at the same time.

Some bands do it all seperately. But for Queen music this would be very hard. Because their songs are so dynamic, there are lots of gaps where there aren't drums. Or strange drum bits which are off beat and so on. It would be really hard playing drums to such a weird song when you don't hear the rest.

Also the Opera bit from Borhap was done live.

They also used to record in segments. For example Black Queen was recorded in pieces. The first part for example was intro to the 'voice from behind me' part. Also Borhap was done in pieces. (some people say it's not but it would be the most logical thing)

Also Prophets Song was done in pieces, in the end Brian was still shoving around the various bits and making it in a complete song.


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Posted: 29 Mar 06, 19:21 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Oh and the order of recording would be like this


Bed tracks (the backing track) is lain down first. In most cases it's piano/bass/drums or drums/bass/guitar.


Overdubs, instrumental overdubs like extra guitar rythm tracks, guitar solo's, piano (and later keyboards) extra drums. Sometimes stuff like the snare or cymbals gets overdubbed to make it sound even bigger. and sometimes entire solo's were overdubbed onto the rhythm drums (Dragon Attack, One vision)

Vocals. First the backing vocals were recorded by Freddie, Brian and Roger.

Then in the end when everything else was recorded Freddie (or brian or Roger) would come in to record the backing vocals.

Ofcourse not all members had to be there the whole time. It could be that Freddie was singing Play the Game in one studio, and Brian was recording piano demo's for Save Me in the other studio.


And then it needs some mixing, some mastering and it's send to the pressing plant


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Posted: 29 Mar 06, 20:03 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Thank you so much, guys! Sebastian and FriedChicken, I very appreciate you're saying. Great information about how Queen was in the studio.

Uhhhhh :-) So, of course, it was different all the time. I thought when they record a song they play live only for a GUIDE track. And then - only single recordings or maximum 2 instruments at once. I was wrong. It is still very strange for me because there is no bigger music perfectionists as Queen. On the contrary to Queen, a part of Strawberry Fields even was transposed from A to Bb!


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Posted: 29 Mar 06, 20:16 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

The Sheer Heart Attack thing, as I said, is an educated guess, since I guess (sounds redundant but...) it'd be hard for Roger to record drums first if he didn't know where to stop etc. Keep in mind that for SHA Roger recorded almost everything himself. Another option is that he did a click or something as a guide to the actual recordings.

Relatively few songs feature piano overdubs. More often than not the songs with piano had piano as main instrument, therefore it was recorded first (with bass and drums).

And I disagree with Niek in one point: backing vocals were done after the lead vocal, not before. The reason being, lead vocal dictates the punctuation for backing vocals (source, Roy Thomas Baker). An exception is the "oh yeah" bit of Bo Rhap, and probably some of the song where harmonies did chordal backing (Dreamer's Ball, Dear Friends).

Another possible case would be that Fred (or Roger or Brian) did a lead vocal take, then Fred (and/or Roger and/or Brian) did the backing harmonies, and then the lead singer re-recorded the lead vocal. It's always a cycle since there could be many things replaced in the post-production phase (e.g. guitar solos), and remember Queen were extremely meticulous.


John hated HS. Fred's fave singer was not PR. Roger didn't compose 'Innuendo.' Witness testimonies are often inaccurate. Scotland's not in England. 'Bo Rhap' hasn't got 180 voices.
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Posted: 29 Mar 06, 20:33 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

So Sebastian, what mainly was first - lead or backing vocals?

I could say there are two opposite things - lead vocal dectates backing vocals but backing vocals create "backing chords" and it is a support for a lead vocal, it could grow/change a melody line (also as an emotional support). But of cours it doesn't dectate what needs to be recorded first - when you finish creating a song you know every note and it doesn't matter already what to record first - lead or backing vocals... :-)


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Posted: 29 Mar 06, 20:42 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Just saw your last paragraph :-)

Yeah guide lead vocal. Remember One Vission documentary on GVH II - I guess it is first time when we listen to Freddie's guide vocal. Very interesting and wonderful.

About "Funny How..." take5 - if it was played by four together - was it a guide track?


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Posted: 29 Mar 06, 23:15 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

it depends, in my case, we record all at the same time, except voice, i think that when you record the entire band, you can catch better the feelin of the song, thats my point of view


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Posted: 30 Mar 06, 03:01 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Seven_Seas_Of_Rhye II wrote:

So Sebastian, what mainly was first - lead or backing vocals?

I could say there are two opposite things - lead vocal dectates backing vocals but backing vocals create "backing chords" and it is a support for a lead vocal, it could grow/change a melody line (also as an emotional support). But of cours it doesn't dectate what needs to be recorded first - when you finish creating a song you know every note and it doesn't matter already what to record first - lead or backing vocals... :-)



There would be very few exceptions to recording the lead vocal first, it is the most important part of the song and you would not want to be restricted by having to work around the backing vocal unless you were creating a choral piece.

Over the years I have worked in many studios with lots of musicians and with out exception I have laid down a backing track, bass, drums, guitar etc first then gone back with other instruments and vocal, sometimes I have played with the whole band live just to capture the spirit of a rock song, but most often it gets done with a backing of the main lead instrument plus bass and drums, I always like to play with a bass live, that way we are playing together and working with eachother rather than a more cold approach after the first take.




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Posted: 30 Mar 06, 03:04 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

"And I disagree with Niek in one point: backing vocals were done after the lead vocal, not before. The reason being, lead vocal dictates the punctuation for backing vocals (source, Roy Thomas Baker). An exception is the "oh yeah""

Nope, there was an interview on BrianMay.com a while ago with someome (RTB or brian?) and it said lead vocals were done in the very end, even after the backing vocals. I'll look it up


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Posted: 30 Mar 06, 03:05 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

"Relatively few songs feature piano overdubs. More often than not the songs with piano had piano as main instrument, therefore it was recorded first (with bass and drums)."

My guess is that Now I'm Here and Father to Son have piano overdubs


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Posted: 30 Mar 06, 03:45 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Just wanted to mention that Queen recorded their stuff the 'old way' ...meaning if they fucked up a bit they usually had to go and record the entire track again. It wasn't until the later 80's that digital editing made it much easier to fix takes and speed up the process.

What I love about Queen's recording is that there wasn't any click tracks...nearly all major bands today record to a click which keeps everything perfectly in time. Roger never used one...and you can really tell what an amazing drummer he was...it be so perfect. I was blown away that Borhap wasn't done to a click...it's so tight! Especially the opera section!




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Posted: 30 Mar 06, 09:27 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Roger did use click track. For example in One Vision docu you can hear him say to John 'the click track is a bit slow'

I also don't like click track. It ruines the feel of the track.


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Posted: 30 Mar 06, 10:50 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Freddie recorded most of his "ideas" at home, and played piano with the melody he had in his head or mind...a few of the most beautiful examples of that would be: keep passing the open windows, you are the ony one, new york, and more improvistions i have...from there on, he would bring the idea to the studio, play it to the rest, and usually there would grow a jamsession to see what it did with the band, if there as chemisrty, and possibilities for further exploration ad development of the basic idea. If a sound was found and the words were there, the instrumental recordings were never the same...that changed from studio to studio, and from album to album, along with all the technical changes in the studios through the years...they always had acces to "state of the art" equipment and technicians working for them with the machines that were new to them, and they were always ahead of all other acts, and that made them trendsetters... because of that... But the endresult was always an album they all worked on together and they also found out during the studiosessions wich song was suitable for liveshows. If they liked to play it in the studio, they sure as hell loved to play it live too.


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