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"Rain" Vocal Effect
31 May 2014
8.59pm
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MrMoonlight
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Rain, one of my favourite songs, uses a very strange, warbly, almost distorted sound effect for John's voice. Does anyone know how this can be emulated with Audacity or other modern software?

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31 May 2014
9.53pm
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meanmistermustard
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John's vocal had ADT (Automatic Double Tracking) applied to it after it was recorded with the tape going slower so it was slightly faster when played back at the correct speed (the backing track was played slightly faster by the foursome when being recorded so it was slightly slower when played back at the desired speed).

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MrMoonlight, Starr Shine?

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31 May 2014
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MrMoonlight
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Well that was quick.

31 May 2014
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Ron Nasty
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I'm afraid I can't give any advice on how to do it using modern software, but I can point you towards the effects used at the time.

Firstly, John's vocal was recorded slow. Normal speed was 50 cycles per second, here it was recorded at 42. Which means it was speeded-up when played back at normal speed.

There is also the probability that it was recorded through a Leslie speaker.

During mixing an audio oscillator, an offshoot of ADT that alters the frequency, was used - with John probably "playing" the oscillator during the mono mix session.

So, John's vocal is the result of several processes - speed it was recorded at altered by playback speed, probable use of a Leslie speaker, and then the vocal being put through an oscillator during the mix.

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vonbontee

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The Beatles Bible 2020 non-Canon Poll Part One: 1958-1963 and Part Two: 1964-August 1966

1 June 2014
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vonbontee
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Haha, damn my eyesight - I read the thread title and thought "Hey, what "Ram " track has a vocal effect on it?"

I don't think I've ever noticed any vocal effects on "Rain " before (either), aside from the tape-speed manipulation - I had to give the mono a listening anew, which I just did. And yeah, it does sound altered and slightly warbly. That might be a Leslie going very slowly in there, but I can't hear it as well as Ron can, or at least it hasn't got that really swirly sound that I associate with that effect.

That's fascinating, John messing with an oscillator during mixing! Adding a bit of improvised indeterminacy during a bloody mix session, just like mixing in a BBC Radio recording of "King Lear" a year later!

GEORGE: In fact, The Detroit Sound. JOHN: In fact, yes. GEORGE: In fact, yeah. Tamla-Motown artists are our favorites. The Miracles. JOHN: We like Marvin Gaye. GEORGE: The Impressions, Marvin Gaye. PAUL & GEORGE: Mary Wells. GEORGE: The Exciters. RINGO: Chuck Jackson. JOHN: To name but eighty. 

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1 June 2014
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Ron Nasty
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@vonbontee John's vocal being Leslie'd is partly assumption on my part, which is why I say it's a "probability".

Rain  was recorded (mainly) on 14 April 1966, alongside a bass overdub on Paperback Writer . Lewisohn states that a Leslie speaker was used that day, and he only tends to mention the use of a Leslie when it is being used for a vocal, so it seems to me that John's vocal was Leslie'd. It would fit with the description of John that, whenever a new effect was discovered to alter his voice, he wanted it used all the time, and since it comes only a week after his discovery that his voice could be put through a Leslie (on 7 April with Tomorrow Never Knows ) it seems a reasonable assumption, and it would sound different given the recording speed.

Geoff Emerick describes the oscillator process: "An offshoot of ADT was that we had a big audio oscillator to alter the frequency of the tape machines. We would drive it through a power amp and the power amp would drive the capstan wheel and enable you to speed up or slow down the machine at will. John - or George if it was his song - used to sit in the control room on mixes and actually play the oscillator."

The interesting part of Emerick's description is that he seems to indicate that it was only John and George that used that particular "vari-speed" effect on their songs.

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2 June 2014
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vonbontee
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Ron Nasty said

@vonbontee John's vocal being Leslie'd is partly assumption on my part, which is why I say it's a "probability".

Rain  was recorded (mainly) on 14 April 1966, alongside a bass overdub on Paperback Writer . Lewisohn states that a Leslie speaker was used that day, and he only tends to mention the use of a Leslie when it is being used for a vocal, so it seems to me that John's vocal was Leslie'd. It would fit with the description of John that, whenever a new effect was discovered to alter his voice, he wanted it used all the time, and since it comes only a week after his discovery that his voice could be put through a Leslie (on 7 April with Tomorrow Never Knows ) it seems a reasonable assumption, and it would sound different given the recording speed.

Geoff Emerick describes the oscillator process: "An offshoot of ADT was that we had a big audio oscillator to alter the frequency of the tape machines. We would drive it through a power amp and the power amp would drive the capstan wheel and enable you to speed up or slow down the machine at will. John - or George if it was his song - used to sit in the control room on mixes and actually play the oscillator."

The interesting part of Emerick's description is that he seems to indicate that it was only John and George that used that particular "vari-speed" effect on their songs.

Ah, OK, I didn't realize that by "oscillator" they were referring specifically to a VSO to alter the tape speed - I was thinking more of a kind of electronic filter to change the actual timbre of the voices. I still think your Leslied-vocal theory sounds probable, especially considering Lewisohn's confirmation.

GEORGE: In fact, The Detroit Sound. JOHN: In fact, yes. GEORGE: In fact, yeah. Tamla-Motown artists are our favorites. The Miracles. JOHN: We like Marvin Gaye. GEORGE: The Impressions, Marvin Gaye. PAUL & GEORGE: Mary Wells. GEORGE: The Exciters. RINGO: Chuck Jackson. JOHN: To name but eighty. 

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