music by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), arranged by Alan Sanderson
Alan Sanderson: guitars, bass, organ, recording, mixing, mastering
Tom Sanderson: organ, electric piano, drums, recording
Cover image by Marisa, Alan , and Tom Sanderson
A few years ago I while was listening to the Tocatta and Fuge in D minor I suddenly realized, “This would make an awesome surf rock song!” I started working on an arrangement, but it was a little too ambitious for my arranging skills at the time.
During 2020 I set a personal goal to learn the Prelude in C from The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1 on piano. Later in the year I learned it on guitar, and in 2021 I started working on this arrangement. This song is much simpler than the Tocatta and Fuge, without any counterpoint melodies, so I figured it would be a good way to test the waters. (Har har!) I was pretty pleased with how well it translated to the genre, and we plan to do at least a few more similar tracks in the coming months and years.
Near the end of the production I wrote this email to Tom:
So I went to reference a few recordings of the Prelude in C, and I realized to my horror that the score I learned the piece from was missing measure number 26 for some inexplicable reason. So our version is nonstandard in more than one way. 🙂 Honestly it sounds better to me the way we have done it, but probably just because I have learned and studied the piece in this way.
We have the option of adding in measure 26. Honestly I’m not too worried about it. If someone wants to criticize us for butchering a classical piece then I’m sure they’ll have some bigger nails to hang their arguments on.
We left it as is. As Tom pointed out, “Most renderings of the classics in popular music formats truncate and expand various sections.” So there’s precedent for what we did.
This song features three new things in my studio. First is an Ibanez ASB140 ArtCore Semi-Hollow electric bass. I have had my eye on these Ibanez Artcore basses for a couple of years, and finally decided to go for it. It is really nice, and I am liking the sounds I get out of it.
Second is a recording technique I read about in an interview article by recording engineer and producer Sylvia Massey. She described playing a drum track through a speaker with a snare drum strapped to the front of it, while placing a mic on the snare drum. This re-amping technique is useful for guitar and drum tracks when you want to add some character or crunch to the sound, and she recommended it especially for sampled drum tracks. I decided to try it out on Tom’s drum performance, which he performed on the Roland FA-06, and I thought that mixing in the re-amped snare drum gave it a nice organic punchy sound. I also took a cue from Sylvia Massey and used more hard Left-Center-Right panning, and I think that made for a nice clean mix.
Third is a spring reverb impulse response run through an impulse response loader. A few years ago I read about the technique of convolving impulse responses in a book about digital signal processing. Currently there is not a good open source spring reverb modeler, so I found some free spring reverb impulse responses and used the impulse response loader from Linux Studio Plugins. The result was pretty satisfying, and I was surprised that it was less CPU-intensive than Dragonfly Reverb.
While I was getting this song ready for publication the lead developer for Linux Studio Plugins posted the following message on the Linux Musicians forum:
I was very near to release LSP Plugins 1.2.0 but at this moment I am paralized in my work because need to monitor all news about the war which Vladimir Putin and his gang have initiated.
Today this military criminals threaten the whole world with nuclear missles.
It is a shame and disappointment for me that my country, Russia, became an aggressor against the whole World.
If Saint Petersburg will be destroyed by nuclear missles, please know: the 1.2.0 release of LSP Plugins is almost done and can be built from sources at this moment.
To my friends in Russia and in Ukraine: May God grant us peace as we keep fighting for what is right.
I think Alan’s idea to render J. S. Bach in surf rock format is pretty novel. I regret not having the “chops” to help lay down some fast arpeggio accents but I think what we put down on record is faithful to the genre. Alan has really made a diligent effort in creating a thoughtfully planned mix. Listen to Alan’s bass performance on his new instrument. It sounds like a simple boogie-woogie progression, but he had to work within Bach’s relentless modulations within Prelude in C. I’m glad Alan asked me to be part of this track.
Info and Stats
- Production dates: February 2021 – March 2022
- Interfaces: Tascam DSP24SD, Behringer Xenyx 1204USB
- Synths: Roland FA-06
- Guitars: Fender Telecaster, Ibanez ASB140 bass
- Microphones: Shure SM-57
- Behringer Ultra-DI DI400P
- Ardour 6.9
- x42-plugins: parametric equalizer, dynamic compressor, digital peak limiter, setBfree tonewheel organ emulator
- Total tracks: 14
- Synths and keys: 6
- Guitars and basses: 3
- Drums and percussion: 5
Check out the new EP, Right on Time, by Transfer Point, featuring Tom and Alan’s rock and R&B songs from the past two years. The previously released tracks have all been remixed and remastered, and the EP features the new single Chemistry Class (Look my Way!). You can also stream and purchase the EP on […]Read more