The Police - Every Breath You Take

Tootone

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5,155
I decided to create a dedicated thread "for the internet record".

I went searching the web for Andy Summers "gear" and more specifically, delay settings. I found that many have asked this over many years, but the answers are the usual "vagueries". I was surprised. For a song that was No1 for 8 weeks, and The Police's biggest hit, I would have expected a lot more detail.

There is a "SoundonSound" interview floating around. While lengthy, it glosses over Andy Summers contribution, except for the fact he did use the Roland JC120 in the mix, mic on each speaker, panned left and right, then Double tracked Right and Left. This got me thinking, because quite a few other sources "guessed" he was using a Roland SDD320 Dimension D, and I guess, it is possible he did. He definitely had one to use.

SoundOnSound article here...
https://www.soundonsound.com/techniques/classic-tracks-police-every-breath-you-take

I always thought he used a Roland Dimension D (because of a Line6 comment in a manual). My interest in this song was sparked from all the hubbub surrounding the release of the Boss DC-2w. I just wanted to see if the flanger into chorus trick worked (Electric Mistress into JC120), the results were good, but the delay, while close, just had something missing and didn't sound quite right.

Scouring the web, the biggest consensus is the that delay is set for a very short slapback on a single repeat. There is certainly a sense of this, with a percussive echo falling just behind Andy's pick attack. The problem is, even with gobs of reverb, using the "slapback" option creates the impression that the guitar is being played in a very small room. This is contradictory to the very airy, wide ambience of Andy's guitar on the track.

The other popular suggestion is that the delay is set up for dotted eighths. While this is an understandable easy lever to reach for, and fits the ambience, it doesn't fit the rhythm. It clutters the very open and sparse guitar part with delay repeats.

The song is played around 105BPM (YMMV)... not fast, but not slow either, yet it has a very laidback feel to it which is an essential ingredient, and the delay or echo needs to contribute to that feel.

At 105BPM an eighth note delay time is 285ms.

I tried 280ms, loud single repeat... the delay comes back just before the next pick attack. Creates the "slapback" feel with the pick being the slapback. Not quite there. Also, sterile and empty, too "immediate", not airy.

I tried 285ms. The repeat comes back right on the next pick attack, creates a little harmony, a sense of double tracking. Getting closer, but still empty and dry sounding.

290ms... delay coming back just after next pick attack. The slapback is "appearing" in the mix. Single repeat still sounds empty.

290ms... 7-8 Repeats. Delay mix around 40%. Now we're getting somewhere. Ambience and slapback present, still sounds a little "straight" and dry, not laid back.

310ms, multi repeats. Starting to sound a bit too much like dotted eighths. The slapback is separated too much from the guitar and creating its own "side rhythm".

300ms, multiple repeats, mixed in around 60% of the Dry volume. Thats it!!!!


Let's have a look. At 105 BPM, 300ms is:-

1/8th note + 15ms (slapback).

The thing is, you can't "Tap Tempo" that delay into your machine. So you will need a good ear to adjust manually or have a Millisecond readout display.

Another snag is, 300ms only works if you are playing at 105 BPM. Play a bit faster and 300ms starts sounding like a dotted eighth. Play a bit slower and 300ms sounds like a straight eighth with no slapback.

Also, with the delay pinging in your ears, its very easy to lose the song tempo, and start playing instead, with the tempo of the delay. So you need to keep focused on the song.

So what the delay is doing here is:-
  • Creating spatial ambient echo. Multiple, longish repeats into reverb gives a sense of being played "in a large area, far away"... not "close and present".
  • Creating "slapback" width. Those extra 15ms add some bounce and thickness.
  • Adding Harmony. Typical Add9, "stacked 5ths" chord sequences, means the delay is adding an alternating "-5th" to "+5th" harmony to the guitar.
  • Expanding the "modulation". In a sense, like hearing 2 flangers or 2 choruses (or both) in parallel.
On another delay note... it seems Stews drums, or some element of them, was run through a 300ms delay... which might add to the "percussive" delay of the guitar.

The web seems to indicate Andy did most of this in one take, in contrast to Sting and Stew who spent more time fighting and getting it wrong. The beauty of the song stands out in its instrumental "simplicity" I think.

I will follow up with some recordings.
 
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Tootone

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5,155
Have to also keep in mind the person mixing the record. They're throwing up a bunch of compressors, EQ, and reverbs without any regard for human decency.
Yeah, for sure. But, to keep my sanity, I have found over the years, never expect to recreate things exactly. Not even the producers or artists can remember every detail.

As long as you get the main ingredients to recreate the "signature" of the part, you can be happy. Compare this to recreating the part with "incorrect" delay, or "Too much" gain, or wildly wet modulation... you know, you will hear it, and it will sound wrong.

On the other hand, maybe your a little too high on the mids, or using single coils instead of humbuckers. Maybe there's not enough compression... but these things are minor by comparison, and as long as you've made an effort to get the "obvious" stuff right, you can relax a little.
 

zul

Silver Supporting Member
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2,287
Nice research. Very Interesting.
Thanks for sharing.
Now, where ma headphones at?
 

Tootone

Member
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5,155
The bass arrangement is one to give your head a wobble, also.
Well, I would hope a thread like this appears on Google and becomes a magnet for others to throw in knowledge or contributions. Maybe a Bass demo? I always liked the sounds Sting makes.
 

Sam Xavier

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5,063
Every cake you bake/Every leg you break/I'll be cooking stew...

It's possible the delay was added later, which would make it easier to match to the tempo. Not so great when playing live, unless they used a click, which ISTR Copes mentioned in an interview.
 

John Mark Painter

Supporting Member
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8,448
So an odd side story...
a friend of mine (who wouldn't make up stories to look cool) told me he recorded Andy and that he didn't know how to set delays to be in time (accurately)

Back in the dark ages, we had reference cards with a list of different subdivisions/tempo and milliseconds.
Nashville studios had them taped to the racks by the delays.
 
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Four years later, not relevant to the recording in question, but of tangential interest (if one hasn't seen it):

Andy Summers, 'Equinox' - Andy Summers gives a hands-on demonstration on a Channel 4 documentary dedicated to the electric guitar in 1987.

Link starts at 2:56, where he talks about effects, but whole thing is worth a look, also see 3:43 for a pan over his 1987 rack, and 1:00 for EBYT snippet.

In terms of modulations/delays/general spaciousness:
Roland DEP-5, SRV-2000
Yamaha D-1500, SPX-90
Lexicon PCM-70

And... a Tri Stereo Chorus - which is active at the time of the pan.

I was trying to see what buttons he was stomping, but never mind.
(Unfortunately the whole recording is modulated by the wow of the VHS tape.)
 

Tootone

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5,155
Here's a couple of recordings. The demo is overloading the mic on my iPhone, but serves its purpose. The second is just a lower volume run through. Sorry, but I don't have any means to make better recordings at the moment. I didn't want to spend hours perfecting either... so first take is it.

Settings below. Not exact, but will get you in the right ballpark. Experiment on your own gear.



Gear and Settings
Using positions of the clock for Dial controls

1997 USA Strat with Texas Specials, Bridge Pickup.

Fender Blues Deluxe, Clean Channel, Vol around 2, Mid, Treb and Bass around 11 O'clock.

Effects in Order Guitar to Speaker

Boss CP1x Compressor. Everything at 01:00. Front of Amp.

Boss HF2 Flanger. Man Zero, Depth 01:30, Rate 01:00, Res 10:00. Front of amp.

Mobius Chorus, Digital. Speed 51.2 BPM, Depth 09:30, Mix III III III, Tone +3 from middle to +, level 0.0dB. In Amp FX loop.

Timeline, dTape Delay, TP SPD Normal, Lo End (Cut) 5 bars towards "-". Filter (age) Min, Grit (bias) 09:00, Mod Speed min, Mod Depth min, Mix 11:45, Repeats 01:30, TapDiv QRTR, Time 300ms. In Amp FX loop.

BigSky Hall Reverb, Great Hall Preset. Decay 2.99 secs, PreDelay 11:30, Mix 10:30, Mod 11:00, Size CONCRT, LoEnd Mid, Middle Mid, Tone 01:00, Boost 0.0 dB. In amp FX loop.

Note: Amp EQ, try boosting the mids.
 

Tootone

Member
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5,155
Probably at the time the ironic thing is that Andy Summers, probably just twiddled a couple of knobs and thought sounds about right.

Still, that is some dedicated sleuthing.
Yeah, thats what I always think too. Because they're creating not copying, they just dial something up that works. They don't have to send spend hours/days checking it sounds like something else.
 

stratamania

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3,336
Yeah, thats what I always think too. Because they're creating not copying, they just dial something up that works. They don't have to send spend hours/days checking it sounds like something else.
Indeed, depends of course on how close you want to get.
 

Tootone

Member
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5,155
Regards my recording "environment", its a pretty big, hard surfaced room, so my phone mic picks up a lot of that extra reverb. It also picks up the "unplugged" sound of my guitar.

When I set these things up, I am trying to get the right sound out of my "live" speakers, not necessarily the right sound for recording.

I notice the mic really picks up minute detail in modulation and delay. Actually sitting right next to the amp, it doesn't sound "that wet".

I would encourage you to try things out with your own gear and adjust as you see fit intil it sounds right in your "environment".
 

monty

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20,976
Thanks for all the legwork Tootone. I love The Police and AS is one of those guys with a 80s sound that never got stale or sounded outdated.
 

Kingpin2

Member
Messages
349
Nice work! I've been chasing that sound for a while with little success! No doubt the Roland Jazz Chorus in stereo is a huge part, but the right effects settings are an important part of the puzzle! Going to try to dial this in on my Boss MS3 rig!
 


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