Sometimes they’re hard to hear, sometimes they’re unavoidable; but there are so many examples of feedback in music that once you start looking for them, its hard to stop. Here I’ve collected a few instances of feedback in (mostly guitar-driven) music, and for no apparent reason, have sorted them into a preliminary taxonomy.
feedback as an accidental byproduct of amplified live or recorded music that is deliberately or unavoidably integrated into the recording.
Velvet Underground – Sweet Jane (00:19)
Just a tiny, high-pitched shriek inbetween the feathery intro and the introduction of the main chordal riff.
Bob Marley – No Woman No Cry (1:47)
This sounds like feedback emanating from a vocal mic. It may well have been ineradicable from the audio, spilling into the other channels, but it certainly points to the fact we’re listening to a live performance, but it’s hard to imagine the song without it.
Feedback as a key element of the composition in performance or recording
“Audio feedback (also known as acoustic feedback, simply as feedback, or the Larsen effect) is a special kind of positive feedback which occurs when a sound loop exists between an audio input (for example, a microphone or guitar pickup) and an audio output (for example, a loudspeaker).” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audio_feedback
Steve Reich – Pendulum Music
The Monks – Monk Chant (6:54)
David Bowie – Heroes
Fripp and Brian Eno worked out a way to really mutilate the guitar sound, using Eno’s briefcase synthesizer. Fripp also worked out a feedback technique where he knew exactly where to stand in order to sustain certain notes. He put a piece of marked tape on the floor, and he would stand on the letter G, for instance, if he wanted the G note to sustain. It was a matter of how close he moved to the monitor speakers. He didn’t use an amp. He plugged directly into the console. Recording that song was a wonderful three-man choreography. Between takes, Bowie was saying, “Do this. Try this. I like what you did five minutes ago. Could you do that again?”
Feedback as a deliberate incorporation into the composition of the recording (often in the introduction) to connote the song emerging out of a maelstrom of sound: juxtaposing chaos and uncontrolled power of amplified music with the order and controlled power of the musician and song.
The Beatles – I Feel Fine
“My first thought was that a cable had gone bad, or that a piece of equipment had failed. Norman chuckled. ‘Have a look,’ he said to me. I pressed my nose up against the control room glass and was astonished to see John Lennon kneeling before his amplifier, guitar in hand. We knew that if you brought a guitar too close to an amplifier, it would squeal, but John was using it in a controlled way for the first time.” http://www.beatlesebooks.com/i-feel-fine
Jimi Hendrix – Foxy Lady
The Smiths – London
Ride – Seagull
Stone Roses – Waterfall
Feedback incorporated into a solo or instrumental section to connote chaotic breakdown or abandonment in live or recorded performance
The Who – Anywhere Anyhow
Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere, the solo, on the note A I would flick a harmonic, get it feeding back and then go ‘dit-dit-dit-dar-dar’ with the switch. And by standing at certain angles I could get incredible sounds out of it, some of which were just characteristics of the Rickenbacker body, which I stuffed with paper.
“You could control it and it could be very musical – certainly that sort of thing where you hit an open A chord and then take your fingers off the strings… The A string is still banging away but you’re hearing the finger-off harmonics in the feedback.
“Then the vibrating A starts to stimulate harmonics in other strings and it’s just an extraordinary sound, like an enormous plane. It’s a wonderful, optimistic sound and that was something that happened because I was posing – I’d put my arms out, let go of the chord then find that the resulting noise was better.” http://www.musicradar.com/news/guitars/classic-guitar-interview-pete-townshend-1990-530325
Small Faces – Whatcha Gonna Do About It
Sonic Youth – Kool Thing
here’s the list (in progress)
- Feedback as an accidental byproduct of amplified live or recorded music that is deliberately or unavoidably integrated into the recording.
- Feedback as a key element of the composition in performance or recording
- Feedback as a deliberate incorporation into the composition of the recording (often in the introduction) to connote the song emerging out of a maelstrom of sound: juxtaposing chaos and uncontrolled power of amplified music with the order and controlled power of the musician and song.
- Feedback incorporated into a solo or instrumental section to connote chaotic breakdown or abandonment in live or recorded performance
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