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If I Didn't Love You

by Jason Aldean & Carrie Underwood

I imagine that a lot of people instinctively feel, as I do, that guitars are the backbone of what country music is about. So, in a sense, it’s actually quite surprising how poorly they fare in mainstream chart releases such as this one, where even in stereo they’re probably the least powerful element of the band texture – after the vocals, bass, and drums. Check out this chorus, for instance: Chorus (stereo): play_arrow | get_app And if you switch to mono the situation gets even worse, because the guitars are hard-panned and therefore take another 3dB dip in the balance. Chorus (mono): play_arrow | get_app On the plus side, though, the use of different sounds and registrations in the two opposing guitar parts means that their combined tone remains pretty solid in mono, despite the level drop. And anyone listening to the song through one side of a pair of shared earbuds doesn’t lose the vocals under the guitars – in fact, for my money, I actually like the guitar balance better through just the left or right channel than in the stereo mix to be honest! Have a listen: Chorus (left side): play_arrow | get_app Chorus (right side): play_arrow | get_app

And, speaking of the vocals, they are (as in much mainstream country) pitch-processed to within an inch of their lives. But leaving aside the question of how much this steamrolls any emotional authenticity out of the vocal performances, what it does nicely illustrate here is one of the pitfalls of vocal harmonising under these circumstances – namely that octave doublings start sounding quite different to other intervals. In the first chorus, for instance, Underwood for the most part doubles Aldean at an interval of either a third or a fourth, but then at 1:06 she switches to the octave and suddenly the tonal quality of their combined sound becomes noticeably more synthetic sounding. It happens again at 1:40, with a similar outcome. So, if you really are unable to kick your debilitating Auto-Tune habit, do at least try to avoid octave doublings that’ll the robotitis even worse…

And the pursuit of tuning perfection in this production is particularly amusing giving the daft video/audio mismatch cock-ups in the official video. The opening lines see Aldean singing while playing the piano, except that we actually only hear guitar playing behind his vocals. And then at 0:37 the drummer is seen dramatically hitting his cymbals. Again, 100% silently. Priceless! Couldn’t help but giggle at the conceit of their singing unamplified in front of an amplified band too, especially because Aldean really doesn’t seem to know what to do with himself just standing there like a lemon.