This case study is a critical analysis of a song by Linkin Park entitled “Lost In The Echo”. It will aim to break down the song in terms of tempo, pitch, structure, instrumentation, interest, and the use of dynamic, spectral, and time domain processing to better understand how the song recording was constructed and produced.
- Song title: Lost In The Echo
- Artist: Linkin Park
- Release Date: October 19th 2012
- From the album: Living Things (June 16th 2012)
(Lyrics available in the above lyric video.)
Members of Linkin Park:
- Chester Bennington – Vocals (lead & screaming).
- Mike Shinoda – Vocals (rap & background), Rhythm Guitar, Keyboard, Piano, Synthesizer, Strings & Horns, Creative Director, Production.
- Brad “Big Bad Brad” Delson – Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals, Samplers.
- Dave “Phoenix” Farrell – Bass Guitar, Backing Vocals, Samplers.
- Joe Hahn – Turntables, Samples, Programming, Backing Vocals, Creative Director.
- Rob Bourdon – Drums, Percussion.
Song Background & Inspirations
“The idea of [Lost In The Echo] at its core really has to do with finding issues in the baggage that is weighing you down and letting go of it.”
– Mike Shinoda (2012)
Not unlike my previous case study, this song also does a great job of combining genres. This concept has been Linkin Park’s motivation from the very start of the band’s activity. For 2012’s single Lost In The Echo, they decided to bring some elements of their sound back from their roots while still keeping it ‘fresh’. In the video documentary ‘Inside Living Things‘, Shinoda explains “we’ve established enough of our own thing that people know what we’re about” so bringing the iconic rap/rock sound back is “not a problem anymore” (2012).
Breaking It Down
This section will break down the song to highlight these fundamental composition elements.
Waveform of Lost In The Echo (captured using FL Studio 11)
BPM & Time Signature
Time Signature: 4/4
Scale & Key Signature
Key: A Minor
Amount of bars: 100 (+2 beats)
Arrangement (bars counted from intro section):
- Fade In (1/2 bar/2 beats)
- Intro (8 bars) Bars 1-8
- Pre-Verse (8 bars) Bars 9-16
- Verse 1 (8 bars) Bars 17-24
- Pre-Chorus (8 bars) Bars 25-32
- Chorus (16 bars) Bars 33-40
- Pre-Verse (4 bars) Bars 41-44
- Verse (8 bars) Bars 45-52
- Pre-Chorus (8 bars) Bars 53-60
- Chorus (8 bars) Bars 61-68
- Bridge A (8 bars) Bars 69-76
- Bridge B (8 bars) Bars 77-84
- Chorus (8 Bars) Bars 85-92
- Outro (8 bars) 93-100
- Fade/Ring Out
I was able to identify – different sound sources/instruments in this recording. I have grouped them into 7 sections – each element contains multiple sound sources except for the bass and electric guitars which I have singled out. Below I will explain where the different elements occur in the structure of the song and what processing has been applied to the recordings to achieve the sound.
1 – Drums
- Real Drums which kick in around the last two bars of the Intro, and remain constant throughout the structure of the song. Standard drum kit panning is used to provide a wide stereo image, except the kick and snare sound fairly mono.
- Electronic Drum Samples – contains samples such as a kick with delay, a snare with a bitcrusher effect, multiple other samples with distortion and delay on them, and also closed hi-hats. The samples in the higher register of the frequency spectrum tend to be panned slightly more to the left, due to the real hi-hats being panned to the right.
- Tuned 808 Kick Drums, prominent in the intro & pre-chorus sections. There is distortion on these samples to help provide harmonic content.
The drums alone take up a wide range on the frequency spectrum, which suggests it’s one of the most important elements of this song, almost as if it were the ‘backbone’ that holds it all together.
2 – Bass Guitar
A very subtle element in the song, the bass guitar feels like it is only there to provide a ‘performed’ feeling to the synth basses. It sounds as if the lows and highs were completely taken out of the signal through EQ processing, keeping the low-mid to mid frequencies intact. The bass guitar occurs in the pre-verse, chorus, second verse, bridge B and outro sections.
3 – Electric Guitar
For Living Things and also during the sessions for the band’s 4th album A Thousand Suns, guitarist Brad Delson had moved away from tracking guitar in favour of other roles in the studio such as using samplers, assisting the studio engineers with DAW & recording operation, and also production elements. This shift in the mindset of the band (not being completely centred around the guitar anymore) has resulted in this element being more of a supplement rather than a primary feature.
A result of this shift, rather than the guitar’s ‘staccato’ riffs in the pre-verse and outro sections being performed, the guitar is instead ‘cut’ up to fit with the bass guitar & synths. Ultimately the mix focuses more on the drums and bass over the guitar as ‘main features’. The electric guitar occurs in the pre-verse, chorus and bridge B sections only. For the first two bars of the last chorus, the guitar is quieter and panned to the right.
4 – Keyboard / Synths
- Steel drums that have been performed and sampled via either a Granular Synth or a Sampler. A bitcrusher effect, delay and reverb have been applied to this sound. This sound can be heard in every section except for bridge A. There seems to be a bit of a pitch bend in the reverb tail when the synth stops playing for the bridge A section and at the end of the outro.
- Lead synth, possibly subtractive & sawtooth-based. Processing includes distortion, delay, and reverb (in that order). This sound occurs in the intro, pre-verse, and outro sections. In the intro a low pass filter is used to fade the sound in across the 2nd half of the intro.
- Strings, though they feel programmed though some sort of virtual instrument and not performed. They only appear in the outro.
Steel Drum isolated synth spectral readings (captured using EasySSP v0.1)
For the most part the synth serve as some nice background textures which are not overpowering to the point of drowning out the vocals in the mix. Referring to the image above, it’s visual that the steel-drum sounding synth seems to be ran through EQ with attenuation to both the highs and lows (less extreme of the two cuts) of the signal. The lead synth and strings both fill out the high and high-mid frequencies that the steel-drum synth doesn’t occupy.
5 – Synth Basses
- Wavetable ‘growl’ type synth bass. Occurs in pre-verse, chorus, second half of bridge B & outro.
- Another more distorted wavetable synth bass which occurs in bridge A & bridge B.
- Subtractive sawtooth synth bass with light distortion, flanger effect & a bass boost at about 60Hz. Occurs in pre-verse, chorus, second verse, bridge B & outro.
- Various one-shot synth bass sounds (possibly layered with kick drum samples) arranged using a sampler throughout bridge A. Sidechain compression is used on these samples possibly using some sort of controller that triggers at the start of the MIDI note for the sample (which is why it sounds like the sounds have a fade in or a slow attack time).
Stereo images of growl bass (left) and saw bass (right) (captured using EasySSP v0.1)
The bass synths overall tend to have a very wide stereo image and once you merge the stereo separation, you can hear the actual bass guitar a lot more, so this proves that the bass guitar is supposed to fill the ‘gap’ that the synth basses leave unoccupied. In the pre-verse and outro sections in particular the overall mix goes from wide to narrow in terms of it’s stereo image depending on the synth basses, therefore the synth basses are a very important element of the track when it comes to creating interest in the mix.
6 – Vocals
- Rap Vocals – verses & bridge B.
- Lead Singing Vocals – choruses, pre-verses (after first chorus) & outro.
- Background Singing Vocals – pre-choruses, choruses, pre-verses (after first chorus) & outro.
- Scream Vocals – end of 2nd chorus, bridge A & outro.
The time domain processing applied to the rap and lead singing vocals provide a clear stereo image. Vocal doubles are also used as ‘echoes’ as well as reinforcing a certain phrase, with the double usually being panned to the left or right. A chorus effect is put on the raps lightly in the second verse and a bit more prominent in the bridge B section (not noticable in mix but noticable in isolated vocal track).
7 – FX
- Distorted guitar feedback used as a sweeping effect going up. This starts the song off with the fade in and is also heard just before the chorus sections. Later on in the track (bridges / last chorus), the feedback is reversed to sweep down and a gate effect is used on it, with the wet dry being automated to let some of the pre-gate signal through towards the end of the sweep.
- Turntables used to scratch a screamed vocal cut. Fairly mono but goes more stereo as the scratches occur. This can be heard in bridge A.
- Various other synth samples that accompany the scratched vocals. Delay and light reverb are used on these. Also in bridge A.
All of these effects are used in such a way to create interest, I’d call it the icing on the cake. Without the turntable scratching of the screamed ‘go’ vocal cuts, the bridge A section would feel very empty.
One of the things Linkin Park is (infamously) known for is historically, their songs aren’t too dynamic – the quiet parts are loud and the loud parts are even louder. Living Things as a whole used a lot of compression, so it’s no surprise that Lost In The Echo, being the first track on the album, is so loud and ‘in your face’.
Overall Panning & Spectral Balance
PRE-CHORUS: Spectral Balance and Stereo Image (captured using EasySSP v0.1)
CHORUS: Spectral Balance and Stereo Image (captured using EasySSP v0.1)
These screenshots are taken from two different sections – the first pre-chorus and first chorus. It is evident that in both screenshots we can tell that there’s a light low pass filter on the entire mix – in context to the drums, this places more emphasis on the actual kicks and snares to give the song that ‘hybrid’ electronic/rock feel. It also keeps elements such as the cymbals of the drum kit and the high end of the synths tame enough so as to not take away from the ‘meat’ of the mix, which seems to be in the low-mids.
The concept that interested me most about this track was the bridge A section – when I first heard the song many years ago I remember losing it over how cool it sounded. Now that I know exactly what’s in there that makes it cool, I can look into trying to re-create that feel for my own productions.
Another prominent concept for me was in the pre-verse sections. The staccato on pretty much every element except for the synths and drums made the song feel very ‘epic’, probably due to the contrast of the stereo image going wide to narrow, back and forth.
Overall I’m glad I did this case study as this is one of my favourite songs of all time, and I still haven’t been able to get sick of it despite listening to it probably about a hundred times!
Now, I just need to find myself some turntables…
LPTV (2012, September, 18) Linkin Park Gets A New Guitarist | LPTV #85 [YouTube Video] Retrieved 30th November, 2016, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PRS_jqWmovE
Linkinpedia (2016, October, 18) Lost In The Echo – Linkinpedia [Wiki Entry] Retrieved 30th November, 2016, from http://linkinpedia.com/index.php?title=Lost_In_The_Echo
Wikipedia (2016, November, 30) Linkin Park – Wikipedia [Wiki Entry] Retrieved 30th November, 2016, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linkin_Park
Wikipedia (2016, November, 30) Lost In The Echo – Wikipedia [Wiki Entry] Retrieved 16th November, 2016, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lost_in_the_Echo