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Steve Lacy - Bad Habit

Aug 2022

Steve Lacy has been one of my biggest references in recent years. At only 24 years old, he already has several albums behind him. Steve got his start producing by making beats on his iPhone, creating his first songs on the device, using a plug-in piece for his guitar, called an iRig. You can see how in his first demos the drums consisted of garage band loops with a lo-fi cut.

In 2013, at just 15 years old, he began producing on what would become the Internet's third studio album, Ego Death. Contributing on the production of eight tracks, Ego Death was nominated at the 58th Annual Grammy Awards for Best Urban Contemporary Album. One of my first remakes was precisely about The Internet, which you can listen to here!

steve lacy

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I wanted to deconstruct the first song 'Bad Habit' of this recent latest album, which perfectly encompasses all the personality of the album. Take a listen below and read on to discover all the instrumentation.

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GUITAR

The guitar is undoubtedly Steve Lacy's ubiquitous tool and the one that gives meaning to most of his sound. From his first demos, Steve achieves a peculiar lo-fi sound on guitars, using chords with a lot of neo soul and r&b personality. On 'Bad Habit', the guitar maintains a 4-chord riff that doesn't stop with a touch of what looks like flanger or chorus. The song has a tempo of 169 BPM.

chords steve lacy bad habit

Recreating the exact sound of a guitar is tricky since you would need to use the same model of guitar, the same pickups, and even the amp with which it was recorded in the first place.

To recreate it, I have recorded 3 tracks with different guitar sounds, which together achieve a similar effect.

The first one could be considered the one that provides the main sound. For this, I have recorded the guitar by line and I have passed it through the “Archetype Cory Wong” amp simulator VST. Starting with the Fat Strat preset (Steve Lacy often uses a Fender Stratocaster on his recordings), and changing the EQ, a similar sound is achieved. Then I added a “Flanger” effect with the Waves MetaFlanger, being the key to give it that touch of movement. Listen to the guitar with and without the flanger effect below.

guitar amp steve lacy bad habit
flanger effect steve lacy bad habit

Guitar 1 without flanger effect

Guitar 1 with flanger effect

For the second guitar layer I have used the “Guitar Rig 5” amp simulator with the Clean Break preset and again adding a Flanger effect from the same Guitar Rig. Then I have put a Goodhertz filter eliminating bass to make the sound finer. With this layer I try to give it that sharp touch in high frequencies. Take a listen below.

guitar 2 steve lacy bad habit
filter goodhertz steve lacy bad habit

Guitar 2

Finally, the third guitar layer consists of the Guitar Rig 5 Auto Rhythm preset, which consists of an auto filter (or auto-wah) that manages to give that crunchy touch. Take a listen below.

guitar 3 steve lacy bad habit

Guitar 3

Finally, there is an extra guitar that slides upwards at a break in the song. To recreate it I have simply used any preset with a delay with enough feedback and delay time to keep that slide on repeat. Hear it here.

guitar 4 steve lacy bad habit

Extra guitar

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VOCALS

The voices are without a doubt the element with the most strength and presence in the song. Steve often wraps lead vocals with a multitude of backing vocals that amplify the harmony and envelop the song's stereo.

To recreate the vocals, I've recorded 3 different takes that play simultaneously on 3 tracks as lead vocals, and added up to 3 backing vocal tracks that play at times. I used an effects chain that I always use on vocals, and created a couple of return channels with very short delay and very little reverb. Listen to a snippet of the voice below.

vocal effect processing  steve lacy bad habit

Vocals sound

A clear example of harmonization with choirs is when he pronounces the phrase "i bite my tongue / it's a bad habit". He then hears the lead vocal without backing vocals, and then as a third and fifth are added to the main melody.

Vocals without chorus

Vocals +3rd

Vocals +3rd +5th

In other parts, I have put a powerful delay to the choirs, to create surround effects. Listen to the following example (please don't laugh at my falsettos, I know they sound pathetic :b)

‍Back vocals

And listen to the same fragment with the main voice.

Vocals + Back Vocals

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SYNTHS

Only 1 synthesizer sound appears in the choruses, with a somewhat arcade sound and that from the outset already reminded me of the “Startup” factory preset from TAL-U-NO VST.

Taking that preset as a base, I modified some parameters such as sub-osc, freq and envelope until you get a sound similar to the original. It also carries a slight simple reverb from Ableton itself. Take a listen below.

TAL-U-NO steve lacy bad habit

Lead Synth

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BASS

The bass of the original song has a sound that stays low and barely stands out from the mix in the mid or high frequencies. I have chosen to record it by line with a Höfner and I have passed it through the Waves VST CLA Bass to enhance its sound and compress it.

bass CLA waves steve lacy bad habit

Bass sound

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DRUMS

The drums consist of a straight rhythm in a loop, without the presence of fills or changes, something quite typical of Steve Lacy's first demos, where he bets more on the complexity of the harmonies of guitars, voices and choirs than the rhythmic complexity.

To recreate the drums I used the Dry Room preset from VST Addictive Drums 2, and I modified the snare and kick drum model to others with timbres more similar to those of the original song. Equalizing the elements a bit, and passing it through the Goodhertz VulfCompressor, the following sound is achieved.

drums sound steve lacy bad habit
vulfcompressor goodhertz steve lacy bad habit

Drums sound

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This has been all, I hope you liked it!

Thank you very much for reading and supporting me, don't forget to subscribe to my youtube channel and tell me what you think about the video, see you in the next one!

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Steve Lacy ha sido una de mis mayores referencias los últimos años. Con tan solo 24 años, ya cuenta con varios discos a sus espaldas. Steve empezó a producir haciendo beats en su iPhone, componiendo sus primeras canciones directamente en su móvil, usando un plug-in llamado iRig. Se puede apreciar como en sus primeras demos la batería consistía en loops de garage band con un corte lo-fi.

En 2013, con tan solo 15 años, empezó a producir en el aclamado tercer album Ego Death de la banda The Internet. Ego Death fue nominado a los Grammy como mejor album urbano contemporáneo. Uno de mis primeros remakes fue precisamente de la banda The Internet, que puedes escuchar aqui!

steve lacy

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He querido deconstruir la primera canción ‘Bad Habit’ de este reciente último disco, que engloba perfectamente toda la personalidad del disco. Escúchalo a continuación y sigue leyendo para descubrir toda la instrumentación.

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GUITAR

La guitarra es sin duda la herramienta omnipresente de Steve Lacy y la que da sentido a la mayoría de su sonido. Desde sus primeras demos, Steve consigue un peculiar sonido lo-fi en las guitarras, haciendo gala de acordes con mucha personalidad neo soul y r&b.

En ‘Bad Habit’, la guitarra mantiene un riff de 4 acordes que no cesan, siendo el esqueleto de la canción, con un toque de lo que parece flanger o chorus. La canción tiene un tempo de 169 BPM.

chords steve lacy bad habit

Recrear el sonido exacto de una guitarra es complicado ya que en primer lugar, sería necesario utilizar el mismo modelo de guitarra, las pastillas utilizadas, e incluso el amplificador con el que se grabó. 

Para recrearla, he grabado 3 pistas con sonidos diferentes de guitarra, que en conjunto, consiguen un efecto similar.

La primera de ellas podría considerarse la que aporta el sonido principal. Para ello, he grabado por línea la guitarra y la he pasado por el VST simulador de amplificador “Archetype Cory Wong”. Partiendo del preset Fat Strat (Steve Lacy suele usar Fender Stratocaster en sus grabaciones), y modificando la EQ se consigue un sonido similar. Después le he añadido un efecto “Flanger” con el MetaFlanger de Waves, siendo la clave para darle ese toque de movimiento. Escucha a continuación la guitarra con y sin efecto Flanger.

guitar amp steve lacy bad habit
flanger effect steve lacy bad habit

Guitar 1 without flanger effect

Guitar 1 with flanger effect

Para la segunda capa de guitarra he utilizado el simulador de amplificador “Guitar Rig 5” con el preset Clean Break y añadiéndole de nuevo un efecto Flanger del mismo Guitar Rig. Después le he metido un filtro de Goodhertz eliminando graves para hacer más fino el sonido. Con esta capa intento darle ese toque afilado en frecuencias agudas. Escúchalo abajo.

guitar 2 steve lacy bad habit
filter goodhertz steve lacy bad habit

Guitar 2

Por último, la tercera capa de guitarra consiste en el preset Auto Rhythm del Guitar Rig 5, que consta de un auto filter (o auto-wah) que consigue dar ese toque crunchy al conjunto. Escúchalo a continuación.

guitar 3 steve lacy bad habit

Guitar 3

Finalmente, hay una guitarra extra que hace un slide ascendente en un break de la canción. Para recrearlo simplemente he utilizado cualquier preset con un delay con bastante feedback y tiempo de retardo para mantener ese slide en repetición. Escúchalo aquí.

guitar 4 steve lacy bad habit

Extra guitar

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VOCALS

Las voces es sin duda el elemento con más fuerza y presencia en la canción. Steve suele arropar las voces principales con multitud de coros en segundo plano que amplían la armonía y envuelven el estéreo de la canción.

Para recrear la voz, he grabado 3 tomas diferentes que suenan simultáneamente en 3 pistas como voz principal, y he añadido hasta 3 pistas de coros que suenan en algunos momentos. He utilizado una cadena de efectos que suelo usar siempre en la voz, y he creado un par de canales de retorno con delay muy corto y muy poca reverb. Escucha abajo un fragmento de la voz.

vocal effect processing  steve lacy bad habit

Vocals sound

Un ejemplo claro de armonización con coros es cuando pronuncia la frase “i bite my tongue / it’s a bad habit”. Escucha a continuación la voz principal sin coros, y después, como se añade una tercera y una quinta a la melodía principal. 

Vocals without chorus

Vocals +3rd

Vocals +3rd +5th

En otras partes, he metido un delay potente a los coros, para crear efectos envolventes. Escucha el siguiente ejemplo (por favor no te rías de mis falsetes, sé que suenan patéticos en solitario :b)

Back vocals

Y escucha el mismo fragmento con la voz principal.

Vocals + Back Vocals

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SYNTHS

Únicamente aparece 1 sonido de sintetizador en los estribillos, con un sonido algo arcade y que de entrada ya me recordó al preset de fábrica “Startup” que tiene el VST TAL-U-NO.

Tomando ese preset como base, modifiqué algunos parámetros como el sub-osc, freq y envelope hasta conseguir un sonido similar al original. También lleva una leve reverb simple del propio Ableton. Escúchalo a continuación.

TAL-U-NO steve lacy bad habit

Lead Synth

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BASS

El bajo de la canción original tiene un sonido que se mantiene en graves y que apenas sobresale de la mezcla en frecuencias medias o altas. He optado por grabarlo por línea con un Höfner y lo he pasado por el VST CLA Bass de Waves para potenciar su sonido y comprimirlo.

bass CLA waves steve lacy bad habit

Bass sound

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DRUMS

La batería consiste en un ritmo recto en loop, sin presencia de fills o cambios, algo bastante típico de las primeras demos de Steve Lacy, donde apuesta más por la complejidad de armonías de guitarras, voces y coros que la complejidad rítmica.

Para recrear la batería he utilizado el preset Dry Room del VST Addictive Drums 2, y he modificado el modelo de caja y bombo a otros con timbres más parecidos a los de la canción original. Ecualizando un poco los elementos, y pasándolo por el compresor VulfCompressor de Goodhertz, se consigue el siguiente sonido.

drums sound steve lacy bad habit
vulfcompressor goodhertz steve lacy bad habit

Drums sound

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Esto ha sido todo, espero que os haya gustado!

Muchas gracias por leerme y apoyarme, no olvides suscribirte en mi canal de youtube y contarme que te parece el vídeo, nos vemos en el próximo!

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‍plugins used and all the tracks & midi files by one click, check out my Patreon page!

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