If You Leave – OMD cover by Craig Frost

Garageband Challenge – All sounds and effects are from the free set included with the program. Mixed and mastered in Garageband.

Instrumental version


Some of the tracks

Sound design:

Strings (originally produced using Mellotron samples):
One of my biggest challenges early on was figuring out how to replicate the orchestral swells that lead into the chorus and repeat in the middle of each chorus. I did lots of research online and when listening to other covers of the song, everyone just leaves that part out. OMD clearly uses a sample of it when they play live in recent appearances because I can hear when it cuts off and jumps to a crappy string sound. For some reason they didn’t bother using all original sounds when they play live now. The drums sound lame now as well. I made several attempts which all failed. I finally sampled the sound from a remix and played it back slowed down while keeping the pitch and it helped me figure out the notes (as close as possible) that are played. I then use 2 tracks of Garageband strings with lots of effects added as well as boosting the midrange frequencies…

Another defining sound of this song is the samples from Phil Collins and Steve Winwood. They are big and in your face with a noise gate and lots of reverb. I never got the toms the way I wanted but I used 2 sets of toms with lots of reverb “Space Designer”.

Bass guitar:
Finger Style bass sound was perfect for this song and I only EQed it.

This is always scary because the sax in Garageband is not very expressive. It’s flat and thin and sounds very cheesy. I had to do so much to make it sound just OK. I automated some volume changes, modulation, expression and high end EQ, not to mention chorus and reverb effects. I had to bury the bad parts in the mix.

Choir voices:
I only had one choice in Garageband that sounded close. That is the Female Chamber Choir voices. I have 2 of those tracks and also a strings track to add extra depth.

Key changes:
Not a sound but I love how it was used in this song to add emotion. Lucky for me there is a key change track that was very useful for automating this since I’m entering all the notes using a computer keyboard this time around.

Interesting story behind this song –

Quote from Andy McCluskey of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark:

“If You Leave was recorded for the soundtrack to Pretty In Pink. We did it in L.A. – written, recorded and mixed in three days, with Tom Lord-Alge.
It was done on a Fairlight hired in because ours hadn’t arrived from London.”

“The drums were completely sampled on this, with the Fairlight driving banks of AMS’s. It was Phil Collins’ toms, Steve Winwood’s kick and snare
– but it was alright ’cause Tom had done his album anyway.”

“It came about quite simply because John Hughes was a huge fan of British music. We had been very successful in other parts of the world—particularly Europe—for several years, selling millions of records, but we had been alternative in the United States. So there were people who liked who liked what we were doing. We were asked by John Hughes to write a song for Pretty in Pink. We were really flattered and excited.

“So we went down to Paramount Studios; we saw them shooting; and we met Molly Ringwald, Jon Cryer, and John [Hughes]. They gave us a script and they said, ‘We want a song for the big finale in the prom scene.’ We said, great! We went home and we wrote them a fantastic song. We came back with a 2-inch tape, ready to mix it in L.A. prior to a tour we were going to do.

“But John was kind of like, ‘You know what? This is a really good song, but we have tested the film to audiences and they don’t like the ending. So we are going to reshoot the ending with a completely different end. Molly Ringwald is going to end it with Andrew McCarthy’s character now—not Duckie, the Jon Cryer character. So the song doesn’t really make any sense any more. Could you write another one?’

“Holy s**t! We have a single day to write another song? Anyway, that’s what we did. We went into a studio in L.A.; we borrowed any equipment we could get our hands on; and we worked until around 4 in the morning. We did a rush demo; we put it on a cassette; and we sent it in to Paramount Pictures. About 9 o’clock in the morning, we were woken up by our manager saying, ‘John Hughes loves the song! Go back in the studio and finish it!’ “

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