“Carry On My Wayward Son” by Kansas has been burned into our minds thanks to 40 years of constant airplay, so it’s fun to listen inside the song to what’s really going on.
Here’s its isolated guitar tracks, and you’ll be surprised with at least some of them.
As with just about any hit, there’s a lot more that’s going on than you ever thought. Here are some things to listen for (it starts at 0:17).
1. The main intro as well as the bridge lead line is closely doubled with an extra guitar playing accents an octave higher.
2. An acoustic guitar enters on the second half of the first verse at 1:26 playing a very nice counterpoint melody. This comes back in for the entire second verse as well. You usually don’t here this clearly on the final mix.
3. There’s a clean (sounds like it’s direct) arpeggiated electric guitar with a nice room sound that enters during the chorus. Again, it’s not something that you hear well on the final mix.
4. The lead guitar harmonies at the end of the intro and the end of the song are very cool.
It’s interesting to hear how well all the parts were executed in the song, which was not exactly standard production technique for 1975 when the song was recorded. You can tell that the band was well-rehearsed and played well together thanks to the hundreds of gigs they played together beforehand.
Bobby Owsinski is an author, producer, music industry veteran and technical consultant who has written numerous books covering all aspects of audio recording. For more information be sure to check out his website and blogs.