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Q: (Actual question from Wisconsin guitar instructor): "If I book an hour of studio time, can I record 30 songs?"
A: (Ha ha...right!)
"Yes, if they are 2 minutes each and you don't play them back!"
Q: How long will it take for a 3 song demo?
A: All session have three basic modes.
Q: How long will it take to make a CD?
A: Making a CD... Typically, in a band situation, I.E. bass, drums, guitar and piano plus a "pilot" or "scratch" vocal, three basic rhythm tracks can be recorded in 3 to 4 hours. The first hour usually gets burned up settling in, acclimating, getting in the mood, getting sounds and headset mixes together, and essentially, finding a groove. Most bands find that more than 4 hours becomes counter-productive, because of the fact that some or all of the band starts to burn out. Although... in the '60's and '70's, we often went on 'til the wee hours until we dropped. Not that I'm recommending that. But, we all know that the Beatles went "in" for sometimes days, and didn't come out until they had something. Eventually, many studios added showers, saunas, whirlpools, kitchens, and sleeping accommodations to create a "shut-in, focused environment" type recording session. But after a while, that approach to captivating the mood also became counter-productive, because in time it became "too comfortable" and the drive to record took a back seat to an over relaxed, recreational environment. Budgets faded away on Sushi, other fashionable amenities like pin ball machines to create a relaxing motif and the last incentive was to bother trying to get a good take. So these groovy sessions, although not always the case, often resulted in mediocre performances. The more consistent results these days comes from a fresh, reasonably spontaneous session.
Anyway, the next phase would be to overdub a lead vocal to the band track "take" that has been accepted. Vocals can take an hour on up to 6 hours. Not everybody is a Sinatra. The best way I have found to record vocals is to do several takes in Pro Tools hard disc recording system (a Mac computer based digital "machine" enabling recording, cutting, copying, pasting, pitch correcting and processing, plus automation of all processing well beyond CD quality audio, with visual monitoring and editing of all waveforms up to 1/48 thousandth of a second). A stereo reference mix is recorded into Pro Tools and as many tracks as desired can be created to do multiple takes of vocals in the most efficient, expedient way. Since there is no rewind time, quick and efficient punch-ins can be done in a "non-destructive" environment. Several vocal tracks can be selected on word by word basis and a best performance composite vocal can easily be assembled, faster and more musically than ever before. This however does not mean that overdubs can be done in less time than "punching in" on tape because of the fact that on tape you don't have the advantage of the opportunities of ProTools. You are more able to select the best moments from each "take". On tape you settle for a practical vocal. In ProTools there are infinite editing possibilities.
Lead guitar, keyboards, background vocals, brass, strings, organ, and other overdubs are done in a similar fashion. It is hard to say how long these overdubs will take, but allow a minimum of a half an hour per tune. Naturally a simple tambourine played by a good percussionist/drummer will not take more than the length of the song plus a "playback". But still, musical taste seems to bring up the questions, "Do you suppose he should change to a 2/4 feel in the bridge or lay out in the choruses?..." etc. All these re-do's add accumulative time to the overdubbing process time. A 4 minute song takes 4 minutes to run down, 4 minutes to record and 4 minutes to play back. That's ...duh 12 minutes. Unless the first performance is accepted, at least 8 more minutes will be spent in the next take. Multiply that, times the number of instruments to be overdubbed, times the number of songs...
When all overdubs are completed, the mix mode begins. This mode is artistically the most crucial. It will take time to give life and personality to the image that represents your performance. There is a fine line between an effect becoming too much or not enough. If there are 24 tracks, there are 24 equalizers with a myriad of tonal decisions to be made. There are 24 compressors with attack, release, threshold and ratio settings to be done, panning and special effects to be added to featured instruments and/or vocals. What kind of reverb, and how much per track, delays, echo, chorusing, gating, de-essing, right down to the great fade to infinity and beyond. Errors in balancing can cause the listener to "turn off". It's hard enough to get someone to listen, so you don't want to lose them once you have their attention. Prepare yourself for the ride. The mixes are recorded to Pro Tools at better than CD quality audio, where they then may be "Mastered" or processed additionally after the mix. Various types of program compression, stereo width enhancers, multi-band equalizers and limiters can improve even an already great mix. Then, the mixes are edited and assembled to the final sequential order. Levels can be adjusted to 1/10 decibel. Fades can be added. And segues or cross fades can be created. Processing with the use of digital "plug-ins" allow hotter, wider levels to the mix before a CD/DVD is burned, or a DAT is digitally cloned or cassette dubs are made.
All material then must be digitally copied to new files with all changes included. The CD burning requires that all desired selections be readied before importing into the program. They must be defined as to exact start and stop times prior to this in the Mastering stage. This is known as "regioning" the audio files. Each file has to be imported one at a time. Spacing between selections must be defined. Final level changes can be done at this time.
The final Master CD must then be approved by the client by way of listening critically to the entire master CD for program material content and any dropouts or glitches in the media itself. Each time a Master CD is rejected for any reason, the listening process must be repeated until satisfaction and confidence has been reached. At this time the CD MASTER may be submitted for duplication.
All artwork, which can be as involved as the making of the CD itself, must comply to the Replicator's and Printer's specifications, and should be completed and made available a few days prior to the completion of the Master CD in order to make the films from the artwork, I.E. jay card or insert book, tray card and CD label, which are to be submitted with the Master CD at the time of duplication. It usually takes a minimum of 14 days plus 3 to 4 days shipping time for CD's to arrive. So check with your provider and plan your deadlines accordingly if you want your CD's to arrive at that venue for the big gig on time..
- Jim Reeves
Q: I am interested in singing jingles. I was wondering if you would be willing to give me some tips on how to get started. I have questions about things like: What type of tape should I send to music houses--how many songs--and how do I get in touch with the right people?
A: There are a few things I think anyone would want regarding a singer. What range and versatility. Hard, soft, accuracy of pitch and articulation. I think, even though it is subtle, the inside lyrics, like the little notes leading to the big selling lyrics should be really accurate. You know, "little things mean a lot"! Since the competition is fierce, it translates to; whoever is auditioning your demo wants to be impressed as soon as they come in contact with your product. The packaging, colors, fonts should say "Hey, wait'll you hear this!" (Or however you wish to be perceived.)
The length should be a few minutes long, 10 tops. Open with something...oh, it could be big, or intriguing, dynamic. It could be a whole bridge for instance, or a flurry of 3 to 7 second excerpts in a row. A shout, or a wail, or a breath! But, it should obviously be the best of your vocals. Even if it's a cappella. Find your favorite parts, even if they are only a second long, and put them all together. A hurricane or a summer breeze! Whatever the flow. Don't let them hear anything mediocre, or ambiguous. Make sure it "starts good and ends good". Then, throw in some chocolate chip cookies!!!
Even if you don't have one, send your CD package (preferably) along with a letter and optional photo and articles excerpts, from your "agent" or "publicist"! Seeming like you are represented by "someone" brings attention to you. If they're still available, get a Screen Magazine "Bible". It lists all those involved in the industry, for Chicago at least. And don't forget to include your contact info. If you've given them the best, they'll want some more!
- Jim Reeves
Q: I'm currently studying sound engineering in Nottingham England. We've just been been set a 60's project. The brief is, it requires us to replicate a song from the 60's. Have you got any tips? The track we are reproducing is Can't Explain by The Who. We are limited to 4 tracks of one ADAT machine but can use a DAT machine to bounce down. If you could give me any advice on capturing a 60's sound. I'd be very grateful.
A: Hi, and thanks for asking!
Well, limited to four tracks, as you put it, would've been a luxury for me. Remember, stereo didn't exit yet! I started (in Studio 3 in '61) with mono and two track tape decks and they were considered very advanced. Then, Motown stuff I recorded in '64 and '65 at A-1 Studio was all done on a Presto 3 track 1/2 inch tape machine. That was a luxury! Anyway, 4 track. Keep in mind that juggling all these format limitations was necessary based on what you expected to come out with.
Of course, track 1 would have the mono rhythm section. The band in one room. Gobo's (acoustic baffles) between instruments. Guitar amp on the floor, occasionally on a folding chair. And some studios built as series of wood framed, burlap covered fiberglass compartments or boxes with the front open for guitar and bass amps to sit in, to help isolate them somewhat from each other. A U67 or Sennheiser 421 or Shure 666 (whatever!) Mic about a foot away (in front) and above the amp and pointing toward the amp speaker and floor at about 45°. A U47 on the bass at least a foot away. Depending on the room size, separate the amps as much as possible. Gobo (partitions) between each amp and drums. A Mic over the toms, one for hi hat & snare. One somewhere in front of the bass drum. Not too much, if any, dampening of the bass drum was used before the Beatles recordings. Although removing the front head and bottom tom heads concept was beginning to trickle in to the mix in the mid '60's. An overall Pultec and 1176 limiter or similar was used on the entire recording output buss ("buss limiting").
Vocals, if done live, were separated by a large plexiglas gobo (to see the band and be seen). A "gobo" for vocals was, in fancier, more ambitious studios, a three piece, 6" thick, hinged partition wall assembly, 4' wide by 7' tall (each piece), of plywood and faced with fiberglass, covered with burlap, on roll around casters.
A Neumann U47 was the vocal general mic of choice, although Shoep's, Neumann M49, U67's, as well as dynamics like EV RE-15's and 16's and Sennheiser 421 and Shure unidynes and other dynamic mics were used. A Pultec EQP-1A into a Urie 1176 or LA-2A or Telex or Gotham Audio or Altec compressor was it for processing the vocals. All tubes of course with 600Ω transformers in and out. Mics, Pultecs, Limiters, and EMT Plates, pre-amps, summing amps and program/line amps were all tube, tube, tube. Even the tape decks, typically Ampex 300 over here, were tube. Transistors were trickling in around '66.
Although, the lead vocal could be put on, say, track 3 in situations for recording the vocal simultaneously, there was still the bleed or leakage, both from the band into the vocal mic as well as the vocal getting into the rhythm instruments mics. That would impede later overdubs. (Although, in some cases, overdubs just weren't done. If there was a problem you'd just retake it all together until you got it.) And earphones weren't used. Overdubs were performed to playbacks over speakers. Vocals were sung 1 to 3 feet from the mic. These things led to the lead vocal not being done live in later recording scenarios.
You'd also want to be able to "bounce" (copying a recorded track to a new track while adding/mixing a new part with it) the background vocals between the available tracks on the 4track deck. Track 4's backing vocals could be bounced to track 2 while mixing "live" backgrounds(bg's) with it, which would double or thicken the parts, and then maybe repeat that process by bouncing back again to track 4, allowing a three piece vocal group to become I.E., a nine piece singing choir.
Anyway, you kept those restrictions in mind. It all resulted in that sound. Note: You, in most cases could not bounce to an adjacent track(I.E., track 2 to track 3) without the tape deck going into oscillation (hi frequency feedback), which is why planning which tracks to record on was necessary. After the backgrounds were doubled or tripled, the track recorded prior to the final track would be erased for the "sweetening" session, where horns and or strings were added.So, variations of these procedures were dictated by the project end result plan. The sound of bounced tracks is hard to duplicate because when playing off the "sync" tape head , which was actually the record head. The EQ was really weird. Actually, the sound really sucked. All highs and lows, no middle, noisy, etc. But that's what it was. You made the best of it.
Then there was the tape. Scotch 111, Audiotape Formula 15, Ampex 202. There's was no real "low noise" tape. Keep in mind another sonic factor was that Europe used the CCIR recording curve for tape, as opposed to US with the NAB standard tape eq.
And, It wasn't until The Beatles that the technique of 4track to 4track (Sgt. Pepper) augmented the recording process. And that was with Studer 1" 4 track at 30ips decks. The Rolls Royce of tape machines.
Closer micing techniques (instigated originally by Les Paul), earphones for overdubs, putting blankets and sand bags and the mic inside the bass drum dramatically changed the sound of rock. The advent of Scully tape decks with improved "sync" heads for bounce and monitoring sonic improvements, room isolation (booths) all contributed to many changes in recorded perceptibility.
- Jim Reeves
P.S. Your question prompted me to revisit the early technique, so, I put a whole rock band, including P.A., in the same room. Bass (an Ampeg B-15 amp with a Neumann U67 one foot in front of the speaker), a Tele guitar (C1000S mic on his small Champ-like amp), a Roland D-50 and U 220 module for piano (through a Premier tube amp with a C1000S Mic) and a 5 piece Ludwig drum kit (one Octava condenser mic one and a half feet in front half way between the two rack toms and bass drum through an 1176 limiter and Focusrite EQ), four SM-57 vocal mics through a Yorkville PA (in the same room, with a Countryman DI from the "insert out" jack of the PA). 5 channels in all, buss limited to a mono mix. It was great! Plus, I simultaneously video'd the session with four cameras and a Sony switcher to S-VHS. I know... you couldn't have done that part in the 50's.
So the point is, you don't really need all the stuff, especially if you want the 50's sound!
I am trying to get some idea of the cost of recording a CD for my Group. I am putting a budget to do the recording. I need to have a figure so that I can say to prospective benefactors " I need $X to do the whole thing..". I suppose I could split up the $ amount into the recording cost and the production cost. Give me a ball park figure for me to figure a budget.
A: Let's say, if we're shooting for about 14 songs, that realistically we can record three songs per 4 hour session. It usually takes about an hour to an hour and a half for everyone to settle in and focus and as you know with acoustic instruments, tuning is always a time eater. And after four hours, at least some of the players are burnt, so continuing after that amount of time can become anti-productive. So, with that in mind, four 4 hour sessions should be considered. If we get lucky, we may accomplish more in less time. So, that's 16 hours of recording time. At the studio rate of $85/hr it comes to $1360 , plus four digital archival DAT tapes at $30 each is $120. That brings it to $1480.
If there are NO overdubs, that is to say , all instruments and vocals are recorded simultaneously or "live", we can proceed with the mixing, which would include touching up performances with some editing. If we were to spend only 2 hours per song on average, it would take a minimum of 28 hours. Some pieces might take more time, while others less. Mixing would, in this scenario, cost $2380.
Next to follow would be mastering the CD, which takes anywhere from approximately 2 to 7 hours. Mastering is the process whereby all the mixes from different dates, having somewhat dissimilar perspectives are shaped into a cohesive sounding finished product. That cost would add from $170 to approximately $595 pus $15 in materials.
Finally, mass production. This really depends on several factors. Small quantities would be at a cost of $3.50 each with black ink on a white label and in a jewel box. The cost drops at 100pcs at $2.90ea., And 200pcs at $2.65ea. There is usually a few days turnaround for these quantities.
The next jump would be at 1000 pieces at $1775. This includes full color tray card, a four page insert with full color on one side, black and white on the other side. Shrink wrapped, shipping and includes films. You would provide "camera ready" artwork. There is a 17 day turnaround upon receipt of artwork and the CD approved master.
So here's a recap of this example:
16 hours of Recording $1,360
28 hours of Editing/Mixing $2,380
2 hours minimum mastering $ 170 up to 7 hours $ 595
4 archival backup dats $ 120
1 master CD $ 15
Total production $4,045 up to $4,470 plus CD's
Q: on 3/28/02 3:30 AM, Otis Lurkinjuh at firstname.lastname@example.org wrote:
Hello, I am a huge music fan from Alaska and I'm doing some research on one of the best rock bands of all time, The Doors. I found your name on the net and was thinking you might lend some insight. I saw on your website that you did some Live Mixing at Ondine Discotheque. Very is little is known about this show. There are no known recordings of any of the Ondine concerts. I'm looking for any information at all. If you don't know much about this one (or any other Doors concerts) maybe you could put me in contact with someone else who does. All of my research is for my own personal collection and in no way do I plan to profit off anything I find (interviews, photos, handbills, recordings). I mostly want to interview people that attended Doors shows.
Thanks for your time,
A: Hi Otis,
It's a long time ago. These performances were not considered concerts at the time. Ondine was an exclusive private discotheque club, pretty much celebrity based restaurant and dance club which pioneered a new trend in "happenings" of the era and after a year or so of it's existence to the public, the then manager, Brad Pierce, had some connection with industry types, and somehow began to book the current acts. There weren't that may venues then so I guess it was a logical step for all involved in entertainment to take.
Around '64, as a recording engineer at Skitch Henderson's Studio 3 during the daytime, my mentor, Dave Sarser (see web site) who had set up private discotheques like LÈ Club (almost "speak easy"-ish) in the '50's and '60's, assigned me to a new club called Ondine. It was named after an Olympic winning sailboat. I was to install their sound system. It consisted of a 5 channel Altec 1567a mixer, 3 Altec condenser 21c microphones, and an Altec 100 watt (as big as a house!) amplifier and a pair of Altec column speakers with 2 Thoren's TD-125 turntables for continuous record playing and an American Concertone 1/4'track reversible tape deck for playing non-stop dance mixes for non critical dance music during the dinning hours. A very sophisticated highly state of the art system for its time.
I had become the head Discaire (now known as "DJ") as a result and played back to back pop records at night and weekends, stirring up a frenzy of go-go dancers. I also handled the sound for the house band, The loser's, and eventually for transient bands like the Pilgrims, who wore tunics styled after the knickers look of the Young Rascals who started out at The Barge, a sister discotheque in the Hampton's on Long Island. There was Arthur's, another New York disco owned by Cybil Burton, whose house band was the Fuzzy Bunnies. many clubs followed as the trend caught on like Harlowe's and The Coney Island Pub and Nepenthe and many others.
At Ondine, The Door's, The Druids of Stonehenge, Buffalo Springfield, Jimi Hendrix, The Denims were among the list of performers. Live PA sound systems were just in their infancy then. It was new and exciting. Lots of real action. Bikers outside, mingled with the limousines. Jackie Gleason and Jackie Kennedy and Faye Dunnaway would be mingling with Monty Rock III and Eric Burden and Hilton Valentine of the Animals, while Jimi bit his guitar strings on the 8'x12'x18" stage. What can I say? Sonny and Cher would pop in. We'd hang out together with Steve Sills in the kitchen snacking on staff dinners together. Hendrix and I would go out after the club closed to the Brasserie for late night dinners. That's how it was. Nothing to compare it to then. Eventually it all led to The Cheetah and Studio 54, along with the Philmore East and the Electric Circus and so on. It was all new to all of us.
- Jim Reeves
Q: on 8/9/02 2:45 PM, Mike Christian wrote:
I think I'm a little rusty on the old format references, I can't seem to recall differences between what's "in", 1/2 track vs. 1/4inch-1/4 track and so on. I do know that this was the final and only tape you had at Studio 3 on my stuff and I believe that you were prompted to give it to me because of possible pending career changes for you at the time and/or pending status of ownership and operation of the studio that was occurring or about to occur. Do you understand what I just said? If you did you should be a lawyer. MC.
A: Hi Mike:
Yes, I understand. Here is some superfluous info.
The early basic professional reel to reel stuff at most studios had the capability of using a 10" reel of tape at 2500 feet long at a thickness of 1.5 mils. ( Imagine. A half a mile of tape on a 10" reel) with a width (or height) of one quarter inch(1/4") intended to travel past a stationary magnetic field at a speed of 15 inches per second (15 ips) giving a total record/play time of close to 30 minutes. The mono tapes were recorded on the full quarter inch (1/4") width of the tape. It was called Mono Full Track. By designing the record and playback "heads" into two sections of electro-magnetic coils, the 2 track tapes divided the recording width into 2 halves at slightly under one eighth of an inch (1/8") each. Although originally not used for "stereo", it did pave that path. There are certainly more configurations regarding pro tape, but I'll hold it here for now.
Now enters the "Consumer" machines (for "home" use).
In order to get more program material using less actual tape, as this cost the manufacturer more money to supply pre-recorded music libraries to the consumer, half the album could be put on a small plastic 7" reel of 1/4" tape and then the tape could be physically turned over to play the other side, cutting their tape costs in half. In order to fit on both sides, the tracks had to be reduced in size. Sound quality had to be compromised. But how would the consumer know, having never been exposed to full quality. However, the consumer was happy also to pay less for the luxury of accessing music. They could also record and play the same way with the device, as the "record" feature was included as an added incentive to buy it. Some things never change. A mono full track tape became a half-width track. So mono could be recorded on one side and when you got to the end of the tape, you just flipped it over and recorded on the other half (side B) in the opposite direction.
Also, in order to make consumer decks more cost effective, they cut the tape speed in half so more music could be crammed in to less tape. This added more noise and decreased the fidelity, but it increased consumer tape sales because it allowed the user to store more info for less material and money.
Each track was narrower and could not be played properly on a Pro 2 track deck because the Pro tracks were as wide as 2 consumer tracks and thereby would play both consumer tracks simultaneously out of one pro track's channel. It would mix the forward and reversed tracks together as well as the "tape hiss" in between tracks.
So "Quarter Inch Quarter TRACK" (1/4" 1/4 tk) decks are Consumer and "Quarter Inch Half Track" (AKA 2 Track) decks are Pro. You can play a quarter track tape on a 2 track deck if nothing is recorded on the reverse side of the tape, but each channel's playback will include a 1/4 track of music and a blank 1/4 track of hiss mixed together. But in some cases it's better than nothing.
To make a Mono Dubbing Master Tape for making consumer product to distribute to the masses, a mono program would be formatted so that side A would go on the top track and side B would go on the bottom track but played in reverse from its master. The resultant "DUB" master would run at somtimes 60 inches a second, while the dub or consumer copy ran at 30 inces per second, copying the forward and reverse material simultaneously. Then, when played back on the consumer deck, its play speed was reduced to 7.5 inches per secnd (7.5 ips). Yikes!
When Stereo became available, later known as a half track stereo tape, a 2 track tape became quarter width tracks at less than a 1/16th of an inch in width resulting in:
track 1 for - side 1 Left , forward direction
track 3 for - side 1 Right, forward direction
Flip the tape;
track 4 for - side 2 Left, opposite direction (now at the top)
track 2 for - side 2 Right, opposite direction
Illustration of 1/2 track stereo and 1/4 track stereo tape head...
iiustration of one of several configurations of tape heads...
I hope this was fun for you. You probably remember it all now though from back in the day.
- Jim Reeves
Q: Hi Jim,
I was recently given a Sony ECM-170 microphone and came across Reeves Audio Recording Equipment page in my search for info. There's not much info out there and I was wondering if you knew anything about it. I'm unfamiliar with electret microphones, so if you have a moment, would you be willing to tell me what situations, instruments, vocals, etc you like to use this mic for?
Dan Bolstad -Software Engineer Fullplay Media
A: Hi Dan,
At the time it came out (Sony ECM-170) it was ok. I liked it on acoustic guitars for its crispness. But, eventually I discovered that the noise floor was not acceptable and just keep it around now for the nostalgia. There are many greater (by far) mics around. Neumanns are great, but expensive. I like the AKG-C1000S. Not a lot of gain for a condenser mic, similar to the Shure SM-81. But, not bad for the price. But for an all around great inexpensive condenser, the Octava MK-012 is awesome. You may want to roll off the bass in many instances, but it's there, if you want it. I suppose I really should take the Sony ECM-170 off my list, but then, we wouldn't have had this moment. J.R.
Q: 0n 1/9/03
Thanks very much for the info and the moment. I had assumed the mic was fairly old and had pretty much no "vintage" status since there's next to no info available online. My next challenge is to find out about another mystery mic. It's missing make and model info and it's quite strange. The head of the mic has some sort of metal, imitation wind guard made of small metallic beads. I don't think that much sound would actually get through it. And then there's some small grilled openings at the base near the xlr input along with an output dial. It has my friends and myself very curious.
A: J.R. - Here is a response to that from my learned colleague:
Howdy Jim -
That's easy...it's an AKG D-202E. I have 2 of them. They are interesting microphones. We used to call them the "ice cream cone" mics.
1. The D-202E is a proximity corrected dynamic mic (hence the vents on the side) which minimizes the low end build up when the mic is placed very close to the sound source. The EV RE-20, RE-16, RE-10 were also proximity mics. The D202E also has a low cut switch at 0, -7, and -20. I'm not sure at what frequency the cut starts.
2. The D-202E is a two way mic, that is, it has 2 mic elements, one for treble and one for bass with a crossover-like circuit. It's like a two-way speaker in reverse. They made a similar but more expensive mic, the D-224E, that many people mistook for a condenser mic. The D-202E's were quite common in Europe, used like SM-57's for a variety of things: drums, guitars, strings... AKG replaced the mic with a newer version called the D-222. I'm not sure if they still make it. Oddly, both of my mics needed repair at the same time. I think that there might be some foam stuff inside that breaks down over time due to environmental causes.
I've included a catalog sheet about the mic from a 1977 Gill Custom House catalog. By the way, the D-202E's were the first pro mics that I bought. I used them to tape Grateful Dead shows from the audience.
Metro Mobile Recording
I have forwarded your succinct and enjoyable description to the wondering wanderer. I recognized it but never used one. I learned a lot from you. I used a 224E on Gregg Allman on his vocals for live performance at Watkins Glen and had it until some intern dropped it at JP's club and the replacement from AKG sucked, so I sold it.
- Jim Reeves
Wow, thanks for the excellent info and the data sheet. Please thank your friend Timothy for me as well. You've both gone way out of your way to help me out and I really appreciate it. I hope to be able to return the favor some day.
Q: Date: Wed, 17 Dec 2003 19:13:10 EST
Subject: ~history of recording gear~
I just finished reading through your piece about Studio 3 which got me thinkning about a lot of recording things. Right now I'm studying Sound Recording Technology and we have been assigned a final thesis project. After poking around a bit on your website I've decided to look into the area of how the function and design of our recording equipment (analogue and digital) have contributed to not only what kind of things we are able to do but also into about the ergonomics of it all (ex: why the fader makes more sense than the rotary pot).
A: Hi Dano,
Well, I would also consider this. The implication of vertical faders making more "sense", as you put it, made me think... more sense or just different? The rotary pot may have made it harder to control as many things as verticals could, but the musician's performance back then was such that you didn't need to do as much adjusting. You pretty much found the dynamic center of gravity, so to speak, with a couple or few mics, a little balance and just sit back and record (for the most part). The blend of it "all" was "the recording". The musicians did all the work. As control over that became more of an issue, the fader became more of matter. The idea, that each musician needed to be mic'd individually and then "close" mic'd, grew. At that point, the "good" musician and the mediocre ones were noticed more because of the clarity and so the balance between those needed to be controlled (to hide the bad guys?). And then "isolation" concepts grew in order to have the control over the bloopers bleeding into the good stuff. Now, you got a lotta' mics , so like ya need more of a "hand's width" space for all those faders. So, in comes the vertical slide fader (volume control, pot, aka: potentiometer), on 1" or so centers, so 10 fingers can control 10 faders.
But I still think if the recording played well, less needs to be done to it. Granted, for us "engineers" there'd be less to do and it wouldn't be as much fun if you don't do a lot to it, but it's also less about the music. Engineering is kinda' like Karate. In the beginning you learn a lot of moves and stances, and how to hit, and punch and kick and move quickly. But by the time you get to tenth degree black belt, you learn it's all about avoiding getting hit, it's about healing and health and using the opponent's force against them to achieve your goal. With that analogy, the better engineer might be the one that sort of avoids or "balances" the over-indulgent, over technical "fun" approach and finds the essence of the performance. He assures that performance by encouraging the musicians to develop a good "record" in the studio. The type that the end user would care to hear. Not because of all the hard work and tricks that were put into it. But because of the phenomena that happens when people perform together and there is a recording of a great moment. It's just a thought.
I came into engineering kind of in the middle when the old mono stuff was changing into stereo and 3 track and 4 track and into what it is today, so I get to weigh the old with the new. Both have greatness. The difference I see is that today the records are "made" and then they were "played".
- Jim Reeves
Recording overdub tip:
One of the things that happens when overdubbing is that in the interest of getting a good performance by punching in, the tempo groove of the performance falls out of the pocket and can go by unnoticed because you're in tunnel vision mode in one spot of the song for a while and the priority is usually the pitch and phrasing at that point. That kind of anomaly doesn't happen typically in a live performance (with most artists anyway).
Another thing that can throw the vocal out of time with the track and make it sound late or behind the grove is certain plug-ins. More complex plug-ins that use a lot of processing can have from 30 millisecond delay, (which you might normally use a vocal doubler effect when blended with the original) to as much as 1/2 second delay in them. Check the plug-ins manual for latency specs and compensate for it when mixing.
After all the punching is done and the mix is about done, always check to see if the vocal got ahead or behind the grove. Get into the singer's head. Then just go in and slip the vocal forward or back until it "feels" right in the track. Even if it's just one of the word's in the line that was rushed or late. Yes, you can play god as a record producer. It says so on page 11 of the manual. And recording is an unnatural act to begin with. After a while, you'll be noticing it simultaneously.
It just bugs me when I hear it, even on a hit record. You can tell after a while when you get used to it that they punched it in and it pulls you in and out of the grove. Especially when they fly the same part into several places in the record.
I don't want to assume that you're unaware of it or that your system won't let you manipulate the files but once you get aware of it and good at it you'll be cursed like me when it bugs you to hear others that miss fixing it in their productions. You know, like people who can't tell when a note is out of tune. It's just another finessing of the production.
- Jim Reeves
Jim "JR" Reeves
(the guy who was originally booked for the American Pie album,
but the producer was so stoned, he lost my phone number).
But, that's another story...
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