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Creating the Craft of Tape Recording - Merry Christmas Everyone!

Discussion in 'Vintage Analog Gear' started by joe-electro, Dec 22, 2012.

  1. joe-electro

    joe-electro Member

    Hello fellow analog tape lovers,

    As a little Christmas gift to everyone I'm making this little download available. It's one of my favorite articles, written by the man responsible for bringing analog tape technology to the United States back in the mid-1940's, Col. John T. Mullin. This article is from the 25th Anniversary edition of High Fidelity Magazine, published in April 1976. It's an interesting read for anybody who has benefitted from analog tape. Enjoy, and happy holidays!


    If you like this article, give it a bump so others can share it too. This link will be good until Jan. 1, 2013, or until my hosting provider shuts it down for excessive bandwidth :)
  2. pan60

    pan60 Active Member

    nice read!
  3. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    I've got a fondness for analog tape.

    Former Factory trained Authorized Service Technician, for all y'all's American-made tape recorders.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  4. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I suppose I do too... in a nostalgic, "I sure do miss big cars with tail fins" kinda way...right up until the moment that you gotta put gas in them every 2 miles. ;)

    No question that tape had it's "thing"... and people like Remy and myself, and others who got into the business at that time, those of us who cut our teeth on ferrous oxide coated mylar - LOL - recall some very groovy things about it; those pleasing even-order harmonics, saturation, and finding "that sweet spot"...yup... that's it....right there... up around +4, where the ghost-of-all-great-audio-things lived...that's where the magic happened... the silk, the sheen... that elusive spot where if you hit it just right, you'd thought you'd died and gone to sonic heaven, or at least thought that you'd given Roger Nichols and Steely Dan a run for their money. ;)

    And... not to burst anyone's nostalgic bubble.... but I also recall:

    > Degaussing, biasing, alignment,

    > Voltmeters, lab tapes, test tones, Osci's

    > 456/499 running at 15 ips; the cost of which was around $89 for one reel of 1"; which only gave you around 33 minutes ( more or less) of recording time

    > Having to waste a track, because you needed a blank "guard track" next to your SMPTE track for time code and syncro so that the SMPTE chatter wouldn't bleed onto an adjacent track

    > Dolby and DBX Noise Reduction....finding that common ground/balance in the never ending trade-off between "acceptable noise with presence" versus "quiet but muddy". LOL and finally... drum roll please....

    > ...if I never again have to edit using a grease pencil, a razor blade, adhesive editing tape and an editing block, well then that's just abso-figgin'-lutely fine and ducky with me! :)

    I don't regret coming of age as an engineer during that period though... I held on to all those fundamentals... things that I still use today.

    Things like mic placement, EQ, Gain Reduction/Expansion... that stuff never changes, regardless of what format you use.

    I could dig out my Grandfather's old Wallensak wire recorder, and 1 k is still gonna be 1k - LOL... and in fact, that was just about the full bandwidth of that old thing... a bandwidth of 1k to 2k. LOL


    Donny - "why in the hell didn't I slate the intro to that song?" - Thompson ;)
  5. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    personally, i never minded those things. i wish it were the same these days. recording has become so easy that everyone thinks they are a "producer" now days. when the cost of admission was prohibitive, only those with a real desire or with an abundance of talent passed though these doors.

    i loved the quiet time before a session when i would go into the studio and pad around in my slippers, tweak the tape machines, get the mics on the stands, zero the console, ..... i loved my studio. it was my favorite place to be in the whole world.

    the cost of tape wasn't an issue for me either ... the clients paid for it and i always marked it up ... i loved selling tape. more cash flow for the studio.

    and if 22 tracks (or 14 if i was using the 16 track head stack) isn't enough, someone needs to be doing something else (imo) .... i made records with four tracks.

    and i don't know what everyone is whining about with tape noise. (???) i never had a problem with it. it's simple. use good gates. learn to mix. pull down a fader when there's no signal present. signal masks noise. get a good console with automation. add verbs through the aux sends returns and group the tape returns through vca groups or buses so you could pull down the tape returns and still have reverb in the master bus. then do a nice fade on the 2-bus so you could hear the verbs after the tape returns were pulled down ... if you're using a large format (professional) tape machine that is calibrated correctly noise shouldn't be an issue. i also loved the fact that i knew how to do all these things while other less talented recordists didn't.

    last i would much rather edit physically than digitally. first i love cutting and splicing tape. it's fun. second, i feel that digital editing is way too easy ... if the engineer has to cut tape it forces us all to make a friggin' decision while we are tracking whether or not the take should be saved or just re tracked.

    this was a great read. i have seen it before but i loved going through it once more. i wish there was more of this kind of thing posted. we are in real danger of losing sight of the history of recording without articles and post such as this.

    thanks and Merry Holidays.
  6. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    My dad had a `Wall and sack`. Complete with the little matching microphone. I actually miss razor blade editing it was such a lovely art. It separated the noise from the boys. But we also had a full track Echo Tape and a Presto 800 with a four input mixer. And you almost couldn't tell the difference in sound between what one in and what came out at that really fast tape speed called 15 whatchamacallit's? I just remember how Romper Room so beautifully prepared us for a life of analog tape recording. The nice lady always used to say... Doo bee a good bee. Don't be a Dolby.

    Thank you Miss Romper Room Teacher.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  7. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    that was IPS.

    DB UCHS was the worst! I never had a problem with Dolby.

    all these issues people had with analog sprang from narrow format semi pro machines like Teac, Dokkorder, Tascams and Fostex. in a pro studio you can kick in Dolby (or DBX) on a per channel basis. so no N/R on the bass ( a must!) or the drums ... maybe kick it in if you have to bounce 9 tracks of vocal stacks down to 2 tracks ... or if you have a very low level acoustic instruments ...

    another trick of the trade was to track at one speed and run the mix machine at a different speed. that minimized the tape noise build up in any one octave.

    Dolby A was real ok ... SR was much better. the Dolby S Fostex used on the G16 and G24 machines was very bearable and necessary to get the most out of the narrow format tape tracks. I had a G16 custom ordered to run at 30 ips for a studio i built for a composer friend. that was a very punchy machine that sounded pretty damn good.
  8. pan60

    pan60 Active Member

    Got tape on hand and it would not bother one bit to use when I think it is justified.
    A nice HP sine wave generator and scope set on the bench at all times.
    Plenty of nice vintage razor blades on hand, none of those cheap easy breakin crap one either.
  9. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    And at the same time leaving out many people who did have the talent, but who simply didn't have the money. Exclusivity be damned. Locking the door to people who could have been great at the craft simply because they couldn't afford to "be in the club" didn't accomplish anything other than leaving out talented people with large amounts of potential who could have been great contributors to the biz... And I knew more than a few guys who had the nicest gear around; the best preamps and mics, the nicest OB gear, wide format machines and sweet desks... and who also couldn't mix their way out of a wet sack and wouldn't know fidelity if it bit them in the ****.

    Yes. Money was a criteria, but it shouldn't have been. It never defined art ...or talent. I love the idea that some kid in his bedroom with a PC and a copy of Reaper can now give the record companies a solid run for their money, in both quality of music and recording. There's a lot of sonic garbage out there being commercially released from the "professional" side of the industry.

    I did the same thing... we all did. I was merely pointing out the time limitations and the cost involved.

    Once again, we all did. And there was a time when management at Abbey Road told Geoff Emerick and George Martin that 8 tracks was a luxury and they should be happy with what they had.

    But having extra tracks for extra takes that modern DAW's provide means you aren't limited by one particular arrangement or variation of the parts instrumentally and vocally. You can work with different ideas for the song of the performances - like alternate vocal takes, different guitar solos, etc. without sacrificing the original tracks/idea(s).

    As far as the mixing methods you described, with all due respect, this was pretty common knowledge to most of the engineers I knew at the time, myself included. Every enineer has those little things that they keep in their trick bag, although most of the time you'll find out that many of them each have the same tricks, or at least very similar tricks.
    There's no real hidden gem of knowledge there, no Holy Grail of audio. I'm not trying to be insulting about it... but the way your post read, the inference you made was that I didn't know these methods, that I wasn't aware of these very basic mixing techniques:

    The noise is relative to what you are willing to accept. Take a listen to Time Passages by Al Stewart. Produced by Alan Parsons, engineered by Geoff Emerick. Two cats who are pretty well versed and respected for what they do and the contributions they have made to the craft....
    Take a listen. You will find that tape hiss abounds in the first 30 seconds of the song where the only instrument is a Wurli piano. I would think that the song was tracked on some very nice gear and not a Dokorder 4 track 1/4".
    Do I mind it? No. Of course not. It's a part of the texture. I find it more than acceptable. I was merely pointing out that tape is inherently noisier than digital.

    I cut and spliced just as much as anyone else who was a cooker in those days. I believe that it had very little to do with tracking or re tracking. I still hear commercial releases that, to this day, make me cringe because I can hear the edit point(s).... cutting out a bridge, shortening a chorus, to make songs shorter due to the requirements of radio, who wanted to make sure that songs fit a certain length so that they could fit just one more advertiser's spot into the hour. I've done plenty of both, and just because the process is easier today doesn't mean that it's "cheating" or taking the low road. In the end, I want the product to sound as good as I can, and the less time spent doing physical tasks to accomplish that, (like editing, or nulling a console, etc.) means that more time can be dedicated to the creative process itself.

    I don't want to get up at 3 a.m. and go out to the barn to get my milk from a cow. I like the convenience of going to the store and buying it....I don't want to be a slave to the limitations of the format and the time that was necessary to accomplish that which today takes far less time. And, less time spent doing what used to have to be done by hand (or by razor LOL) now means more time can be dedicated to actually creating the music.

    To this we agree. And, I never said I didn't like recording to tape. There are many things I did like about it. But, as an engineer who is also a musician and a songwriter, looking back, there are many things about it that I simply find to be antiquated and very time consuming, tasks that took precious time away from the artistic / creative side.
  10. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    I love this back and forth between you two guys Donny LOL. I'm such a Libra I'm on both sides.

    Come on Donny... you didn't enjoy tweaking up a 24 track machine and being one with the machine for a little while? Just you and the machine? I mean we practically slept with these things. And you only had to tweak the machine up for the incoming clients that were bringing tapes recorded other studios. Otherwise, you tweak for your house brand of tape you used and you didn't have to do that until you changed tape stock. When I couldn't stand was Jay McKnight's voice LOL. (The voice and owner of MRL analog calibration tapes known the world over). He actually reamed me a new backside and hung up on me when I told him there was something wrong with his calibration tapes LOL. He called me back the next day at Scully to apologize and chipless brand-new calibration tapes without his mistake and my correction. And if it wasn't for my space issue inside my truck, I'd still have an Ampex MM 1200-24. And I would be tracking every band on the same reel of tape LOL. In repro/record, to stream directly to the digital multi-track recorder, for basic tracking sessions at 30 IPS, banging the meters. And then have half the wow and flutter and no print through. Any noise issues, if there are any noise issues at all, can then be dealt with in the software because the noise at 30 IPS ain't white, it's pink. I mean really, what moron needs a CLASP? I mean that is the ultimate in CLASP CLOWN, in my book.

    Old-fashioned girl
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  11. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    LOL...No Remy.... I really didn't.

    I knew how to, of course, we all had to know that stuff back in those days, but I was also one of a million baby boomers who were forced to go to the school gym and line up and have a TB and Polio vaccine.. that didn't mean I liked it. ;)

    I guess my thing is, that I was a musician before I was an audio guy. I never really wanted to be an audio guy. An astronaut? Yes. A professional football player? You betcha. A musician? Certainly.

    But, I never saw myself as wanting to be an audio engineer.

    I was just kind of "pushed" into it out of necessity, as a way to record my own songs without having to pay another studio or engineer to do it.

    And then, one day, I had a couple guys ask me if I could record their band for a couple bucks. My response was, of course, "sure, why not?"

    I looked at it as a way to help pay for the gear that I wanted to record myself with.

    And that's where it starts.

    Then, the next thing I know, I'm renting space and calling an Ohio Bell Rep to place a 2" x 2" display in the Yellow Pages.

    Then I'm calling an insurance agent to cover the gear... and then I'm having a sign and logo made, and before I knew it, I was off to the races recording clients - and, to be honest - faster than I intended, and to be even more honest, a lot quicker than what I was comfortable with. Truthfully, I didn't know much. I mean, I knew which end of a microphone to point at the source - LOL - but not really much more than that.
    I used to read Mix Magazine articles - and it was like I was trying to read Sanskrit. LOL

    So, through the friend of a friend, I contacted a gentleman by the name of Steve Hebrock, who had been a head engineer at Caribou Ranch in the 70's and at that time, was working at Audio Technica - the corporate HQ was located just a few miles away from where I lived - Steve was working in the Development Department, designing new equipment.

    I hired him to teach me everything he could about the craft and science of audio recording. I studied under him privately for almost three years - learning everything I could... from mic technique to alignment and biasing, from principles of EQ and Gain Reduction to patch bays, Pepsi and pizza... LOL

    So yes, I was trained, and in my opinion I was trained pretty well. But, honestly, it's not something that I had ever really envisioned myself doing.

    I wasn't an electronics wiz. I'm still not. As a kid, I didn't take apart electrical components, or experiment with them, like many of the pro's here likely did - yourself included, Remy, I would imagine...

    I learned these things as both a necessity to keep the business going, and as a way to better my own product. And yes, like everyone here, I sought to become better at what I was doing. I made mistakes. BOY did I make mistakes. But, I learned from them. I learned how to maintain equipment, things like with biasing, alignment, soldering, etc.,... all the stuff we needed to know, and because I didn't want to pay someone else to do it for me, I learned myself.

    But... it's not something I ever really got off on. What really sparked me was being a musician, a writer, a performer. Becoming an audio engineer was like a necessary afterthought.

    So I guess in that way, as far as engineers go, I may be a bit different and cut from a different piece of cloth that most other audio cats are... those who are just as passionate about the craft of recording as I was about the craft of writing and performing...Unlike many other audio professionals, I wasn't motivated to learn audio from a deep internal passion to do so.

    I learned because I had no other choice. It was sink or swim, so I decided that I might as well swim.

    And, I felt then the same way that I feel now... I still don't like anything that takes time away from the music and the creativity.

    I don't care if it was aligning a deck back in 1980 - or tweaking software in 2012.

    I didn't like it then, and I still don't like it now. I'll do it because I have to, but I've never liked anything that detracts and takes time away from making the music. ;)


  12. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    here you go Remy; :)

    i said;
    and it was answered;
    with all due respect, i have heard that same point many times and i simply do not agree. the money will follow or even seek out the talent. those guys with all the gear who couldn't mix their way out of a wet sack eventually would be forced to hire someone like you or me or Remy to help them out or go out of business. what we have now is a lot of people who can't even figure out how to get their Crapingjer mixer routed into the sound card on their laptops and those guys who would have hired us ( you and me and Remy) don't have a viable business model to exploit so they can give us our chance. so now we all have to use rack crap and Asian mics ... yippie!

    i grew up in a very financially challenged environment yet i managed to find a way into the business. i pretty much had to find a way to buy my own guitars and amps when i was a kid let alone any recording gear. there was almost nothing published about recording and every piece of info i picked up was cherished by myself and my friends who shared the same passion for sound. if this really held true there should be so much more quality music in the market place now days than in the past. but at least imo there isn't. the proof is in the pudding. i also feel / think / believe analog just "sounds" better than digital. if this comes at the cost of a little hiss generated by scraping (essentially) fine grit sandpaper across a playback head, so be it.

    i agree. that's where mentoring came in. none of that these days though. all the kids think they know it all and there's no one to tell them they aren't allowed to touch the console until they learn how to master a recording. "hey kid, for now, just run the tape machines'.

    i learned much of my technique from others, reading and some of it sprang from common sense and an understanding of simple physical principals. i in no way assume the knowledge i speak of is exclusive to me or any type of an original idea. but the simple fact that many bemoan the noise levels of analog tape and other quirks of analog audio speaks in it's self that many are ignorant of the methods used to defeat it. i do revel in the fact i know how to deal with it. like Remy said, "separates the noise from the boys". i also loved doing things like wild flying vox stacks from one chorus into to the following ones. i found it to be much more satisfying to me than simply cutting and pasting on a DAW.

    of course we will never know what that noise was generated by will we? it could be the instrument or it could be the amp the instrument was played through, line noise from processing into the tape or it could be tape noise (which i doubt).

    perhaps for you but that's not the case for many others. i've heard of extensive tape editing on records (like the Doobies) to the point where they were editing very long lengths of a single track from a multi (strips many feet long) into a a tape to keep a particular take of an instrument or vocals.

    as written in the previous post many don't want to deal with all of this. they are song writers and performers. all they want is to get their stuff recorded. i get that. i started out with the same attitude but i learned i actually got off more on being behind the glass. i guess that's the difference and where the difference of opinion springs from. different strokes. it's all good.

    btw i prefer fresh milk from the cow. a lot of milk i get from the 7-Eleven tastes sour to me. convenience isn't everything. in fact sometimes it is the cause of demise.
  13. pan60

    pan60 Active Member

    I don't and will not drink store bought milk. Taste like crap to me.

    Anyone with a passion to accomplish something, can, given a bit of drive.
    I think the excuse of to much money for admission is just that an excuse. If anyone choose to give up that easily then they should fall out IMHO.

    I have been in this industry for many years and I have always found a way to get what I needed. I have bought new, used traded, and worked it off. I sold gear, did installs, live sound, and advertising when things where tight. Designed, manufactured, and on. I think it boils down to drive!

    But as with anything with drive there in the end has to be some talent. For some this can be learned, for some, they should just home and find a hobby.


    Watch for some wicked cool ribbon and small real condenser mics coming soon. And NOT some rebadged imports!
    some of the Nashville crew will be hearing about these soon: )~
  14. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    All solid points...

    I don't agree with all of them, but I have absolutely no problem sparring with a colleague, because it's an intelligent debate based on years of experience, and I really respect that.

    I don't think you can blame those that are making music on the bedroom rigs for this. This is a record company faux pas based on a dicey business model to cater to a public who simply doesn't listen anymore, and those that do don't care about the sonic integrity. They have grown accustomed to listening to music in a compressed format, through 8 dollar earbuds. It wouldn't matter if they were listening to a track that was Pro Tooled to hell and back, or listening to a song that was tracked through a Trident 80 to a 2 " machine. They're not gonna hear the difference in fidelity. They simply don't care.

    The days of having a group of friends over, firing up the incense, the lava lamp (and whatever else LOL) putting Sgt Pepper on the turntable and listening from front to back are long gone.
    Nobody has the time anymore, nobody wants to do that, and music is released in singles form, with a fidelity that is based on consumers listening acceptance as mentioned above.

    Everyone is on the go - although I don't know where they are going, if they are in fact going anywhere at all - and they want everything "instant".

    Microwave dinners, movies available at the click of a mouse, and inevitably, music. The problem is a vicious circle.... the consumer doesn't want to listen to an album, and even if they did, the big labels aren't focusing on quality album content anymore. There isn't a Night At The Opera or an Abbey Road or a Dark Side Of The Moon to choose from anymore.
    They pick one song to push, maybe two, and then the rest of the album is filler (at best), so there's no point in downloading the album - even if the consumer wanted to.

    But....I don't believe this has anything to do with the recording process or the technology involved in the process. It's the result of a "give it to me now and give it to me free" society. If there's any touchstone of blame, it's the method of delivery, as well as the fact that people, by and large, don't have the time, or at least, won't make the time anymore. And, if the average consumer isn't interested in buying full albums, the record companies aren't going to spend those big dollars for studio time and quality production anymore like they did on classic albums of the past where nearly every song was a great one - Fleetwood Mac's Rumors, REO Speedwagon's High Infidelity, Queen's Night At The Opera, Pink Floyd's The Wall... etc. etc.

    And I suppose this is where we will have to agree to disagree. I remember a time once, one particular song I was working on, using a 1/2" 8 track. I had the perfect mix happening - I had found the right balance of levels, EQ and effects. 8 tracks of sonic smoothness. Except for one thing: I need a guitar solo. No room on the multi, can't find anywhere to put it where it's not going to interfere with what I've done.
    The end result was that I tracked the solo to a 1/4" 2 track Revox. I marked the start of the solo with a piece of paper leader, rocked the reels to the exact starting point. I then ran the mix on the multi master, to another Revox B77 for the final 2 mix. When the solo came up, I pushed play on the lead solo tape, and flew the solo in. It took a couple tries to get it right, but I eventually got it. Now... what I just described would probably be a process that you or Remy might have enjoyed doing. I didn't. I found the limitation to be a detraction from the creative process. I would have given just about anything at that point to have the ability to digitally edit or produce that solo with the modern methods in use now. As I mentioned in my previous post, I found anything that took time away from making music to be a drag. Of course I did these things as we all did. You had to deal with the limitations at hand, overcome the obstacles. But I don't believe that learning those particular tricks made me any better of an engineer today in that I don't have any use for them with the current format.

    In my opinion, it's definitely tape hiss. Listen to it yourself, I think you'd agree.

    Well, we agree on something. LOL ;)

  15. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    i agree although it's unfortunate isn't it?

    so do i.

    as afar as the track "Time Passages", i went and took a listen on the ewwtoobe and what i hear is the hiss from a Rhodes into the suitcase amp. it's pretty low level and not at all objectionable to me especially in comparison to some of the digital Rhodes emulations i have heard. at least it sounds "real". i really doubt that is tape noise for a number of reasons.

    still, there's much that we agree on.

    soliloquy ;

    i just feel lucky to have been able to live through a golden age not just in audio but in the overall American experience, after the struggles of a horrible depression and world war II, when unions and labor were strong.

    Mom could stay at home with the kids and Dad could bring home enough to support the family and we all could get decent medical without selling off the ranch.

    ... as a kid i had a 57 Chevy a 66 GTO a 65 T Bird convertible, a 55 Chevy panel truck with a hugeoid Buick engine and tranny, all in the day when you didn't have to have insurance to drive and gas was 5 bucks a tank! My friends and i used to load up in the T Bird and run up to Yosemite several times a year. i remember a night in the meadow at Yosemite falls, full moon and about a hundred hippies all in line waiting for a dose of mescaline that we had brought up from the Bay Area in a can of Nestle's chocolate powder ... i recall REAL LSD from Owsley ... window pane clearlight ... the Acid Test's put on by the Merry Pranksters ...

    i experienced the phenomenon of Beatlemania when TV was free. i was in San Francisco for the Summer of Love. i saw Cream at their farewell concert at the Oakland Coliseum, saw Santana, Jefferson Airplane, Blue Cheer, Frank Zappa and the Mothers all at the Fillmore or Carousel Ballroom.

    it was safe to hitch hike. i have been up and down the West Coast many times as a teen and I saw Yellowstone in the early 70's before it was over run by tourists. Down to LA, out to the hot springs at Lucerne Valley in the Mojave Dessert (where the Manson Family hung) back up to Carmel by the Sea or out to the Redwoods, hanging in Santa Cruz .... all either on my thumb or in my car or the cars my friends owned. it really was a special time. that will never happen again either.

    as an adult i was able to play music for a living, never having to work straight jobs for long ... able to put together a busy working recording studio with 2 inch multi track, vintage tube mics and outboard and a large live and C/R, got to hob knob with some of the Bay Area's elite musicians from the top bands ... all of this, not bad for a kid from a humble working class background. it's been a great ride!

    yes times have changed and imo not for the better. we can never go back and i only feel sad for the others who have come into the world since then who will never experience some of the things i and others from my generation have seen. believe me life in the modern age cannot hold a candle to what has already passed. it's really too bad.
  16. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    As do I, Kurt.

    I was also a working class kid, I grew up in a blue collar union family... My dad was a union rep for the Teacher's Union (NEA/OEA), My grandfather was a union Glazier, my uncle worked on the line at Lordstown (UAW), my grandfather on the other side was a railroad man...

    I grew up in Akron, Ohio, which was, at that time, where the majority of the world's tires were made; Goodyear, Goodrich, Michelin, General, Firestone, and a slew of other smaller companies. In fact, Akron has parts of town known by the factories that they are located by... We have Goodyear Heights, Firestone Park, etc. These were neighborhoods built next to the factories, and in most cases, you got your mortgage from the Company Credit Union, and your house payments just came right out of your check.

    When I was a kid growing up in the North Hill section of town, I would go out in the morning to go to school, and there would be a fine layer of black dust all over everything: car windshields, porches, sidewalks... and that black dust meant that the mills were kicking ass round the clock and that guys were working. In those days, no one minded that dust, because it was a sign of prosperity.

    I had the typical 1960's childhood. I didn't come from a broken home. In fact, in those days...1965 or so, it was a rare thing indeed for someone's parents to be divorced. These days it's a rare thing if someone's parents aren't.

    My intro to music, like many other musicians in my age group, can be traced directly back to a cold Sunday night in February of '64, when four guys from Liverpool kicked down the door on what was to become a gigantic musical movement...and as it turned out, a cultural one as well. All my musician friends can trace the exact moment that they decided to become musicians.... and it was that Sunday night, watching Ed Sullivan, that was the source for hundreds of thousands of kids who eventually became musicians.

    I've been a full time musician... live, touring, studio cat, writer, arranger, engineer, producer for the last 34 years now... almost 35. I'm not a genius. I'm a competent working musician with a solid work ethic. I show up on time, no matter what the gig is, I do my job, I get paid. Feast and famine, as you or anyone else can testify to, those of us who have given our lives to this thing we love (and occasionally despise as well LOL).

    I may have given the impression that I don't like being an audio engineer. I think I may have mistakenly hinted at this... and the truth is... I don't dislike it.

    I'm pretty good at what I do at the console, and there are times where I do indeed smile big, when the tones are perfect, the performances are stellar, the creativity is flowing and all of it is being captured in the way that we love. Although I must admit that those times seem to be getting more rare, and mediocrity seems to be the norm.

    But, by and large, I consider myself to be a musician and writer first, and an audio engineer second.

    I've enjoyed our debate. Intelligence is the key to that debate, and there is obviously no shortage of that on your end. I respect what you say because of your experience and intelligence... I just don't always agree. ;)

  17. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    No doubt Kurt, my ride has been very similar. Brings tears to eyes reading this. Must be why I've liked you so much all these years. But what you don't know, you will never miss. So the kids know no better I guess. Its harder on us I think.

    The next 30 years of my life will be trying to get back to the basics and hanging onto it for dear life. I just hope my health holds on at an even pace so I can slow and steady, remove all the crud that has distracted me all these years and die with a smile on my face.

    The meter on my new LA-2A just died. And I was hoping that would last as long as my eyes did. WTF.
  18. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    I think part of the difference here is that while I was a child of professional musicians, I was a French horn-ist. But I got bit by the bug by the time I was seven. I had full intentions of being a musician in a Symphony Orchestra and also making recordings as a second job or as a broadcaster. And with a fateful event, when I was 18, my embouchure was destroyed, when I was sucker punched having surprised a vandal screwing up my car, the night before Halloween. And that was the last time I could ever play French horn again due to nerve damage. My teeth came through my lips in three places. I felt almost like I had a leg emergency amputation? I tried for almost 2 years to get my embouchure back but no dice. Thankfully, I was already a licensed broadcaster, working in broadcasting and working recording studios from the time I was 15. Soul wasn't a hard decision to fully embrace becoming one of the best broadcast disc jockey, engineer and recording studio engineer and producer. These machines, consoles, microphones and all of the other for referrals, are today, the only instruments I play. And except for a synthesizer, I'm dependent upon everybody else's musicianship to flatter my engineering expertise. After all, who likes playing in a band where people can't keep time or know what notes to play? So I don't usually record or want to record, amateur musicians. As far as I'm concerned, most beginner musicians can work with beginner engineers. They don't know how to work with professional engineers. They start to dictate engineering requests that are either not practical nor musical sounding. So they don't want me for my skills I don't want them in my studio. And amateur musicians seem to always do that? Professional musicians, DO NOT. They don't tell me how to play my instrument and I don't tell them how to play theirs. Unless they are relatively green, incompetent, musicians, that have booked a session, of which I must engineer for the boss of any studio I work for. And that's what I do start telling them how to change, modify or play their instruments, as a producer, for recording purposes. Which, with some, works out really well as they want to improve their creative skills and musical deliveries. But like as has been said here, a lot of these twentysomething-year-olds think they know it all. Which is when I wonder why they booked a session in, at all? Because if you really know how to do this, you can do this at home and they can't. They don't think their Mackie and SM57/58's are up to the task of a professional recording. And just that alone, tells me what their skill level is. Completely nonexistent. LOL. And if they're not going to take any technical direction for me, they can get the hell out. Screw beginners! I can reduce perfectly lovely recordings on their junkie PA systems and they can't. So they come to somebody who can only to direct them in the wrong direction. Because they know everything. They heard it on another record. Well goody-goody for them. Good do-it-yourself. So I might be starving and generally out of business, I still have my integrity as an engineer/producer. I'm not that kind of prostitute like everybody else. Though we all prostitute ourselves, in many ways, in his profession. You have to, to a certain extent. But you cannot compromise your professional integrity and lower your bar to suit those that have no knowledge of the job that you do. I don't tell my doctor what to do when I don't feel good. And these morons cannot accept that kind of mindset. Because they're paying for our services, they feel they can dictate to us what to do. Which many young basement engineers are quite willing to do. Their reasoning is, if they're paying for it, they can demand whatever they want. Well, they can't, with me. I don't work that way.

    I find many young engineers are quite willing to work that way. They just want to play with every knob and dial, they have. They don't approach things in a learned or experienced manner because they have none. Sorry, I was taught to practice my instruments, by my parents who were world-class musicians. And if young bands don't understand that themselves, they are not professional and I will not work with them. I referred them to other basement studios. So I do practice, as a professional, a little pay it forward for those others who definitely just want to do this, anyway they can. So I don't mind pairing up amateur musicians with other amateur wannabe engineers LOL. Those kinds, work great together. It's the blind leading the blind and every now and then... they hit the lottery. So while I have also received my recording studio lottery winnings, I've never won one of those big prizes as yet. Probably never will? But that's what this business does. Those who have no talent, that appeal to the masses also without talent, outnumber all the ones with talent. So the lowest common denominator usually seems to win based on quantity versus quality. After all, you want to give people, what they want. Unfortunately, today, most people seem to want doorknobs for dinner? Which is a little bit like Robots for Ronnie but that was Crack the Sky LOL. If I remember that correctly? That's like 1978 while some of my memories of that era are starting to fade, due to age, or perhaps brain damage?

    So it's really rather strange to realize that many of these younger folks, don't want any input from any of us older experienced folks? Go figure WTF? Those of us that had mentors, like I did, wanted our mentors knowledge from the experiences they were sharing with us. What a fabulous way to learn! So much better than any classroom BS. And so what my mentors said to me became gospel to me. Kids are no longer like that today. So I think most of them are just little spoiled brats? And that's sad. Since any real fine musician, didn't come from a classroom. They all came from one-on-one lessons with an older master. Like teachers and college professors that teach you what you need to know to make it through life. I didn't think I knew everything in my 20s no matter how good I knew I was. I needed to hear their experiences and stories. I couldn't get enough of them! Unfortunately, I have had enough of these twentysomething-year-olds. Little Smart asses, all of them thinking that they are McCartney/Lennon but can produce no melodies and can't play their instruments worth crap. And then they told you they had experience in the studio. So ya tell them we must now overdub this track again. And you get..." what?" An overdub. " Over what?". OK... we're going to play the music up to the point where you screwed up your solo, then we will drop it in...." What? ". We'll lay it in. " Lay what? ". We'll punch it in!..." Punch what? ".... It's OK, you can go home now. Experienced in the studio my ass.

    My ass is far more experienced in the studio than their asses. And what are people doing living in Manassas?? It sounds so gay and they're all rednecks! Go figure? Even I wouldn't want to live there. And it's only 5 miles from me. There's just something wrong with a city named Manassasasses.I guess they liked the sound of Mississippi?

    At the border between Germany and Austria, the customs officer looked at my passport. He then asked me how was Mitch again? And where he never asked me the first time, since I didn't know him nor had I ever met him and I don't know any Mitch? Oh... he meant Michigan? LOL.

    And it was in Germany and Austria that sort of reminded me of entry-level engineers. Entry level engineers, want to play with all the knobs and dials to their fullest extent. I had my Berlitz book with me but all of these Germans and Austrians didn't want me speaking German or Austrian. They just wanted to practice their English on me. So I didn't become very proficient in German or Austrian in the week that I was there LOL. And where in France, with my Berlitz book in hand, it didn't matter what I spit out. Nobody seemed to understand me or wanted to? I later found out, that they absolutely understood me. But that was the French and that's how they are. They had no interest in practicing their English on me nor accepting my bad French annunciation. And that was oh so totally infuriating. So they sort of reminded me of entry-level engineers LOL.

    I agree with everything that we've disagreed upon. Because I know that we are professionals. And I know that we can all produce a professional product even though we all work very differently from each other. And your engineering will sound right to some ears. So will mine even if I produced a sound wrong to your ears. So I enjoy different engineering styles and techniques, even if they don't sound right, I still don't find anything wrong. Even if it doesn't sound exactly right to me. Because I can hear professional engineering skills. And I think it pretty funny when other engineers tell me, that they don't like my upfront and in-your-face kind of sound. Well that's too bad! LOL. That's what I do. They just can't do what I do. So they have to produce a beautiful even homogenized slather of Stereophonics sound. It's a cool sound. But I find much of this engineering technique, to lack a realistic punch? Though I do find it very smooth, highly controlled, expertly engineered and executed, it's just not my style. So I find it funny, amongst some of my professional colleagues who I hold in high esteem, when they listen to my mixes, and I get comments like " well I could hear there's definitely something there that sounds close to a recording ". WTF? So even though these are my friends and some of these people I've known for over 20 years, I really feel that in some ways, my engineering must intimidate them? Do you just don't diss a fellow professional colleague/friend like that. Which is another reason why I feel so many engineers have their finger up their ass. I mean I have a passion for this also but that's just plain unprofessional by the some of my professional colleagues. They think their engineering is superior to others. While I feel that way also about my own. And I have a track record to back that up with, in many ways much more so than them. And which we are in a business where there really isn't any right or any wrong when it's actually executed professionally. Those are personal subjective comments. One of these guys is a preacher's kid. And as a preacher's kid, I'm sure it was instilled upon him that you do not judge others? But he obviously does. He came to me for my expert maintenance and production skills. I taught him everything about video. He booked my truck on numerous occasions. I loan them equipment when he needed it. He threw me work when he could. But to get that kind of comment from someone who has displayed you one of their mixes and you play them one of yours, that kind of BS shouldn't come out of any preacher's kids mouth. So while we've been friends and colleagues throwing each other work for over 20 years, I don't think much of comments like that that come from people, no matter what high esteem I may hold them in. And after all, he was the one that told me he couldn't afford to pay me what I was worth. Yet I agreed to work for him when he needed me and I will continue to do so if and when he ever calls upon me again. So no matter how I like to set up microphones, when I did a job for him, I'd always ask him, what kind of Mike's T. want me to use and where would you like them placed in general? My work for somebody, I want to do my job the way they want it done. And he's intimidated by MS stereo microphone technique. He'd rather have spaced Omni microphones. Fine. It all works. It all makes sound. It's all very listenable. But I have trouble with other engineers when I request something and they don't want to do it my way and I'm the one that's producing? I'm the one that was hired by the talent client, to produce them. Not the engineer! And some of these idiots have masters degrees in the recording arts and sciences yet they do not know what the proper protocol is when working with a producer. They think it has to be their way not the producers way. And that's not the way... it goes. And one of the worst engineers I worked with was the chief music mixer at OMEGA RECORDINGS AND SCHOOL. He informed me he went to Full Sale. And so he paid $40,000 to learn how to argue with a producer and to work an SSL or a Neve V and ProTools. BFD! He doesn't know how to work with a producer. Obviously they never taught him that at Full Sale? And that's left a taste of a rotten grapefruit in my mouth. And another reason why I largely do not recommend these bogus university recording schools. I mean whoever teaches this stuff, obviously never did it themselves. They only have a college degree in which gives them license to teach that which they have never done. And I don't trust any of those folks anymore, at all fine'. And people wonder why I don't like those associated with academia? That's why. But they wouldn't know since they don't work in our business. They only teach. And that's theory. We deal in practice. At practice makes perfect. Teaching doesn't. Teaching just prepares you to practice. And it's that practice that makes you a professional not what you have been taught. Because theory and practice does not always go hand in hand.

    I am done pontificating.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  19. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Both sides of the fence here. There were and still are, limitations to working with tape. Especially when you're writing and arranging on the fly. And talk about a mood killer with rewind times.....And the lossy artifacts......and the fidelity.....OH WAIT...THAT was the good thing....And the tape shed....and the STORAGE...No one talks about the storage any more. If you were seriously into owning the library you had to have a place for all the tape boxes and a system for cataloging them. And stacks of notes to remind you what was in those boxes and on those tapes....We still do that but the ease of the workflow is much better now.
    There was a certain art and a certain quiet-time satisfaction to setting up the sessions. Living with the machines was a wonderful experience. And I do agree that the LACK of choices made each and every one made a thoughtful process. And probably resulted in a much more complete vision of the music being rendered. Thats the problem I hear and see today. TOO MUCH choices and no decisions being made today....we'll fix it later....lets do it again and keep the old track.....I can play that better....I'm not sure that represents my vision.....

    Oy Vey.

    I remember being enthralled with the production of certain records when I was a kid. They just SOUNDED better and bigger and didnt know why. I also remember being a kid and getting to dink around with a friend of Dad's recording setup he had in his basement. He was a jazzer and a keyboardist. First time I ever knew there was something called a Leslie and a Hammond. The recorder was some off brand thing....An Ampex....is that an important brand? 4 tracks....coulda been three....The "console" was was a grey metal thing and there was nothing to say what it was but since then I know it was built by some old guy named Putnam. So here I was a budding just barely teenager bass player and I get to watch a session with these old cats in a basement in Oklahoma. And the tape spinning and the sound coming out of that single speaker and the single speaker in the control room and knowing without a doubt in my mind that had he let me twist the knobs while they were recording it would have sounded better.....

    But like Donny, I was a performer first and an engineer from necessity although unlike Donny once I got a taste of really working the board I was hooked to the point that I didnt care if I played or not.

    I probably would be further with this had not parenthood and personal responsibility led me to keeping my career as an electron wrangler going to pay bills stunted my growth in the studio. But I always worked in others rooms and kept my own little rigs at home constantly beat swords into plowshares whenever possible. Made a lot of records without really working at it over the years.

    And now I completely agree with the nature of the business. The delivery system being what it is doesnt require anyone to know or understand how fidelity is achieved. Its no longer important. This isnt true completely however and here in the Great Northwest there are many fine young engineers and producers who know their way around gear as well as many I have met over the years and who actually care what end of the mic goes which way and which preamp to chose for a particular task and how the positioning of a drum kit in a space can solve problems as well as create a sound that can be a signature to a recording. All hope is not lost and there is a new order on its way. Several years ago I wouldnt have believed it but it is coming. The melding of the new and the tried and true is starting. Bands are really interested in what they sound like. I dont know if its making them any more interesting as song writers and arrangers, but at least they'll sound good doing it.

    BTW i already had aguitar when the Beatles came on Ed Sullivan, I just didnt know what to do with it till then.
  20. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    Dave, I loved the oy vey. Very authentic! Where's your dreidel?

    I had a little dreidel... I made it out of clay... and when it's dry and ready... dreidel I shall play. Dreidel dreidel dreidel come on now who's going to take the improv solo? I haven't sung that since I was five! Oy vey!

    I think we all have very similar stories? And so, you guys are also all high school dropouts? If not? Why don't you get a job? And leave the recording to us high school dropouts? We know how to plug whatchamacallit and thingamajigs into whatever fits. And we take the 58's out of our Batman lunchboxes and we're good to go.

    Both of my parents were world-class professional musicians. How the hell is a kid supposed to compete with that? My father never practiced his violin. He sight read his lessons and they never knew. And like my father, I didn't study for a test in school. And my teachers never knew... I had a genius IQ over 150... but it was obvious that I had not studied so I flunked most of the time. Which, by the age of seven, I knew the rest of my life I'd be working in the broadcast and recording field, since I was a lousy student and never practiced my trumpet or French horn much either. And I was always first horn or first trumpet, always. And the two embouchure's are really quite different. And one you use your left hand and the other you use your right hand. So it really prepares you to be an engineer LOL.

    I really just wanted to play French horn in symphony orchestras. But I lost my embouchure to a sucker punch. Good thing I was already a licensed broadcaster and a recording engineer. And I think, my recording and mixing technique was the only thing I really ever practiced seriously, passionately, regularly, always.

    I mean when you find yourself at a major recording studio at age 7 or at the major television and radio stations in major markets such as Detroit, it was really easy to get the bug. My cat is pretty good at that too if she was still alive today LOL. They love bugs. Not my cup of tea. Imagine? Cockroach tea? All natural no artificial ingredients. A wonderful way to recycle.

    Do ya know what the difference is between a hamster and a gerbil? No? More dark meat on a gerbil.

    I think I should build a new audio processor and name it the OY VEY?
    Mx. Remy Ann David

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