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How They Did It (dissecting the recording & mixing methods

Discussion in 'Recording' started by DonnyThompson, Jul 12, 2015.

  1. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I thought I'd start a new thread, discussing songs we like and dissecting the recording and mixing methods used that lent heavily to the ultimate sound of the song.

    It makes absolutely no difference what songs you'd like to post - any style, any era, any artist.
    The only criteria is to be willing to discuss the technology and/or production involved that was a dominant factor in how the songs sounds.

    Here's the first.. The Beatles, Paperback Writer and Rain. I chose these because they were the first songs that they recorded after Lennon and McCartney had complained to Geoff Emerick and George Martin that American Soul music ( Stax, Motown, etc.) had more bass on their records than U.K. recordings did.

    While the level of bass might seem to be considered as no big deal now, at that time ('66), it was a very big deal. I've read articles that tell of this bass restraint being used at that time as a way of insuring that the stylus/phono needle wouldn't jump on the record.

    Other articles seem to lack any technical explanation, and instead point the finger at EMI Chief Executive Sir Joseph Lockwood, who ( by personal accounts) didn't like heavy amounts of low frequencies on any recordings.

    If this is true, apparently he eventually capitulated, and gave The Fabs ( and George Martin) a carte blanche "give them whatever they want" indulgence, as a result of their huge success.

    Another example of this, is that The Beatles were the only EMI act at that time who's engineers were permitted to place a direct mic on a kick drum, at 3" away ( no closer). Even though these same engineers worked with other EMI signed bands, no other acts were permitted this allowance.

    " Paperback Writer was the first time the bass sound had been heard in all its excitement", said Geoff Emerick ( EMI engineer) in Mark Lewisohn's book The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions.
    "To get the loud bass sound Paul played a different bass, a Rickenbacker. Then we boosted it further by using a loudspeaker as a microphone. We positioned it directly in front of the bass speaker and the moving diaphragm of the second speaker made the electric current." [9]
    source: wiki


    I've included both the Mono and Stereo versions of these songs. There are many Beatles "purists" who believe that these songs should have never been re-mixed for stereo, and that mono was the way that these songs were "meant to be heard".

    Paperback Writer, bw Rain, Mono:




    Paperback Writer - Stereo:



    Rain - Stereo:

     
    Sean G likes this.
  2. Sean G

    Sean G Well-Known Member

    Great thread to start Donny, very interesting topic of discussion, so I'm going to bump this one along...

    I'm fascinated with Les Paul and his early multi-track recording techniques.

    Paul owned one of the first Ampex model 200A reel to reel tape machines (that I believe was given to him by Bing Crosby), while this led him to work with Ampex to develop an 8-track "Sel-Sync" machine pioneering multi-track recording, unheard of for the time, in 1949.

    One particular song, "Lover (when you're near me)" which started out as an experimental track recorded in his garage featured his early multi-track recording technique, where Paul played 8 different guitar tracks, some recorded at 1/2 speed which played back at normal speed for the master. The B-side, "Brazil" also featured his multi-track technique. This was the first time he had used multi-track recording although it is said he had first thought of the concept nearly 20 years previous in the 1930s'.

    Les Paul is often referred to as the founder of multi-track recording, although the concept was first used by Sidney Bechet on his song "Sheik Of Araby" where he played 6 instruments, clarinet, soprano sax, tenor sax, piano, bass and drums in an early overdubbing experiment at Victor on April 18, 1941, much to Les Pauls' dismay.

    We owe a great debt to Les Paul and his innovative style and pioneering methods which pushed the boundaries for their time.

    Not only was he a great guitarist whose style bought the guitar from an acoustic accompanying instrument to the forefront of modern music, but as we all know he helped develop one of the greatest and most recognised guitars on the planet which bares his name.

    Where would modern music be without him?...I'd hate to think we'd all have to play only Fenders....;) (who, by the way, was his first preference when developing the Les Paul, but they turned him down)o_O:confused:

    And lets not forget Mary Fords' contribution as well...you cannot think of one without the other.

    What a legend he was and always will be(y)(y)











    Enjoy !
     
    audiokid and DonnyThompson like this.
  3. thatjeffguy

    thatjeffguy Active Member

    Yes, we owe a lot to Les Paul. In the film "Les Paul Chasing Sound" he describes his very first multitrack experiments were done on a disc-cutting machine he modified to cut two separate spirals to which he could track separately in two passes. Genius.
    ~Jeff
     
  4. Sean G

    Sean G Well-Known Member

    Totally agree there Jeff...the man was before his time

    - I love his little black box in the last video...basically what we know today as a looper
     
  5. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    He was also responsible ( albeit perhaps unintentionally, but responsible all the same) for bringing the Fairchild 670 into the world of audio recording on a widely accepted scale.

    Rein Narma, an acquaintance of Paul's, invented the prototype of the 670 for LP's 8 track recording studio, when Paul was mentioning he wanted a gain reduction device that wouldn't add "thumping", as so many of the other GR models at the time did. Narma invented several prototypes of the first compressor that had a lightning-fast response time, ( 1/5000th of a second! ) and 6 selectable "modes" that offered release times that varied from .03 seconds to a ridiculous 25 seconds. Compression ratios varied from a typical 2:1 compressor to a 30:1 limiting function. Two of the six modes were "program dependent", with release times that were determined by the incoming signal's amplitude; so if the input level remained high in level, the 670 would automatically adjust itself and release more slowly.

    All of these things were virtually unheard of at the time with the other popular gain reduction devices on the market.

    Sherman Fairchild got wind of it, and hired Narma to head Fairchild's audio division, which up until that point had been making amps, preamps, and a control track generator for tape machine synchronization.
    Fairchild bought the rights to the 660 and 670 from Narma, and marketed it to studios around the world, where it was used on countless recordings, for both the recording and mixing process, as well as during disc cutting.

    I don't think there would be much disagreement as to how much the 660 and 670 limiters ended up sonically contributing to the music we grew up listening to, and we have Les Paul ( and of course Rein Narma, too) to thank for that as well. ;)
     
    Sean G likes this.
  6. Sean G

    Sean G Well-Known Member

    RIP Lester Polfus...you would have been right at home here on RO
     

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