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Observations of an Old Schooler in the Digital Age

Discussion in 'Vintage Analog Gear' started by DonnyThompson, Mar 31, 2014.

  1. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    So I was tweaking tracks today, eventually I got around to the kick, and I liked it just fine, it was very well recorded so I didn't need to do much... but I thought about a trick I used to use back in the days of 12 ft consoles and 2 ton tape decks - and I'm betting that Chris, Kurt, Boswell, Boulder, Hawk, and other fellow travelers of that bygone age will remember this one..

    1. Insert a tone generator into the line in of a channel , and adjust it to play a tone around 40 Hz (sine)
    2. Gate that channel to where the tone is completely off
    3. Take the direct out of your kick track, and insert it into the key/sidechain in of the gate
    4. Adjust the gate so that the tone cracks the threshold only when the kick is played
    5. If necessary, insert another gate into the tone track to further tweak attack/release
    5. Print the result to an open track (if you had one)

    6. Tuck it in under the kick drum , just enough so that you can feel it in your body. :)

    The result was a very "chesty" low end, more of a feel thing than an audible tone.

    I used to use this little trick often, and I used it quite a bit when disco was still around.

    Some of these local recordings made their way to area dance clubs, and the DJ's used to marvel at the low end on the records. They would ask me how I did it, and I would just shrug my shoulders and say that it was all in "the magic of my mixes"... LOLOL. Yeah, yeah, I know...but who didn't add a little of that sparkly BS now and then, right?

    Fast forward to the age of DAW's and Plugs... I tried doing this little trick this morning, and yeah, after figuring out how to sidechain a gate plug, I got it to work... in theory.

    But... it's not the same sound I remember. There's something not quite right, something missing. It's an inagible... I can't put my finger on it.

    My instinct tells me that some of it had to do with the characteristics of tape, or perhaps the pre's that were built into those older desks.... I don't know. But I do know that it doesn't sound quite the same with digital.
    Or, maybe it does sound the same - and I just thought remember it sounding better than it actually was?

    Anyway... just thought I'd share.
  2. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    We do this ITB too. Using a synth. Nice one :), you are having too much fun now!! Not sure though, never did it via tape Donny.

    I love the vibe we're developing here. RO is taking shape now>>> members talking analog is getting me all choked up and fuzzy lol.
  3. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    I remember that trick, Donny. I even experimented with a low-frequency oscillator that would start its sine-wave at the same point on every trigger and had variable die-away. However, I couldn't get it to work convincingly for what was the music style in those days, as disco hadn't yet been invented.

    I also went through an experimental phase of using a ring modulator to modulate a source rather than just gating. I got a commendation for a short film sound track where in a nightclub scene I took the amplitude envelope of a soul singer's voice and used it to modulate a harmonica playing the same melody line. By slow cross-fading from real vox into harmonica vox over the course of the song it enhanced the story effect of a drug acting on the lead character during that scene. The viewers were so wrapped up in what was happening to the character that it took some time for them to realise what was going on in the sound. After the commendation, I didn't hear any more about it until I saw exactly the same effect used in a TV drama some years later.
  4. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Very creative indeed, Bos. The fact that you created that particular audio event for the film from scratch instead of relying on pre-set FX is testimony to your creativity and knowledge. So many would have just reached for something that came off of a sound FX library disc, or that was already stored as a preset - like the reverse verb that was used in the first Poltergeist movie, or the slew of other phase-based effects that are so commonly used to show distress or confusion in a character.

    I think it's cool that you instead thought "what if I did this?"...
  5. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    I thought we were all using 60 Hz sine waves, keyed from the bass drum on our KEPEX-1's? No? We've only been doing it for a little over 38 years or so. The software? I wouldn't know? I've used them as Gates and Expanders. But I have as yet, to try and key an oscillator, from a bass drum, in software. And we didn't have the roll off in digital anymore that we did at 30 IPS below 60 Hz. So one needed to pack the tape with as much as one could. And all the harmonic richness of the limiting the tape provided for. Just the right je ne sais quoi. But now we have digital.

    We are modern cave dwellers
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  6. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member


    Yup. The more things change, the more they stay the same. The further we look into the future, the more we want to go back.

    We're all on a quest to get "that" sound... "the" sound that we used to get simply by flipping a console's /tape deck's /compressor's ON switch.

    We took it for granted. And now VST plug manufacturers are making a mint off everyone who is trying to return to that time, and that sound...

    The sound before tape decks - Drum Kits - Pianos - Ampeg Bass amps - B3's - Wurli's - Rhodes - Leslie Cabs - were all put into back room storage, because digital was going to be the " be all-end all " for production, and by Christ, you'd better get on board.
    If by chance you were still working with tape by 1990, then you were an outcast, a pariah. You'd better be Pro Tools ... or be Damned.

    And now, we're kicking ourselves in the arses for selling all that gear... those tape machines, EQ's, Leslie Cabinets, amps and Ludwig drums ... and are now on a constant quest to obtain that which we used to have - and never thought twice about at the time.

    Some of us were smarter than others, obviously...Remy hung onto her 1176's and such. But, a whole lot of that stuff was sold for dirt-cheap around 1983 or so, when digital peaked its quantized and truncated head through every studio's control room door and said "Please allow me to introduce myself... My name is 44.1, and I'm the wave of the future!"

    And, lest anyone think I'm pointing the finger of blame at anyone...I'm absolutely just as guilty as anyone else.

    Still going kicking and screaming into the digital age, I'm afraid... :cautious:

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