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Old Vs Modern sound: is it tech?

Discussion in 'Recording' started by Cresta, Oct 1, 2006.

  1. Cresta

    Cresta Active Member

    hi all :)

    30 years ago musicians and sound engineers had some stuff and some techinique to rec, mix and master the audio....
    today is possible to get an "old sound flavour", but:

    1) how to get a modern sound?

    2) What define the condition of "modern sound" today?

    I am really interested in learning this, thanks :)
  2. jasondirckze

    jasondirckze Guest

    1) Define "Modern" for us in terms of sound... What does it mean to you sonically?

    2) Musical trends, technology for sure, including different recording mediums and quality/components of gear defines the "Modern" sound

    Of course I am being simplistic here, and not too detailed. Anyone care to expand on anything?
  3. Cresta

    Cresta Active Member

    sonically...hmm... well, I imagine to sit in front of my hi-fi and listen to a performance where any frequency is "present", well balanced, detailed, and... modern :lol:

    geez... what is "modern"??? :lol:

    well, many people do use "vintage stuff" yet they achieve "modern sound", so basically I think that "musical trends" has the most influence on defining what is modern and what is not: but, actually, and this is for the SEs reading :), what is ACTUALLY modern? recording a guitar with the guitarist hanging from ceiling? a snare with money watermarked mesh? let's investigate... 8)
  4. DIGIT

    DIGIT Guest

    The laws of Physics haven't changed but, our technology certainly has.

    Yes, a 'modern' recording will be more "hi-fi" than one made in the 60's because we do have better recording equipment (not microphones necessarily) to capture the sound. For example: listen to Miles Davis' Kind of Blue and then to any of the Winton Marsalis recording. The latter will have a more "modern" sound by your definition. However, the character of the Miles Davis recording is unique, more unique than the 'modern' one. That's a matter of subjective interpretation of course but, I am trying to make a point.

    Which brings us to vintage equipment and therefore, sound: you can't really duplicate the sound of a Miles Recording because even if you used the same exact microphones, intruments (and players), mic placement and room our recording equipment is different: the sound would be captured differently and the final product would sound differently.

    Many times 'vintage' is a selling tool, a marketing hyp if you will, even though it may relate to a REAL vintage piece (such as the Fairchild Comp.). However, if a rock band expect to sound like the Jimi Hendrix Eperience (I don't mean artistically of course, I mean SOUND as in recorded sound) simply because they are using the same room, processing equp. etc... they would be in for quite a surprise in the end.

    Can we re-create the sound of the 60s, 70s etc..? Maybe a skillful engineer can come very clsoe, much like a skillful production designer can give you the feel of the 50s when watching a period movie. However, being retro has nothing to do with visual and sound it has to do with a way of living and thinking that is long gone.

    People can dress like the 60s, borrow musical ideas and sounds from that time, etc... but, they have no clue about the thinking process and the movement that was going on at the time and which was the driving force behind musical innovations, both artistically and technically.

    To simply reduce our past into bits of data is useless and meaningless in the end.

    Likewise, in the 50s you couldn't even begin to think of a Hip-Hop kick sound! :lol:
  5. timtu

    timtu Guest

    I think that somebody mixing a kick drum, for example, would immediately go for a sound. Boost 60 hertz, perhaps, attenuate 120...boost 52k for a bit of punch and 5 k for a bit of click. Then with all this compress it for that phat sound.

    I don't think someone mixing in the 50's or 60's would have approached it that way. It is almost fashion to mix it kinda the way I have said. People back then thought that to successfully mix a kick drum was to do something else. What it was changed. When I listen to old 50's records i hear a dull thud of a kick drum, hardly audible at all. Led Zeplin had a more ballsier kick drum, but with no click. Somewhere the idea of making kick drums 'clicky' came in, and thus the current, or modern, sound came in. Of course this will be superceded by a new way to mix it. It is all fashion really.
  6. Cresta

    Cresta Active Member

    that's hard to figure out... can we really say something like "we can't reproduce the 'process behind' so will never get near the same results"? mmh... I need to think more about it.

    the equipment is better, ok, but on the mixing console what is "modern"? this question still remain unaswered :)
  7. MadMax

    MadMax Well-Known Member

    IMO, what defines the "modern" sound, as well as all of the venerable "genre's, is the "sound" of two items... drums and bass. e.g. the two most widely discussed and evaluated instruments to record and mix.

    In earlier recording techniques, the goal was to capture the essense of the performance and less emphasis on the totality of the accuracy of the instruments themselves.

    This was due to the limitations of the equipment.

    Now that the frequency response and sensitivity of the entire audio chain has drastically improved, so has the recording process and the way we mix changed.

    What the modern sound is - extended bass response and larger than life presence in the recording chain... and by extended bass response, I mean as compared to the past.

    As an example, almost 30 years ago, (damn that's a long time) I saw ELP on one of their earliest dates of the "Works" tour. That was by far, one of the most impressive touring rigs (next to Pink Floyd's rig) of the decade. The frequency response of the rig was phenominal for the day... it went down to almost 80Hz flat and then rolled dramatically.

    I just did a festival with our "C" rig yesterday, that rig's considered just, ok... With crossover technology, that rig is flat to below 32Hz!

    So the "modern" sound is the technology by itself, but not of itself. If one elects not to utilize the extended frequency response, then you can progressively go "backwards" (or "Retro") in terms of "sound"' quality.

    The other sonic quality of "vintage" v. "modern", is the subtle distortion created by vaccum tube circuitry... or lack thereof. Lets face it, you just can't get the growl from a simulated Leslie 122 like you can from the real thing... never have, never will. By the same token, you can't get get a clean violin part like you can with a good solid state preamp.

    So, yeah... it's the gear... but with limitation of the application use.

  8. Cresta

    Cresta Active Member

    ok, this partially answer my questions, or at least I have some point to go forward into the argument: you know, I do play and record for hobby, so (a part for my specifical instruments knowledge) I don't really know tech stuff as you mentioned later in the post (ie, I don't know what difference in gear can produce 80 or 30Hz, nor do I perfectly understand "how" the one or other should sound like :lol:), so I've never thought about a "sonically defined Era" by two instruments, but... coming to think to it, you may be right! Drums are the most different in sound if we compare recording of 30 years ago with those out now...

    and this is true too...

    when talking about "presence" you refer to..what?
    Geez sorry for being this noob :oops:

    15 years ago I saw them too :cool:

    that is QUITE a difference.... :shock:

    really? this is interesting since I listen tons of classical...

    thanks for your long and interesting post :)
  9. MadMax

    MadMax Well-Known Member

    No prob... The "presence" I mention is the tendancy to have the instrumentation more up front and in your face as opposed to set in a defined space... more as a generalization for most things Rock, R&B and Hip-Hop

    Dude, you should have seen them in the prime of youth... Palmer was blistering quick on those triplet runs, and Emerson almost wore the keys of a B3 in a single show... The orchestra was such a georgeous touch... a spectacular event... absolutely splendid! Karnevil 9... Tank... jeebus! The show started with Fanfare for the Common Man... The lights dimmed... single pin spot on a trumpet... It sent chills down your spine... still does mine!

    OK, maybe I'm a little overboard on THAT one... but not in context. Go listen to an old recording of a single violin. Invariably, it will sound quite smooth and mellow... usually they'll be very beautiful.

    Now listen to a typical modern recording with a single violin... it'll usually be a bit edgy-er... you'll probably be able to distinguish the actual grating of the bow hair on the strings... while not impossible to get with a higher gain, higher end tube pre, but that type of sound is much "easier" to achieve with a "modern" solid state pre... the thing is, that may not be what's desired... if you catch my drift.

    Yeah, a wordy old fart, ain't I?!?

  10. TVPostSound

    TVPostSound Guest

    Yeah, I saw them 32 years ago. Moog Lyra with Taurus Pedals, Hammond C3, Prophet, Oberheim, and Grand Piano. Usually two or three at a time.
    That was analog overload!!!!! You could not reproduce that today, well, Keith has come close with his modern gear.
  11. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    Ok, since this thread has now officially been hijacked as an ELP discussion :twisted: , (and speaking as a fellow ELP nerd/keyboard player.....) Emerson never used a Prophet 5 or Oberheim, at least not live with ELP, not to my knowledge. He DID use the glorious Yamaha GX-1 for the Works tour and (I think) for ELPowell. Other synths were some prototype pholyphonic Moog ensembles on the BSS tours, and a very beatup Hohner Clavinet, as well as a Yamaha CP-70 electronic grand piano on the Works tour.

    I also remember their quadrophonic sound system for the final moog sequencer bit in KE-9 Third Impression, and the low end coming out of the bins was pretty impressive - at the time. Sadly, though, they used to do Lucky Man back then as a guitar-only acoustic bit (much to the consternation of us keyboard nerds who wanted to hear that amazing solo line.) It was true that sound systems of the day weren't quite up to snuff for delivering the whole sonic impact of their records. (Neither was the vinyl medium of the era, either...)

    It wasn't until they reunited in 1992 and subsequent tours throughout the 90's that they finally did the "REAL" studio version of Lucky Man with the complete arrangement & Moog solo intact, and it was the more modern subwoofer design that finally let us experience the true low "D" that Emerson would blast out..... He was triggering it with either the keyboard or a midi'Taurus footpedal/board, and after a while, fans knew to raise their fists in the air; 'Pulling" (like a tractor-trailer air-horn) for Emo to trigger it as the solo wound down. I remember my pants-leg rattling with the force of those subs at Jones Beach and a few other venues.

    Of course, they broke up once again in 1998, more squabbles over who was going to produce their next CD (Lake wanted full credit, Emo and Palmer said no; yada yada yada), and now they're drawing about 200-1000 people tops at each of their own "Solo" shows, where each member basically does their own interpreations of "the Music of ELP." Ugh. (Asia has reunited as well, drawing about 800 people here at the Keswick theater on their 25th Anniv. Tour. Yawnnnnn) :roll:

    Sorry, hijack over, what were we discussing again??? :wink:
  12. Cresta

    Cresta Active Member

    you mean that actually there is an accurate 3D definition in the space relative to the sound?

    I think when they were in the prime youth....well, me too :lol:

    I can perfectly understand you :D

    understood :)

    oh c'mon, experience is always a value... ;)
  13. UncleBob58

    UncleBob58 Active Member

    The old sound vs. the modern sound is a combination of mindset, technique and technology.

    In the 30's and 40's everything went live to a wax disk. Mixing was moving the players around the room until the proper blend was achieved.

    In the 50's and early 60's most things were still mono and recorded live directly to tape. Mixing multiple microphones gave more control, however.

    With the advent of multi-track recording in the latter part of the 60's the rhythm track was laid down first and the vocals and solo instruments were overdubbed later. Sometimes multiple overdubs were recorded simultaneously to a single track. A lot of thought and organization went into songs as, for example, the verse rhythm guitar, chorus BG vox and bridge tambourine could occupy the same track.

    The same approach applied when multitracking went beyond four tracks, but with a lot more freedom during overdubs and mixing.

    The advent of digital technology gave us unlimited tracks and options. What's funny is that so many plug-ins have been designed to emulate tubes and tape compression, the "everything old is new again" phenomenon.

    The “modern” sound is as much a question of performance technique as it is of technology. The tuned down sound for guitars, softsynths and direct to console keyboards instead of micing, etc., etc., etc. It also has to do with budget and time. In the 50’s an artist or band was rushed into the studio to record a single (A & B side) for a day or two after being rehearsed to death for a day or two. Early Beatles albums were recorded in a week or two. That out-of-tune guitar, slightly ragged tempo, etc. was tolerated because the PERFORMANCE was everything. These days an album (we still use that term even when doing a CD) can take months. In the late 70’s/early 80’s “Foreigner IV” took over a year to record, and Fleetwood Mac’s “Tusk” cost over a million dollars to produce. The business mindset has radically altered in the last 40 years because music is big business, a multi-billion dollar business, rather than a sop thrown out to the youth market to make a quick buck.

    The mastering process has changed radically as well, the new “louder is better” mindset. That is also a part of the “modern” sound. (Where have all the dynamics gone?) In the 70’s an album was supposed to be a complete experience, not just a collection of songs. LPs were mastered with ever increasing high end as your upper range hearing deteriorated while listening to an album over 45 minutes.

    I was a true ELP fanatic. I saw them twice during the "Tarkus" tour, again for the Trilogy tour and even saw the legendary 1975 Christmas concert at Madison Square Garden and the "Welcome Back..." tour three times. I never saw the orchestra half of the "Works" tour but watched Kieth work like a madman to be an entire orchestra during the second half of the tour. The last time I saw them was the "Black Moon" tour. I wore through every album two or three times and had a quite number of bootlegs (shame on me!). Anyone remember Cal Jam?
  14. moonbaby

    moonbaby Mmmmmm Well-Known Member

    I'm sorry to get off tangent, but...ELP/Yes/Floyd were my glory days! The spinning piano, the revolving drum riser with 144 sealed beam headlights (I counted them!), the smoking ribbon controller, and the infamous "C3-feeding-back-thru-the-Marshall-halfstack-while-he-stabbed-the-keys-with-knives-then-kicked-the-rig-over" trick.Those were the days. NO Prophets or Oberheims, but a giant System 35 Moog that was expanded, and the famous Yamaha GX-1. I know that I'll never be the same! BTW, the sound system back then ONSTAGE was some massive Altec "W" bass bins with these huge multicellular horns stacked on them...he didn't need no stinkin' PA!
  15. MadMax

    MadMax Well-Known Member

    Oh hell yeah! ~75 baby!!

    Probably the MOST fantastic summer since 69!! Three months of GLORY!!! - ELP, Floyd and Zep! Preceeded by The FIRST Derby Eve Jam; Charlie Daniels, Marshall Tucker and Wet Willie... Kansas opened for BTO, Heep and Wishbone Ash... (what a combination!) Then we had The Who up in Cinci, Aerostink and I think it was Frampton and ZZ... after that it's a blurr... seems like Tull and MeetwoodFlac were in there somewhere too... WHEW!!! A perpetual buzz till Christmas!

    But to relate back to modern vs...

    Most of the production was centered around guitars, B3 THEN kick and snare with bass falling in the back... now it's kick, snare, bass with vox on top; and fold gats and keys in where they may.

  16. Cresta

    Cresta Active Member

    geee' you almost killed me by laughin' :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:

    hmmm... many people keep on saying that "solid state will never have the sound quality of tube" (they refer particularly to guitar amps), but...is it true that the trend is to emulate tape compression and tubes: I see MANY plugins that claim "hey you, you can have a real tape sound with this!!".
    How come?? I don't want a tape sound, I want a perfect digital one :lol: I find no sense into trying to have a sound of 50 years ago, now. There is no way it will be "original", even if the music played into that album is "50 like".

    Why can't just people accept that time pass? :roll:
  17. MadMax

    MadMax Well-Known Member

    Don't laugh too hard... it's STILL done that way with orhestra's, symphonies, chorals, and choirs.

    Not only there, but anywhere that a live to 2 track recording is made, it's often with a two channel, two mic recording system.

    I take it that you've never heard a couple of 2" Studer's sync'd up at 15 ips... because if you had, you'ld KNOW that it's sonically FAR superior to anything digital... ANYTHING digital... even Super Nyquist.

    The fact that digital is reasonably good and cheap is the reason digital is around, in it's current incarnation.

    I was lucky enough to see the demo of the first 3M DASH unit. I talked to the primary engineer there and he mentioned that digital audio was being developed for two reasons... and two reasons alone...
    1. It saved space for storage of archives and could be readily accessed.
    2. The equipment manufacturers were quickly saturating the high end studio market and they saw that digital media and computer technology would eventually be their primary source of income from developing lines of gear that would be more affordable and thus more widely available to the audio industry.

    He emphasized on more that one occassion/point, that until sampling rates exceeded 1-6 MEGAhertz, that the sonic quality of the digital sample would ALWAYS miss critical audio information and that the timeframe for achieving that sample rate could possibly be 20 years off... well, it's been over 20 years and we're just now seeeing 96kHz being the accepted norm... and we're STILL probably another decade away form the 1MHz sample rate.

    Many of us have accepted that time passes... the thing that many don't LIKE accepting is that digital has allowed a couple of things to happen... non/under qualified musicians are "creating" music that is not actually performed by real musicians. That and the sonic quality of the recordings are less than the quality of recordings made in the infancy of this industry.

    While there aren't too many of them around, there are actually individuals in the recording industry that remember the infancy of the recording process... right now there are more that remember the "golden" era than the infancy... they are the ones who really KNOW that sonic quality of the recordings are in some ways worse... (MP3's, 44.1 CD's, samples, etc) Yet, they also are some of the first to admit that the dynamics and extended frequency response are some of the greatest achievements in the technology associated with our industry.


  18. Cresta

    Cresta Active Member

  19. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    You guys are killing me with the ancient stories.....

    '75 WAS a good year for people who could play more than three chords at a time....ELP, Yes, Kansas, Genesis, a plethora of skillfull use of those piano lessons endured throughout gradeschool.

    One of my bands opened for some of these folks during this time...a big Showco outdoor rig and JEEEZZUSSS-H-KEEERIST was it big and loud. I had a very VERY loud bass rig and it was enormous through that huge technology.

    "Topographical Oceans" tour with the drums in the huge seamonsters mouth that rose hydraulically during Alan Whites' drum solo, the EXACT notes played on every song..."just like the frikkin record'....Jon Anderson's voice so pure and LOUD you could hear him off-mic in the 5th row.....Wakeman's double keyboard rig stretching across the bridge above the drum stage level....

    allright...thats enough.

    Old vs modern is a state of mind and is also deeply rooted in the arrangement of the music itself. The technology to reproduce it is different ...yet remains virtually unchanged....think about it. A session is still a session and running one requires the same working arrangement no matter what medium you use. In working a session, it still needs to be emphasized that the PERFORMANCE is what makes that moment in time special. New technology makes it way too easy to fix later on.

    I still believe heavily in destructive recording. Track not right? Do it again.

    Personally, it sounds like crap when its all digital. And I think the reason for this is the fact that everything can be so easily brought to perfection resulting in a flat lifeless rendition of something that is supposed to carry currents of emotion, tension, release and create a range of feeling to the listener. Music is not about perfection. Its about feelings. It should inspire one to think or at least react. And theres also the spectre that when hearing most of todays offerings, that the person singing this song, might not be able to carry a tune in real life and this is all a manufactured sham bent on securing a dollar from all who buy into it.

    Give me something I can believe the moment the first note is played.
  20. moonbaby

    moonbaby Mmmmmm Well-Known Member

    I saw the Topographic Oceans tour in Tampa Stadium... Sober! I watched Rick Wakeman get drunk and throw peanuts at White during the show.
    I believe that was Clair's first BIG tour...Sorry for the rave...Wishbone Ash, ELP, and Yes were IT for me then.

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