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OMG! Why isn't everybody behind glass?

Discussion in 'Studio Lounge' started by JohnTodd, Jun 26, 2015.

  1. JohnTodd

    JohnTodd Well-Known Member

    Take a look at this! No baffles or glass that I can tell. They are all in the same room, and it sounds great, esp. for the time period.

    What manner of sorcery is this? Don't we have to have any kind of isolation? And what about Stevie's vocal mic? Why isn't he eating it? That brass section is aimed right at him! And there is a Marshall half-stack in the room, which would have been tubes back then. Somebody tell me how they did this before I stroke out...

  2. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I'm not sure that this is the same exact version that ended up on the record that we all heard on the radio in '76, John... in fact I'm 98% sure it isn't. This sounds a lot different to me than the record - it still sounds great - but I think this is a live performance, maybe taped for a TV show, or something.

    As far as the original recording, it wasn't uncommon for studio's to record everyone at once and live; Motown did it all the time, as did Stax, Chess, Sun, Muscle Shoals... and to an extent, depending on the band, studio and engineer, they still do it this way.
    Sinatra worked this way all the time - sometimes with a full orchestra behind him in the same room, and direct to 2 ( sometimes 3) track:

    Much of it is the room, along with the skills of the engineers - those guys were some bad-ass cats when it came to mic placement and getting everything to work well together at once, often using the bleed to their advantage.


  3. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

    We've got too used to being able to do older style dropins or modern cut and paste editing. If you equate what was happening here to live TV and radio, you just mix it live and it can sound wonderful. The Sinatra thing is a good one. If he made a mistake, they just stopped and recorded the whole thing again. They couldn't replace one bit, but only the entire thing. The Beatles also lacked individual tracks in the early days, loads of bouncing, so you just needed to listen, and re-record. Now, we hear a little mistake, know we have this phrase on another track or another chorus, and don't bother to stop, as we are 100% sure it's fixable. I wonder how much courage it took to tell a tired Sinatra, er, one more take, Frank?
  4. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I don't think anyone ever had the courage to do that with him. From all the accounts I've read, from people like Dean Martin, Sammy Cahn, Quincy Jones, and the various engineers who worked with him over the years, he was not a fan of multiple-take recording.

    He was in fact, a bit of a hard-ass at times, quick to chastise musicians who were making mistakes, and just as quick to nail an engineer to the wall for making errors as well.

    He also actually went as far as walking out of sessions over the years, if he thought that everyone else involved wasn't matching him in being good at their game... Quincy Jones told a story once years ago, how Frank got frustrated because mistakes were being made on both sides of the glass, and as he headed for the exit, shouted back at the room, "I'm ready. I'm always ready. You guys call me back when you are..." and I think this type of comment was when he was in a good mood.

    Actually, I don't blame him. In those days, if you were a studio player - and at that time mandatory Union - you were expected to have your stuff together; that's why you were called to do the date.

    Even today, if you are booked in as a pro session cat - with "pro" insinuating that you do it for a living - then you should be prepared for that session. And, if you are a reader, like these guys in the video were - then there's no excuse to make a mistake.

    As Frank said in the video, "If it don't say it on the paper, then don't play it."

  5. freightgod

    freightgod Active Member

    I'm a fan of old time radio- it helps put this insomniac to sleep- and I gotta say for sheer professionalism the 'network bands' or backing bands from the 30's were just amazing. Of course back then the cream of the crop rose to the top and nameless musicians could make a decent living playing 'live' radio. The orchestra assembled for the late '30s Jack Benny program was amazing. I'm sure 'stock' musicians played all over the place, and cut their teeth playing for hotel orchestras, back when people dressed up to 'cut a rug'...but when it came crunch time, they had to play on cue, on time, and twice a night, once for the east coast audience then again for the west coast broadcast. I rarely notice a 'clunker', and of course when it happened, you just kept going...

    Then again millions of people everywhere played 'real' unamplified instruments back then, so there was a bigger pool of competing professional musicians to pick from. I imagine the expense today of assembling an orchestra of 'crack' musicians is prohibitive to all but a very very few...

    Of course there may be a little video wizardry going on here. You'll see only a couple shots when Stevie's lips are moving and the horn section is 'playing' at the same time...not too hard to swing a sax for the camera, either. I'm not saying the horns were necessarily isolated when originally recorded for this video, but maybe they took a cue from the 'live' recording of All You Need Is Love, when almost everything was actually recorded before hand...

    Either way, Stevie is a Wonder...what a great groove on this song...and the sad thing is, it would never make it onto the radio today.
  6. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I still dig Stevie Wonder - big time... with the exception of Ebony and Ivory, and to a slightly lesser extent, I Just Called To Say I Love You.

    I hear tracks like Livin' For The City, Superstition, or I Wish - which is one of my personal all time faves, and not just because it was Stevie, but as a song in general... (man, the pocket and groove on that cut is so deep and so wide you could swim through it on a whale). Definitely not a groove to tackle if you're used to playing John Phillips Sousa, or any other straight-up metronomic-styled music, LOL.

    It's not difficult to realize just how much game he has. And I'm not saying that just because he lacks the ability to see... as in, "he's really good for a blind guy." No, I'm saying for anyone, he's a true bad-ass.

    In the documentary Standing In The Shadows Of Motown, various members of The Funk Brothers complained (lovingly and with reverence) that Stevie ended up taking work away from them, because he had the ability to play piano, B3, synth, drums, ( and of course blues harp) and play them... and not just "play" them, but really play them.

    They mentioned one particular session, where he sat in on a drum kit once, while trying to show the session drummer who was playing the date what he wanted on a certain song... and that after that, with the advent of multi-track and overdubbing, he ended up playing drums on many of his own songs. It was almost as if he could play drums all along, but just didn't know he could, until that day he finally sat down at the kit to show the other drummer what to do.
    Add into this his writing, arranging strings and horns, singing (and instrumental playing ability), and you have a world-class musician - who, if you think about it - doesn't really have any other contemporaries or competition for what he does.

    There's countless hard rock bands, thousands of great guitar players, drummers, singers, bass players, keyboardists ... and while many of them are good - some even great - at least half of them pretty much all sound like each other to one degree or another.
    But there's only ever been one Stevie Wonder. :cool:
  7. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    @JohnTodd : Many great recordings were and are still recorded in a single room today.
    The obvious challenge is to deal with bleeds in mics and this is a great test of your mic choosing and placement skills. Everything is important in those setup. Distance, paterns, angles etc..
    One cool thing I heard from fab dupont in a french tracking session is that you need to avoid drastic EQ on a track because it's gonna screw other instruments sounds.
    If you can make the instrument you are micking and the bleeds in it sound good without EQ you are a step closer to a good recording.

    Here's a series of video of a tracking session made with live instruments. Yes it's live, on stage, a bit worst than in studio .. but the principals are the same.. and there is no seperation between the instruments other than some more distance than we sometime have in studio.
    (I'm putting just the first video but you will easily find the other 5 of the serie)
  8. JohnTodd

    JohnTodd Well-Known Member

    Good stuff!

    I think this is a different version ... I think this was a live performance in the studio. There's one point towards the end where the drummer thought he was to stop, but they all kept going. Very subtle mistake, but when the band is that tight, hardly anyone ever notices things like that.
  9. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

    Careful mic placement on musicians with good volume control can achieve surprising isolation. Stevie projects and he knows by ear where he is relative to the mic. That helps a lot. The mic is angled up a little which helps keep the amp out (and no doubt the guitarist doesn't have it set to 11).
    JohnTodd likes this.

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