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Motown Recording Methods

I've been researching the methods and gear of the classic age of Motown.
One of the (many) things that jumped out at me as being interesting was the mics and methods they used for recording drums. Typically, they would use two U67's on the kit, with one placed in close proximity to the snare and upper rack Tom(s) with the other being place closer to the floor Toms, ride and upper crash cymbals. This in itself wasn't uncommon for that time, it was actually pretty similar to the way that Glyn Johns was miking drums -what made it uncommon was that they used a RIBBON mic on the kick drum ( or what the called the "foot" mic in those days). Research has mentioned an RCA 44 for this purpose. I was taking to Dave Hawk (@dvdhawk) a few days ago, and he was as surprised as I was as to their mic choice for the kick. I find it hard to believe that they wouldn't have used a dynamic, or even a condenser - they had plenty of both to choose from. Beyond the fragility of a ribbon mic, being in such close proximity to the kind of SPL'S that a typical kick drum would give off - and chancing the very real possibility of wiping out the ribbon in the mic, it seems like an "odd" choice tonally.
But... According to the engineers that worked those sessions, it was part of what defined the Motown sound.

Another cool Discovery was that they were using a Neumann tube console for tracking. Berry Gordy had visited a friend of his who worked at a radio/jingle production studio in Texas, (the name of the facility was "PAMS"), and Gordy loved the sounds they're getting, especially for vocals. He returned to Detroit, called Neumann, and told them he wanted the exact same model for his studio.
Interestingly, they didn't do much mixing on the Neumann desk, it was used primarily for tracking. For mixing, they used an Electrodyne desk, located in a building that was about a block away from the studio on Grand Blvd. I know nothing about either desk; in fact I've never even heard of Electrodyne consoles... Hopefully someone else here on RO might be able to provide more info.
@Kurt Foster @Boswell @audiokid @pcrecord @moonbaby @dvdhawk - or anyone else who might know...
I really need to take a day trip to the Hitsville studio museum on Grand Blvd ...I have no excuse not to, Detroit's only about 2 1/2 hours or so (three hours tops) from where I live now on the west side of Cleveland.
;)
D.

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Profile picture for user DonnyThompson
Member for
8 years 6 months

DonnyThompson Wed, 09/20/2017 - 01:28

Bob Olhsson, post: 452839, member: 900 wrote: those of us who worked there consider it the best sounding small studio we know of.

Bob - thanks so much for sharing your experiences. Can you tell us - even roughly- what the dimensions were of the performance area and the control room? (Including ceiling height if you can). :)
-donny

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