Most of the time, I always say that it's usually best if an artist or band doesn't write and arrange while using precious studio hours.
Unless of course, it's 1972-73, you're at Abbey Road, and you also happen to be Pink Floyd, recording what will eventually become one of the greatest selling albums, and one of the most artistic projects of all time
... Dark Side Of The Moon.
This is a great documentary, interviews with Roger Waters, David Gilmour, Rick Wright (R.I.P.), Nick Mason, and Alan Parsons, who engineered and co-produced the album with the band.
Recording techniques are discussed, as well as how they used a lot of experimentation, in sounds, in engineering, and even the use of early sequencers (monophonic).
I highly recommend it to all engineers, both veterans and rookies alike, but especially to those newer engineers who were brought up learning the craft in the digital age, and who may be interested to find out how albums were recorded and mixed before computers and Pro Tools.
At one point in the documentary (16:40 0r so), Gilmour, Parsons and Wright all talk about how complex a mix could be with a limited number of tracks and console inputs available:
"Back in those days, before automation, we would have maybe 4 or 5 different pairs of hands on the console at one time, each person doing something in particular. It was like a performance; we played the console like we would play an instrument. It was every bit as much of a performance as any gig was..."
Having multiple people behind the console, it is a little bit like movie production. One guy is mixing the music. Another one the sound effects. And someone in charge of the dialogue. That too is frequently done, some years back, on one big console.
Yeah... when I produced jingles, for the ad agency, with a crappy Yamaha PM-1000 and MCI 8 track, it was a struggle. Everything had to be done à la New York style. 6 jingles, a with eight musicians or more, in three-hour time blocks, of different sections i.e. rhythm, brass, strings, woodwinds, solo instruments. So I had three hours to get six jingles, with each section, one after the other. So I actually needed 3 rolls of 1 inch tape and plenty of one quarter inch tape. Not that I needed 3 rolls of tape for the jingles. I needed those to do the overdubs on. Overdubs were on 2 of the 3 reels. Everything was bounced down to 1 track of a 2 track machine. Everything was flown in, by hand and flanged, to maintain sync. Culminating in nearly 30 tracks that were reduced to 8, for the final mix. It was insanity, that made me do it LOL. But that's just me. I had to smoke a lot of silly things too, to pull this off.
I did that back in 1979. Also doing overdubs with up to 10 people, without headphones! (I only had four headphones). Tracks blaring through the studio speakers, all being picked up by the microphones of the rather soft instruments (strings and woodwinds) of the blaring rhythm tracks, during overdubbing. Everybody thought I was out of my mind? That it wouldn't work! It would sound horrible! But it takes a very talented crazy person to make this happen. Of course I always have been crazy but that's beside the point. I was creating new recording techniques throughout this process. Of which, 50%, was to thwart the degradation from the Yamaha PM 1000 PA board. (The boss would not spring for the API 1604 I requested.) So you have to push the envelope on the equipment with which, is placed before you, to its limits. This was my first crack at ever attempting something such as this.
What I did, in 1979, was both completely unconventional and totally out-of-the-box. I was only 22. So I had to teach myself, what to do, as I was doing it, with millions of dollars at stake. Yet, I made magic happen. The Miami Symphony musicians loved me because they didn't have to work with headphones on, which they really didn't care for. They questioned me why the other Miami studios like Criteria (now the Hit Factory), didn't do what I did? My only answer was... they're good engineers. They might be talented but they're just not as smart as I am. They can't think these things through.
The room this was all cut in, was just a vocal booth. There really wasn't any good acoustic signature, for music purposes, in this dead little room. It was never designed for music. And when you do what I did, the way I did it, you virtually null out, the bad acoustic signature of the room, through phase cancellation techniques. It's basically recording the room, twice over. Then subtracting it from itself. This is almost like a gigantic, room sized, high fidelity version, of a noise canceling, communication microphone for two-way radios. Like collapsing the Side of an MS pair to mono, completely canceling the side microphone. Almost like a differential microphone. And I know what I have done here has never been broached in any Classroom, at any recording school.
Working like this also means, mixing as you go, for a product, you have no idea, how it's supposed to eventually sound. So you have to practice what I refer to as preemptive-mixing, empathic-mixing because your locking things in for which shall never be able to change. And you're spending $10,000 of the bosses money. So it's a bit scary, back in purely analog times like that. That and when you also had to fight the console, we're passing audio through once sounded good. After the second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh pass through the console... all I had was mud. It might have been a baby Neve. But it kept pooping in its transformers. I hate pooping transformers. They just make a mess of your audio. It was like going through 7-8 of their transformers to get nondescript mud.
Whereas, with my Neve, just a single pass through from microphone to the master stereo output bus, ya went through, approximately, 14 transformers. And then you looped through 7 times/8 times over and no mud, no poop. And there's your real difference... the Transformers. It certainly wasn't the transistors making things muddy, on that Yamaha, PM-1000. Yuck, barf.
Recently in one of my trade publications, I read that at Hit Factory, Miami, a.k.a. Criteria... that they recently came up with a way to do overdubs, without making people wear headphones. Really? It only took them 30 years to catch up to me. And here... those rude bastards... when I went down to Criteria, to give them my resume, I was told " We don't need your resume. " Nothing like " we don't have any positions available but will keep your resume on file." My... wasn't he well mannered. The little shit. Probably some dweeb assistant engineer who was sitting at the receptionist's desk? How rude.
This is what I came up with when I was only 22. I didn't go to school for this. I had no other engineers with which to consult with. The whole shebang was up to me to make happen. I did. And these jingles were used for over 20 years by the ad agency. Bringing in millions of dollars. They were heard in thousands of medium and small market stations, throughout the US and Canada, Puerto Rico.
All the while, I had to fight this equipment, throughout this entire process. The Yamaha PA board, was never designed to have audio looped through it 6-8+ times through. So I was making my modified 1176 high-frequency limiters work overtime. I had to crank in 10-12-15 DB boost at 10K, with every pass. Justified the Transformers degradation. Otherwise, this would have truly sounded like crap. Back in those days, these were never mastered by any Mastering Engineers. What you hear is what I did.
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Tell me what y'all think?
Mx. Remy Ann David
A couple of additional notes here. I pulled this copy, some time ago, direct into a Panasonic, SV-3500. This is also a case of sticky tape. Before we knew how to bake them, I made this transfer. It was almost impossible to do. You can hear the tape skewing across the playback head. Tape tension had to be turned way down. And the tape had to be threaded in such a way as to avoid as many of the tape guides as possible LOL. Sometimes I was even holding my finger with a wad of cotton, against the playback head. It would just keep gumming up, every 10 seconds. It was a nightmare! So there was only so much I could do for my personal archive from the safety backup tracks that were transferred to DAT. Playback on my Scully 280 B, which I personally built, while employed at Scully. This was the testbed machine that I used, to work out all of the problems they were having at Amp Pro/Scully, after their acquisition from Dictaphone.
On the country and Western cuts, we brought in banjo and steel guitar. All of which I was overdubbing on the secondary overdub tapes. I was compositing takes into complete tracks, before transferring and laying up. Of the steel guitar takes, he came into the control room as I was working out my compositing on his couple of takes. At one point he heard both tracks simultaneously and loved it! Especially during this fast-paced picking solo.
There are no actual acoustics in this recording. It's all recorded in a dead small awful box. And everything you're listening to hear is over 8 analog generations down. It's good to know how to properly tweak your analog recorders. I'm the best at it. I don't hear any noise? Maybe I'm deaf? Yeah that's it.
Oh yeah and the timpani hit, we couldn't get the timpani into the elevator, for the studio on the third floor. So I had to send microphone lines and had phone lines, down to the hallway while the traffic was rolling by on Oakland Park Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, FL.
One of our jingle singers, we didn't pick. No. The bosses son heard this guy at some restaurant in the piano bar. So he hired him. But this guy Sung everything, absolutely everything, under the pitch. No problem! I have a HARMONIZER H-910. Only problem... it had a latency of 36 ms. Whoops. The backup singers were on the beat. He was on the backside of the beat. And it worked. So I rode the knob of the pitch by hand, on mix down. And his singing Annunciation sucked. Never hit those consonants hard enough at the end of words like bank. It sounded like he was singing "We're Everybody's Bang. Or, Ban" With no K. And we kept on trying to get him to do that. He couldn't.
The guy who wrote these was the guy I hired for the agency. His name is Don Moen. After these, he went on to become a Christian Music Superstar. I blew his mind because I was so irreverent. Sorry Don. But he was super to work with! What's funny is, some of the Christian music he's done, that I've listened to, is reminiscent of some of these jingles LOL.