Originally Posted by donnie7
A warm welcome and greetings to you.
I have noticed that many of the classic and older Jazz recordings from the 40's and 50's, especially Capitol Studios, including Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole. Others include Decca and Okeh recordings of Count Basie, Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway. These recordings have so much depth that you can walk around inside them for days. To me many modern recordings, I just bounce off the surface as I approach listening. There's very little or no depth at all. And these recordings still hold up extremely well as audio benchmarks for comparision. What do you think happened? Could it be the room? Could it be everyone playing together? Minimal mic setup? Or could it be a different era in recording practices that will never return? I'm longing for that sound and depth today. Can this be achieved today? Looking forward to your response and reply. I also have your book and cherish the early days. Many kind thank you's for all your recording/mixing contributions. With Utmost Respect, Donnie Dixon. http://gearslutz.com/board/images/smilies/ylsmoke.gif
Thanks for using your name.....
I'm not so sure that I can totally agree with you on this subject of the recordings of the 1940's and 1950's... I am not so crazy about the recorded sound of the classic and older Jazz recordings from the 40's and 50's...
Music Recording Studios In the midle-1940's....
I have been involved, as a professional in music recording, since the days of the Big Bands, through the present time. During that period, I have seen many fascinating technological changes in this industry. The first, and probably most memorable change I personally witnessed, was the switch from direct- to-disc recording format, in the early 1950’s‚ to magnetic tape recording format.
I´ll never forget that day, in 1952, when the first high quality, professional, magnetic tape machine came into my life. I was working at Schmitt Music Company in Minneapolis, Minnesota as recording engineer in their small, but excellent recording facility. A big truck backed up to the loading dock and delivered an Ampex Model 401 monaural tape machine. After trying a few edits, splices, and some other experiments, it was very apparent to me that this wonderous new machine was going to be a big part of my new life in the studio!
We need to study the history of recorded music before we can develop the future. In other words, I think it’s very important for each of us involved in the production of recorded music, to understand what happened in the past, in the studio, to be able to move forward today.
Here are some important facts and dates in the evolution of Music Recording Studios and the Music Recording Medium from the middle 1940's. Many of the facts are from personal experience. I will also use details from a paper presented by Milton T. 'Bill' Putnam at the 66th convention of the Audio Engineering Society in May of 1980.(With Bills kind permission.) I will try to describe the part that record companies and the allied music industries played in this evolution.
In the middle -1940's, as World War Two ended, 'major' labels dominated the recording industry. They were Columbia Records, RCA Victor, Decca Records and the younger, up-and-coming, Capitol Records. In 1946 Mercury Records(now Phonogram) came into being in Chicago and by 1948 was an important label. MGM Records came on the scene at about the same time. There were a few small independent labels but they had little impact on the record industry as a whole.
In 1947 more and more "independent" record labels came into being. These small labels specialized in certain types of music and their product was aimed specifically at these markets. Here are a few of the areas of music that the independent labels supplied: Rhythm and Blues.(Frequently called 'Race' records at the time.), Country Music, Religious and Gospel music, Spiritual Music.(Southern black singing groups.), Jazz and Skating Rink music.
The studios and facilities of all the major record companies were quite similar in design and scope. The studio processes and the internal discipline of the studios was quite rigid. The studio atmosphere and decor was very clinical and institutional. The recording rooms were fairly large but the control rooms were quite small. The operational policies, as far as recording technique, within each label, or company, was quite inflexible. In 1946 the distribution of the recording facilities was as follows:
1- RCA had studios in New York, Chicago and Hollywood. In 1957 I worked for RCA at their studios in Chicago.
2-Decca had studios in New York, Chicago and Hollywood.
a-In 1947 Decca began using Universal Studios in Chicago.
3- Columbia owned their own studios in New York. They used the WBBM(CBS) Radio studios in Chicago and then later they used Radio Recorders Recording Studios in Hollywood.
4- In 1947 Capitol Records had its own studios on Melrose, in Hollywood, in the old Don Lee Network Building. Capitol built studios in New York in 1953.
In 1946 there were not very many independent recording studios that were well known.
1- In Hollywood, Radio Recorders was the leader.
2- In Chicago, in 1946, Universal Studios was founded and by 1947 was well known throughout the industry.
3- In New York, Bob Doherty and Doug Hawkins operated the WOR Radio Recording Studios, and recorded for many of the independents of the time. Soon after came Bob Fine Studios and then Fulton and Gotham Studios.
4- In 1956 Capitol Records built the famous 'Capitol-Tower' building in Hollywood. The studios in this historic building represent a distinct advance in the technique of music recording studio design. Mr. Michael Rettinger used the lastest "State-of-the-Art" acoustical techniques in the design of these beautiful-sounding rooms. He used a variable room reverberation time treatment with large hinged splays to change the reverb time in the studio.
5- Nashville came onto the scene later as an independent recording center with Owen Bradley's ‘Barn' studio paving the way.
Sound on records
For most of the late 1940's and early 1950's the major labels continued to record most of their 'pop' music acts with their traditional, highly disciplined techniques. The music groups signed to the label were required to record in the labels facilities.
Columbia Records was the first of the 'major' labels to allow musicians and technicians outside the controlled studio environment and attempt to get a more 'live' sound on record. They used beautiful sounding Liederkranz Hall in New York for some big band recordings. The sound of this elegant, big room on those records was a giant step forward from the 'pinched', narrow, little studio sound of the day.
Some highly successful records were made about the same time in England by pop artists such as 'Mantovani', and The Richard Himber Orchestra. These lovely sounding recordings are fine examples of the large hall 'open' sound.
Not long after Columbia's pioneering efforts to improve recorded sound, RCA began using Webster Hall in New York to record the 'Sauter-Finnegan' Orchestra. These records are outstanding examples of this type of sonic advancement.
Decca followed by using 'Pythian Temple' in New York. I remember visiting 'Pythian Temple' in 1956 at the invitation of Decca Records A and R director Leonard Joy. I did many happy hours of sessions with Leonard Joy, in Minneapolis and Chicago both. In Minneapolis I recorded the 'Whoopee John' Wilfhart Polka Band, for Decca Records with Leonard as producer. In Chicago, I recorded the Jan Garber Orchestra and the Wayne King Orchestra for Decca with Leonard Joy as producer.
I was absolutely knocked out with the idea of recording with a big room sound, but I distinctly remember, in 1957, thinking to myself, that Big Bands were definitely on the way out and that this big room technique was not going to last for long. It didn't.
I think this effort, on the part of band leaders, record producers, musicians and technicians, to record a deliberately more reverberant sonic image played a big part in the development of the 'echo' chamber.
Acoustical treatment of the label studios of the day was fairly 'dead'. My early days in Chicago at RCA, were spent working in recording rooms that were quite typical of that era. Acoustical treatment mainly consisted of drapes, acoustic tile, polyclyindrical diffusers on the walls and carpeting on the floors. Some of the music studios had an area of floor that was wood or tile in a half-hearted attempt at some 'live' space. Most of the attention of the acoustical technicians of the era, was to 'deaden' rooms with a great deal of soft material.
This made the reverb time in the high and mid-frequency range quite short and gave a fairly 'dead' effect to the resultant sound. Little if any attention was given to the middle-low and the low frequency end of the spectrum. This fact, I think, contributes to the 'muddy' and 'unseparated' sound of many of the recordings of that day. Recordings made during and prior to the mid 1940's had little apparent separation of the instruments in the sonic image for this very same reason.
This deadening of the high frequencies and lack of attention to the low-frequency absorption of music recording rooms resulted in a great deal of secondary pick-up by the microphones used during sessions.(Secondary pick-up is the sound that a microphone picks up of the instruments that are not in it's intended hearing pattern.)