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The History of the Recording Studio
Old 27th March 2010
  #1
Gear Head
 

The History of the Recording Studio

Evening GS,

I'm doing an assignment for college and it's comparing The Police's hit Roxanne and George Michael's more recent cover version. It's basically the differences in recording techniques, production aspects and how music technology has helped enhance the recordings in regard to the uses of the stereo field, effects processing, overdubbing, dynamic processing and EQ.

So my questions for the world of GearSlutz is; the year is 1978, recorded in the early part of the year. What recording techniques, I think it means particularly to microphone technique, would have been expected at the time? Around what time were effects being brought in to studio rack mounts such as rack reverbs, phasers, chorus, flange, delay etc....., what compressors, gates, de essers were common at the time and when were they brought in and lastly what type reverb was typically used on the vocals and when were they brought in too? I expected it to be a room mic used to pick up the ambience, but don't want to rule out rack units.

The George Michael version is simple. It's a Pro Tools job.

Thanks in advance

Jamie
Old 27th March 2010
  #2
Baz
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I'll be interested to read any enlightening tid bits in this thread.

I believe Outlandos d'Amour was tracked to 16 trk at a total cost of $16k if I recall correctly.
Old 27th March 2010
  #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Baz View Post
I'll be interested to read any enlightening tid bits in this thread.

I believe Outlandos d'Amour was tracked to 16 trk at a total cost of $16k if I recall correctly.
Hi Buddy,

Thanks for the quick reply! The record cost $16 000 to record or the machine? I found that at the time a 16 track machine would have cost around £20 000, maybe I read incorrectly though, maybe it were dollars. I looked at the engineer; Norman Gray,s website and it's not very detailed, it does state however that it was recorded on a 16 track machine. Nigel Gray, record producer, the police, siouxsie and the banshees

I cannot find anything on the producer though, although the record is said to have been produced by the police, it is noted that it was by Reggae veteran Joe Sinclair, makes sense as there is a heavy reggae groove on many of the tracks, but I cannot find anything on him either, on the way he works etc...
Old 28th March 2010
  #4
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I think that rather than ask the general (and maybe misleading) question of what techniques were used in 1978, you should search for info about this particular recording. The original Roxanne may have been discussed by Mix Magazine in their Classic Tracks section, if so that would be a gold mine of info.

If not I would go through the credits for that song, Google for clues, and attempt to contact people who worked on the album. Look for other old magazine articles. Good luck with your project.
Old 28th March 2010
  #5
Step into the wayback machine with me. Set to 1978. I remember it well because that's when I first started in the studio. These are my remembrances and they may or may not be completely factual.

Consoles: MCI 416 was a standard. The 500 series had just come out. There were Neve 80 series just starting to show up. Trident had its TSM, but no 80 series yet. Harrisons were not uncommon. There were APIs as well. There were Quad 8s and Spheres still floating around. No one had even envisioned an SSL. A studio might have 3 or 4 compressors. One or two outboard EQs. NO outboard preamps, typically. (This was BPC--Before Preamp Craze.)

Consoles at that time had 16 buses, usually 4 Aux sends (A stereo cue and two reverb sends), a master section that had inputs for 2 TR A, 2 TR B, Cassette and Phono. Some consoles even had switching for alternate monitors. There was three band EQ for the most part, stepped on the top and bottom, sweepable in the mids.

Speakers? There were Big Reds, JBL 4311s, Auratones. No NS-10s yet (but soon).

Big room speakers were driven with Crown, Phase Linear, BGW or Yamaha amps. 1/3 octave equalizers for voicing were typically Whites.

Outboard racks included Eventide Harmonizer 910 [I originally said 919] (no 949 yet). dbx compressors--160 and 165. Valley People Kepex (gates) and Dynamites (comps). Some had digital delay lines like the early Lexicons. If there was a click generator it was the UREI box that read out in Feet and Frames. Pultecs and LA2As were around, as were outboard EQ/comp by AD&R. Orban made a blue-faced EQ that showed up a bit.

2 track machines were Ampex 440B or C, Studer B67 or Revox, Scully.

Multitracks ranged from Ampex MM1000s to Studer A80s to Stephenson to MCI JH-16s and early JH-24s.

Cassette decks were by Pioneer, Tascam, Tandberg.

Turntables were typically Thorens or Dual with Shure V15 Mk III cartridges.

Mics were Neumann U87 and FET 47, Sennheiser 421s, Shure SM57 and SM58, AKG D12 and 451 and 414. Sony Lavs were still in common use no hi-hat and inside acoustic guitars. Other Sony electrets were around, like the ECM-22P. (There were no A-T mics at that time.)

Headphones were Koss Pro-4AA (pronounce ProFour-Double A) and Sennheiser open-air 414 and 424s.

Drum booths were about 6' x 8' and you had to get the drummer to leave the room so you could go in to adjust the mics. Single headed toms were the norm. Most of the drum booths had low ceilings and were like caves.

Walls were rough cedar alternating with burlap over fiberglass-stuffed traps. Some walls were covered with shag carpeting. Track lighting was everywhere with different colored bulbs in each can. Floors were carpeted, sometimes with shag and alternating with parquet flooring, usually one half of the studio was one or the other.

That's what I recall from 1978. I'm sure others will recall things differently and I look forward to hearing their memories.
Old 28th March 2010
  #6
Forgot one thing.

Techniques were not that different from today. Stereo mics on piano, near the bridge. No room mics on drums since the drum booth was too small for any more mic stands, though we did tape PZMs up on the drum booth windows and use those for width. Lavs were more commonly used, as I said, for hi-hats and acoustic guitars.

A studio would typically have a drum booth and a vocal booth. Everyone else was on the floor. Maybe a gtr amp baffled off in the corner.

One big thing, we used foam pop filters for all the vocals. If you had pops, you used a foam filter. This was before the "We Are The World" video where everyone found out about pantyhose stretched over coathangers.
Old 28th March 2010
  #7
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vernier's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by jailedmenonly View Post
Evening GS,

I'm doing an assignment for college and it's comparing The Police's hit Roxanne and George Michael's more recent cover version. It's basically the differences in recording techniques, production aspects and how music technology has helped enhance the recordings in regard to the uses of the stereo field, effects processing, overdubbing, dynamic processing and EQ.

So my questions for the world of GearSlutz is; the year is 1978, recorded in the early part of the year. What recording techniques, I think it means particularly to microphone technique, would have been expected at the time? Around what time were effects being brought in to studio rack mounts such as rack reverbs, phasers, chorus, flange, delay etc....., what compressors, gates, de essers were common at the time and when were they brought in and lastly what type reverb was typically used on the vocals and when were they brought in too? I expected it to be a room mic used to pick up the ambience, but don't want to rule out rack units.

The George Michael version is simple. It's a Pro Tools job.

Thanks in advance

Jamie
Late seventies mic'ing was the same as any other time. Limiter was 1176. Some still used LA2A. Reverb was plate. Some had chamber. Flange was rare, maybe a Marshall Time Modulator. De-esser was Orban. Some projects called for linking two 24-tracks together. Thats about it. Trident was a big deal that year.
Old 28th March 2010
  #8
Motown legend
 
Bob Olhsson's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lynn Fuston View Post
...Techniques were not that different from today...
Indeed and the record has been skipping since the mid '80s with remarkably little creative innovation. Yes, today it's dirt cheap to make a record in your bedroom that cost a quarter million dollars in studio time and drugs to make in 1985.

And so????
Old 28th March 2010
  #9
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Olhsson View Post
Indeed and the record has been skipping since the mid '80s with remarkably little creative innovation. Yes, today it's dirt cheap to make a record in your bedroom that cost a quarter million dollars in studio time and drugs to make in 1985.

And so????
Well, that there is a big difference. The tables in the studio lounge full of drugs and booze have mostly disappeared.

At least on MY sessions.
Old 28th March 2010
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Olhsson View Post
Indeed and the record has been skipping since the mid '80s with remarkably little creative innovation. Yes, today it's dirt cheap to make a record in your bedroom that cost a quarter million dollars in studio time and drugs to make in 1985.

And so????

...and so we think we can make great records in our bedrooms...I find that approach so stale..really....time to make some magic in studios again..the band, engineers and producer holed up somewhere for weeks/months getting to really know/love/hate eachother and going for something great in the process...sometimes hitting sometimes missing...music truly is about interaction in some form...even those great recordings where one guy (Prince, Stevie, Lenny) does it all...there is plenty of interaction and plenty of being holed up somewhere for a period of time where things could be given a chance to take on a life of there own and in the end taking less time (because there usually was a deadline) than the ever evolving ITB projects that never end...because they don't have to

Just blabbing...I was ten in 1978..my only comment would be there was most likely way less gear in the studio than all us gear slutz fantasize about...A good console, a good deck a good engineer, a good band and a creative producer...most stories I hear are that there was one reverb a harmonizer and a delay at the most...a few hands on deck and away you mixed
Old 28th March 2010
  #11
Quote:
Originally Posted by glissando View Post
Just blabbing...I was ten in 1978..my only comment would be there was most likely way less gear in the studio than all us gear slutz fantasize about...A good console, a good deck a good engineer, a good band and a creative producer...most stories I hear are that there was one reverb a harmonizer and a delay at the most...a few hands on deck and away you mixed
Don't over-romanticize it. There was dreck in the 70s too.

Not all consoles were good, not all engineers were good, not all bands were good. There were bad songs and indecisive producers back then too. There was WAY less gear and not all of it better.

Need proof? Try tuning vocals realtime with a Eventide 910 [Corrected. -LF]. Ouch. Glitch City. It was on more records than you can imagine, glitches and all.
Old 28th March 2010
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lynn Fuston View Post
Don't over-romanticize it. There was dreck in the 70s too.

Not all consoles were good, not all engineers were good, not all bands were good. There were bad songs and indecisive producers back then too. There was WAY less gear and not all of it better.

Need proof? Try tuning vocals realtime with a Eventide 919. Ouch. Glitch City. It was on more records than you can imagine, glitches and all.
I thought this place was all about fantasizing

OK then..I'm sure you are right and what I said was stupid...whatever..
Old 28th March 2010
  #13
Quote:
Originally Posted by glissando View Post
OK then..I'm sure you are right and what I said was stupid...whatever..
Wow. Where did that come from?

It was a drastically different time but it wasn't all wine and roses, that's all.
Old 28th March 2010
  #14
Motown legend
 
Bob Olhsson's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lynn Fuston View Post
... Try tuning vocals realtime with a Eventide 910...
Then there was the Publison Infernal Machine...

And before that recording a word onto the mono machine, VSOing it up or down, cueing the machine and then punching it in.

I was asking developers for Out-a-Tune before Pro Tools 1.0 came out but they didn't understand. You can lead a horse to water...
Old 28th March 2010
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by glissando View Post
I thought this place was all about fantasizing
actually that's pretty funny , observant and like most humor has some basis in truth.
I do in fact fantasize that one day I will be able to make a really good record

Quote:
OK then..I'm sure you are right and what I said was stupid...whatever..
a bit over reactive , as humor, fantasy and romanticism all have much much more to do with intelligence as opposed to stupidity
Old 28th March 2010
  #16
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I recall reading in Andy Summers' recent book that when he, Stewart and Sting decided to work together they basically took an inventory of what all the other bands were doing at the time and then did something else. Grooves with no bass and/or kick drum on the one are probably a pretty good example :o) The book is called One Train Later, and it is absolutely fascinating.

I wonder to what extent their strategy of avoiding cliche at all costs extended to recording/mixing techniques.

Another interesting tidbit: when they heard what were supposed to be the final mixes of Zenyatta Mondatta they were not pleased. The deadline was unfortunately the next morning, so they spent all night remixing the entire record, and those mixes were what the entire world ended up hearing.

I guess they didn't need to downtune to C to demonstrate testicular fortitude.
Old 29th March 2010
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lynn Fuston View Post
Wow. Where did that come from?

It was a drastically different time but it wasn't all wine and roses, that's all.

I said..sometimes you hit and sometimes you miss...I didn't say ALL 70's music was recorded incredibly...I was talking about the great music and my perspective on it...and in fact that we do romanticize the gear too much now...my point was that the (if) the gear was good, the engineer was good the band etc then that's a good recipe and that was what seemed to be going more back then than now, where it seems we obsess about other things.

I find it harsh when, in one fell swoop, someone attempts to reduce someone else' thoughts to immature drivel. It's easy to do that in an internet forum. Really easy.
Old 29th March 2010
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by glissando View Post
I said..sometimes you hit and sometimes you miss......I find it harsh when, in one fell swoop, someone attempts to reduce someone else' thoughts to immature drivel. It's easy to do that in an internet forum. Really easy.
Not to pile on, because, like you and hopefully everyone else, I have better things to do than insult and argue with people I will likely never meet, but (and you knew that was coming :o)) I too found somthing disquieting about what you had said:
Quote:
Originally Posted by glissando View Post
...and so we think we can make great records in our bedrooms...I find that approach so stale..
..and I think I figured it out.

What any of us is able to accomplish, as musicians, recording engineers, parents or any other monumentally important endeavor, has significant correlation to what we believe we can accomplish. Combine that fact with the fact that, whatever act of genius has ever been committed, has always resulted from a novel way of seeing and/or using the resources at hand. If one has the mentality that a certain set of conditions must exist for something great to occur, I would argue that one has a mentality that will not allow something great to occur no matter the conditions.

I am not one of those guys that claims that gear makes no difference, and I totally understand and agree with what you had to say about vibe, artistic process and decision making. I just believe that "what can I do?" is a way more effective strategy for achieving greatness than "it can't be done."
Old 29th March 2010
  #19
New York studios circa 1977

New York '77

The studio scene in NYC has always been different compared to many other places. You can be working with the cream of the crop one day and in some dive the next. And in both cases it has to sound spectacular with alot of attitude because its music being recorded in a "NYC studio".
Old 29th March 2010
  #20
Ahh!

The seventies! 77/78 well I remember London back then!. I was the engineer for the Jam at the time with Vic Coppersmith producing.
We used a Cadac console and studer A800 multitrack. pultecs and Industrial devices outboard EQ's Neve 33609, Urei and Gates sta level compressors,
Keepex gates, Tannoy dual concentric monitors, all the band in the same room with only baffles for separation back at the old polydor studio two Stratford place.
Mics where Neumann U87's (Bass snare lower and VOX) Sennhiser 421's toms Shure 545's snare top and guitars, akg d12 kick, OH kit Ribbon's where Coles 4038's.
We ate Gatsby burgers, drunk stella and stayed alert on sulphate.
The um and argh department where rich enough to give us the odd bit of columbian marking powder as I remember.
Does your college have a module on psyco accoustics and its interaction with narcotics, because to really understand and experience those times and how engineers worked all those hours back then, I think its a must.
If your college is anything like our local college it has Behringer, Stienberger and Rhode everything, so tell them you may need lots more free class A narcotics to make it feel and sound just the same to you.
PS Reverb was AKG Plate

Last edited by Bassmec; 29th March 2010 at 12:03 PM.. Reason: Forgot the reverb
Old 29th March 2010
  #21
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Sigma's Avatar
lynne you typo'ed the harmonizer was a 910

often you had to bang the side so the pitch shifter locked

...


other memories...

you had to be a scientist to set up the new marshal time modulator ..so they gave a quick sheet with knob settings for various effects [lol]

mxr flangers

allison research gain brains and keypex's

marshall tape eliminators

lexicon 224

booths and gobos for everythig..isolation is king mentality

disco biscuits
Old 29th March 2010
  #22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sigma View Post
lynne you typo'ed the harmonizer was a 910
You are absolutely right. I'll go back and change it in my earlier posts so I don't look old and forgetful. ;-)

1975 Eventide H910 Harmonizer-Mix Inducts Eventide H910 Harmonizer Into 2007 TECnology Hall of Fame
Old 29th March 2010
  #23
One other correction to my original post. I don't recall seeing NS-10s until 1979 but they were released in 1977. Saw my first A800 in 1979 too, but it was released in 1978.

Source: 2008 TECnology Hall of Fame
Old 29th March 2010
  #24
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Old 29th March 2010
  #25
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sigma View Post
lexicon 224
That was cutting edge in 1978. The Lex 224, at almost $8K, was the financial equivalent of two echo plates but took up lots less space.

We had three echo plates (that took up a whole room) and one spring reverb. The first digital reverb that we could afford was the SPX-90. And we thought that it rocked. It did pitch shift, that non-lin gated reverb (previously only available on the AMS 1280), and would sample up to 1 second--just long enough for a cymbal hit, which you could trigger any time you made a joke. But that wasn't around in 1978.
Old 29th March 2010
  #26
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Sigma's Avatar
we had a bunch of 224's..joe loved them to put "space" back from all the tight miking...as for years he was of the "bleed is your friend school"..he said that 70's 24 track recording made songs sound small as compared to 60's stuff
Old 29th March 2010
  #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bassmec View Post
The um and argh department where rich enough to give us the odd bit of columbian marking powder as I remember.
I think that was MARCHING powder

peruvian marching powder, bolivian headache medicine, devil's dandruff...

makes my sinus's plug up for 3 days just thinking about it.
Old 29th March 2010
  #28
One other thing from that time period that made a much bigger difference than the preamp was the noise reduction. We don't talk about that any more in the digital era but it was fairly common back then. There were two options:

Dolby A
dbx

Either of them had a huge impact on the sound, from a sonic perspective. You had to judge the sound you were recording by what was coming back from tape after the NR loop because it could be a lot different than what you were sending it.

dbx NR had the nasty side effect of doubling any frequency response alterations in the record path. So that 1.5 dB head bump at 125 Hz? It became a 3 dB head bump after the dbx round trip. And that roll off above 15K? It's only 2 dB. But post NR, it was 4 dB.

Ah, the things we take for granted these days....
Old 29th March 2010
  #29
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Rednose's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lynn Fuston View Post
Forgot one thing.

Techniques were not that different from today. Stereo mics on piano, near the bridge. No room mics on drums since the drum booth was too small for any more mic stands, though we did tape PZMs up on the drum booth windows and use those for width. Lavs were more commonly used, as I said, for hi-hats and acoustic guitars.

A studio would typically have a drum booth and a vocal booth. Everyone else was on the floor. Maybe a gtr amp baffled off in the corner.

One big thing, we used foam pop filters for all the vocals. If you had pops, you used a foam filter. This was before the "We Are The World" video where everyone found out about pantyhose stretched over coathangers.
Good info Lynn!
I didn't start till the mid 80s, but like you said, mic techniqs were very similar to today.
I don't recall outboard pres. The first real studio I recorded in had an SSL, and that is what we used to record everything.
I do remember a pultec eq, an h3000, lexicon, DBX 160x and the big plate reverb that took up the space of a walk in closet.
Whats different is the medium. It was tape and now its protools.
Endless editing, quantizing, and auto tune.
Old 29th March 2010
  #30
Moderator
 
narcoman's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by glissando View Post
I said..sometimes you hit and sometimes you miss...I didn't say ALL 70's music was recorded incredibly...I was talking about the great music and my perspective on it...and in fact that we do romanticize the gear too much now...my point was that the (if) the gear was good, the engineer was good the band etc then that's a good recipe and that was what seemed to be going more back then than now, where it seems we obsess about other things.

I find it harsh when, in one fell swoop, someone attempts to reduce someone else' thoughts to immature drivel. It's easy to do that in an internet forum. Really easy.
He didn't.

You over reacted.

That's the problem with reading comments on a screen.
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