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That ABBA organic sound
Old 18th June 2006
  #1
Gear Addict
 

That ABBA organic sound

Hi, I'm not sure this is the right place to post this but its about high end music allright.

A few weeks ago I attended once the famous Mamma Mia! musical in London and it was absolutely fabulous. Ok the story was not the best but the ABBA music lifted the whole into music heaven. It was great to hear all those ABBA songs in a row, and it struck me again how much genius in composition and arrangement is found in those songs.

After that I listened to songs compiled on CD and I noticed the pure organic sound but also some sweet luscious sounds like the strings on "Lay your love on me" in the beginning. How did they do that ? Is it some mellotron sound ?

I was looking the other day on the net for some indepth sources on their used gear and musical instruments but I could not find any.

Can some of you help ?

Now I know Bjorn and Benny had some excellent production skills due to experience but still, how did they get that fantastic sounding tracks ? Surely with the gear around these days that sound must be feasible, but all I can hear on today's radio is pure rubbish when comparing.

If anyone can help me in discovering more of their organic sound, I'll be grateful.
Old 18th June 2006
  #2
They used Harrison console, Neumann microphones, tape machines. Alot of overdubs and mix downs.
Plus their recording engineer Michael B Tretow is a genious....
Old 18th June 2006
  #3
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orange's Avatar
 

I thought the later ABBA stuff was done with a calrec UA-8000 console (?)

si
Old 18th June 2006
  #4
Gear Head
 

Abba recorded through a 1976 Harrison 5632 Console. This original console from Polar Studios is today in Studio B at Peppermint Park Studios in Hannover/Germany.
Old 18th June 2006
  #5
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That intro sound is more than likely a Yamaha GX-1. The story about that particular GX-1 is here

http://www.roth-handle.nu/instruments/synths_gx1.htm

complete with videos and pictures.
As it says on that page: "It was used extensively on the last three Abba albums."
Old 18th June 2006
  #6
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When it came to the string sounds they were heavily into minimoogs and the polymoog, of course there were real strings as well. With mics I'm sure that they used many Neumanns like everyone else, however the girls vocals were recorded with AKG 422. Both capsules were twisted forward and one was compressed (think it was through a 1176 and the other was layed to tape without compression. As for the desk I couldn't tell you, but the last album "The Visitors" was recorded digitally. ABBA made so much money at one time it was reputed that they were Swedens biggest export. Polar Studios was also billed as being totally cutting edge, certainly money was never an issue.

Regards to all


Roland
Old 18th June 2006
  #7
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Cojo's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by androne
After that I listened to songs compiled on CD and I noticed the pure organic sound but also some sweet luscious sounds like the strings on "Lay your love on me" in the beginning. How did they do that ? Is it some mellotron sound ?
Overdubs, and while tracking slightly change the tapespeed all the time!

/Cojo
Old 18th June 2006
  #8
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u b k's Avatar
 

ahhh the 70's... that golden glow on everything. it's a fairly simple formula, take your average everyday brown, beige, or orange-sounding console --- trident, calrec, helios, harrison, mci --- use neumann mics, and buss it all to tape. do a few bounces on the key elements to thicken and add a bit more haze, mix everything back into the console, patch in a few key compressors, and you're golden, so to speak.

remember, don't add crazy top to everything, or suck out all the love from 100-400. you're not separating, you're mixing; build-up is your friend, clarity is the death of mystery.

when finished, press it to vinyl, add a gatefold, call it a day. revel in the knowledge that people who buy it will probably be sitting in a living room or rec room, giving it their attention, and listening to it start to finish.


gregoire
del
ubk
Old 18th June 2006
  #9
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Man, one of my favorites!!!

Listen to the snare and acoustic guitar relationship in "Knowing Me, Knowing You". The snare was hit with greater attack from the compressor so that the guitar retained all of the 'primary' attack. Sounds like a dbx or perhaps an 1176 on the snare. I would guess the dbx.

The kick and snare on "Does Your Mother Know" is insane for this this type of music, but it works.

Those guys at Polar were really up to something great.
Old 18th June 2006
  #10
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I saw a special on them. And Bjorn and benny said they doubletracked everything. Including the drums.
Old 18th June 2006
  #11
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ABBA is not an organic sound. Quite the contrary. Their sound relied heavily on layered vocal tracks, heavy use of digital verbs, and lots of synths.

Organic would be Beatle's "Yesterday" ...vocal with a guitar. Or, the recordings by Peter, Paul & Mary.

Also, while Agnetha and Frida sang great, (I LOVE THEM!) ..most the tracks on ABBA recordings are quite thin sounding.
Old 18th June 2006
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vernier
..most the tracks on ABBA recordings are quite thin sounding.
You say thin like it's a bad thing? I think abba sounds full! What do you mean?

/Cojo
Old 18th June 2006
  #13
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Vari-Mu's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Henchman
I saw a special on them. And Bjorn and benny said they doubletracked everything. Including the drums.
I used to do some stuff with a guy who was one of their session regulars and he said the same thing....lots of doubling....on everything.

Cheers,

Vari-mu
Old 18th June 2006
  #14
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vernier's Avatar
Quote:
You say thin like it's a bad thing? I think abba sounds full! What do you mean?
I mean, the tracks are skinny sounding ...the vocal tracks. Compare to other records: Patsy Cline, Janiva Magness, Mandy Barnett, Kelly Clarkson ..doesn't really matter who ..in comparison, Frida and Agneta occupied little space on ABBA recordings. Bass and drums occupied alot of space ..it's just the way disco type music was mixed in those days ..loud drums, loud music, and vocals folded in to the mix. I don't care for the production, but Frida and Agnetha were tremendous. One more thing ..I refuse to see Mama Mia for that reason ..would never want to hear anyone else sing their songs, as nobody in the world sounds anything like them. Btw, I saw 'em live ...Frida and Agnetha, awesome singing.
Old 19th June 2006
  #15
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u b k's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by vernier
ABBA is not an organic sound. Quite the contrary. Their sound relied heavily on layered vocal tracks, heavy use of digital verbs, and lots of synths.

i don't believe those production choices preclude a recording from having an organic sound, which you seem to reserve for strictly acoustic (and basic) music. organic, to me, is more about a vibe, a tone, than it is an instrumentation or arrangement.

abba's sound is definitely analog, and the drum / bass foundation are very organic in that quintessential 70's way, but i agree with you that the synth tones they chose and the heavy digital verbs compromise that atmosphere. but i listen to portishead, which also has digital verbs and lots of synths, and zero7, which has all that in abundance and layered vox to boot, and it all strikes me as very organic sounding.


gregoire
del
ubk
Old 19th June 2006
  #16
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abit's Avatar
 

Besides the recording technics and gear used,
I think ABBA was very organic coz of music in the fist hand.
Melodies, form, harmonies itself are very balanced and pure so to say.
A lot of stuff influenced by typical popular classical music methods.
Everything is very simple and logical in there,
which just make you relaxed, let U rest, party.
There is no tension,very positive stuff,entertaining.
Without cool/notcool aggressiveness or sickness.
And at that particular period they were one of the 1st bands
who offered this approach and did a really good job.
Old 19th June 2006
  #17
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vernier's Avatar
Quote:
but i agree with you that the synth tones they chose and the heavy digital verbs compromise that atmosphere.
Right, and I think alot might have to do with what we grew up with ..in my case, Little Richard, when Tutti Frutti has a hit. So, by the time synths and digital verbs arrived, it sounded weird to me. Not organic. A similar thing happened earlier when studios replaced tube gear with solid-state, I thought it sounded weird.
Old 19th June 2006
  #18
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Cojo's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by vernier
I mean, the tracks are skinny sounding ...the vocal tracks. Compare to other records: Patsy Cline, Janiva Magness, Mandy Barnett, Kelly Clarkson ..doesn't really matter who ..in comparison, Frida and Agneta occupied little space on ABBA recordings. Bass and drums occupied alot of space ..it's just the way disco type music was mixed in those days ..loud drums, loud music, and vocals folded in to the mix. I don't care for the production, but Frida and Agneta were tremendous. One more thing ..I refuse to see Mama Mia for that reason ..would never want to hear anyone else sing their songs, as nobody in the world sounds anything like them. Btw, I saw 'em live ...Frida and Agneta, awesome singing.
Ok, I see what you mean... in that case I like skinny sounding vocals.

I also think they have an very organic sound to their recordings and, as u b i k says, I don't think an organic sound is created from the origin of the intrument (ie. acoustic), it's something that get created when you play the instrument, what sounds you are using and how you use the effects when mixing. Even if it's digital.

I think the best example of the organic Abba sound is the Eagle, the intro track on ABBA The Album!

I love the Abba sound and I think they have contributed to a lot of todays sound on modern records. They where explorers in a way (much like the Beatles), in that they had to invent different recording techniques to create their sound. Sometimes when you explore you go overboard but I think Abba stayed on deck for all the albums they made! Sometimes they polished a lot for an ordinary rock/pop record, but it wouldn't be an Abba record in any other way! Would it?

Maby that is why you dissagre and hear it's thin sounding to your ears?



/Cojo
Old 19th June 2006
  #19
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vernier's Avatar
Well, whatever they did it worked nice. Were you interested in what instruments they played, or what recording gear they used?
Old 19th June 2006
  #20
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I saw the musical a few weeks ago. I was very disappointed with the sound ( and the band actually). I thing the biggest mistake was to try and reproduce all the parts from the albums instead of do it more live-ish. The drums sounded as small and weak as possible, the balance was awful and the synth-pianos were not a good idea. I could go on and on (and on). Randy ? Paula ?

Anyway, I have the deepest respect for Abba, because of the production, arrangements and compositions. Here is a great interview from 1980 with their engineer ( who worked with them on all of their records) Michael Tretow.
http://www.abbamail.com/feature/soun...0_instudio.htm

Enjoy,

Kalli
Old 21st June 2006
  #21
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van Overhalen's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by sedohr
Here is a great interview from 1980 with their engineer ( who worked with them on all of their records) Michael Tretow.
http://www.abbamail.com/feature/soun...0_instudio.htm

Enjoy,

Kalli
Hey Kalli,

thanx very much for the link !
This guy really has something to say
and he tells his stories with such a great sense of humor.

Seems to me he tells it like it really is...mistakes and all...and how you deal with them...
great !
Old 21st June 2006
  #22
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as far as is can remember i saw a home video once with abba in the studio and they were tracking on one of those very first digital sony machines, or was that in a later stage ??, i'm pretty sure
Old 21st June 2006
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Capstan Cappy
as far as is can remember i saw a home video once with abba in the studio and they were tracking on one of those very first digital sony machines, or was that in a later stage ??, i'm pretty sure
That would have been the visitors album, a big thing was made at the time about it being a digital recording, I suspect that it was one of the earlier Sony Dash system recordings made, Polar studios in that respect were fairly cutting edge.

Regards to all


Roland
Old 22nd June 2006
  #24
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I know that Polar used the 3M digital 32 track machines. I did some work there and those machines sounded pretty nice.
Old 22nd June 2006
  #25
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Yep, ABBA - Visitors ...digital multi-track, and ironically, their very last album.
Old 22nd June 2006
  #26
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Roland's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by echorec
I know that Polar used the 3M digital 32 track machines. I did some work there and those machines sounded pretty nice.

Possibly it was the the Mitsibushi's, I think the first major comercial recording made with one of those was Fleetwood Mac's Tusk.

Regards


Roland
Old 22nd June 2006
  #27
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Yes, they had one of the Mitsubishis too.
Old 22nd June 2006
  #28
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StudioKing's Avatar
The vocal sound was definately achieved by using slighlty differant tape speeds when tracking.
Old 22nd June 2006
  #29
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I think of organic as Grateful Dead, Dylan, etc. Real people playing real instruments , in real imperfect time, with minimum studio tricks being applied.

But I got to record ABBA, in a manner of speaking. Cover band, demo thing. And the tune was "Dancing Queen." They had a greatest hits cd, and dutifully, I listened to it. And actually, there is some pretty raw, organic guitar sounds, not on that track, but on some of the other tracks on the disc. The vocals are about as organic as a can of Chef Boyardee Spaghetti Os. They're cool and all, and sexy, just not organic, by my thinking. I mean, how hard is it to like a couple of Swedish hotties singing to you, anyway?

So I got my plan of attack together. Well, of course you've got to stack/chorus vocals, along with some good punchy rhythm tracks, some verb--call it ABBA. I ended up playing bass and gtr and had a excellent piano player as well. We get a good track together and day comes for the vox.

I explain to the 20-something female singers that we might take a few minutes extra on this track to stack up a few vocals, you know, like ABBA did. They immediately begin whining like I'd just asked them to go scrub the toilet or something. They have a party to go to, why can't we just sing it once, don't worry about doing that , this is good enough, etc. They're not the client by the way, just the idiot girl singers in the band. Unbelievable, some peoples don't give a sht 'tude.

One of them says she can't, and leaves. The other wants to stay and knock her part out, with the other one coming back in a few days time. So we're cutting the duet parts for AbbA at separate times.

"We can sure do that!," I said with a smile, relishing the fact they would soon be gone from my house.

In the end, I kissed their butt enough to coax several passes out of each vocalist. Then I spent several hours comping, tuning, lining up, sniping long notes and generally polishing. Ended up with a fairly realistic track, I was happy with it, and so was the client. But damn, they got their pound of flesh from me. There was nothing organic about the experience.

Sorry for the novel.
Old 22nd June 2006
  #30
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vernier's Avatar
Quote:
The vocal sound was definately achieved by using slighlty differant tape speeds when tracking.
Sounds like it to me too, but how are we knowing this?
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