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What made 70s Analog Recordings sound 70s? Effects Pedals, Units & Accessories
Old 31st August 2006
  #1
Gear Head
 

What made 70s Analog Recordings sound 70s?

I would like to get the sound of pro recordings from the 70s with my personal studio. I don't mean the sound of vintage outboard gear lending a color to what is still obviously a contemporary, squeeky clean recording. I'm really looking for the full-on, distinctive sonic experience of 70s recordings. There's something about those old records (especially early 70s, like early Elton) that excites me and transports me and sets me daydreaming in a particular way which feels like rock n roll to me. More than the music itself, it's a specific sonic quality and the way the music images. No digital recording has done that for me. I've tried without success to find the recipe to simulate that experience, thinking if only my vintage outboard gear were run through the right converters, with the right plug-ins, etc... I'm sick of jumping through hoops with such disappointing results, and am now considering abandoning the DAW route altogether and going analog. To someone of my generation this decision seems drastic and scary and off the map, almost like swearing off electricity and heading out to live in the wild! Nobody I know, least of all myself, has knowledge or advice about what all would be involved in going this route.

Anyway, the prospect of going analog raises the question of how to achieve the specifically 70s, not 80s or god forbid 90s sound of analog. So...

- Was it just down to the way the tape machines of the time sounded? (How do they even contribute a "sound" if the're just mechanical things moving the tape around?) If so, do I then need to limit my search to vintage machines from the 70s?

-OR was it that back then they recorded at 15 ips or whatever and they used such and such width of tape? (I'd be very grateful if someone could describe the differences in sound and functionality of each tape width.)

-OR was it the kind (formulation) of tape used then? If so, are these kinds of tape still available or is there tape being made today that would impart a similar sound?

What was it? I'm aware that the magic of those records is largely due to writing and performance so that old chestnut doesn't need to be trotted out. Any relevant info or guidance would be appreciated. I'd also be interested to know recording techniques, mic placement, acoustic treatment, etc. of the time, all of which must have played a big role in the sound as well.
Old 31st August 2006
  #2
Gear Maniac
 
Acko's Avatar
 

If you're talking about what I think you are, I'd say it comes down to imagination, synchronicity, courage and other undefinable quantities. When one masters the art of maintaining their vision without it disipating on account of doubt or fear of the unknown, he/she then aquires a decent possibility of realizing and communicating that vision to others via an artform like music.

This aspect transends style,form,era even artform. I think it's the residue of such moments of expression, that you are hearing and loving about those seventies recordings.

I believe that this effect could be achieved more frequently today with more of the above ingredients and less fragmentation, jadedness and fear. If you wanna make music that will inspire dreams. You must be able to dream yourself. So work hard by all means, but when the moment arrives to deliver that vision, Forget what you think you know, trust it all to be there for you when you need it . If you don't have a vision, that would be a good place to start.

When someone steps up to the plate and delivers such a performance, we might even stop argueing about analogue vs digital, for a day or two.

How's that for and old chestnut?

Or you could get a tape machine...Record artists with something to say, preferably all together in a room, place mics carefully and hope for the best.
Old 31st August 2006
  #3
member no 666
 
Fletcher's Avatar
Really good musicians playing really good songs while worrying more about the "greatness" of their performance than "grid accuracy" and "pitch correction".

A little soul goes a long way toward making a recording "jump" out of the speakers and hit you on an emotional level [as opposed to being "perfect"].

There was also a lot more experimentation in terms of getting sounds and using non-traditional instruments... there wasn't a "string patch" in some sampler, there were string players and string parts [you can substitute the word horns for strings]... a piano [an actual black instrument not a "piano patch"] on most stuff which helped to add depth and the arrangements didn't lend themselves to having 75-80 tracks delivered to "a mixer" to have them sort it out, nor was there a sonic stamp that needed to be placed on every mix/project... and the battle for "loudest" was still light years away.

Other than that, nothings changed a bit.

Peace.
Old 31st August 2006
  #4
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lemix's Avatar
Quote:
There was also a lot more experimentation in terms of getting sounds and using non-traditional instruments... there wasn't a "string patch" in some sampler, there were string players and string parts [you can substitute the word horns for strings]... a piano [an actual black instrument not a "piano patch"] on most stuff which helped to add depth and the arrangements didn't lend themselves to having 75-80 tracks delivered to "a mixer" to have them sort it out, nor was there a sonic stamp that needed to be placed on every mix/project... and the battle for "loudest" was still light years away.
Fletcher..you are a criminal !!
Just stole these bloody words out of my mouth...
Yep..young pups..just as he said
Old 31st August 2006
  #5
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Benmrx's Avatar
 

I'm always so utterly amazing at the timing and arrangements in 60's + 70's songs.

Obviously there was no "grid", but were click tracks popular?
Old 31st August 2006
  #6
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mr. fletcher is correct, but further to that...

Click tracks don't kill grooves, people kill grooves.

And then as to why then/not now, like in so many things, part of it was just "the times". Late 60's early '70's is considered a high point in american cinema too.

There's still a lot of strong and groovy music being made out there. As always...
Old 1st September 2006
  #7
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max cooper's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by freddyjohnson View Post

Click tracks don't kill grooves, people kill grooves.
Yeah, this is true. I use pro tools as a cost-effective tape machine that doesn't need as much maintenance. No, it doesn't sound like tape.

But you have to tell the computer to suck the life out of the performance (Beat Detective, Auto Tune.. of which I've never used either)


Believe me, I just had some stuff come through here that would have been impossible to stick on a grid... it was a total mess, but fun!
Old 1st September 2006
  #8
Gear Maniac
 

Back in the late 70's, we were all talking about the golden age of recording being the early 60's and how technology was ruining record making. Jus' sayin'...
Old 1st September 2006
  #9
Gear Head
 

Thanks everyone. Anyone have any info. to share specific to my questions (tape machines, tape, tape width, etc. ?)
Old 1st September 2006
  #10
Gear Guru
 
drBill's Avatar
I agree with you guys about the time and the musicianship, but to say that analog tape, discrete consoles like the API's & Quad 8's, and dead sounding recording envrionments didn't contribute to the sound of the era would be leaving out a large element. And one must not forget the drugs. These days drugs seem to have a more digital vibe. Back then it was allllllll analog.
Old 1st September 2006
  #11
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Dead, almost anechoic rooms, too few inputs on consoles, tea towels and other drum head damping, the move toward non-tube/valve mics, consoles and tape decks, Dolby, lack of console automation, overly conservative use of EQ - too much low end, not enough highs, "mix bus compression," overly dry mixes, etc.
Old 1st September 2006
  #12
Gear Maniac
 

Besides tape, consoles, musicianship, songs, on the fly creative solutions, drugs, the genuine curiousity and sense of discovery of that time

Don`t leave out the tons of carpets. Lots of dead rooms. Some places even had carpets in the ceiling.

But I agree in that each time period has a certain `spirit` and vibe. Kind of a certain step in the evolution of our common mind and experience. Transmits into recordings and thus transcends its period. But not easy to recreate if at all. Even if you went into the same rooms and used the same equipment.
Old 1st September 2006
  #13
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People used to actually go to a "real studio" back then... not some PC with cracked software in the corner of someone's bedroom on top of their dresser with their closet as the "vocal booth"

plus, YOU HAD TO ACTUALLY PLAY AN INSTRUMENT and not just push play on a preset patch
Old 1st September 2006
  #14
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obostic's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by rara114 View Post
People used to actually go to a "real studio" back then... not some PC with cracked software in the corner of someone's bedroom on top of their dresser with their closet as the "vocal booth"

plus, YOU HAD TO ACTUALLY PLAY AN INSTRUMENT and not just push play on a preset patch
Funny as hell!!heh But so true.
Old 1st September 2006
  #15
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bcgood's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by drBill View Post
I agree with you guys about the time and the musicianship, but to say that analog tape, discrete consoles like the API's & Quad 8's, and dead sounding recording envrionments didn't contribute to the sound of the era would be leaving out a large element. And one must not forget the drugs. These days drugs seem to have a more digital vibe. Back then it was allllllll analog.

The tape and the dead sounding recording environments is huge I tell you, huge! Don't underestimate the power of the darkside (all digital path) or forever will it control your destiny.

bcgood
Old 1st September 2006
  #16
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Soldier777c's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fletcher View Post
Really good musicians playing really good songs while worrying more about the "greatness" of their performance than "grid accuracy" and "pitch correction".

No truer statement may have been uttered in quite some time.
Old 1st September 2006
  #17
Lives for gear
it's EVERYTHING.

it's a certain type of room full of musicians probably playing more together.
Being recorded (by a trained and probably experienced balance engineer) on desks of the day and mics of the day onto tape machines of the day on TAPE of the day listening on monitors of the day...
it's recording the band to fewer tracks, mixing as you go with the sounds on tape.. not put off to the mix.

it's mixed through that same desk with probably not a ton of additional processing.
and again to machines and tape of the day.

it's probably mixed on the big studio monitors.
by the producer and engineer who recorded it.

AND it's the way the musicians, and their instruments and amps and such, played the way they did.

it's EVERYTHING
Old 1st September 2006
  #18
Registered User
 
Rick Sutton's Avatar
 

A couple of posts have already hit it,


It wasn't about the players, the equipment, the tape formulations or anything like that.


It was about shag carpet and drugs.


I kid you not.


Those are the elements (in the proper combination) that seperate the 70's.
Old 1st September 2006
  #19
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GP_Hawk's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fletcher View Post
Really good musicians playing really good songs while worrying more about the "greatness" of their performance than "grid accuracy" and "pitch correction".

There's nothing like that feeling you were floating 10 feet off the ground while in the middle of a groove where everyone was in the same head space and you were feeding off the vibe of the air in the room........or maybe that was the shrooms
Old 1st September 2006
  #20
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Acoustic Cloud's Avatar
 

I love the dead room sound, and abide by it. Some of the acoustic stuff, like "from the beginning", and Wish You were here" have stellar acoustic guitar sounds.

Whether tape or HD, anything lesser than a BIG room tuned for nice reverb, stinks.

Some people will say that a room can be too dead. That would mean that you were relying on the slapback of a badly treated smallish space for a vibe, to begin with. Probably a bad vibe....just my opionion.

I love dead space. You only hear whats played, and only the instrument, or voice.
Old 1st September 2006
  #21
Gear Head
 
Shadow Hills's Avatar
 

Of course the answer is chops, both musicianship, and engineering. Oh, and the gear. Lots of discrete singnal paths, not a lot of chips. Nowadays even the most well complemented studio, still goes through an analog ic stage to get in and out of the box. I wonder....

Peter Reardon
Old 1st September 2006
  #22
Motown legend
 
Bob Olhsson's Avatar
 

Real arranging for an acoustic balance has been MIA for decades!

Only a few brand new studios were really dead. Most of the top rooms were still pretty live. Drums were damped however not nearly as extreme as i see people attempting today. The idea was to not have anything ringing sympathetically with whatever drum was being played however at the same time getting as much tone as possible from that drum. Drummers also played with a lot more dynamics.

Many studios also had a mike setup and layout for the musicians that had been carefully refined over years.
Old 1st September 2006
  #23
Gear Guru
 
drBill's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Acoustic Cloud View Post
I love the dead room sound, and abide by it. Some of the acoustic stuff, like "from the beginning", and Wish You were here" have stellar acoustic guitar sounds.

Whether tape or HD, anything lesser than a BIG room tuned for nice reverb, stinks.

Some people will say that a room can be too dead. That would mean that you were relying on the slapback of a badly treated smallish space for a vibe, to begin with. Probably a bad vibe....just my opionion.

I love dead space. You only hear whats played, and only the instrument, or voice.

Ugh. Sorry I'd have to disagree. A beautiful Ac Gtr exists in a space and the space helps define what it's character is. I dead room is.......dead. Usefull for some things but not very "opulant"! (LOL Sorry had to use that word.) You can always calm down a live room with carpet or some gobos or ???, but once you're in a dead room its.....dead. LOL I'm glad we passed that by.
Old 1st September 2006
  #24
Gear Addict
 
ToneRanger's Avatar
 

Lots of good opinions here... I too am in the "it's in everything" camp.

There's still a plenty of good musicians out there today. It just feels that everything is so much more complicated these days, too many decisions to make down the line, and I guess it's easier to lose the magic on the way. Too many possibilities. There's too much I guess that gets in the way.

On the other hand, I don't really buy the "golden times" point of view, although maybe 95 % of my record collection is pre '75. It just makes us sound like old farts. The youth of today are gonna complain in the same way 30 years from now. How 2006 was the year of mojo, vibe and love and how they don't make them like they used to. Don't take me the wrong way, I really don't like much what's playing in MTV or radio these days, but anyway that just seems like the way the "process" works.

I think it was a very good comment that the records then were (nearly) all made in real studios by real professionals. That makes a huge difference. On the other hand, without the development of recent years I couldn't be making music at the level I am right now, I'd be stuck with a goddamned 4 track, so I'm not complaining.

Ziggy, I guess you love your Bowie right? For that Ziggy drumsound, try damping everything, a dead room, teatowels on toms, maybe taking the lower head of the toms away and micing the toms from under there. Great vintage drums and a good drummer ofcourse.. And for snare eq, I read that Ken Scott used to boost like hell in 200-300 hz and take nearly everything in 1k region out. It really takes you close to the snare sound of those records.. Yep, I'm a snare sound junkie. Not what you asked, but still..

..then again, we tried to make our records sound like the 70's for years. What we came with was kind of a nice sound, but with total lack of energy. I guess you're right Ziggy, you have to go all the way, go analogue to get that stuff. It seems like trying to achieve the same sort of sounds gets you maybe 80 % there but you lose much more energywise. It's like these dead sounding elements try to make it in modern times and it ain't a pretty sight... it's like out of context with all the other stuff that's going on with DAWs. I don't know, just a theory, that's how I feel.. Atleast in the rock stuff..
Old 1st September 2006
  #25
What made 70s Analog Recordings sound 70s?

What made 70s Analog Recordings sound 70s?

the fact that we hadn't reached 2006 yet.

one thing you can almost ALWAYS count on in a thread like this,
is the line-up of proverbial "t'aint whut it used to be" thug drones on this forum.

i'm not at all for one moment sorry that we are LIVING IN 2006, FOLKS,

YES, THAT'S RIGHT.

LET'S NOT DO THE "DEATH BY NOSTOLGIA" THING, PLEASE, AGAIN!!

THIS IS GETTING REALLY BORING.

Instead of crying about the "good old days", why don't some of you
make actual use of your time, and move fr8gg8n FORWARD ALREADY.

buncha cry babies.

that's all for now - back to my meds, promise
Old 1st September 2006
  #26
Lives for gear
 

Most musicians and bands winged it in the late 1960's and 1970's and it shows up on many of the recordings, which have conviction and attitude. All this technical wizardry and zillion track stuff today doesn't mean ****, if there's nothing behind it.
Old 1st September 2006
  #27
Dot
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Dot's Avatar
The way the music was arranged, performed, and produced in the 70's had much more to do with the sound than any recording gear that was used.

If you can't get whatever retro sound you're going for with a DAW - you ain't gonna get it with tape.
Old 1st September 2006
  #28
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Mike Jasper's Avatar
I was listening to "Bitter Blue" by Cat Stevens the other day, a great example of strummed acoustic guitar. But damn if one of those strums isn't slightly off. So what? The feeling was there. That wouldn't fly today. There would be someone to fix it.

That said, I spent my 20s in LA between 1973 to 1978. Let me tell you the downside of the 70s. We had car radios back then, but they only played AM. No FM on the car radio, and it was all in mono. Does anybody remember the nightmare that was AM radio in the mid 70s? Let me help refresh your memory, so you 70s worshipers can run out and buy these "hits" on itunes.

- Billy Don't Be A Hero
- Tie A Yellow Ribbon 'Round The Old Oak Tree
- The Pina Colada Song
- Kung Fu Fighting (actually, one of the better ones)
- The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia
- I Am Women, Hear Me Roar
- All those songs by Bread
- All those songs by John Denver. Grisly.

Every once in awhile, you'd get an Elton song or a Stones song, on a good day, maybe Pink Floyd. True, you'd get a lot of Eagles, but I'm still on the fence about that band. "Better than Tony Orlando" does not make you great.

Of course, when you finally made it home you could fire up a doobie (that's what we called them then) and listen to some GREAT FM radio. But in the car, nothing but carnage. Like a Rodney King beating through the speakers, every damn day.

Jasper
Old 1st September 2006
  #29
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Midlandmorgan's Avatar
 

Couple of things to try...of course these ALL depend on the caliber of players, the room, etc...

- Limit yourself to no more than 16 (or 24 for later) tracks...
- Remember that bleed is your friend
- some advocate removing the bottom heads off drums (except snare of course)
- Use no plugins...hardware only...if possible.
- Study examples of what you are looking for (Layla, for example, was done on 16 track...) and try to capture the same "as much as I can do at one time" vibe.
Old 1st September 2006
  #30
Lives for gear
Wish You Were Here was done at Abbey Road... hardly what you could call 'dead' rooms.
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