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That Lo-Fi Velvet Underground Sound - how can I fake it?
Old 16th November 2009
  #1
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echoclerk's Avatar
 

Question That Lo-Fi Velvet Underground Sound - how can I fake it?

Any tips appreciated on how to approach getting a sound like say "White Light / White Heat" or "What Goes On" or "I'm Waiting for the Man".

Particularly how to fake that drum sound - where all you can really hear is the snares and a scratchy Tamborine sound. (and how to do it without a drum Kit - ie using Drum Machines Samples)

but also any tips on the Guitar / Bass / vocal tone.
Old 16th November 2009
  #2
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echoclerk's Avatar
 

Question or Lady Godiva's Operation!

that crappy drum sound on the Right sounds great.

Spotify Link : for those in the UK/Europe

The Velvet Underground – Lady Godiva's Operation
Old 16th November 2009
  #3
Make sure the gtrs and vocals are charmingly out of tune..?

(I love the Velvet Underground BTW)
Old 16th November 2009
  #4
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8 track 1/4 inch? Mic the drums with one overhead, and spill on guitars?

I found this worked the other day:

drums: ribbon about 3 feet above drummer's head "looking at" snare
acoustic guitar+voc: recorded in a hallway adjacent to the drummer. I used Oktava 219+sm58, experimented with spill by opening/closing the door.

tracked this to 4 track cassette and transfered to pro tools. Overdubbed bass through a sebatron valve DI.

It worked well, sounded trashy but not shitty.

Also just intentionally distort stuff and mix stuff too loud and pan bizarrely.
I've found that cheap old equipment without much headroom can get this kind of sound quite quickly.
Old 16th November 2009
  #5
Just remember... it's not the sound of the grittier VU albums that made them so special. It was the content. There have been thousands of crappy sounding records that no one listened to for more than a minute or two.
Old 16th November 2009
  #6
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I disagree with that, really. Imagine the Velvets tracked through Millenia Pres and Prism converters. It would have sounded, well, quite boring.

The production or anti-production was key to the velvets as was the imagery.
Old 16th November 2009
  #7
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Just go to the local pawn shop and look for the most craptacular gear you can possibly find.

Toy Karaoke mics, etc. or the built-in mic on an old boom-box tape deck.

That should do the trick.
Old 17th November 2009
  #8
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CZ101's Avatar
 

"White Light / White Heat" - get a couple of Chandler TG-2's and record everything live through them with the input gain way up. Then in the box, use a good tape saturation / saturation plug like ColorSound Pro or maybe URS Saturation? (never used it) and squeeze the hell out of everything. Make sure the vocals are eq-ed to sound crispy and/or recorded with a microphone like an older AKG or EV dynamic..
Old 17th November 2009
  #9
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Karloff70's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by moon_unit View Post
Just go to the local pawn shop and look for the most craptacular gear you can possibly find.

Toy Karaoke mics, etc. or the built-in mic on an old boom-box tape deck.

That should do the trick.
ROTFL.....craptacular! Thank you so much for this beautiful word, which until had escaped me! LOL
Old 17th November 2009
  #10
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Michael_Joly's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by echoclerk View Post
Any tips appreciated on how to approach getting a sound like say "White Light / White Heat" or "What Goes On" or "I'm Waiting for the Man".

Particularly how to fake that drum sound - where all you can really hear is the snares and a scratchy Tamborine sound. (and how to do it without a drum Kit - ie using Drum Machines Samples) ...
I'll bet Mo Tucker would get a kick out of this request.
Old 17th November 2009
  #11
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XHipHop's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by CZ101 View Post
"White Light / White Heat" - get a couple of Chandler TG-2's and record everything live through them with the input gain way up. Then in the box, use a good tape saturation / saturation plug like ColorSound Pro or maybe URS Saturation? (never used it) and squeeze the hell out of everything. Make sure the vocals are eq-ed to sound crispy and/or recorded with a microphone like an older AKG or EV dynamic..
and don't close mic everything from 2 inches away.
Old 17th November 2009
  #12
Quote:
Originally Posted by XHipHop View Post
and don't close mic everything from 2 inches away.
there's no drums to mic..
Old 17th November 2009
  #13
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XHipHop's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by alehoe View Post
there's no drums to mic..
well mic them anyway. you own speakers, no?

also, i like sonalksis' tbk3 for making drums uber-trashy.
Old 17th November 2009
  #14
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syntax's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by alehoe View Post
there's no drums to mic..
There's your problem. At least buy a tambourine and play it live. You can't fake the timbral variance going on in a VU recording by working entirely in the box.

If you want to go further, and if you can't play drums or don't know anyone who can do it for you. Get a cheap snare, put a speaker on it, and playback your sample sequence to "trigger" the snare. Make sure to vary the timing and velocity to "humanize" the feel. Mic the drum from a distance.

While you're at it you could make some original samples and loops for your own use. That's where you're going to find character. It isn't hard to do. Just point a microphone at something and make your own sounds damn it! After all, We're talking about a key point of origin for the DIY rock aesthetic.
Old 17th November 2009
  #15
Gear Nut
 

Just a thought if you mean this sound:

YouTube - The Velvet Underground - White Light/White Heat

Just get a cheap cassette deck and hit record...

No but seriously, to the whole mix apply a "through the phone" type EQ curve but boost the lows until muddy. Short to no reverb, don't EQ any instrument to be heard. Do the opposite of what you'd do for a track where you wanted definition for the instruments, with the EQ.

In short, it sounds like a garage band sort of sound. Full range instruments all competing for space with no surgical EQ applied to dress it up. Awful resonances in the bass, etc.

Basically the sound I've been trying to get rid of in my attempts, my whole life, LOL!
Old 17th November 2009
  #16
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XHipHop's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by syntax View Post
There's your problem. At least buy a tambourine and play it live. You can't fake the timbral variance going on in a VU recording by working entirely in the box.

If you want to go further, and if you can't play drums or don't know anyone who can do it for you. Get a cheap snare, put a speaker on it, and playback your sample sequence to "trigger" the snare. Make sure to vary the timing and velocity to "humanize" the feel. Mic the drum from a distance.

While you're at it you could make some original samples and loops for your own use. That's where you're going to find character. It isn't hard to do. Just point a microphone at something and make your own sounds damn it! After all, We're talking about a key point of origin for the DIY rock aesthetic.
I like that idea of trying to get some snare rattles from a real snare and adding tambourines and shakers.

since the drums are so sparse and minimal and don't really feature many fills, these little tricks will probably be enough to pull it off.

also make sure the drum samples you are using are layered and have some variance to them.
Old 18th November 2009
  #17
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Jay Dee's Avatar
 

Their early albums were lo-fi but later albums were produced with higher standards. Check out this song from the 'VU' album: YouTube - The Velvet Underground - Stephanie Says or this one: YouTube - Velvet Underground - Foggy Notion. Drums are minimalistic but not exactly lo-fi.

Or compare Lou Reed's solo version of "Sweet Jane" with the Velvet's version. It's the song that matters more than the presentation IMHO.
Old 18th November 2009
  #18
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CZ101's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by XHipHop View Post
well mic them anyway. you own speakers, no?

also, i like sonalksis' tbk3 for making drums uber-trashy.
Dude, this guy isn't even asking the question.. But anyway - I agree about the tbk3.
Old 18th November 2009
  #19
Record the entire album as you normally would. Then, do your mix-out through a 15 watt guitar amp with a mic in front of it....record your mix.

It has to sound like it was mastered on a Telex machine.
Old 18th November 2009
  #20
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CZ101's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ivmike View Post
Record the entire album as you normally would. Then, do your mix-out through a 15 watt guitar amp with a mic in front of it....record your mix.

It has to sound like it was mastered on a Telex machine.
Old 19th November 2009
  #21
Quote:
Originally Posted by syntax View Post
There's your problem. At least buy a tambourine and play it live. You can't fake the timbral variance going on in a VU recording by working entirely in the box.

If you want to go further, and if you can't play drums or don't know anyone who can do it for you. Get a cheap snare, put a speaker on it, and playback your sample sequence to "trigger" the snare. Make sure to vary the timing and velocity to "humanize" the feel. Mic the drum from a distance.

While you're at it you could make some original samples and loops for your own use. That's where you're going to find character. It isn't hard to do. Just point a microphone at something and make your own sounds damn it! After all, We're talking about a key point of origin for the DIY rock aesthetic.
how's it my problem?

i was just pointing out what the guy said

Quote:
Originally Posted by echoclerk View Post
how to do it without a drum Kit - ie using Drum Machines Samples
Old 25th November 2009
  #22
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Cool

Quote:
Originally Posted by echoclerk View Post
Any tips appreciated on how to approach getting a sound like say "White Light / White Heat" or "What Goes On" or "I'm Waiting for the Man".
I suggest forming a band with one good songwriter who's really political and angry but is close to being tone deaf but doesn't care. Then meet some really cool people who you get along wtih great and who share the songwriter's visions but have never played instruments before, and make them the backup band. Find a hot supermodel from europe, get her to blow the band regularly and put a mic up for her to sing into when she feels like it's worth the effort.

And make sure that they all understand that what they're doing isn't something that is likely to take off or become popular for decades in history.

And voila - what do you get? a band that actually made great music (if you ignore the lack of raw traditional musical training/skill/talent), changed the face of history, launched the career of one of the most important singer songwriters still around today, and helped to make an artist and bunch of other bands quite famous around the same period. they helped to change the pop music world from being a finished commercial label sound to a raw, intelligent, thinking sound.

So to get that sound I honestly think you need that same spirit in the recording studio. Lots of open mindedness, nothing confrontational, plenty of drugs, hot women, and happy people all getting along in perfect harmony.

The engineering sounds as it does because the engineer was frickin out of his gourd when he was recording them, god love him.

And thankfully it all happened or else the world wouldn't be where it is today, thousands of great bands never would have seen the light of day if our ears and minds hadn't been opened by that misfit group that never meant to become famous.

cheers,
Don
Old 25th November 2009
  #23
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Gracehoper's Avatar
 

Use a lot of time picking the right samples and programming the beat. Then record through an old ghettoblaster, maybe several times if it needs to be more trashy. But be aware that this might cause timing problems if you've already recorded or programmed other elements.

Oh, and take a lot of heroin. A lot.
Old 25th November 2009
  #24
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CZ101's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by dkelley View Post
Then meet some really cool people who you get along wtih great and who share the songwriter's visions but have never played instruments before, and make them the backup band.
Would it still work if one of the guys in the backup band were classically trained?
Old 27th September 2012
  #25
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VU sound

Interesting thread. I've been listening to quite a bit of the VU lately (all albums) and was thinking of incorporating some of "that sound" on some new recordings. I think the most astute observations have been that it is the content (which let's be honest is always most important) as well as the human or analog element. Most of the Velvet's stuff was done at TTG studios (even the first album had things redone over there) and this was not a "lo fi" studio by any stretch of the imagination but a pretty coveted studio that was beloved by Hendrix, the Animals, The Velvets and even the Monkeys!

From what I understand it was recorded on an API board into 8 track tape. The recordings tend to have a very live feel to them. There is a warmth and great soul to everything. I know on the first record those old silvertone amps had a lot to do with some of the sound particularly that droning and discordant viola sound.

I would suggest doing a live recording with no more than 8 channels for the band. Another thing to consider when going for "Lo Fi" is that in reality there were some sensational mics and analog channels being used. Dylan's "basement tapes" is a perfect example. It was stripped down but at the same time it was recorded on top of the line Neumann condensers on loan from Peter Paul and Marry!

The suggestion of using ribbons for drums is great. I would go for a 3-4 mic set up on the drums (ribbons as overheads. One ribbon for Mono, two for stereo. AEA 84 would be my choice) sm57 (or other comparable dynamic for snare) and a decent BD mic. I guess the amount of other instruments would impact the other channels. But I would opt to mic everything and then have a great condenser well placed in the room to try to get it all.

Trying to get "that" sound with triggers seems ludicrous to me. There is nothing click tracky or digital about those records! Personally I think the Universal Audio hardware has a great sound for this style of recording. API boards are amazing but recording API into digital is very clean, loud and aggressive. UA into digital hard drives is a nice blend. Of course if you can record to tape....
Old 27th September 2012
  #26
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string6theory's Avatar
Here's an excerpt copied from;
The WELL: Richie Unterberger, White Light / White Heat


The Velvet Underground's second album, "White Light/White Heat," is
the one most notorious for having the kind of "overload" mentioned a
couple posts ago. Basically the group was, on most of the tracks (and
certainly the 17-minute finale "Sister Ray"), cranking their
instruments as loud as they could go. That wasn't as loud as they'd be
today, because the instruments of 1967 weren't as capable of being as
high-volume as today's equipment. But it was still really loud,
probably louder than almost anyone else around, except maybe Jimi
Hendrix and perhaps one or two other acts.

The problem -- though actually I don't think it's a really huge one --
is that while that kind of extreme high volume worked really well in a
concert setting (given the right venue and acoustics), you couldn't
really capture that on tape without it being distorted. Here the VU
were literally pushing the VU meters way into the red, especially on
"Sister Ray." As a consequence, most of the tracks sound distorted
(less polite listeners would say muddy) and don't capture all of the
frequencies you would experience hearing it live in the studio. On
"Sister Ray" itself, the band were recording it one take live in the
studio and literally boosting their own instruments to try and play
louder than anyone else in the band. That's especially evident when
John Cale's organ solo surges to the front with a real whooshing blast.

In retrospect, the band felt they were trying to play with a loud
ferocity that couldn't be captured by the era's technology. In part
because of their experience, they didn't realize there were going to be
serious technical imperfections by playing so loud. The late Sterling
Morrison stated about twenty years later that if you did it then
(mid-1980s), equipment could capture this sonic range without
distortion. He also said they could have worked around this by
recording their parts individually, but much preferred to play live
together, even in a recording situation.

I know this will make some audiophiles and recording professionals,
but really, I don't think the imperfections, if you want to call them
that, matter too much. What all of this *did* help make possible was a
great spontaneous *performance*, which I think is more important than
gaining optimum sonic clarity at the expense of artistic expression. In
particular, the studio version of "Sister Ray" has some of the
greatest high-octane organ playing ever heard on a rock record --
better, in fact, than any other recording with Cale on the organ (and
I've heard a good number, including several unissued live '60s VU
versions of "Sister Ray").
Old 27th September 2012
  #27
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IdiotManchild's Avatar
 

^^ Cool info, man.

I was gonna say that their records generally sound like they were playing with their amps turned up REALLY FRIKKIN LOUD.

You need a whole band in a room, playing together. And they have to play REALLY LOUD so that everything bleeds into everything else, ESPECIALLY the guitars bleeding into the drum mics.

You can't make a Velvet Underground record with a drum machine. Don't try it. You need a real band playing together AT THE SAME TIME.

It's all about the BLEEEEEEEEEED.
Old 28th September 2012
  #28
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Jazz Noise's Avatar
If the guitars dont sound like they're going to chew your face off, you're doing it wrong!

Remember that they didn't really use cymbals or hats and as far as I know the drummer used mallets rather than sticks.
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