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How was the general workflow in the 90s / early 00s?
Old 13th August 2020
  #1
Gear Maniac
 

How was the general workflow in the 90s / early 00s?

Hello.


I was wondering what the general workflow was like in the 90s / early 00s.

From making the beat on hardware to mixing it.


I'm an MPC user and I'm trying to emulate the workflow of the past to some extent in my DAW.

So, let's say the building blocks of the beat were made on a MPC.

Did people track from the MPC through a console or mixer to tape?

I've seen some footage in a documentary where they stated that hip hop producers / beatmakers were very early adopters of digital tracking & mixing.


How would you order plugins in a DAW to recreate the workflow of the past?

MPC tracking out to
1. Console
2. Tape
3. Console (mixing)
4. Master Tape

That would be fully analog but did they do it that way back then? Was there more digital storing or mixing involved than one would think? Anybody here that made beats back then?

Appreciate any insight and knowledge.
Old 14th August 2020
  #2
DAH
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DAH's Avatar
Search for posts of t.dizzle, Will The Weirdo, Dave Pensado and several other engineers active in the biz at the time and posting here whose names escape me.
Old 16th August 2020
  #3
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BIG BUDDHA's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hip Hop Head View Post
Hello.

Did people track from the MPC through a console or mixer to tape?


[/B]
yes we did.

in the early 90s the studio i worked in had a programmer who had an MPC-60.

we tracked it through a Neve Console and went direct to 2 inch tape.

the tape machine was a Studer A800mk3, and the tape was Ampex 456.

later we moved to Ampex 499 tape which was much the same.

the limitation was that you only had 24 tracks, so often times we submixed many tracks down to a stereo pair, and continued on.

i also set up an Atari with a Midex Plus SMPTE synk box, and sometimes if there was a lot going on we would put timecode on track 24, and run the midi direct to the desk and straight to the 2 track master.

by 1996 or so i set up an ADAT studio and 32 tracks (blackface) and track count was less of an issue, but the same techniques applied.

the big difference was that the ADATs were nothing like the 2 inch, and engineers had to adapt tracking techniques. and the tapes often chewed up.

i also used to sample loops direct from the 2 inch, off tape. a lot of those low fi loops come from engineers spinning off from a Q send, at 2 am under time pressure. so the balances are often rough. mono send as often as not.

Buddha
Old 16th August 2020
  #4
Lives for gear
You made the beat and mixed an instrumental using a small format mixer (like a 1202, 1604, etc.) onto DAT. Then when it came time to track you hauled your sequencer/keyboards/sound modules/samplers into the studio. For 2 inch they striped SMPTE (along with a guard track) and you set your sequencer to chase. With ADAT/DA88 those machines could generate MTC directly and you chased that. Then you printed your tracks to tape in multiple passes based upon how many outputs you had. Depending on how many tracks were available and how many vocal tracks were estimated to be needed, you often had to do some submixing or you had to do what we called “hand offs.” Sometimes these would be printed through the console, other times it would be direct through the insert point or something, or just go straight into the recorder. It depended on the engineer and how much of a pain in the butt people wanted it to be.

Stacked hooks were often done on different reel, or a different section of the reel. Then they were submixed and sampled. Then on the main reel (or section where the final song was being tracked) they were sequenced and chased and then “flown” onto the tape on a pair of stereo tracks. Sometimes they were never actually printed because there just weren’t enough tracks and at mixdown they chased virtually. It also was not unheard of to having keyboard parts chasing time code at mixdown and were never actually printed to tape. Sometimes you had to do crazy stuff just to make a record back then.

I swear, my first experiences as a teenager in studios was closer to making records on a wax cylinder than it was to what we do today.

There wasn’t any magic to how we did it back then. That methodology didn’t make stuff sound better. In fact, it was more an exercise of trying to keep stuff from sounding worse. Analog tape caused the most problems – unless you actually wanted stuff distorted with disappearing highs it had no redeeming qualities, particularly with what’s available with today’s plugins. I really hated analog tape. A lot. I didn’t like ADATs that much better. I remember when I was still mainly an amateur and the Fostex D80 came out I dropped all my savings on one in a heartbeat. It was a total game changer for me. The non-linear functionality and editing and vastly superior sound quality (even with unbalanced connections!!!) was ridiculous. And tracking through a console a lot of those cheaper consoles the busses weren’t all that great, which is why a lot of the time they’d be bypassed and just go through the insert point, or just skip it altogether and go DI and right into the recorder – or if the preamps weren’t spectacular, skip the DI (depended upon the actual recorder if you could get connectivity). All the “magic” people talk about today with the consoles and the analog tape and stuff – we didn’t consider it magic back then, it was a curse we were always trying to work around!

Bear in mind that just emulating the signal flow will not get you the same sound. Part of the sound was the pain in the ass it was just working with the equipment and going through the annoying process. It affected how you worked and decisions you made that impacted the record.
Old 17th August 2020
  #5
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illynoise's Avatar
 

From someone who was poor? aka me?

We never layed any music to tape...just the vocals, we ran all outputs of the ASR10 or EPS live through the board so we could make edits on the fly.

I would always have a chorus first, sample it and fly it into the right sequence on the EPS16/ASR, and let the emcee go over the bed.

Early late 80's/early 90s we used FSK and a Alesis MMT8, which SUCKED. Finally had some affordable MTC boxes in the early 90s so we didn't have to go to the beginning of the track. Plus FSK was loud and bled through adjacent tracks.

We recorded mixes straight to Super VHS, which was pretty damn good before I could afford a DAT, or an ADAT.

Rappers would record over basic ass beats and I would go back build the beat around their verses. Almost like a remix.

I fed off of what the emcee was doing not vice versa. But lyrics and pocket was more important and we could get away with more basic beds back then.

It was fun. Big studio engineers learned a lot about the low end techniques we were doing. Sample time was at a premium. Innovation was a necessity to survival.
Old 17th August 2020
  #6
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illynoise's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hip Hop Head View Post
Hello.
I've seen some footage in a documentary where they stated that hip hop producers / beatmakers were very early adopters of digital tracking & mixing.
[/B]
In 94 I bought a 486CPU with a turtle beach sound card and it had a four track digital recorder. Sometimes just putting a compressor on a track took hours to accomplish. Literally going to dinner and coming back it was still going.

We wanted digital. Then ADAT saved the day. Changed the game. I sold a lot of Kenwood stereos to get one of those!
Old 18th August 2020
  #7
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by DAH View Post
Search for posts of t.dizzle, Will The Weirdo, Dave Pensado and several other engineers active in the biz at the time and posting here whose names escape me.
Thanks, will do. Already read through some old posts of these guys.
Old 18th August 2020
  #8
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by BIG BUDDHA View Post
yes we did.

in the early 90s the studio i worked in had a programmer who had an MPC-60.

we tracked it through a Neve Console and went direct to 2 inch tape.

the tape machine was a Studer A800mk3, and the tape was Ampex 456.

later we moved to Ampex 499 tape which was much the same.

the limitation was that you only had 24 tracks, so often times we submixed many tracks down to a stereo pair, and continued on.

i also set up an Atari with a Midex Plus SMPTE synk box, and sometimes if there was a lot going on we would put timecode on track 24, and run the midi direct to the desk and straight to the 2 track master.

by 1996 or so i set up an ADAT studio and 32 tracks (blackface) and track count was less of an issue, but the same techniques applied.

the big difference was that the ADATs were nothing like the 2 inch, and engineers had to adapt tracking techniques. and the tapes often chewed up.

i also used to sample loops direct from the 2 inch, off tape. a lot of those low fi loops come from engineers spinning off from a Q send, at 2 am under time pressure. so the balances are often rough. mono send as often as not.

Buddha
Thank you, appreciate the insight!

After you tracked the MPC through the console to tape, did you then mix the song by going from tape through a console again to tape or how did you do it?

After some research on the process I came across a few posts mentioning that a lot of beats were made on the MPC / SP and then tracked through sth. like a Mackie mixer to a cassette tape or from the MPC / SP to a 4 track recorder like a Tascam Portastudio.

The cassette was then used for mixing with a console to a master tape at a studio.

Came up with a slew of questions after reading this:
  • Can you verify or speak on that if you know anything about the aforementioned cassette workflow?
  • Is there any benefit to tracking to cassette?
  • Was that a common way to do it or only for the really low level productions?
  • Or was the beat basically tracked and mixed at the same time when it was recorded to cassette tape?
Old 18th August 2020
  #9
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by chris carter View Post
You made the beat and mixed an instrumental using a small format mixer (like a 1202, 1604, etc.) onto DAT. Then when it came time to track you hauled your sequencer/keyboards/sound modules/samplers into the studio. For 2 inch they striped SMPTE (along with a guard track) and you set your sequencer to chase. With ADAT/DA88 those machines could generate MTC directly and you chased that. Then you printed your tracks to tape in multiple passes based upon how many outputs you had. Depending on how many tracks were available and how many vocal tracks were estimated to be needed, you often had to do some submixing or you had to do what we called “hand offs.” Sometimes these would be printed through the console, other times it would be direct through the insert point or something, or just go straight into the recorder. It depended on the engineer and how much of a pain in the butt people wanted it to be.

Stacked hooks were often done on different reel, or a different section of the reel. Then they were submixed and sampled. Then on the main reel (or section where the final song was being tracked) they were sequenced and chased and then “flown” onto the tape on a pair of stereo tracks. Sometimes they were never actually printed because there just weren’t enough tracks and at mixdown they chased virtually. It also was not unheard of to having keyboard parts chasing time code at mixdown and were never actually printed to tape. Sometimes you had to do crazy stuff just to make a record back then.

I swear, my first experiences as a teenager in studios was closer to making records on a wax cylinder than it was to what we do today.

There wasn’t any magic to how we did it back then. That methodology didn’t make stuff sound better. In fact, it was more an exercise of trying to keep stuff from sounding worse. Analog tape caused the most problems – unless you actually wanted stuff distorted with disappearing highs it had no redeeming qualities, particularly with what’s available with today’s plugins. I really hated analog tape. A lot. I didn’t like ADATs that much better. I remember when I was still mainly an amateur and the Fostex D80 came out I dropped all my savings on one in a heartbeat. It was a total game changer for me. The non-linear functionality and editing and vastly superior sound quality (even with unbalanced connections!!!) was ridiculous. And tracking through a console a lot of those cheaper consoles the busses weren’t all that great, which is why a lot of the time they’d be bypassed and just go through the insert point, or just skip it altogether and go DI and right into the recorder – or if the preamps weren’t spectacular, skip the DI (depended upon the actual recorder if you could get connectivity). All the “magic” people talk about today with the consoles and the analog tape and stuff – we didn’t consider it magic back then, it was a curse we were always trying to work around!

Bear in mind that just emulating the signal flow will not get you the same sound. Part of the sound was the pain in the ass it was just working with the equipment and going through the annoying process. It affected how you worked and decisions you made that impacted the record.
Thank you for the detailed answer.

I understand that you dislike the analog workflow and know that you do things differently when working that way but how else would I go about achieving the sound I'm looking for.

The whole signal flow surely did have an impact on the sound. I mean just adding a tape emu plugin in my DAW makes things sound a little nicer. I know I know tape emu /= the real thing.

What would you suggest / recommend to emulate the 90s hip hop sound?

From the replies here I'd say the plugin order I listed in my original post is correct workflow-wise. Or would you go about it differently?

Of course I'm not just using the plugins only to program some trap drums and 808s while wondering "why doesn't this sound like the 90s?". I'm digging deep regarding sampling techniques, drum grooves and mixing styles. But I do believe the emulations get me closer to my desired sound.
Old 18th August 2020
  #10
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by illynoise View Post
From someone who was poor? aka me?

We never layed any music to tape...just the vocals, we ran all outputs of the ASR10 or EPS live through the board so we could make edits on the fly.

I would always have a chorus first, sample it and fly it into the right sequence on the EPS16/ASR, and let the emcee go over the bed.

Early late 80's/early 90s we used FSK and a Alesis MMT8, which SUCKED. Finally had some affordable MTC boxes in the early 90s so we didn't have to go to the beginning of the track. Plus FSK was loud and bled through adjacent tracks.

We recorded mixes straight to Super VHS, which was pretty damn good before I could afford a DAT, or an ADAT.

Rappers would record over basic ass beats and I would go back build the beat around their verses. Almost like a remix.

I fed off of what the emcee was doing not vice versa. But lyrics and pocket was more important and we could get away with more basic beds back then.

It was fun. Big studio engineers learned a lot about the low end techniques we were doing. Sample time was at a premium. Innovation was a necessity to survival.

Thanks for the reply.


Yes, sir. I'm researching and looking for advice on the high budget and low budget approach back then.

I actually find that a lot of the low budget songs from that era where well made despite lacking the higher end equipment.

I've listened to so many 90s underground songs. The sound is not polished but I love that lofi aesthetic.

In my reply to Buddha above I asked about tracking / recording with cassette recorders like the Tascam Portastudio. Did you use those at all or wasn't that a thing?

Never heard of the VHS method before but if it works it works.

If you are still into that style of music what are some things you'd recommend to achieve "that 90s" sound (very vague question, I know)?
Any plugins that make it easier or techniques that were often utilized?
Old 18th August 2020
  #11
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BIG BUDDHA's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hip Hop Head View Post

After you tracked the MPC through the console to tape, did you then mix the song by going from tape through a console again to tape or how did you do it?

After some research on the process I came across a few posts mentioning that a lot of beats were made on the MPC / SP and then tracked through sth. like a Mackie mixer to a cassette tape or from the MPC / SP to a 4 track recorder like a Tascam Portastudio.

The cassette was then used for mixing with a console to a master tape at a studio.

Came up with a slew of questions after reading this:
  • Can you verify or speak on that if you know anything about the aforementioned cassette workflow?
  • Is there any benefit to tracking to cassette?
  • Was that a common way to do it or only for the really low level productions?
  • Or was the beat basically tracked and mixed at the same time when it was recorded to cassette tape?
after the song went to Tape (2 inch) it was mixed back through the analog console to make the final master. the final mix went to Digital 2 track (DAT)

perhaps budget studios used Mackies and portastudios, but not a studio that had a Neve console. Neves are the rolls royce of audio.

cassettes were only used to make budget copies of the mix, to give to people to take home and listen. back then most studios could not burn CDs. that came later, so cassette was the easy option.

i never ever remember anyone in a real studio using cassette as a tracking format.

we did have those nakamichi cassette decks, which were theoretically the best, and later moved to the tascams.

the Low Fi sound that people like from the era is more related to the early 12 bitt samplers than anything else. those old Akai s-900s and 950s were grainy and noisy, so all that went to tape and ended up in the final mix.

also some pro studios had 2 inch machines with 18,000 hours on the heads, and often when the heads are worn the hi frequency goes away, especially if the technicians had not done a tape alignment for a few months. things get out of wack and the 2 inch can sound more low Fi.

if a good engineer takes a 2 inch to another studio and if the calibration is out, he will hear it in the Repro and ask for an alignment. most of is used to record 30 seconds of tones at 100hz, 1000hz and either 10 or 15k at the beginning of the Real, in case we needed a quick calibration.

ha ha. lots of information here. hope it helps your quest for knowledge.

Buddha
Old 18th August 2020
  #12
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BIG BUDDHA's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hip Hop Head View Post
In my reply to Buddha above I asked about tracking / recording with cassette recorders like the Tascam Portastudio. Did you use those at all or wasn't that a thing?
actually i bought a Tascam Porta 2 when they first came out, and used to record bands onto it, live in my house when i was just a kid and very much learning. the tape wow and flutter causes issues on these machines.

then i moved up to a Fostex R8 which is a 1/4 inch 8 track, and used that for about 5 years or so. home studio level.

if you want some sence of analog with reasonable quality the R8s still come up on reverb now and again. i saw one for a grand recently. much much better than any cassette deck.

Buddha
Old 18th August 2020
  #13
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hip Hop Head View Post
In my reply to Buddha above I asked about tracking / recording with cassette recorders like the Tascam Portastudio. Did you use those at all or wasn't that a thing?

Never heard of the VHS method before but if it works it works.
Man, this brings back memories. I had a Fostex280 cassette 4-track. That thing was insane for the time and was like the Ferrari of cassette 4-tracks. It had an 8 channel mixer, three band EQ with sweep-able mids. Tape outputs on every channel (which you could effectively use as insert points). Dolby C (instead of Tascam's crappy dbx NR). The B-side to my first label release was actually tracked on that thing. All MIDI parts chased time code and was never printed. But this was pretty rare except super underground stuff. There was a TON of independent label stuff done on 8 track RtoR. They typically did the same thing with all MIDI chasing at mixdown and only vocals and live instruments were recorded to tape.

The VHS thing was real and I actually did that before I got a DAT machine. I can't remember all the details, but you used HiFi VHS machines with S-VHS tapes if I recall correctly. They could record audio via the helical heads instead of using the linear audio-only heads. The sound quality was almost as good as DAT tape. That was a really common trick before the prices of DAT machines started coming down.

One things to bear in mind (referring back to your reply of my original response) is that it was mostly about the sounds and the workflow. But it was also UNPREDICTABLE. There was a lot of stuff you just had to accept because there was no way to make it better, or the equipment just couldn't pull off what you wanted. You just had to be flexible and roll with it. The decisions you made weren't necessarily about what you wanted to do, but more about what would the equipment LET YOU DO. That's why I say, just trying to emulate things in a DAW won't really get you there. If you REALLY want that sound, you need to emulate the human process. That had way more to do with the sound than the negative aspects of some analog consoles or tape machines. Luckily, most of the gear we used back then can be had really really cheap. Grab yourself an 8-track machine and a 16 channel mixer and have at it. You'll get that sound pretty damn easily. If you want to really have fun, most of the very indie stuff was Alesis 3630 and dbx 266 & 160 compressors. Effects were mostly Yamaha SPX90 and Alesis midiverb/quadraverb. These boxes were in every budget studio.

I have had occasions where I really had to emulate an old sound and do it in a DAW. I honestly never really relied on tape emus and stuff. I relied on process. But I'm barely old enough to have had to do it the old way, so I inherently know how to limit myself and do it the same way I would have long ago. But if you never had to do that, you would have a hard time.
Old 18th August 2020
  #14
Gear Head
 

Workflow wise, there was a thing that required patience in recording session using tape (or Adat): you had to rewind tape after each take lol
Old 18th August 2020
  #15
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by BIG BUDDHA View Post
after the song went to Tape (2 inch) it was mixed back through the analog console to make the final master. the final mix went to Digital 2 track (DAT)

perhaps budget studios used Mackies and portastudios, but not a studio that had a Neve console. Neves are the rolls royce of audio.

cassettes were only used to make budget copies of the mix, to give to people to take home and listen. back then most studios could not burn CDs. that came later, so cassette was the easy option.

i never ever remember anyone in a real studio using cassette as a tracking format.

we did have those nakamichi cassette decks, which were theoretically the best, and later moved to the tascams.

the Low Fi sound that people like from the era is more related to the early 12 bitt samplers than anything else. those old Akai s-900s and 950s were grainy and noisy, so all that went to tape and ended up in the final mix.

also some pro studios had 2 inch machines with 18,000 hours on the heads, and often when the heads are worn the hi frequency goes away, especially if the technicians had not done a tape alignment for a few months. things get out of wack and the 2 inch can sound more low Fi.

if a good engineer takes a 2 inch to another studio and if the calibration is out, he will hear it in the Repro and ask for an alignment. most of is used to record 30 seconds of tones at 100hz, 1000hz and either 10 or 15k at the beginning of the Real, in case we needed a quick calibration.

ha ha. lots of information here. hope it helps your quest for knowledge.

Buddha
Man, thanks again for all the info. That clears up some things.

I thought about getting that SP950 plugin that came out not too long ago (emulates SP1200 + S950 combo) to get that 12 bit vibe. Altho I'm content with the grit that my 2000XL has despite being 16 bit.

From the answers I gathered that the tape & console emus aren't important but imo they do give a really nice sounding result.
It may have been a PITA to use back then but with the emus I'm not complaining .
Old 18th August 2020
  #16
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by chris carter View Post
Man, this brings back memories. I had a Fostex280 cassette 4-track. That thing was insane for the time and was like the Ferrari of cassette 4-tracks. It had an 8 channel mixer, three band EQ with sweep-able mids. Tape outputs on every channel (which you could effectively use as insert points). Dolby C (instead of Tascam's crappy dbx NR). The B-side to my first label release was actually tracked on that thing. All MIDI parts chased time code and was never printed. But this was pretty rare except super underground stuff. There was a TON of independent label stuff done on 8 track RtoR. They typically did the same thing with all MIDI chasing at mixdown and only vocals and live instruments were recorded to tape.

The VHS thing was real and I actually did that before I got a DAT machine. I can't remember all the details, but you used HiFi VHS machines with S-VHS tapes if I recall correctly. They could record audio via the helical heads instead of using the linear audio-only heads. The sound quality was almost as good as DAT tape. That was a really common trick before the prices of DAT machines started coming down.

One things to bear in mind (referring back to your reply of my original response) is that it was mostly about the sounds and the workflow. But it was also UNPREDICTABLE. There was a lot of stuff you just had to accept because there was no way to make it better, or the equipment just couldn't pull off what you wanted. You just had to be flexible and roll with it. The decisions you made weren't necessarily about what you wanted to do, but more about what would the equipment LET YOU DO. That's why I say, just trying to emulate things in a DAW won't really get you there. If you REALLY want that sound, you need to emulate the human process. That had way more to do with the sound than the negative aspects of some analog consoles or tape machines. Luckily, most of the gear we used back then can be had really really cheap. Grab yourself an 8-track machine and a 16 channel mixer and have at it. You'll get that sound pretty damn easily. If you want to really have fun, most of the very indie stuff was Alesis 3630 and dbx 266 & 160 compressors. Effects were mostly Yamaha SPX90 and Alesis midiverb/quadraverb. These boxes were in every budget studio.

I have had occasions where I really had to emulate an old sound and do it in a DAW. I honestly never really relied on tape emus and stuff. I relied on process. But I'm barely old enough to have had to do it the old way, so I inherently know how to limit myself and do it the same way I would have long ago. But if you never had to do that, you would have a hard time.
Thanks for detailed reply. I, of course, have more questions now. Appreciate your time.

Quote:
They typically did the same thing with all MIDI chasing at mixdown and only vocals and live instruments were recorded to tape.
If I'm understanding this correctly, all the MIDI equipment was hooked up to the console along with a tape machine that contained vocals and/or live instruments. So you mixed tape machines and other hardware through the console to a master tape, right?


I might go for an old school setup in the future but right now I'd like to keep equipment to a minimum and stay ITB for mixing.

If I would go for an old school setup:
What's a good 8 track recorder you'd recommend? Cassette or digital or doesn't matter?


The thing that got me onto that whole cassette recorder for tracking & mixing were some posts and videos by boom bap and lofi heads. They used 4 track cassette recorders to mix and record their beats to cassette and then digitized.

So, the whole cassette recorder thing was basically a low budget option for people who wanted to make beats but couldn't afford a studio?


When you say you relied on process to get that old sound, what do you mean?
Like how many tracks you use or how many effects you apply?
Old 18th August 2020
  #17
Lives for gear
 

the mpc60 and mpc60 ii made their debut in the 1980s. the 4x4 drum pad grid, excellent timing, sampling, smpte, and midi capabilities made them strong successes.

in the early 90s, the mpc3000 built on that model with 16 bit sampling and more memory. it was very common during that time to get your beats down on the mpc, get some keyboard hooks, and then go into an SSL studio to put it all together and put the vocals down. tape was still largely in use. the smpte feature of the mpc allowed it to sync to tape. that way you could use one of the tape's 24 tracks for smpte (you would have to print smpte timecode to a track), allowing the 23 remaining tracks for recording. the mpc3000 had 8 outputs, and those would typically be routed to the console, giving you 31 effective tracks. the mixing consoles tended to have many more tracks and inputs than 24 tracks. 48 and 96 track consoles were prevalent.

you could print the mpc sounds to tape, but smpte allowed you to avoid a bounce to tape and kept 23 tracks open for recording. big studios at that time sometimes had a pair of 24 track machines synced with smpte. but that was mostly for big r&b productions with intense vocal layering. for most rap productions, a 24 track machine and an mpc was enough.

over time, protools replaced tape. in the beginning, protools was seen mostly as a non-linear editor. you would track, edit, and organize in protools, but you would still mix on the big SSL. this would cover the late 90s, early 2000s period.

as the 2000s went on, budgets shrank, and protools improved (most importantly the effects and sound quality). the mixing work (not just tracking and editing) went more and more inside the box. once things got more inside the box, the mpc started to be seen as a preference more than a necessity.

now, fruityloops (FL studio) is where up and coming rap beat makers are doing a lot of their work. an mpc-style box is completely preference at this point, even a bit eccentric.

Last edited by gearstudent; 18th August 2020 at 07:21 PM..
Old 18th August 2020
  #18
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by gearstudent View Post
the mpc60 and mpc60 ii made their debut in the 1980s. the 4x4 drum pad grid, excellent timing, sampling, smpte, and midi capabilities made them strong successes.

in the early 90s, the mpc3000 built on that model with 16 bit sampling and more memory. it was very common during that time to get your beats down on the mpc, get some keyboard hooks, and then go into an SSL studio to put it all together and put the vocals down. tape was still largely in use. the smpte feature of the mpc allowed it to sync to tape. that way you could use one of the tape's 24 tracks for smpte (you would have to print smpte timecode to a track), allowing the 23 remaining tracks for recording. the mpc3000 had 8 outputs, and those would typically be routed to the console, giving you 31 effective tracks. the mixing consoles tended to have many more tracks and inputs than 24 tracks. 48 and 96 track consoles were prevalent.

you could print the mpc sounds to tape, but smpte allowed you to avoid a bounce to tape and kept 23 tracks open for recording. big studios at that time sometimes had a pair of 24 track machines synced with smpte. but that was mostly for big r&b productions with intense vocal layering. for most rap productions, a 24 track machine and an mpc was enough.

over time, protools replaced tape. in the beginning, protools was seen mostly as a non-linear editor. you would track, edit, and organize in protools, but you would still mix on the big SSL. this would cover the late 90s, early 2000s period.

as the 2000s went on, budgets shrank, and protools improved (most importantly the effects and sound quality). the mixing work (not just tracking and editing) went more and more inside the box. once things got more inside the box, the mpc started to be seen as a preference more than a necessity.

now, fruityloops (FL studio) is where up and coming rap beat makers are doing a lot of their work. an mpc-style box is completely preference at this point, even a bit eccentric.
Detailed but concise. Thanks, man!

So, if I understood you correctly, bouncing from the MPC to tape for mixing was avoided to have more free tracks to record other things?

Never thought that hip hop productions had such intricate beats back then which required 24 tracks.


I use a MPC 2000XL because I wanted to understand how the beatmaking process was back then and it definitely provides a different feel + sound. Might be eccentric but it's dope.

For mixing however I want to stay ITB for now. Do you have any plugin or emulation recommendations by any chance?
Old 18th August 2020
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hip Hop Head View Post
Detailed but concise. Thanks, man!

So, if I understood you correctly, bouncing from the MPC to tape for mixing was avoided to have more free tracks to record other things?
This was really the exception to the rule and only as a last resort when tracking to 24tk 2" tape. You got 22 tracks (24 was SMPTE and 23 was a guard track because SMPTE would bleed like a mofo). If you had more parts than available tracks (leaving room for vox), then you did "hand-offs" and/or you would submix some stuff before printing. Sometimes if you HAD to mix with MIDI chasing you would keep two tracks open and mix with MIDI chasing and then once you had a good mix you'd go and buss all the MIDI channels to those two open tracks and make a submix. There were other weird techniques - it was just a matter of how creative and nerdy you could get. Labels preferred to have EVERYTHING on tape one way or another - but you did what you had to do. If you had stupid money, you sync'd up two 24tk machines, but most hip-hop didn't fall into that category.

Chasing MIDI during mixdown as REALLY common with 8tk machines and was often never printed even. 16tk machines it also happened, but not as much.

Basically, you worked with what you had and found creative solutions whenever you could.
Old 18th August 2020
  #20
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BIG BUDDHA's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hip Hop Head View Post
So, the whole cassette recorder thing was basically a low budget option for people who wanted to make beats but couldn't afford a studio?
that would generally be the case.

people did print demos at home on porta studios, or whatever they had.

if a small record company liked the demos, they would front a budget, and get the Act into some type of budget studio. bigger record companies had more budget and could book better studios. thats how it was.

some of the cheeper studios were pretty modest and not to well equiped. 16 track was pretty common back then on 1/2 inch analog tape. the older machines had poor noise reduction. by about the G series Fostex 1/2 inch the quality was improving. i remember dolby C as being of assistance.

top end studios often had Neve or SSLs, and generally 2 inch Studers, and some of those also had the early Mitsubishi 32 track digital tape machines.

if you want to get some Tape Vibe at low cost, from a plug, i would recommend UAD ATR-102.

i still own a 2 inch Studer today, and love it, but ATR-102 will sort most peoples needs.

its the closest thing i have found to the sound of Tape.

good luck. Buddha
Attached Thumbnails
How was the general workflow in the 90s / early 00s?-studer-a800.jpg  
Old 19th August 2020
  #21
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by chris carter View Post
This was really the exception to the rule and only as a last resort when tracking to 24tk 2" tape. You got 22 tracks (24 was SMPTE and 23 was a guard track because SMPTE would bleed like a mofo). If you had more parts than available tracks (leaving room for vox), then you did "hand-offs" and/or you would submix some stuff before printing. Sometimes if you HAD to mix with MIDI chasing you would keep two tracks open and mix with MIDI chasing and then once you had a good mix you'd go and buss all the MIDI channels to those two open tracks and make a submix. There were other weird techniques - it was just a matter of how creative and nerdy you could get. Labels preferred to have EVERYTHING on tape one way or another - but you did what you had to do. If you had stupid money, you sync'd up two 24tk machines, but most hip-hop didn't fall into that category.

Chasing MIDI during mixdown as REALLY common with 8tk machines and was often never printed even. 16tk machines it also happened, but not as much.

Basically, you worked with what you had and found creative solutions whenever you could.
Thanks again. Regarding the print terminology:

Does the term "printing" refer to the process of recording to tape before mixdown?

I ask because you write "often never printed".
But the MIDI would get recorded to tape at the end eventually or am I misunderstanding sth?
I assume that printing happens before mixing.
Old 19th August 2020
  #22
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by BIG BUDDHA View Post
that would generally be the case.

people did print demos at home on porta studios, or whatever they had.

if a small record company liked the demos, they would front a budget, and get the Act into some type of budget studio. bigger record companies had more budget and could book better studios. thats how it was.

some of the cheeper studios were pretty modest and not to well equiped. 16 track was pretty common back then on 1/2 inch analog tape. the older machines had poor noise reduction. by about the G series Fostex 1/2 inch the quality was improving. i remember dolby C as being of assistance.

top end studios often had Neve or SSLs, and generally 2 inch Studers, and some of those also had the early Mitsubishi 32 track digital tape machines.

if you want to get some Tape Vibe at low cost, from a plug, i would recommend UAD ATR-102.

i still own a 2 inch Studer today, and love it, but ATR-102 will sort most peoples needs.

its the closest thing i have found to the sound of Tape.

good luck. Buddha
Thank you. 349$ is a little bit pricey tho.

I watched some videos where they put the tape plugin on all tracks plus master but not on busses.

Would you recommend this or is that too much?

Now that I've learned that MIDI chasing was a thing I'd put the master tape plugin on the master and my "regular" tape plugin ( Blackrooster Audio Magnetite ) on instruments but leave drums as is.

I know there's no definitive answer. Just looking for a general guideline.
Old 19th August 2020
  #23
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BIG BUDDHA's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hip Hop Head View Post
Thank you. 349$ is a little bit pricey tho.

.
UAD have these sales a couple of times a year and then their plugs are about 1/2 the generally quoted price. but they are still expensive for sure.

i would just put the plugs on the individual tracks that need them.

then you can add a stereo version on the master Buss (final output) and see if things sound better or worse.

sometimes it helps and sometimes it doesnt.

good luck..

Buddha
Old 19th August 2020
  #24
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BIG BUDDHA's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hip Hop Head View Post
Thanks again. Regarding the print terminology:

Does the term "printing" refer to the process of recording to tape before mixdown?

I ask because you write "often never printed".
But the MIDI would get recorded to tape at the end eventually or am I misunderstanding sth?
I assume that printing happens before mixing.
Printing is actually recording to Tape. ( maybe the 24 track analog machine)

if you dont print to Tape, then you just run the Midi Synths direct into the mixer, and direct into the final mix.

the vocals and raps and guitars get recorded to tape because you have to.

the synths can be left Off Tape if you want to, to save tracks.

then when you mix, the synths and drum machines and anything midi can go through the console and direct to the 2 track master (final mix).

we generally only did this we ran short of tracks.

you save the sequence (midi data) in your DAW so you can bring it back again should you need to, and the vocals are safe on Tape.

its kind of like running instruments in Logic in parallel with audio tracks. the instruments are running live to the final outputs.

hope this helps. Buddha
Old 19th August 2020
  #25
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by BIG BUDDHA View Post
UAD have these sales a couple of times a year and then their plugs are about 1/2 the generally quoted price. but they are still expensive for sure.

i would just put the plugs on the individual tracks that need them.

then you can add a stereo version on the master Buss (final output) and see if things sound better or worse.

sometimes it helps and sometimes it doesnt.

good luck..

Buddha

Quote:
Originally Posted by BIG BUDDHA View Post
Printing is actually recording to Tape. ( maybe the 24 track analog machine)

if you dont print to Tape, then you just run the Midi Synths direct into the mixer, and direct into the final mix.

the vocals and raps and guitars get recorded to tape because you have to.

the synths can be left Off Tape if you want to, to save tracks.

then when you mix, the synths and drum machines and anything midi can go through the console and direct to the 2 track master (final mix).

we generally only did this we ran short of tracks.

you save the sequence (midi data) in your DAW so you can bring it back again should you need to, and the vocals are safe on Tape.

its kind of like running instruments in Logic in parallel with audio tracks. the instruments are running live to the final outputs.

hope this helps. Buddha
Many thanks for all the info.

I think I understand the workflow now.
Old 19th August 2020
  #26
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BIG BUDDHA's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hip Hop Head View Post
Many thanks for all the info.

I think I understand the workflow now.
well i am glad to hear that.

excellent news. good luck man. keep at it...

Buddha
Old 19th August 2020
  #27
DAH
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DAH's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hip Hop Head View Post
Thank you, appreciate the insight!

After you tracked the MPC through the console to tape, did you then mix the song by going from tape through a console again to tape or how did you do it?

After some research on the process I came across a few posts mentioning that a lot of beats were made on the MPC / SP and then tracked through sth. like a Mackie mixer to a cassette tape or from the MPC / SP to a 4 track recorder like a Tascam Portastudio.

The cassette was then used for mixing with a console to a master tape at a studio.

Came up with a slew of questions after reading this:
  • Can you verify or speak on that if you know anything about the aforementioned cassette workflow?
  • Is there any benefit to tracking to cassette?
  • Was that a common way to do it or only for the really low level productions?
  • Or was the beat basically tracked and mixed at the same time when it was recorded to cassette tape?
Why would anybody track to cassette, if they could bring the sequencing machine to the studio? Maybe a very low-profile project.
Old 20th August 2020
  #28
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by DAH View Post
Why would anybody track to cassette, if they could bring the sequencing machine to the studio? Maybe a very low-profile project.
I don't know. I got that info from random forum posts and various lofi / boom bap videos where they used 4 track cassette recorders to mix, record and digitize their beats.
It does have an appeal for sure. It has that kind of raw, lofi, independent hustle vibe.
Old 23rd August 2020
  #29
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illynoise's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hip Hop Head View Post
Thanks again. Regarding the print terminology:

Does the term "printing" refer to the process of recording to tape before mixdown?

I ask because you write "often never printed".
But the MIDI would get recorded to tape at the end eventually or am I misunderstanding sth?
I assume that printing happens before mixing.
Even in the big studios we ran the midi live through a neve, then mixed live to DAT. Idk why we didn't print to tape, but I guess because we never did that in the home studio. Also I liked to make edits on the ASR10 in song mode, so we would have to re record it. I think an ampex Tape was a couple of hundred and studio time was about 100 an hour with the engineer an additional 60 an hour. So at 160 an hour we only had about 8 hours to get a couple of songs recorded and mixed.

So some of the budget philosophies carried over and running the midi live, probably through some sort of compression or maybe just straight to the dat was how I remember doing it.

And obviously to a cassette tape as a master so we could listen to it in the car!
Old 25th August 2020
  #30
Gear Maniac
 
TikkoRome's Avatar
While many of the older engineers on here, whom most likely were more rock centered at the time but had rap clients coming in, will tell you to run the tracks from MPC to recorder/DAW individually; Id lean more toward a stereo mix into DAW. Not that they're wrong, from a professional expert position, that's what's best... but you're not asking how to create a pristine pop record. You're asking about getting into a retro style.

When I began making rap records in my early teens with my older cousin's best friend, all we had at first was a 4-track cassette recorder, 2 Technic 1200s, a Vestax PCM DJ battle mixer, an Ensoniq ASR X Pro sampler, a Digitech guitar fx pedal, a Yamaha DJX keyboard, and a bunch of record crates. The entire beat was made on the sampler and took up 2 of our 4 tracks (for stereo) and we had 1 more track for vocals and the last was for a backup vocal track.
The first big upgrade was to the Yamaha AW2816 16-track digital recorder which, around 2001 or 02 when I bought it, was a big ****ing deal. Despite having 12 more tracks than we had before the upgrade, we still ran the sampler into the recorder in stereo. After getting familiar with the gear, we synced up the sampler and recorder so that the sampler would play through 2 channels while recording vocals. This gave my producer the ability to hear how the vocals sat in the mix and make adjustments on the sampler before finally recording the sampler in stereo onto 2 of the available tracks.
While there is no right or wrong answer, tracking the beat this way gave it a certain dense sound that was changed when we'd record the parts onto separate tracks and glue it together in the mix.
When we moved from there to Neundo, we still continued to do it this way specifically for the sake of a particular sound that resulted from doing it this way, which was preferable to the sound of routing the beat parts through separate channels.
However, there were times that we chose to send sampler tracks into the recorder/DAW separately. Sometimes we'd come up with an idea for an effect that required separate processing. Even then though, whenever possible we'd send it back to the sampler if the effect could have the desired effect while only being applied to a short sample, mix the beat on the sampler playing through stereo channels in the DAW or recorder so that we could get the vocals to sit in the beat right.. then track the beat through a single stereo channel.

It takes some work and I urge you to take the time to sync your sampler with the DAW/interface so that the sampler plays when you hit play on your DAW, but there's a sonic difference and that it sounds like you're looking for and that'll help you get there.
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