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Rudy Van Gelder... or is this forum too Rock & Roll? Effects Pedals, Units & Accessories
Old 5th December 2002
  #1
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Remoteness's Avatar
Talking Rudy Van Gelder... or is this forum too Rock & Roll?

To many Rudy Van Gelder is, the greatest recording engineer in jazz history. He was responsible for just about every session on Blue Note Records in the 50's & 60's. What about all the CTI records in the 70's? Plus all the work he did with Verve, Impulse!, Prestige... tons of stuff, even to this day.

His signature sound is rich, natural with perfect crystal clear separation between the instruments.

But, how did he do it? That's still a mystery.

Why do you think he's so protective of his mic placement and studio techniques?

Will we ever know, how he did it?
Old 6th December 2002
  #2
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I heard the guy would put up extra "dummy" mics in the room and on the kit just to throw people off of what he was really doing...

anyone have any know how?
Old 6th December 2002
  #3
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mdbeh's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by JayCrouch
I heard the guy would put up extra "dummy" mics in the room and on the kit just to throw people off of what he was really doing...
...and he'd have two sets of monitors, one for him and one for everyone else, to keep people from watching him too closely.

With all the sessions he's done over the years, though, you'd think someone would have gleaned something.

Maybe we'll hear...
Old 6th December 2002
  #4
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from what I've heard he only recorded in the studio he built into his house - somewhere out in Jersey

I was told it was big rooms with heavy drapery covering the walls...

I too love the tone of alot of his work, if not all - yet I think alot of it has to do with great players, great sounds, probbably good rooms - and track counts of 8 and under....
Old 6th December 2002
  #5
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Yeah, you figure someone would pick up something with over 1900 records recorded and/or mixed under his belt.

He was an optometrist and got into recording as a hobby. He set up a studio in his folk's home in NJ in the 50s. In the early 60s he moved his operation and built a new studio in Englewood Cliffs, NJ, where he still records his work today.

An artist I worked with, told me he clears everyone out of the studio before he sets his mics up....
Old 6th December 2002
  #6
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I seem to remember someone saying that no one talks about the multiple 670's that he had in his control room...
Old 7th December 2002
  #7
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Rudy VG

Hey Guys,

The Blue Note reissue series has its own forum and one of the MANY discussion boards is dedicated to the man himself RVG. The subject of his recording techniques has come up many times and I have tried to get any available details from this resource with almost no luck.

The general consensus over there is that RVG was amazingly private (or secretive, depending on your PC quotient) about his work and that there is almost no photographic evidence of gear, mic positioning, etc. Anyone who can offer up some will be a hero.

here's the url:
www.bluenote.com/bulletinboard/

oops try this one instead:

http://www.bluenote.com/bulletinboar...?ubb=forum&f=6
steve
[email protected]
Old 7th December 2002
  #8
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I have a Mingus CD that was recorded by RVG and it has pictures of Mingus in the studio. It might not be his studio though and I don't remember seeing any equipment worth mentioning. I've thought about trying to book some time with him to record my stuff and observe. But, I probably couldn't pull it off now because my chops are bad. If I had thought of it about five years ago when I was fresh off college and playing and studying every day I might've been able to fake my way through some semi-respectable standards. Now I'm lucky to pull of Louie Louie without a clam.
grudge
Well, maybe I'm not that bad but still. I used to be a musician, now I just record them.
Old 7th December 2002
  #9
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RVG

I've thought about trying to book some time with him to record my stuff and observe.
***********************

This is another idea that has actually been done by a few folks over on the Blue Note forums. The bad news is that Rudy has kept up with the times and booking a session with him today will provide almost no info about a typical session circa '62. And, if I remember correctly, he has little interest in talking about the tech details of long ago recordings. But it IS the same room and the same guy, so it still might be worth a try......


steve
Old 8th December 2002
  #10
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Steve Smith's Avatar
 

if not for the title, this reads like a steely dan thread

we need an insider! anyone? anyone?
Old 9th December 2002
  #11
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Mike O's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by Remoteness
Yeah, you figure someone would pick up something with over 1900 records recorded and/or mixed under his belt.

An artist I worked with, told me he clears everyone out of the studio before he sets his mics up....
You have to believe that the musicians he records respect him immensely - on a purely personal level. Otherwise they would say something....to somebody. So many have been there 20 times or more....

With that many recordings, there must have been between 5 and 10 thousand people in there for many hours each. Maybe a lot more.

You would think that at least some of he '70s progressive guys (Herbie, Billy C., etc.) would have picked up a few things and tried to transfer them to some of there other recordings with others. Perhaps they have, who knows......

Seems to me that the CTI artists would have HAD to be more involved in the recording process than maybe the Blue Note stuff. For an example take a listen to Milt Jackson - Sunflowers. The Rhodes and and Freddie H. trumpet have lots of delay etc. Hard to believe there was not some colaboration. I don't suppose that anybody knows whether he was multi-tracking during this period?

One thing for sure.....those musicians could definately hear each other VERY well. Either in the cans, or set up in the room just right. Interaction is incredible.
Old 2nd January 2003
  #12
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I remember working with a bass player who worked in his studio and recalled not liking it because he was "obliged" to play through an amp and from what he told me, the musicians were uncomfortably far away from each other (in his opinion). The rooms are big with a good critical distance factor, I remember seeing pictures with armstrong acoustic tiles on the walls, maybe he has curtains to control the space a little. Ive seen pictures of a tenor saxophone player with an RCA 44 on top and a U-48 on the bell and another of a drummer with a tear in the kikdrumskin with one mic(?) overhead. I've never seen any pictures of any one with headphones on (all photos ca. 60's).
Someone came to me once to fix a problem. There was a sax so far into a compressor that it was just horrible, it was a 2track and there was no fixing to be done. Both of these projects I write about I believe were non-label.
On the basis of these experiences and the photos I've always assumed that the good critical distance factor of the space, the inverse square law, the bass amp and probable studio monitors, good mics and aggressive compression were the foundations of his sound and the stupendous perfomances.
The musicians can hear each other, (jammin) definitely with a bass amp and probably with studio monitors, nobody would ever have problems hearing a drummer. A comfy little mix, no reflections from the studio, careful mic. placing etc... Watch and know what the musicians are up to, Take notes
If I'm doing Jazz, Classical or other types of acoustic music, I try to work it the same way, the acoustics of the space (not too much reverb or early reflection), instrument placement, mic placement and performers who hear themselves similarly or better than when they're rehearsing make for good recordings of this type of music.
From what I hear on records by him is a group mic. with spots for the different instruments, it's very apparent around the bass solos.
Happy New Year
Old 13th January 2003
  #13
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Remoteness's Avatar
Here's a hyper link to an article in Recording Engineer/Producer back in 1992...

Rudy Van Gelder in REP circa 1992

Check it out, if you haven't already. I grabed it from another GS thread about RVG.

Here's that other GS thread...

Anyone know what Rudy Van Gelder is recording with?
Old 13th January 2003
  #14
Han
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There is a book with pictures about the Kind of Blue recordings.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/...118891-9839843
Old 14th January 2003
  #15
One with big hooves
 
Jay Kahrs's Avatar
That interview is kind of interesting. Very short and to the point. So it's gotta be the room right? Hmmm....
Old 26th September 2004
  #16
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I'm a little late to this discussion, but I wanted to mention that I heard a rebroadcast of an interview Rudy did with David Dye of the Wolrd Cafe yesterday. Rudy mentioned that he had no particular love for vinyl, OR CD's, and that he works in the digital domain these days. He also stated that in the early days, he built a lot of the gear that he used to record artists...mentioned that it was easy for him because he had assembled a lot of Heathkit projects, and saw the recording gear sorta like another Heathkit project.

Who knows what he built and actually used in those days. He definitely didn't seem to keen on discussing those particulars. For anyone in the listening area, Conversations is a great show, and David Dye asks pretty strong questions more often than not. Here's a link

http://www.worldcafe.org/conversations.php

Arguably, the best radio show I can pick up here in MD.
Old 26th September 2004
  #17
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He was famous for kicking musicians out or cancelling the rest of the date if any musician touch any gear. There was a story about how Herbie Hancock touched a volume knob on the board and RVG got so infuriated he quit the session and said Herbie would never again be welcome. I don't know how long THAT admonition lasted. But then again Dave Liebmman told me that once RVG inadvertently erased a track from a cherished session that infuriated the musicians. He found it funny that the perfectionist ****ed up.
Old 26th September 2004
  #18
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I just got the 'Temples of Sound' book a few days ago. Incredible! The pics alone are worth the price of admission. There's a chapter on Mr. Van Gelder that, while not revealing any secrets, gives an impression of the vibe coming off the man. He used to wear white gloves while handling mics to prevent any traces of oil on them and had a strict non-smoking rule for the control room. You get the impression that he was/is very meticulous and the room was obviously awesome.
But there's another thing that I noticed: Preparation. As you know, back in the day he did both Prestige and Blue Note sessions. It's been often mentioned that an artist like John Coltrane really bloomed once he started working for Blue Note with the 'Blue Train' album. In most cases, the sonics of the Blue Note album/CDs were much better than the Prestige ones. Somebody once said that the difference between a Blue Note and a Prestige date were 2 days of rehearsal....I could imagine that a large part of the Van Gelder magic was a matter of having well-prepared, great musicians in an incredible room with enough time to set up the perfect balance and sound: And remember that all the classic 50/60s Blue Note sessions were done straight to tape with no additional mixing.
It would be interesting to know if the musician's were rehearsing in the studio? Or was this done somewhere else ? Even if it's true that the musician's had to leave the studio while he set the mics up there still must have been a consensus how say a horn player was placed or approached the mic. I'm pretty sure that he didn't blindfold the players so there must be people out there with at least SOME idea about his methods. Or were they sworn to secrecy?
BTW, the story I heard about Herbie Hancock was that he dared to adjust the lid of the piano between takes only to get a stern 'DON'T TOUCH!' instruction from Van Gelder. Never would he touch anything again!

Andi
Old 27th September 2004
  #19
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I'm so back and forth on that guy (the attitude, not the results). There's a new article in the most recent TapeOp in which he comes of as very reasonable, and his reticence to discuss methodology even makes sense. It seems like he just doesn't want to have his named dragged into an endorsement. Of product OR technique.

On the other hand, he's not working the way he used to, so why not talk about how it used to go down? No one seems to care about the records he's making now.
Old 28th September 2004
  #20
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RVG for guest moderator !!!!




Herwig
Old 29th September 2004
  #21
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No one seems to care about the records he's making now.

I only sorta agree. When it comes to new recordings, true, mostly because few of us even know if we have heard any of his new work. But there is more than a little interest in his remastering of his classis Blue Note recordings. The relative success of the RVG reissue series is one of the main topics on many jazz and audiophile related forums. And its hard to find two people who agree with results of his work: I don't feel qualified to comment because I had very limited exposure to jazz during the vinyl era, and the RVG series reissues are the only versions that I have ever owned. I really need to get my turntable out of storage and set up again; I'd like to become as familiar with the vinyl version of some of these jazz recordings as I am with the 1st hundred or so rock records I bought back in my youth. (when you would do nothing but sit and listen to records for hours, day after day.) Only when I am as familiar with Blue Note vinyl as I am with my core colection of rock vinyl, will I be able to confidently judge the remastered RVG versus the originals. Man, did I ever go off on a tangent........
Old 1st October 2004
  #22
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Just thought I'd represent the other side and say that I'm not really a big fan of the Blue Note recordings. However, I wonder if the problem could be that I've never heard any of the original pressings.

I find many of the CDs (particularly Blue Trane) just seem way to trebly and harsh for my tastes - the ear quickly fatigues. It just doesn't seem to be a natural presentation at all. I find the Columbia recordings of the same time much less tiresome with an altogether more cohesive sound.

Anyone else agree?

Douglas.
Old 1st October 2004
  #23
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Yeah I more or less agree. I've never really understood the idolatry for RVG. I think it's more with the great records he's recorded rather than the quality of the recordings. I much prefer the sonic signatures of Columbia and Atlantic with Tom Dowd, especially Charles Mingus' "Blues and Roots", "Ah Um" on Columbia just kicks major ass as far as I'm concerned. Miles' "Kinda Blue" and "Round Midnight" are examples way beyond Blue Notes sound in my opinion. RVG is harsh is comparsison.
Old 1st October 2004
  #24
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally posted by henryrobinett
Yeah I more or less agree. I've never really understood the idolatry for RVG. I think it's more with the great records he's recorded rather than the quality of the recordings.
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. OK
Old 1st October 2004
  #25
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?
Old 1st October 2004
  #26
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He's recorded many, many classic jazz albums that sonically aren't that great. The musicianship and the music is phenomenal though.
Old 1st October 2004
  #27
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I would hope you can differentiate between great music and great recordings. You can have great music recorded poorly and music that sucks ass recorded greatly. I think RVG's fame came more from his association with Blue Note/Prestige and the great MUSIC associated with those labels rather than his artistry independant of that. But that's just an opinion. When you record people like Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderly, Horace Silver, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Chick Corea, Bobby Hutcherson, etc. it's easy to get confused in the parade of geniuses. Those records have been played SO MUCH the sound is associated, whether that SOUND is good or bad. But the music has rarely been called into question. But the two are mutually exclusive.
Old 1st October 2004
  #28
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just so you know - I wasn't questioning you, henry.
Old 1st October 2004
  #29
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Quote:
Originally posted by henryrobinett
I would hope you can differentiate between great music and great recordings. You can have great music recorded poorly and music that sucks ass recorded greatly. I think RVG's fame came more from his association with Blue Note/Prestige and the great MUSIC associated with those labels rather than his artistry independant of that. But that's just an opinion. When you record people like Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderly, Horace Silver, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Chick Corea, Bobby Hutcherson, etc. it's easy to get confused in the parade of geniuses. Those records have been played SO MUCH the sound is associated, whether that SOUND is good or bad. But the music has rarely been called into question. But the two are mutually exclusive.
This is an absolute truth regardless of genre, and also explains why a lot of us love some really CRAP records because the drums sound so good.
Old 1st October 2004
  #30
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Well said, Henry!
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