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Sinatra & the Impact of Sound Dynamic Microphones
Old 7th May 2003
  #1
The Distressor's "daddy"
 
Dave Derr's Avatar
 

Talking Sinatra & the Impact of Sound

Its late late here in NYC metro area and something that has been on my mind for years is about to come spewing forth. Its a very strange thread here...

Frank Sinatra must get played 100,000 times a day around the world... and I dont think its going to change for a long... long time. Besides the songs, and the enigma of the man, theres something goin on.

Does the sound of his records, his voice, the arrangements strike all of you like it does me every time I hear them? Even tho his songs have a universal element to them lyrically, his appeal rests on the sound of his voice, the emotional edge of it without emoting, the fullness and counter melodies of the orchestra, and of course the Swing.

Obviously the man had control over many artistic decisions, and that is what makes it all come together in some of his unbeatable, and truly magical productions. But Id like to keep on track with this forum and pose a few questions that I just dont know the answers to:

1) Obviously his recordings were done on analog medium. Does anyone know who produced or engineered his classics like MY WAY, SUMMER WINDS, NEW YORk, NEW YORK, THATS LIFE, etc etc?

2) How many tracks were the recordings? Im thinking lots of them were two or four track...

3) What Mics did he use? Theres never a noticable sibilance. Some songs his voice is more full than others but its always incredibly silky and euphonic. Im thinkin Telefunken 251 or Neumann U47's ??? I bet they didnt know what a De-esser was... yet somehow his voice has a tingly and silky, top end. How much was his voice, and how much was the "capture" of it? I dont think the console was as important as the mics...?

4) I hear compression. There had to be quite a bit cuz the man had a tremendous dynamic range. LA2A is what immediately comes to mind. Anyone know what was used usually, or perhaps specifically?

5) How were the orchestras mic'd? Again I bet it was just a few great mics, but OOoo man the brass sounds and even the standup bass... RICH, BABY, RICH!

Having his amazing arrangers and that natural voice would make it hard for his stuff to sound bad... but I honestly think that humans do respond to the sound of things on a basic, subliminal level. If everyone puts their two cents worth in... I bet a lot of these questions can be filled in... at least subjectively or "conjecturely". <laughing!>.

There will be a second part to this thread. A question relating to other recordings whose sound makes us respond on an instinctual level. Id love to hear some feedback both technical, and personal.
Old 7th May 2003
  #2
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malice's Avatar
 

Dave I'm a udge fan of those recordings ...

I'm quiet sure he used a C-37A as microphone.
I think you are just right for LA-2A, but as I'm sure he used Quad eight console and preamps, he might have tried Quad eight comp, I don't know...
I would bet on LA2A.

Sinatra was very concerned by the sound in general, and the sound of his voice in particular. He walked away from expensive sessions just because he didn't liked the sound played back ... Leaving a very expensive bill with string sessions etc to the record company

I try to find some more about Frank recordings

malice
Old 7th May 2003
  #3
I think we still all value the tones recorded back in that era..

I have two observations to add to the pot.

1) "crooners' of that era were selected & revered not just for thier looks, style and pitch abilities, their vocal tone was a HUGE part of their popularity. Every one here knows that if you put a large 6 foot 6 man up on a mic, there is no guarentee of a 'deep sound'. Even folks with seemingly 'deep sounding' voices can sound thin on a mic.. What is going to work on a mic isn't obvious it needs to be tested.

The crooning stars ALL shared "good mic sound" in common. I am sure there were legions of potential stars of that era that did 'demo recordings' who were regected not on singing ability, looks or style, but simply because they didnt sound good up on the mic....be it thin, siblant, or TOO muffled. Unsuited to the sound of the era...

Bing Cosby, Dean Martin, Samy Davis Junior, Fats Waller, Louis Armstrong ALL had that great 'microphone thang' going on...

2) Whats missing (for most of us) from enjoying music of that era is playback on valve equipment, the creamy bass rich sound of valve record players or radios..
Old 7th May 2003
  #4
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malice's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by Jules

2) Whats missing (for most of us) from enjoying music of that era is playback on valve equipment, the creamy bass rich sound of valve record players or radios..
Ho, you are so right.

My father got this great Fisher Hi-fi amp from the 60', all tube, with an extra "bass" control that was IMO a feedback device that sounded so sweet ...

I asked 10 years ago where that amp was, he said he dumped it, I was so sad ...

pff, a real pitty he did that
malice
Old 7th May 2003
  #5
The Distressor's "daddy"
 
Dave Derr's Avatar
 

Malice said:

Sinatra was very concerned by the sound in general, and the sound of his voice in particular. He walked away from expensive sessions just because he didn't liked the sound played back ... Leaving a very expensive bill with string sessions etc to the record company ====================

OOoo thats interesting, but I totally believe it! I bet the engineers on that session were BUMMMIN!


============================
Jules Said:
Whats missing (for most of us) from enjoying music of that era is playback on valve equipment, the creamy bass rich sound of valve record players or radios..
=============================

My brother put a component Scott Hi Fi in my parents house as a surprise once when they were away. It was all tube and was about 30 Watts or somethin. There were 10 speakers in it. My dad (and all of us) loved it, and our house became the party central for the next 15 years. I used to put Jimi Hendrix on it and turn the volume up to 10. It was "rich & spongy", and I wonder what happened to it also.

At least we still get to hear that older stuff recorded and mixed with TUBES.

You know, thats one of my gripes about these remixes of old stuff like Derek and the Dominoes, The Beatles etc etc. Theres no way first off that you are going to have the intensity and reference of that time period... or drugs. <laughing!> Youre also not going to have the same input of the musicians. AND OF COURSE THE SAME TWEAKED EQUIPMENT.

Anyone who has tried to recall a mix knows that often there is "SOMETHING MISSING" or different even tho you have made notes or used the recall feature of the board. Now that doesnt mean that some of those old mixes shouldnt be remixed... but if they were classic to begin with...

Im straying, arent I?
Old 7th May 2003
  #6
Lives for gear
I love Sinatra. Sometimes, I think George Jones is the closest thing to that sort of mastery as a stylist.

My understanding is that a lot of the classic Reprise material was recorded on a three-track. In essence, two tracks to get the music in stereo and one-track for Sinatra's vocal. I seem to recall a description of this in George Martin's "All You Need is Ears."

Steve, Mojo Pie
Old 7th May 2003
  #7
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Ted Nightshade's Avatar
 

It can be wonderful working with just a few tracks- even going from 3 to 4 you lose something in dimension.

Still have the old Harmon Kardon Citation II tube preamp here, switchable "mastering style" EQ, even tube phono preamp- got to get a turntable!
Easy on the ears, it is, if very hissy. 30 watt 1959 Eiko power amp rewired to triode, it's easy on the ears too.

There were some amazing sounds happening circa 1957 to 1959. A real golden era in audio. Wonder what happened? The aesthetic then was so happening...
Old 7th May 2003
  #8
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mitgong's Avatar
 

Sinatra was also among the first of the "saloon singers" to embrace mic technique as an element of style, as opposed to having to belt it out in halls every night. Bing, too, obviously. Their voices sound beautiful soft, and audiences of the time weren't used to getting that live. What a revelation it must have been when this style started showing up on records. Like having your favorite singer whispering in your ear!

And lest we forget: Nelson Riddle and his orchestra.

Dave, dig this (I hope the link works):
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/AS...027588-9260742
Old 7th May 2003
  #9
Lives for gear
 

Re: FRANK SINATRA AND THE IMPACT OF SOUND

Quote:
Originally posted by Dave Derr
...What Mics did he use? Theres never a noticable sibilance. Some songs his voice is more full than others but its always incredibly silky and euphonic. Im thinkin Telefunken 251 or Neumann U47's ??? I bet they didnt know what a De-esser was... yet somehow his voice has a tingly and silky, top end. How much was his voice, and how much was the "capture" of it? I dont think the console was as important as the mics...?
Dave, maybe the speed of the mic amplifiers in those days had something to do with that. I know that when I'm getting excesive vocal sibilance nowdays, I turn the VIPRE rise time to slow- instant vintage, without sacrificing the top sparkle too much.

Plus we can't forget that Frank was VERY good at working the mic, he that that natural ability it seems. It's just that he was so good at it, you can't really tell he's doing it.

God I love that man's music!
Old 7th May 2003
  #10
Gear Addict
 

Sinatra

I remember reading that Frank's recording's didn't really start to happen for him until he began working with Nelson Riddle. Riddle's *trick* was to get EVERYTHING out of the way of Frank's vocal. So he wrote above and below his voice. This IS THE KEY to all ensemble music, from rock to classical. One of the first stories Al Schmitt ever told me was: He recorded a lot of Henry Mancini (AL's first Grammy was for 'Hatari'). Whenever he did an orchestra date with Mancini he had to work particularly hard at making it *breath*. On the other hand, when he recorded a Marty Paich orchestra date he just pushed up the faders and it *sang*. After the first run through the orchestra would often applaud the chart. Wow! So...another testimony to arranging.

BTW. Al recorded the first Sinatra duets record. That was done with a hand held Beta 58 radio mic.
Old 7th May 2003
  #11
The Distressor's "daddy"
 
Dave Derr's Avatar
 

Mitgong - I just ordered that book you suggested "Sessions With Sinatra"

I also just read that Phil Ramone did a lot of recording with him and I have a connection with Phil. Holy Cow does Phil have the most incredible Discography or what!?

Thanks!
=======================
Killa

That is so interesting, and yet pretty intuitive in hind site. You know, there are some very famous pieces of gear that people love and say is transparent out there that has a slew rate of like 1V/uS, which is exceedingly slow. A 35 cent TL072 has a slew rate of 13V/uS! Something to think about.

Dave
PS Im not sayin whose gear is 1V/uS! lol
=============================
Benji - HEYEE BROV! Good to see your purty face on here. Hows the studio, songs, and wife? Say hi to her.

Al Schmitt is somethin! Someone else I'd love to drink a beer with if fate allows. He came up at the last LA AES... Ill have to tell ya privately about it. I remember your story about running into him skin diving... that was him right?? (hoping my memory hasnt mixed this up...)
Old 7th May 2003
  #12
Gear Addict
 

Sinatra

Hi Dave,

The studio and songs are great. Unfortunately, the wife left January 2002.

Your memory serves you well. I met Al in Maui in 1986, rinsing off snorkeling gear. He did the old 'took me under his wing' thing. He came over to my apartment back during Grammy week and then we had a great dinner. (He loves good food). My friendship with him over all of these years has been priceless. In 1990, when we were both single, I spent ten days at his house over Christmas. Just try and imagine the people I met. I have been to so many amazing recording dates with him and have made friendships with everyone from Johnny Mandel to Tommy LiPuma. He is in New York fairly often. I'll give you a call next time and we'll have dinner.
Old 7th May 2003
  #13
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Well, I've always heard the legend that he favored a Telefunken U47, and refered to it as his "telly"... there's the famous studio pic (used in Apple Computer ads recently) where he's singing into a 47
Attached Thumbnails
Sinatra &amp; the Impact of Sound-frank2.jpg  
Old 7th May 2003
  #14
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and here's a gem of a pic of a session (found on Dan Alexander's site) where he's singing into a 251 with 47s and 49s as spot mics on the sections behind him. --dave
Attached Thumbnails
Sinatra &amp; the Impact of Sound-frank.jpg  
Old 7th May 2003
  #15
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malice's Avatar
 

got the article related to my statement...

from sony, so might be a little biased concerning the C37 ...

http://www.sony.net/Fun/SH/1-7/h1.html

malice
Old 7th May 2003
  #16
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C.Lambrechts's Avatar
 

Re: FRANK SINATRA AND THE IMPACT OF SOUND

Quote:
Originally posted by Dave Derr
Does the sound of his records, his voice, the arrangements strike all of you like it does me every time I hear them?
yes. Frank is at times in my closet for months. But whenever I run across one of his CD's and I put him on I feel better. Whatever state of mind I'm in ... HE makes it better. As a matter of fact ... where is that double CD with the Count Basie Orchestra ... hmmmm ... thanks Dave ... only thinking about it allready makes me feel better.


Old 7th May 2003
  #17
The Distressor's "daddy"
 
Dave Derr's Avatar
 

Great pictures and Information guys! I should have "Googled" Frank before I started asking questions, maybe...

Thanks
Old 7th May 2003
  #18
Lightbulb

Just wondering...

In the Apple ad, why doesn't the mic throw a shadow like Frank does?
Old 7th May 2003
  #19
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dave-G's Avatar
Quote:
Originally posted by GilWave
Just wondering...

In the Apple ad, why doesn't the mic throw a shadow like Frank does?
wow, do we have a consipracy theory afoot?

I'd guess by the raking angle of Frank's shadow that the mic shadow would be to the left and below the frame of the pic..

We have an actual photographic print of this pic hanging at Boomtown, and I can assure you it's real. You can just about read the serial number on the back of the body of the mic, and it's pretty close in number to the U47 there.

-dave
Old 8th May 2003
  #20
The Distressor's "daddy"
 
Dave Derr's Avatar
 

Heyeee GIL! Good to see ya on here.

I think Dave-G has the answer about the angle of the lighting but....

CMON, No one cast a shadow like Frank Sinatra... the mic was simply intimidated.

Good observation tho, Gil. Watching too much CSI?
Old 8th May 2003
  #21
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Ted Nightshade's Avatar
 

"Sinatra was also among the first of the "saloon singers" to embrace mic technique as an element of style, as opposed to having to belt it out in halls every night. Bing, too, obviously. Their voices sound beautiful soft, and audiences of the time weren't used to getting that live. What a revelation it must have been when this style started showing up on records. Like having your favorite singer whispering in your ear"

I find it disorienting to this day to hear Frank crooning effortlessly over a screaming trumpet section. Now I see that the ultra high register trumpets are one way to keep them out of the vocal range.
Old 8th May 2003
  #22
Dave -

Still laughing over "the mic was intimidated"... good one!

I believe the shot is real, just find it odd, even with the lighing angle, that the mic and stand didn't throw a shado.

I love CSI, btw, but my fave is still HBO's Forensics series.

-g
Old 8th May 2003
  #23
The Distressor's "daddy"
 
Dave Derr's Avatar
 

I checked out some George Jones records and Ozraves is right about some of his sounds. You know there are lots of amazing vocal sounds from the modern age and I didnt mean to imply that we had lost the ability in the present day to get some extreme magic happening.

Some womens voices that immediately come to mind - K.D. Lang and Linda Rondstadt with Nelson Riddle. Linda's version of "Whats New" just slays me. K.D.'s voice affects me almost sexually.

Off to lunch!
Old 8th May 2003
  #24
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blackcatdigi's Avatar
Slightly OT, but:

You can't forget Nat!

Man, for me, it just ain't Christmas yet 'till I hear that opening line:
"Chestnuts roasting on an open fire"...

Then its the holidays!

What tone. Absolutely floors me every time I hear it. On anything.

Sorry for the intrusion, carry on!
Old 8th May 2003
  #25
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malice's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by Dave Derr

Some womens voices that immediately come to mind - K.D. Lang and Linda Rondstadt with Nelson Riddle. Linda's version of "Whats New" just slays me. K.D.'s voice affects me almost sexually lol.

Off to lunch!
Dave, I so dig you for that statement. This vocal sound in "What's New" is one of the reasons I wanted to do this job

malice
Old 8th May 2003
  #26
The Distressor's "daddy"
 
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blackcatdigi
NAT KING COLE DEFIES PHYSICS. He has that huge mellifluous vocal sound with that tickly high end. I think a lot of it has to do with the size of his mouth! Ever notice how damn wide it is? I have seen some re-broadcasts of a few TV specials that NAT did and even the vocal sound on them was OUTSTANDING.

OOoo - Now im going to have to find a pic of Natalie Cole and see if she has his lips, too. ::eyebrow wiggle::
=============================
Malice
Wasnt Linda Rondstadts voice ironic? Ever hear her speak?? She sounds like a little pre-pubescent Brownie, shy and just waking up!

But when she sings, the clouds gather, oceans part, mountains tremble, expensive microphones fear (along with their engineers!), neighbors write their congressmen...

Its strange... BUT I LIKE IT! George Massenburg has worked with her a LOT. HMmm I may send him a note here.
Old 8th May 2003
  #27
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kosi's Avatar
One little thing I know, is, that he was recording only in the evening (he said it once in an itw) because his voice was much softer then.

cheers, kosi
Old 9th May 2003
  #28
Gear Maniac
 

The Japanese have a word "Sensei", it means "one who came before", he/she is the one with experience.
Not education so much as road wear and life experience, you can see it in their eye's, hear it in their voice, and watch it in they way they move. We seek that they may have an insight into life that we do not, and for each of us we find different answers. This "Sensei" is an artist, they come in all shapes and sizes, every path of life.

For me, when I listen to some of the singers you are speaking of, I am listening to their life in every word they sing.

Let me stop at this point, I am not so smart as to explain further.
I believe you all understand.

Makoto


Just a note
For pure beauty listen to the CD Trio recorded by Mr. Massenburg.
Old 9th May 2003
  #29
The Distressor's "daddy"
 
Dave Derr's Avatar
 

That is a very poetic way of looking at it, Makoto.

The sound of some peoples voice does hit you on an emotional level that you just cant define. Sometimes its the little frog in a persons voice, or the way they slide to a note, or accent a syllable. I think people hear that in Janis Joplin, or Nina Simone, Willie Nelson, and Ray Charles to name a very few.

I havnt heard TRIO, recorded by George Massenburg, and I love pretty much anything he's done. Ill check it out!

Thanks for your different approach to this post.
Old 9th May 2003
  #30
Gear Guru
 
Drumsound's Avatar
As an Italian who grew up just outside of Chicago Mr. Sinatra is a sound that's been with me my whole life. You do hear his life within each song. He was a wonderful interpreter. He also was very in tune when it came to choosing whom to work with. His pairings with Nelson Riddle are wonderful. The Basie record is also great. I'm going to see my Mom for Mother's Day, I think I'll raid her record collection. It's been a while since I've heard "In the Wee Small Hours."

A side note on Linda Rondstadt and George Massenburg. In a Mix interview Ms. Rondstadt mentioned that there is a U67 the GM uses to record her that he has willed to her.
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