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Why were vocal recordings so much better in the 1950s?
Old 2 weeks ago
  #31
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vernier's Avatar
Vocal sound of the fifties . .

Old 2 weeks ago
  #32
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What a voice!
Chris
Old 2 weeks ago
  #33
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lucasanything's Avatar
Quality is subjective. But these things are fairly objective:

The room acoustics were superior

The level of musicianship was higher

The singers were more experienced

The recording signal chains were more minimal

The songwriting was more sophisticated

What else do you need???

(Caveat - it's not really fair to compare the best examples of one era to average examples of another)

Last edited by lucasanything; 2 weeks ago at 09:20 PM..
Old 2 weeks ago
  #34
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GYMusic's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by vernier View Post
I love this recording. I've mentioned it before on other GS threads. The Horton stuff was recorded at Owen Bradley's studio in Nashville.

Bruce Swedien also had some great 3 track recordings early in his career. Left-center-right. No precessing - no BS.

By the way... anyone heard from The Swede?
Old 2 weeks ago
  #35
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Galt View Post
Just what the title said: listen to Perry Como, Sinatra, Peggy Lee, Julie London and others recorded way back then. They sound as if they're right in front of you. Now, with all the technological advances, it's rare to hear vocalists sound anywhere near as real and many I can't believe the engineers actually passed for release. They sound scheissehausen.
God, I miss Julie London and Bobby Troupe.

In any event, it may be that you're conflating "great voices" with "good recordings". Maybe even hearing artifacts related to auto-tune, compression or a number of other artificial enhancements that weren't used in the 1950's.

Something like Goldfrapp's "Pilots", perhaps?

There's this odd phenomenon in the past decade or so where women want to whisper into the microphone, and to me that's not singing so much it's "emotive whining". Selena Gomez's "Good for You", Vaults' "Premonitions" or ... pretty much anything by Billie Eilish. There's just no air behind these voices to sustain a note, so they require a *lot* of post-processing. To be fair, Julie London did her share of quiet breathy vocals popularized by the slow, smoky jazz she's known for, but in her case you can almost feel her diaphragm expanding through the speakers as she takes a breath on songs like "The End of a Love Affair" and "Cry Me A River".

So I don't think it's the recordings themselves so much as the artistry behind these modern songs, or more to the point, lack thereof.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #36
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TobyToby's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by lucasanything View Post
Quality is subjective. But these things are fairly objective:
No

Quote:
Originally Posted by lucasanything View Post
The room acoustics were superior
No

Quote:
Originally Posted by lucasanything View Post
The level of musicianship was higher
No

Quote:
Originally Posted by lucasanything View Post
The singers were more experienced
No

Quote:
Originally Posted by lucasanything View Post
The recording signal chains were more minimal
Who "No's"

Quote:
Originally Posted by lucasanything View Post
The songwriting was more sophisticated
No

Quote:
Originally Posted by lucasanything View Post
What else do you need???
A solid glas of scotch

Quote:
Originally Posted by lucasanything View Post
(Caveat - it's not really fair to compare the best examples of one era to average examples of another)
That doesn't really match with the previous statements
Old 2 weeks ago
  #37
Gear Maniac
 
lucasanything's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by TobyToby View Post
No... No... No... No... Who "No's"... No... A solid glas of scotch


"Yes." Do I win now?
Old 2 weeks ago
  #38
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kludgeaudio's Avatar
 

When I was a kid, I wanted so badly to sound like Gary Owens, the great radio announcer. I thought it was the RCA 44 microphone but that wasn't it. I thought it was some kind of magic mike technique. Then I heard Gary Owens live and in person with no microphone... and he just sounded like that. He opened his mouth up and that sound came out. The secret was in his mouth.
--scott
Old 2 weeks ago
  #39
Gear Guru
 
Drumsound's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by joeq View Post
Listen to those records again tell me what you think of the kick drum sound.

Or the bass.

Or the guitars.

The vocals 'stand out' on those recordings because let's be honest, the mix is mostly vocals. If audiences would stand for that in 2020, I am sure you could get the vocal to sound as if they were right in front of you. It's not technological "magic" - hey some of those same mics are still in service - it's simply a different aesthetic. It's not "better" IMO, that would be a matter of taste.

If I mixed a modern band's song like a Perry Como record, the singer might dig it, but the guitar players would be outside my door with torches and pitchforks.
This
Quote:
Originally Posted by MandoBastardo View Post
In the 50s, engineers didn't spend their time on the internet asking for opinions on hundreds of boutique repli-mics. Or trying to use out-of-date coupon codes to save 10 bucks on the latest hyped-up plugin that emulates the sound of success.

Instead, they just put up the bog-standard U47 for Frank, hit record on the 351 and glared out the glass at the band if they got too showy.
And this.
--

In any era of recording the gig is easier when the people on the other side of the glass have the **** together. That's why there are great recordings in every era. I was more common for there to be working bands in the 40-50s. Players paying their dues, working their way up the food chain. Those at or near the top were the only ones even considered by the record companies. Les Paul was about the only guy on the planet who had a home studio. What you're recording always trumps how in terms of mass appeal.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #40
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kludgeaudio View Post
When I was a kid, I wanted so badly to sound like Gary Owens, the great radio announcer. I thought it was the RCA 44 microphone but that wasn't it. I thought it was some kind of magic mike technique. Then I heard Gary Owens live and in person with no microphone... and he just sounded like that. He opened his mouth up and that sound came out. The secret was in his mouth.
--scott
And his brother Buck, could sing a mean Country tune too!
Chris
Old 2 weeks ago
  #41
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lucasanything's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by TobyToby View Post
"The room acoustics were superior"
No
Let's see - Columbia 30th Street, United Western, Radio Recorders, Abbey Road....

versus...

a vocal booth in a producer's home studio?
Old 2 weeks ago
  #42
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AKA Bedroom Closet (Walk-in if you're lucky)
Chris
Old 2 weeks ago
  #43
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CupcakeKitten's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cpl. Punishment View Post
God, I miss Julie London and Bobby Troupe.

In any event, it may be that you're conflating "great voices" with "good recordings". Maybe even hearing artifacts related to auto-tune, compression or a number of other artificial enhancements that weren't used in the 1950's.

Something like Goldfrapp's "Pilots", perhaps?

There's this odd phenomenon in the past decade or so where women want to whisper into the microphone, and to me that's not singing so much it's "emotive whining". Selena Gomez's "Good for You", Vaults' "Premonitions" or ... pretty much anything by Billie Eilish. There's just no air behind these voices to sustain a note, so they require a *lot* of post-processing. To be fair, Julie London did her share of quiet breathy vocals popularized by the slow, smoky jazz she's known for, but in her case you can almost feel her diaphragm expanding through the speakers as she takes a breath on songs like "The End of a Love Affair" and "Cry Me A River".

So I don't think it's the recordings themselves so much as the artistry behind these modern songs, or more to the point, lack thereof.
Look mate, if you want to live your elevator music or cruise ship power-vocal dreams, power to you. Do your thing. None the less it's incredibly short sighted to write off all modern female vocalists as "emotive whiners" and whisperers leaning on autotune, which simply isn't true. Don't confuse 'not your thing' with 'talentless'. It's disingenuous and makes you look foolish. Especially this comment about artistry in modern songs - that's just ridiculous. Every generation has bad songs and good songs, bad artists and good artists, but none the less we're at a peak right now where artists and aspiring artists can share what they want when they want - without bowing to a "socially acceptable" image or feeding an idea of what is marketable for it's time. Production changes, taste changes, but there's always good, strong vocalists, and good solid artists and songwriters. Modern productions have no obligation to pay service to your personal glory days soundtrack - we're quite content writing the soundtrack to our own, thanks.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #44
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mbvoxx's Avatar
Better singers
Old 2 weeks ago
  #45
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CupcakeKitten's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by TobyToby View Post
No


A solid glas of scotch

Team Scotch FTW



I'm wondering how much of this "glory good old days" is down to wannabee artists and producers trying to find something to blame for their own inadequacies and failings. Much easier to blame a modern market for being "wrong" (read: not to my taste) than their ability to keep up with current trends or create something new from it. It's not 'all modern artists' that are at fault. Truth is there are plenty of talented vocalists out there, and we have way more easily accessible tools and abilities to create brilliant, new songs than they had 'back in the day'. This is starting to sound like excuses TBH.

It's way too easy to blame the 'kids' for being wrong, than simply admit that people want something different and new, something that represents them now, rather than re-living the soundtracks of days they don't remember, or simply don't live anymore.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #46
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CupcakeKitten's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by lucasanything View Post
Let's see - Columbia 30th Street, United Western, Radio Recorders, Abbey Road....

versus...

a vocal booth in a producer's home studio?
The classic studios still running haven't just vanished like a fart in the wind (and those that have seem to be down to economic problems rather than modern artist/music ones). The ones still going are still churning out these 'modern artists' so many users in this thread seem to object to.

I don't necessarily think it's the modern artists that are the problem tbh.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #47
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TobyToby's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by lucasanything View Post
Let's see - Columbia 30th Street, United Western, Radio Recorders, Abbey Road....

versus...

a vocal booth in a producer's home studio?
First of all, top level studios are still operating and being booked by talented singers/artists
The vocal booth is not the most important reason to choose a studio of the quality you have mentioned. There is no superiority in room acoustics when it comes to the deaden-ed acoustic space in a vocal booth which are all pretty similiar amongs studios. It's about the qualities of the other spaces these studios have to offer along with everything else of course
Many great artist are absolutely able to perform to their abilities in a vocal booth in a producer's home studio if the environment of the "home studio" as a whole is right for the artist. . . and if the room acoustic of the "producaas" home is not is not fckng with the recording
Old 2 weeks ago
  #48
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7 years later than the 50's but still relevant to the discussion. Not a vocal booth in sight.
Also - Lee Hazlewood! Bobby Strange! & Frank......

Old 2 weeks ago
  #49
Because they were good singers and didn't check their phone every 2 seconds to see how many more likes their Twitter witticism just got.

Old 2 weeks ago
  #50
Gear Maniac
 
lucasanything's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by TobyToby View Post
First of all, top level studios are still operating and being booked by talented singers/artists
I agree with all of guys's points! For the record- I love modern pop.

It's just that sometimes you hear a song from the 50s- and think, WTF how does this sound this good?

It's true that it's possible to record like that today, and some music is. But there isn't a financial incentive, so most music is not.

Is that wrong? Of course not. But is there a reason why some music from the late 50s sounds special? Yes, of course there is.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #51
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CupcakeKitten's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by lucasanything View Post
I agree with all of guys's points! For the record- I love modern pop.

It's just that sometimes you hear a song from the 50s- and think, WTF how does this sound this good?

It's true that it's possible to record like that today, and some music is. But there isn't a financial incentive, so most music is not.

Is that wrong? Of course not. But is there a reason why some music from the late 50s sounds special? Yes, of course there is.

I agree - In the same way I can look at an old painting from hundreds of years ago and feel a connection with a person in a time i'm never going to see or experience, I feel the same way about music from generations i'm not going to be able to experience. There's something brilliant, connecting and haunting about it, though it's important in my own expression and artistry that i'm not going to try and emulate voices I can't experience, I need to express my own. After all, that's what these artists did, and that's the purpose of the process - to make a commentary on your own experience (and in your own soundworld too). Anything else would come across as inauthentic and fake, and as a result defeat it's own purpose.

I guess it's why I get salty when people say that x-generation is "wrong" or "untalented" - even if different It's just as valid as anything that came in the generations before them.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #52
Gear Addict
 

  1. Vocalists who learned to perform with little sound reinforcement and well chosen by the industry
  2. Tube gear designed by space alien scientists at places like RCA and Western Electric
  3. Impedance matching. Someone already mentioned 600 ohms
  4. Transformers everywhere.
  5. Gear built like battleships and tanks with little to no regard to cost.
  6. Song arranging, yes the vocal was king or queen.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #53
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vernier's Avatar
HEE! ..the "Battle" song is intended to show that not all fifties recordings had lush vocals.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #54
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CupcakeKitten View Post
Look mate, if you want to live your elevator music or cruise ship power-vocal dreams, power to you. Do your thing. None the less it's incredibly short sighted to write off all modern female vocalists as "emotive whiners" and whisperers leaning on autotune, which simply isn't true.
Ooh, touched a nerve there, did I? Not sorry.

And I'm not even going to get into most of what you said really because everything is subjective, including this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TOLJf2o8_FI&t=40

But this little gem:

Quote:
Originally Posted by CupcakeKitten View Post
none the less we're at a peak right now where artists and aspiring artists can share what they want when they want - without bowing to a "socially acceptable" image or feeding an idea of what is marketable for it's time.
... seems rather naïve on your part, especially when you go out of your way to make my point for me. If any of that were true, and I mean if there were just a kernel of actual truth to it, then there wouldn't be such a race to the bottom in popular music, which by definition is designed to bow down to a socially acceptable image and churn out as much grid-based sample-aligned sterile cookie-cutter crap as possible to feed an idea of what's marketable -- it's that last word there that drives the nail in: "marketable". And if this next sentence kills your buzz, well, again, not my monkeys, not my circus; there's not a lot of musical or lyrical content in Lady Gaga's "Love Game" (which is unfortunate because she really *can* sing!), but I think we can all finish the lyrics to "Let's have some fun/this beat is sick/I wanna take a ride..." and it's not because people went out of their way to find that song.

Not so sure Katy Perry's "Ur So Gay" gets much airplay because it's definitely not "socially acceptable" anymore, and I don't think I've heard "Money for Nothing" uncut for a few decades, again with that whole "socially acceptable" aspect. Not even on the "oldies" AOR stations.

Turn your radio to any pop station and tell me I'm not hearing what I'm hearing.

Quote:
Originally Posted by CupcakeKitten View Post
we're quite content writing the soundtrack to our own, thanks.
Great! I'd love to hear it! And most importantly, keep it up.

Of course there's plenty of talent out there; it's just too bad we have to go on a magic easter egg hunt, digging through a mountain of crap to find it. I'll also completely agree with you when you say that modern productions have no obligation to pay service to me, but the other side of that coin is that I have no obligation to listen to it either.

But -- and just for the sake of clarity -- that's just my opinion, and I'm under no obligation to change it because you think the latest and hottest little pop tart burning up the charts with cheap, factory-made, derivative crap won't soon be prominently featured in an upcoming episode of "Where Are They Now?".

You do you.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #55
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DirkP's Avatar
1 mic, 1 take, 2019:

Old 2 weeks ago
  #56
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ajscent's Avatar
 

vocals made up the whole tune - pushed way infront

but none the less ...

best answer from reading the above ...

the singers were better

as were the musicians mostly

and what crap has it turned into now ? a heavily limited loudness fight

first they introduced fighting into dancing during the breakdance crap - now they introduced fighting into loudness wars

its an assault - there is no charm anymore - no grace - its all just a faded memory
Old 2 weeks ago
  #57
Gear Guru
 

Why were vocal recordings so much better in the 1950s?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sabovic Adis View Post
Squizeme, wut?

You're not actually comparing the relevance of the kick drum to the relevance of Frank's voice - in a Frank Sinatra song, are you?
Frank Sinatra is not being 'attacked', but thanks for sticking up for him. That is not my point at all.

My point is that you could not find the kick on many of those 50's records if you tried. It's a joke to take a record that is mixed to be fifty percent vocal, compare it to ones that are twenty percent vocal, and say, oh it sounds:
"as if they're right in front of you"
I mean, come on.

If someone wants to slag modern vocal recording, OK. Let's have a debate - on the merits. When you do find a modern record with the vocals mixed anywhere near that high, I bet it's jazz, and I bet the vocal recording is actually stellar.

The 'question' in the OP contains an assumption of fact that in the minds of many here, is not justified. My remark about the "kick drum" is a request for fair comparisons, which could have made this an interesting thread about the actual state of the art and technology of Vocal Recording.

Instead of yet another "today's music sucks" thread.

Last edited by joeq; 2 weeks ago at 03:19 AM..
Old 2 weeks ago
  #58
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CupcakeKitten's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cpl. Punishment View Post
Ooh, touched a nerve there, did I? Not sorry.

And I'm not even going to get into most of what you said really because everything is subjective, including this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TOLJf2o8_FI&t=40

But this little gem:



... seems rather naïve on your part, especially when you go out of your way to make my point for me. If any of that were true, and I mean if there were just a kernel of actual truth to it, then there wouldn't be such a race to the bottom in popular music, which by definition is designed to bow down to a socially acceptable image and churn out as much grid-based sample-aligned sterile cookie-cutter crap as possible to feed an idea of what's marketable -- it's that last word there that drives the nail in: "marketable". And if this next sentence kills your buzz, well, again, not my monkeys, not my circus; there's not a lot of musical or lyrical content in Lady Gaga's "Love Game" (which is unfortunate because she really *can* sing!), but I think we can all finish the lyrics to "Let's have some fun/this beat is sick/I wanna take a ride..." and it's not because people went out of their way to find that song.

Not so sure Katy Perry's "Ur So Gay" gets much airplay because it's definitely not "socially acceptable" anymore, and I don't think I've heard "Money for Nothing" uncut for a few decades, again with that whole "socially acceptable" aspect. Not even on the "oldies" AOR stations.

Turn your radio to any pop station and tell me I'm not hearing what I'm hearing.



Great! I'd love to hear it! And most importantly, keep it up.

Of course there's plenty of talent out there; it's just too bad we have to go on a magic easter egg hunt, digging through a mountain of crap to find it. I'll also completely agree with you when you say that modern productions have no obligation to pay service to me, but the other side of that coin is that I have no obligation to listen to it either.

But -- and just for the sake of clarity -- that's just my opinion, and I'm under no obligation to change it because you think the latest and hottest little pop tart burning up the charts with cheap, factory-made, derivative crap won't soon be prominently featured in an upcoming episode of "Where Are They Now?".

You do you.
I think you've missed the point tbh. You accuse me of having 'touched a nerve' but you're the a salty one

I pointed out that "not all modern female singers" need autotune to carry a live song - and i'm right. If you'd have paid any attention to many modern live productions and live shows you'd have noticed - It's not just about who you personally dislike in the top 10's. Talent didn't just stop the year you decided you didn't like it anymore. On top of that you've gone and made assumptions about my personal taste? Many bold assumptions here. There's a significant difference between defending talentless 'artists' (who are NOT unique to this generation of music), and defending an entire generation of music as a whole. One you're very keen to throw under the proverbial bus because "pop tarts". . I like modern productions over 'vintage vibes'. I like the bite and thunder that vintage productions simply don't have. None the less, it's very easy to compare modern artists worst shows with your favourite picks from your glory days and their 'best' lasting recordings. I wish I was sorry about the fact you can't cope that music has moved on a bit from your tastes, but let's not pretend that "factory made crap" is a modern phenomenon. There's always been a "cookie cutter" interest in the industry - let's not pretend that it's anything new, or that the old, vintage artists you celebrate and admire are exempt from this either. It's existed as long as the industry has, and you're the naieve one for looking at it through rose tinted, 'true art' glasses.

What has changed now is that talented people have the ability to share their work online - without the previously necessary approval and shaping/influence from a label. I think this might be the biggest step towards 'freedom of expression' for artists and aspiring artists since the music industry first made it's mark. We've always had to "dig through a mountain of crap" to find what we like, that's nothing new. If anything it's easier to find what you like nowadays. None the less it's foolish to pretend that this is unique to this generation of artists.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #59
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There were Lyrics in the 50's Songs ... Today's 'hits' have a string of 'La la do dah ... whatevers'.

In the 50s, the Story from the Vocal IS the focal point .... not the Kick Drum.

It's a difference of Production Style / Technique .... AND ..... a difference in MARKETING.

Nothing is stopping the re-creation of those 'Times', sonically.

All it would take is a Hit Today in that Style .... and the slew of copycat productions will look to tag on.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #60
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I'll take my pick of the 5 greatest singers of the 50's.
You take your pick of 5 of "Today's".
(cue "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly theme")
Sorry No Autotune/2nd Takes!

Chris
P.S. The 60's weren't too shabby either!
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