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recreating that vintage Vocal sound...
Old 26th August 2010
  #1
Gear Head
 

recreating that vintage Vocal sound...

Hello!

I love the Vocal sound heard on records by the likes of:

Cody Chestnutt, Marvin Gaye, Chuck Berry, Bob Dylan, Little Richard, The supremes, Commodores, and all those other old school dudes and dudesses.

I'm interested to know if anyone knows how these sounds can be recreated in the modern-digital-bedroom-studio without buying a tape machine!

Are there particular mics/pre-amps/plugins that can recreate that saturated sound?? What makes these vocals sound vintage???

Cheers for your time,

Andy xx
Old 26th August 2010
  #2
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Fletcher's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by ASIMandy View Post
Hello!

I love the Vocal sound heard on records by the likes of:

Cody Chestnutt, Marvin Gaye, Chuck Berry, Bob Dylan, Little Richard, The supremes, Commodores, and all those other old school dudes and dudesses.

I'm interested to know if anyone knows how these sounds can be recreated in the modern-digital-bedroom-studio without buying a tape machine!

Are there particular mics/pre-amps/plugins that can recreate that saturated sound?? What makes these vocals sound vintage???

Cheers for your time,

Andy xx
First off -- EVERY one of those vocal sounds is entirely different, second, the musical arrangements were quite sparse allowing the vocals to "shine", third, the singers / groups you mentioned were all amazingly talented singers [except Dylan, who besides being a miserable son of a bitch on a personal level - or at least in my experience] could [or should] be considered more a "stylist" than a "singer.

You ain't getting that emotion from a plug in, or a mic, or a DAW, or anything except the singer.

End of story.

See StudioTimi meets Al Schmitt for details.

If you have the talent, then the tools can help... see this thread for other details... but the fact of the matter is "machines don't make music, people do" [quote from a Unique Recording Studios advertisement from the 80's]

Peace.
Old 27th August 2010
  #3
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u b k's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ASIMandy View Post
What makes these vocals sound vintage???

1) A focus on the midrange and an almost total lack of high frequency hype, coupled with

2) The music surrounding them.


Gregory Scott - ubk
Old 27th August 2010
  #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fletcher View Post
'Please stop calling me Dude'... ROFL!!!!
Old 31st August 2010
  #5
Gear Head
 

Cheers ubk. Helpful comments!

Other responses though; We all learnt years ago that you can't polish a turd. I'm clearly referring to the sonic characteristics of the sound. So we've established it's the lack of high end, and vintage music surrounding it. Anything else??

Andy
Old 31st August 2010
  #6
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u b k's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ASIMandy View Post
So we've established it's the lack of high end, and vintage music surrounding it. Anything else??

The vocal tone, style, and phrasing: ask yourself how many 30's female singers sounded like the Andrews Sisters, 40's crooners like Bing, 50's like Frank or Elvis, 60's like too many to mention, 70's like Karen Carpenter, 80's hair metal guys, 90's yarling grungers...

Vocal ambience: study what kind of reverbs (and/or delays for more modern stuff) were prevalent.

Melody & harmony: every era has a distinct melodic flavor to it, this aspect is crucial.

Honestly, if you just write a song that is faithful to an era, your vocal will almost by definition evoke that era, and the music will vibe like it too. If you record and produce with techniques of the time as well, you're a dead ringer.

Check out Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings for a stellar example of what I'm talking about.


Gregory Scott - ubk
Old 31st August 2010
  #7
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Anselmo's Avatar
 

yeah I know what you need... a time-machine.


Old 31st August 2010
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by u b k View Post
Check out Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings for a stellar example of what I'm talking about.
Off topic... but the new record is pretty rad.
Old 31st August 2010
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by u b k View Post
Check out Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings for a stellar example of what I'm talking about. Gregory Scott - ubk
Worthy ... So worthy ...
Old 31st August 2010
  #10
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vincentvangogo's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ASIMandy View Post
...We all learnt years ago that you can't polish a turd...Andy
Actually not true.
Old 31st August 2010
  #11
Quote:
Originally Posted by ASIMandy View Post
I'm interested to know if anyone knows how these sounds can be recreated in the modern-digital-bedroom-studio without buying a tape machine!
You can't. And the tape machine is only a small part. You don't have the mics (U-47 tube, ELA M251, C12, RCA 44, RCA 77, etc, and above all, you don't have the ROOM. Many of those recordings were done in very large rooms that were designed for orchestras. You don't have the FX (physical reverb chamber, real EMT plate.) And, of course, you'd need an artist of that magnitude of talent.

No matter what the pimps tell you, none of that comes in a box.
Old 31st August 2010
  #12
Quote:
Originally Posted by u b k View Post
Vocal ambience: study what kind of reverbs (and/or delays for more modern stuff) were prevalent.
I'm told that Gene Vincent got his distinctive reverb by recording in a silo.....
Old 1st September 2010
  #13
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Tubes man, tubes.
And U47s and ribbon mics.
And talent, lots of talent.
And arrangements.
And big rooms.
Old 1st September 2010
  #14
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uncle duncan's Avatar
 

The other day, Langston at JJ Audio was talking about the "instant vintage sound of the 60's" in regards to their Schnauzer mod for the Apex 460 tube mic. Perhaps he could shed some light on the situation.

Another mic modder mentioned the lack of low end in the Beatle's vocal tracks. Apparently, they not only highpassed to compensate for the proximity affect, but they made the singers stay off the mics when singing, unlike nowadays when everyone thinks they have to eat the mic. Some of the early rock stuff also used quite a bit of reverb, at least by today's standards.

While I've never used one, the UA 610 is supposedly reminiscent of the retro sound. If you were to overdrive one of those with a sweet mic, you could probably get a suitably crappy tone to at least emulate what the Dap Kings are doing.

Back in the day, they were always running vocals through killer compressors. In the Geoff Emerick book about recording the Beatles, he mentions that on one particular song (My Guitar Gently Weeps?) he made the decision to not use a compressor in the chain for the BG vocals, because the compressor (Fairchild?) colored the sound and he wanted it to be clean and pure. How ironic, considering that I just got the Fairchild plug for my UAD card. Now, if I want to emulate Geoff Emerick's work, I have to not use it.
Old 1st September 2010
  #15
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illacov's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by uncle duncan View Post
The other day, Langston at JJ Audio was talking about the "instant vintage sound of the 60's" in regards to their Schnauzer mod for the Apex 460 tube mic. Perhaps he could shed some light on the situation.

Another mic modder mentioned the lack of low end in the Beatle's vocal tracks. Apparently, they not only highpassed to compensate for the proximity affect, but they made the singers stay off the mics when singing, unlike nowadays when everyone thinks they have to eat the mic. Some of the early rock stuff also used quite a bit of reverb, at least by today's standards.

While I've never used one, the UA 610 is supposedly reminiscent of the retro sound. If you were to overdrive one of those with a sweet mic, you could probably get a suitably crappy tone to at least emulate what the Dap Kings are doing.

Back in the day, they were always running vocals through killer compressors. In the Geoff Emerick book about recording the Beatles, he mentions that on one particular song (My Guitar Gently Weeps?) he made the decision to not use a compressor in the chain for the BG vocals, because the compressor (Fairchild?) colored the sound and he wanted it to be clean and pure. How ironic, considering that I just got the Fairchild plug for my UAD card. Now, if I want to emulate Geoff Emerick's work, I have to not use it.
Since my phone convos are becoming fodder for discussions on Gearslutz, yes I did say that lol.

The reason being that the JJ12 capsule has a very chocolately dark overtone to it and when you couple that with a delicious sounding NOS GE 5 Star 6072a Triple Black Plate Mica with Oliver's incredible T14 transformer (which has no lack of heft or colour in it's own right), you get something that is the opposite (in the high frequencies) of what most people consider a 251 SHOULD sound like. Instead you still have some top end, but its like you've gone thru several generations of tape transfer and the accumulated sonic funk of all the iron you had to hit along the way.

**Now mind you this is what the capsule is doing, that's the way it was made, the circuit is correctly implemented.**

PS you should hear this thing with a Neumann K67 HOLY SH*T!

So to my ears, when you go ahead and then put this already dark yet delish sounding microphone thru a preamp that may add some mo' tone/color/heft to your capture, its just taking you a few steps further into the past. What you wind up with is something that just sounds a bit more natural to my ears, its far from a modern pop sound and instead what you get is what I think people are indeed referring to as a retro sound.

I mean if you can imagine, the possibilities are pretty limitless when you've already got a few mics at your disposal that can do the throwback thing within their own inner workings before you process them. That in and of itself is a blessing for the retro minded producer/engineer.

Of course the Tim Campbell CT12 would sound just as incredible and jaw dropping in the 251 circuit however it would sound much more resplendent and obviously toppier, which would be perfect for someone seeking that ethereal layer of cottony and pillowy air that you get out of Tim's capsules.

This sound (with the Tim Campbell CT12) would be more so what I think folks were actually hearing back in the days out of their monitors (before all the generations of tape, compression, vinyl mastering etc passed through our clock radios and car stereos), however to get it to the layer of shellac, daisies and peace signs that I liken the JJ12 capsule to, would definitely take some sonic shaping. This is why owning BOTH is always useful, because the JJ12 capsule in use for something like orchestral micing would see a much darker capture than the Tim Campbell CT12. I'd much rather use a 251 or a C12 for that matter with a brighter frequency response on something like distance micing, than one that was darker. That's just my personal opinion, but its just one way to illustrate where I'm coming from as an engineer.

Now to be perfectly honest, if I was gonna do some Chuck Berry or Little Richard stuff, I'd have the singer belting out some soulful vocals into a dynamic like a Unidyne III or a nice ribbon mic, with an overdriven transformer tube preamp feeding a Vari Mu, consequences be damned. I think a condenser mic would sound too pretty and you'd lose the grit. That's why you should have access to MANY tools in your toolbox if at all possible.

EDIT***I just wanted to also add btw, that just buying a microphone is not going to do it alone. You have to seriously do the research, study the drum sounds, arrangements, styles, its really an obsession of its own kind. But I will say that when I want to do old school stuff I reach for my Schnauzer first over something brighter or more modern. And I'm saying this in contrast to other JJ Audio mics that I have at my disposal. The Schnauzer with the JJ12 is just a very special strange beast that fights conformity, pokes out its bottom lip and really does eliminate a lot of work during mixing to "age," the sound of what you're recording.


Peace
Illumination

Last edited by illacov; 1st September 2010 at 01:59 AM.. Reason: a little bit of clarity...
Old 1st September 2010
  #16
Jr. Gear Slut 2nd class
 
chessparov's Avatar
 

Langston, could you make that post a bit less vague and give us more detail. +1 on the Unidyne comment, have a 548 IIII (IV), and it really delivers a cool grittymidrange "funk in the trunk". Never tried a SM59, but the
548 has the smoothest bottom response of any non-SM7 Unidyne I've sung through (57/58, 545/546). Schnauzer sounds intriguing BTW.

I respectfully differ on the ABSOLUTE need for any premium $$ vocal mics to achieve a "vintage" style vocal. Chess Records did just fine with the EV RE15 and 666 for their two primary vocal mics. This was around '66 through the early seventies.

Although it's subjective, how close-assuming the talent is there-can you get with plug-ins, digital reverb for the acoustically "dead" studio, digital recording, etc./etc.?
(putting flak jacket on now)

So any specific recent digital musical examples come to mind?

Chris
Old 1st September 2010
  #17
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illacov's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by chessparov View Post
Langston, could you make that post a bit less vague and give us more detail. +1 on the Unidyne comment, have a 548 IIII (IV), and it really delivers a cool grittymidrange "funk in the trunk". Never tried a SM59, but the
548 has the smoothest bottom response of any non-SM7 Unidyne I've sung through (57/58, 545/546). Schnauzer sounds intriguing BTW.

I respectfully differ on the ABSOLUTE need for any premium $$ vocal mics to achieve a "vintage" style vocal. Chess Records did just fine with the EV RE15 and 666 for their two primary vocal mics. This was around '66 through the early seventies.

Although it's subjective, how close-assuming the talent is there-can you get with plug-ins, digital reverb for the acoustically "dead" studio, digital recording, etc./etc.?
(putting flak jacket on now)

So any specific recent digital musical examples come to mind?

Chris
+1.

I think the crew at Daptone does a great job at giving us a new retro sound, Amy Winehouse and Sharon Jone's album(s) comes to mind.

I'd like to think that with the right mics (grittier the better), the heftier the handling to tape, the deader the sound of the tracking etc..and ESPECIALLY ESPECIALLY the FX, you can get a retro sound.

I mean without a real spring reverb, a decent source of echo, (like a real tape echo) and the right type of arrangements, then you're shooting a flea with an elephant gun.

Peace
Illumination
Old 1st September 2010
  #18
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andychamp's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by u b k View Post
(...)90's yarling grungers...
Lol, I almost forgot about "Yarling".

"Friends don't let friends yarl", Classic!
Old 1st September 2010
  #19
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steelyfan's Avatar
 

[QUOTE]
Quote:
Originally Posted by ASIMandy View Post
Are there particular mics/pre-amps/plugins that can recreate that saturated sound?? What makes these vocals sound vintage???

Take a look and listen to the La-610 preamp. It's a good piece to own for the type of sound you're looking for, the rest is up to you and the singer. heh

But remember, what makes those vocals sound that way is that the music is captured and recorded in a way so that the vocal can be heard like that.

cheers
steelyfan
Old 1st September 2010
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ASIMandy View Post
Cody Chestnutt, Marvin Gaye, Chuck Berry, Bob Dylan, Little Richard, The supremes, Commodores, and all those other old school dudes and dudesses. What makes these vocals sound vintage??
Andi,

This is like a crib sheet for the different era's of "vintage" technology ...

1950's-1963. Chuck Berry, Little Richard, The Supremes. When these artist were in their heyday, tubes and tape RULED. This was in some ways The Golden Age. BIG tube and transformer consoles (5-16 channels) and tape machines with 2-4 tracks. Bands played live in the 1 room. Mics were ribbons by RCA, Altec. Tube mics by Neumann, AKG. Plate Reverb and tape Echo.

1964 -1971. Bob Dylan, Marvin Gaye, and the artists above. The transition period from tube consoles to solid state consoles. Tape machines now from 8-24 tracks. Bands still recording in the 1 room. Mics as above.

1970's. The Commodores solid state consoles. 24 track tape. Separation becomes one of the aims of the studio engineer. Overdubbing is now commonplace. Neumann U87. More solid state equipment appears in studio racks.

2000. Cody Chessnut Cody's 2002 album "Headphone Masterpiece" was recorded on 4 track tape. His aesthetic is "lo-fi".

So, we could define 4 different vintage sounds from that list of artists alone. The recording technology of any one era, is only one part of what defines their sound. Fashions change and affect how musicians play and sound as expressed above. It's "in their fingers and their pipes". It's the sound of the singers and the players. Yeah?


Regards RAy thumbsup

Regards
Old 1st September 2010
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ray_subsonic View Post
1964 -1971. Bob Dylan, Marvin Gaye, and the artists above. The transition period from tube consoles to solid state consoles. Tape machines now from 8-24 tracks.
You didn't see hardly any 16-track recorders in use at studios in the US and UK until the very late-sixties. I don't think there were any 24-track recorders in actual use until the early-seventies.
Old 1st September 2010
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by blim View Post
You didn't see hardly any 16-track recorders in use at studios in the US and UK until the very late-sixties. I don't think there were any 24-track recorders in actual use until the early-seventies.
Agree. I'd say around 1971 was when most studios began making the transition to 16/24 and solid state.
Old 3rd September 2010
  #23
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u b k's Avatar
 

Motown was banging 16 tracks in '69 when they hit LA. Definitely ahead of the curve.


Gregory Scott - ubk
Old 3rd September 2010
  #24
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chessparov's Avatar
 

AFAIK regarding Motown, later in the 60's, they overdubbed the vocal(s) by singing to the monitor speakers. Rather than all at once with the instrumentalists.

Are there any good examples of tape vs. digital w/tape emulation?

Meaning same material/same performance, just A/B'd.

Chris

P.S. Starting to check out Daptone stuff-Sharon Jones can really "sang".
Old 3rd September 2010
  #25
member no 666
 
Fletcher's Avatar
Seeing that the "vocal sounds of the past" are a chain, a process, and a time period -- I would recommend you forget all this bull****, watch this video and understand there is only one microphone that will get you to the promised land.

Best Mic EVER!!!

Peace.
Old 3rd September 2010
  #26
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Unclenny's Avatar
Just catching up with this most excellent thread.

I'm just a mere guppy in this pond, particularly in the company of this discussion, but it occurs to me that all of that exceptional talent basically just used the tools that they had at hand......they simply sang a good song and simply caught it.

They knew that the vocals ruled the song. I'm starting to get that message myself.

I'll bet they were constantly trying new things to get the sound that was in their head, just as we are. I had a 57 up last night next to a Peluso 251 to try to get what I wanted.

Quote:
Originally Posted by uncle duncan View Post
I just got the Fairchild plug for my UAD card. Now, if I want to emulate Geoff Emerick's work, I have to not use it.
Now that is an excellent and most judicious use of a plugin.
Old 3rd September 2010
  #27
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vincentvangogo's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fletcher View Post
Seeing that the "vocal sounds of the past" are a chain, a process, and a time period -- I would recommend you forget all this bull****, watch this video and understand there is only one microphone that will get you to the promised land.

Best Mic EVER!!!

Peace.
That 'like putting butter on bread that ain't toasted' stuff is about the most confusing analogy I've ever heard. It sounds like he's saying his tracks weren't good enough for his previous mic.
Old 3rd September 2010
  #28
Quote:
Originally Posted by uncle duncan View Post
Another mic modder mentioned the lack of low end in the Beatle's vocal tracks. Apparently, they not only highpassed to compensate for the proximity affect, but they made the singers stay off the mics when singing, unlike nowadays when everyone thinks they have to eat the mic.

Although I think the Beatles were close to the mic a lot of time





Old 4th September 2010
  #29
Jr. Gear Slut 2nd class
 
chessparov's Avatar
 

So Fletcher when is the special Mercenary version of the B2, coming out?

I'm ready to get down and jiggy on it (well not literally)heh.

Chris
Old 4th September 2010
  #30
Lives for gear
I achieved somewhat close results mix-wise.
I ran Rockapella's version of "Stand by Me" through the
board in mono, cut the high-mids out above 3 kHz,
rolled off the lows at 120 Hz. Then I cranked up the
post-fade quit high which then out to
a T.C 4000 set to "Amsterdam Hall", and then brought back into the mixing board in mono.

I maybe wrong, but it sounded somewhat vintage
to my ears.
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