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Muddy Waters "Folk Singer" recording techniques/gear
Old 12th January 2013
  #1
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Scott Whigham's Avatar
 

Muddy Waters "Folk Singer" recording techniques/gear

I can't believe how amazing this album is and how amazing it sounds. I picked it up for $5 at Amazon this week on CD just on a lark. I'd never heard it but $5? Okay. I didn't even know it had Buddy Buy and Willie Dixon. $5 for a Muddy album I haven't heard? Okay - sold.

The music is amazing - can't say enough about it. But I'm specifically interested in the recording techniques and mixing used by Ron Malo. The picture from the back cover shows Willie, Muddy, and Buddy in a small space with one mic facing Muddy. Is that how it was really recorded or is that the rehearsal/press pic? When I listen, it doesn't seem that way. "My Captain" for example is just the two guitars and Muddy singing. Buddy is in the right channel and Muddy's guitar is straight up the middle. There's absolutely none of Buddy's guitar in the left side that I can hear. I can hear some reverb from Buddy in the right though.

And the reverb - holy smokes that is incredible. EMT 140? Some crazy pipe system?

I hope some folks here can shed light on it. I've spent the past 30 minutes trying to find specifics about the session but, other than finding out the studio and engineer, that's about as far as I've gotten.

Old 12th January 2013
  #2
Lives for gear
UA tube console.
Ampex 350/1 tapemachines.
Echochamber.

Hope that helps some...

Best,
Tom
Old 12th January 2013
  #3
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EricF's Avatar
 

I LOVE the sound of that album. It sounds especially glorious on vinyl.
Old 12th January 2013
  #4
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chessparov's Avatar
 

EV 666 WAS a main vocal mic at Chess then.

EV 635a also used a lot on Dixon's bass IIRC from studying Chess Records a bit.

Chris

P.S. EV RE20 was the next generation "666", after the 666 die wore out!
Old 12th January 2013
  #5
Gear Guru
Quote:
Originally Posted by chessparov View Post
EV 666 WAS a main vocal mic at Chess then.

EV 635a also used a lot on Dixon's bass IIRC from studying Chess Records a bit.

Chris

P.S. EV RE20 was the next generation "666", after the 666 die wore out!
Makes sense, blues is the devil's music.
Old 12th January 2013
  #6
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chessparov's Avatar
 

heh

Chris
Old 12th January 2013
  #7
First learn to write, arrange, play and emote like those guys. That's a big chunk of it. Then follow the KISS principle with high quality gear (doesn't have to be tube gear but some ribbons, dynamics, and a couple transformer based condensers and preamps will go a long way). A well maintained 2" 16 track machine WILL make a difference regardless of what the naysayers claim IME.
Old 13th January 2013
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PRobb View Post
Makes sense, blues is the devil's music.
Old 13th January 2013
  #9
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chessparov's Avatar
 

Nathan, thinking that the transformer based AT4047 would be one likely candidate for this kind of Chess vibe too. On the cheap, maybe the Blue Baby Bottle, although IIRC it doesn't have a transformer. Guessing less "all rounder" vs. the AT though, based on trying it out a number of times.

Chris
Old 14th January 2013
  #10
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Good info in this thread - thanks to everyone.

That Echochamber that Tom mentioned - is that a product or is it just missing a space (as in "They used an echo chamber")?
Old 14th January 2013
  #11
Registered User
 

via - Blues Access: Chess Studios


Turning our attention to the room itself, I am mindful of former engineer Ron Malo’s description of the studio in the notes to the Chess Blues box: "You know, the studio at 2120 was an exceptional piece of engineering," he states. "It was a room within a room, adjustable walls, state of the art microphones, and so on."

Dixon-Nelson agrees but points out that famed record producer Ralph Bass, who also worked for a time here as an engineer, once referred to it as a "large hallway."

"It’s not a particularly large room, although the ceiling is extremely high in the studio. But it is a space with a unique combination of sonic factors. There were nine adjustable panels used to control resonance as well as isolating instruments for recording purposes. Visiting musicians often ask if they might play their harmonica or guitar in this room to experience the acoustics that helped shape the Chess sound."

My eyes are drawn almost immediately to a section of pipe protruding through the studio floor which requires no explanation. Long before moving into the 2120 location, Leonard Chess had been experimenting with open microphones in toilets and sections of sewer pipe suspended from the ceiling to achieve echo effects. What I am looking at is nothing less than a technological revolution in its time, a clear manifestation of Chess’ resourcefulness. "People ask all the time about the echo chamber," Dixon-Nelson says through a smile, as if anticipating my question.

"The echo chamber is definitely one of the main components of 2120 and was custom built for Chess by Putnam and Company. This studio was utilized for live, mixed recordings, and often getting an echo would not have been on your list of priorities because you had musicians and instruments all in one area. You had this long, elongated hallway-type studio instead of a big, wide room in which you could assemble all of the instruments and all of the people comfortably. So they opted to send a tube down to the basement and into a big hollow room and to place an amplifier down there as well so that nothing else would have sounded but this amplifier in this big echoing room."

Curious about the other end of the pipe and the chamber itself, Dixon-Nelson leads me down the stairs to the building’s long, triangular-shaped basement. She explains how sound from the second-floor studio was once fed down cables through two pipes to speakers located here. "Though designed as a stereo pair, only one side worked well, so it was actually a mono effect," Dixon-Nelson says. "This basement was a grueling little place. It was never well-lit and was used as one of the storage facilities."

Just as I am beginning to feel every bit of the gloom of this cave-like enclosure, she starts to recount a sorrowful chapter omitted from many annals of music history. "Chuck Berry was allegedly offered the echo chamber to live in when he had to lay low during a difficult time in his career," she says quietly.
Old 16th January 2013
  #12
Registered User
 

Bump for the stunning reverb on this record.

Anyone here have an echo-chamber in their studio? Seriously.
Old 18th January 2013
  #13
Quote:
Originally Posted by chessparov View Post
Nathan, thinking that the transformer based AT4047 would be one likely candidate for this kind of Chess vibe too. On the cheap, maybe the Blue Baby Bottle, although IIRC it doesn't have a transformer. Guessing less "all rounder" vs. the AT though, based on trying it out a number of times.

Chris
I was always under the impression that Muddy primarily used a ribbon (a 77dx), but that could have only been part of the time. But Muddy sounds like Muddy even live with lesser mics. I think of the two mics you mentioned I'd reach for a 4047 first, the baby bottle is darker, cleaner, and a lot hotter in its output (so less room to utilize the sweet spot of the preamp).
Old 19th January 2013
  #14
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chessparov's Avatar
 

Thanks Nathan, although IMHO the 666 can sound really great (like RE20)particularly on great R&B singers. FWIW a number of Aretha's 60's classics, when she's singing/playing piano at the same time, are cut on the 666.

Also there's a terrific live performance by Eric Burdon on Youtube, singing "Tobacco Road" back in the 60's through a 666. Shoulda been a single!

Chris
Old 19th January 2013
  #15
Quote:
Originally Posted by chessparov View Post
Thanks Nathan, although IMHO the 666 can sound really great (like RE20)particularly on great R&B singers. FWIW a number of Aretha's 60's classics, when she's singing/playing piano at the same time, are cut on the 666.

Also there's a terrific live performance by Eric Burdon on Youtube, singing "Tobacco Road" back in the 60's through a 666. Shoulda been a single!

Chris
I agree, some of the nicer large diaphragm dynamics can sound really great on the right voice.
Old 19th January 2013
  #16
Deleted 99dc753
Guest
Its more about the vibe and the emotion those musicians create in their music . In other words it would also sound good recorded today in a daw and entirely mixed ITB. Most often its about the music and lesser the equipment used.

Sure good equipment is a part of it but just it was vintage times it should not be mentioned the gear was great..... if you are a musician take care first about the music.... if you are an engineer in first take care for your gear.
Old 19th January 2013
  #17
Gear Guru
Quote:
Originally Posted by NathanEldred View Post
I agree, some of the nicer large diaphragm dynamics can sound really great on the right voice.
Agreed.
I tell people looking to spend three or four hundred on a vocal mic, a top of the line dynamic is going to be way better than a cheapo Chinese condenser.
Old 19th January 2013
  #18
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chessparov's Avatar
 

Unless you have the TIME to sort out all the "cheapo Chinese condensers"!

I had fun a testing number of budget LDC's that can capture my voice quite well. Like the Blue Baby Bottle I mentioned (although it's a runner-up to the more neutral-ish Studio Projects CS series).

But...

If limited time was a big factor, I totally understand that choosing a quality dynamic can be a smart way to go when starting out. Especially for amateur (like me) home recordings, without professional sound treatment.

BTW with all due respect, (as a singer) am in the camp that believes choice of vocal mic make a HUGE difference. Although honestly, there are times I would defer to a much wiser pro (like some on this thread!). Like as you get closer to the "splitting hairs"heh level between various mic choices.

Chris
Old 19th January 2013
  #19
Registered User
 

I've always been of the camp that gear takes a backseat to performance. But LISTEN to this record- the sonics are incredible. LUSH. Especially for a 3-4 pc ACOUSTIC blues ensemble.

Sure, the performances are solid- after all, you got Muddy, Willie Dixon and a young Buddy Guy, but there are no 'barn burning' moments. Just good playing. And as far as arranging goes- um...nothing special there. Just good songs played in a fairly relaxed, yet inspired way.

Back to the sonics. Listen to early John Hammond, Jr. of the same era. He was very much inspired by Muddy Waters. Great player and great singer. The sonics of his recordings are nowhere near that of the 'Folk Singer' record. YOU- (yes you) could easily record a record that sounds like those early John Hammond records.

But show me something that sounds like this Muddy record. To say that you could easily reproduce the sound means that you haven't listened to the record. And sorry, no 4047 or ev 666 is going to get you close.

It certainly is an amazing benchmark and something to be inspired by.
Old 19th January 2013
  #20
Gear Guru
Quote:
Originally Posted by chessparov View Post
Unless you have the TIME to sort out all the "cheapo Chinese condensers"!

I had fun a testing number of budget LDC's that can capture my voice quite well. Like the Blue Baby Bottle I mentioned (although it's a runner-up to the more neutral-ish Studio Projects CS series).

But...

If limited time was a big factor, I totally understand that choosing a quality dynamic can be a smart way to go when starting out. Especially for amateur (like me) home recordings, without professional sound treatment.

BTW with all due respect, (as a singer) am in the camp that believes choice of vocal mic make a HUGE difference. Although honestly, there are times I would defer to a much wiser pro (like some on this thread!). Like as you get closer to the "splitting hairs"heh level between various mic choices.

Chris
Vocal mic certainly makes a huge difference. Have you ever tried an RE-20 on your voice? I think that's a fine vocal mic and there are times I've used it when there were high end German LDC's available. Particularly useful if you're in an untreated room.
YMMV as always.
Old 19th January 2013
  #21
Jr. Gear Slut 2nd class
 
chessparov's Avatar
 

Thanks for asking about the RE20. I have 2 666's (one pristine/perfect condition), and they're both close in vibe to a RE20. So didn't feel compelled to buy the RE20. But I agree that that the RE20 is an excellent vocal mic.

I think it's kind of underated, especially compared to the GS "Special Edition" most belovedheh "go to" dynamic vocal mic (drumroll please)...SM7

As for "moi", the full voice is catagorized as a lyric/(high)dramatic baritone.

Essentially means it has the mellowness of a lyric, but has the power
(chest voice/metallic tone) of a dramatic bari.

Was lucky too, to retain my original low tenor range of 30+years ago, however, it's also mellow (albeit bright) toned.

So the SM7 which has more "cut"/presence than the flatter RE20 (or 666),
usually takes less steps of any processing-especially EQing.

Even the EV 635a has a bit more presence than the RE20, although it knocks off around 10+ years of how old I sound-to like a "real" tenor!

Plus I would trust the Shure 57/58/545/7 Unidyne III's more in a live studio setting, through a premium pre (ala this Chess session), to cut past the other instruments.

But the RE20, could be really cool for a sparse voice/acoustic guitar sort of thang.

Hope my typically "chattyheh chessparov" response might help others dealing with bright/mellow toned singers...

Chris

P.S. I also like the RE320 BTW.
Old 2nd February 2013
  #22
Gear Nut
 

Thanks for bringing this album to my attention. Amazing sounding recording and wonderful playing. I don't think it gets any better than this.
Old 2nd February 2013
  #23
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by mandodon View Post
Thanks for bringing this album to my attention. Amazing sounding recording and wonderful playing. I don't think it gets any better than this.
+1

ORDERED FROM AMAZON, been enjoying ever since
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