SH Spotlight Steve: Echo. Why so much and some history? BEATLES echo?

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Bob Lovely, May 10, 2002.

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  1. Bob Lovely

    Bob Lovely Super Gort Staff Thread Starter

    Steve: Echo/Reverb--Why, Why so much and some history?

    Steve,

    We have had the mini-course on "EQ" from you and the recent mini-course on "compression/limiting". How about the history, technology and use of echo and reverb in recordings that we cherish from the 1950's and 60's--why was it used, why so much in so many recordings and some technical comments about how it was achieved and what equipment was used? You have stated in a number of threads that you prefer "dry" or "more dry" recordings to those that are either "wet" or "drenched", as I like to say (recent Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole threads).

    As always, thanks for your sharing your knowledge and experiences!

    Bob :)
     
  2. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host

    Ah, Bob, I could write a book ;)

    Very quickly. In the late 1920's when electric recording came in (1925), some record companies like Columbia and Victor, recorded in an ambient enviornment (churches, meeting halls, etc.)

    BUT, when Jukeboxes came in, the Jukebox operators DEMANDED that the record companies deaden their sound. The metallic sound of the Jukeboxes made the records sound too thin. SO, the record companies (hurting from the depression) did just that, just in time for the swing era.

    That's why, from about 1935 on (until the 1950's), records were recorded as DEAD as possible.

    Then, the HI-FI revolution began and the very start of the 1950's. Engineers tried everything to make their records sound "Hi-Fi" even if they didn't have a clue as to what that meant to a consumer. Mercury Records and engineer Bill Fine, put a single microphone in a big concert hall and recorded the first Mercury "Living Presence" LP. This was the start of the "Hi-Fi" craze, and most engineers from other companies quickly came to the understanding that ECHO = Hi-Fi.

    A guy named Bill Putnam founded Universal Recording in Chicago and he invented the first "echo chamber". Easier than recording on location in a big hall. One by one, the "echo craze" spread across the country and around the world. Capitol built their chamber in 1953, and when they moved to the Capitol Tower in early 1956, their chambers were well thought out and amazing sounding (still are). Decca used an American Leigon Hall in NYC to get that natural echo on "Rock Around The Clock" in 1954, and Columbia built big wonderful wet sounding studios to record stuff in ("Take Five", "Kind Of Blue", etc.)

    Echo was here to stay.

    Of course, by 1958, when stereo LP's came in, the engineers DOUBLED the amount of echo, but that's another story....

    How's that for a quick rundown?

    :cool:
     
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  3. Bob Lovely

    Bob Lovely Super Gort Staff Thread Starter

    Steve,

    Thanks--that helps to set the course for what transpired and how use evolved. I was listening to those Mitch Miller produced recordings last night and I could not help but notice how "drenched" they were--Marty Robbins, Frankie Laine, Guy Mitchell, et al. Further, I thought about how their "drenching" actually reduced their fidelity.

    Bob :)
     
  4. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host

    Indeed. There is ambience, then there is drenched.

    Believe me, after you have heard some of these drenched ones without the downpouring of echo (the bonus track of "Stardust" on Nat "King" Cole's "Love Is The Thing" DCC Gold CD for example), you can begin to hear the magic on the actual tapes.
     
  5. Bob Lovely

    Bob Lovely Super Gort Staff Thread Starter

    Steve,

    I have the DCC NKC CD (thank you). It is the fidelity of the Love Is The Thing CD (and others of that period) that gets me wondering about how wonderful many of those vintage recordings could sound if they were not so drenched.

    A question--In a recording studio or mastering room, is Echo a physically produced process and Reverb an electronically produced process? They sound distinctly different with Echo, to my ears, being a series increasingly softer individual reflections of the original sound whereas Reverb sounds like a timed fade of the original sound so affected.

    My father was Chief Engineer for a group of Top 40 Radio stations in the Midwest during the 60's and they added electroncially produced Reverb (to everything) at the transmitter site to the signal to be transmitted...more reverb was added to a largely "wet" original product.

    Bob
     
  6. Dave

    Dave Esoteric Audio Research Specialistâ„¢

    Location:
    B.C.
    DDC Bob? You haven't taken your medication yet huh?
     
  7. Bob Lovely

    Bob Lovely Super Gort Staff Thread Starter

    Dave,

    As you can see, I took my meds!

    Bob :D
     
  8. David R. Modny

    David R. Modny Senior Member

    Location:
    Streetsboro, Ohio
    On the other side of the coin, I happen to love tasteful, soft/plate reverbs on vocals as long as they're not "drenched" and over-the-top (Andy Wiliams 60's era recordings come to mind as something that's over-the-top). For me, it's as much of the pop music experience as anything. Totally dry vocals, even from the crooning greats, just don't give me the same rush as a soft, relaxing analog reverb. It's something that's part of the creative experience for me. Can we imagine what Art Garfunkel's voice during the bridge of "Overs" would have sounded like, dry, without that great, wet Halee effect on it?

    In addition, let's not forget that reverb and echo can be a great tool in masking and evening-out less-than-flattering vocal performances too! Ever heard a completely dry, live concert vocal directly out of the soundboard.....yikes!




    :eek:
     
  9. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host

    Bob,

    There are all types of "wetness".

    I guess echo isn't really echo per se. It should be called reverb. True echo is kind of like yodeling on a mountain top and then it comes back to you after a delay.

    Nowadays we just use the term "echo" to mean everything.

    But, as to types of echo.

    1. Reverb, made in a chamber or "plate"
    2. Natural reverb with natural decay, from a real big space.
    3. Echo or delay. Made by various means. Also called "slap", etc. The cheap Sun Records slap echo.

    One example before I have to go actually do some work.

    THE BEATLES "I Saw Her Standing There" (or anything on that first Beatles LP that you might have in stereo).

    Go listen to that song, cutting off the vocals on the right channel. OK? Now you have heard the Abbey Road "SUPER DUPER" echo treatment:

    A reverb chamber being fed back through the console and being printed to a second tape machine. That tape is being fed back through the console to the rhythm track of the live recording. With me so far? Now, since this tape recorder is playing back the live echo, the three-inch gap between the record and playback head of this "echo only" tape machine is allowing the ACTUAL PRINTED ECHO on the session master to have a slight delay in it.

    So, it has that nice Abbey Road reverb PLUS the proper slap echo delay sound thrown in for good measure.

    Cool, eh?
     
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  10. Dave

    Dave Esoteric Audio Research Specialistâ„¢

    Location:
    B.C.
    Bob,

    Hmm, guess it just took a couple of minutes to kick in.:D
     
  11. Bob Lovely

    Bob Lovely Super Gort Staff Thread Starter

    Steve,

    Very cool and thanks! I will listen tonight when I get home!

    Bob
     
  12. krabapple

    krabapple New Member

    Location:
    Washington DC
    Great thread!

    one thing I felt growing up in the 60's/70's was that as corporate rock/AOR/arena rock (whatever you choose to call it -- early examples
    include Boston, Foreigner, Styx -- bands that borrowed heavily from the early 70's rock but removed most of the experimental spirit) burgeoned in the mid to late 70's, we heard MORE AND MORE echo or reverb in rock. The early 70's seemed to be mostly 'dry' recording wise. Compare Bowie's 'Ziggy Stardust' or Yes' 'Fragile' for example, to stuff from the late 70's and early 80;s (including Yes or Bowie, e.g. Going for the One and Let's Dance). I *love* the early 70's dry sound, and have since then tended to associate lots of reverb with overproduced, homogenized, LCD (least common denominator) rock, as a result of the 'arena'-ization of rock in the 70s. (You can perhaps imagine what a trial the 80's were for me, musically ;>)

    Seems to me the rule was: the more commercial an act got, the more reverb they added to their records.
     
  13. Bob Lovely

    Bob Lovely Super Gort Staff Thread Starter

    Certainly, there were a lot of great recordings in the 70's that were "dry" and they still sound great today. The 60's were definitely the "wet" years...some would say drenched! Recordings from the 80's were all over the "wetness" map, in my opinion.

    Bob
     
  14. Bob Lovely

    Bob Lovely Super Gort Staff Thread Starter

    Dave,

    I like a little wetness for depth and effect, but a drenching like so many of those Columbia recordings in the 50's and 60's...:eek: Johnny Mathis, Andy Williams, Tony Bennett--over the top in my opinion....maybe that was part of the New York sound as compared to Nashville where wetness was (somewhat) more reserved. Of course, then there are the "wet" Phil Spector recordings from the West Coast...the 60's were an especially "wet" decade.

    Bob
     
  15. lukpac

    lukpac Senior Member

    Location:
    Milwaukee, WI
    Bahh!!!

    Try the end of "Thank You Girl" (check out the bootleg session). Now *there's* echo!

    Steve, any idea why they stopped recording like that after She Loves You? The WTB stuff doesn't have that echo on it...

    BTW, I *love* that echo sound on the stereo issue of the first LP.
     
  16. Grant

    Grant In holiday HELL

    Location:
    United States
    The 80s were the WORST! I hate that "arena rock" sound!:mad:
     
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  17. Bob Lovely

    Bob Lovely Super Gort Staff Thread Starter

    Grant,

    Like being drowned in Reverb!!....

    Bob
     
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  18. David R. Modny

    David R. Modny Senior Member

    Location:
    Streetsboro, Ohio
    Let's differentiate, though, in adding a simple reverb pattern to a vocal track (leaving everything else fairly dry...with maybe some ambient room sound) as opposed to dousing an ENTIRE track in effects (a la 80's style)...lol!

    You know, that BIG 80's-style Phil Collins drum sound. A heavily effected drum kit with a sharp noise gating on it to chop off the tails. BIGGGGG SOUND....lol!

    Now, process the hell out of the vocals, add all kinds of reverbs and digital delays to most of the tracks....presto...the 80's!:)
     
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  19. lukpac

    lukpac Senior Member

    Location:
    Milwaukee, WI
    Yeah, try Born In The USA. Or...well, anything. Of course, many producers still like that drum sound. Not too uncommon these days.
     
  20. Claviusb

    Claviusb A Serious Man

    I remember reading a long time ago that echo was used a lot to "fill out" a weak vocal performances, and then people got carried away with using it when they realized it could make any voice appear better than what it was. So... for many years I've listened to all kinds of recordings and wondered did they do that because he/she has no talent, was it to cover up the previous bad night the vocalist had, or was it just because the vocalist or producer was after that kind of effect?
     
  21. David R. Modny

    David R. Modny Senior Member

    Location:
    Streetsboro, Ohio

    Probably, perhaps, a little of each as well as a dozen other resasons....lol!

    In all seriousness, I think that pop music in general is about putting forth the best foot possible, production-wise. I mean, the good stuff's gonna, hopefully, still be heard centuries from now. Once it's set in stone...it's set in stone (remix issues aside). These are tools, and even the legends use them.

    From double tracking (even triple!) a voice, compressing, limiting, echoing, delaying, flanging, reverbing, "punching" in and out, editing, digital pitch corrrecting (can anyone say J-LO?), Aural exciting, Evantide harmonizing,....etc... etc... - anything to get a performance on tape that's listenable, pleasant, and will stand the test of time (of course these tools can be abused too!).

    One of the most popular way of recording vocals is "comp'ing" them. That is a performer may sing a song (or part of a tune) countless number of times (made easier when you have 128 tracks to work with!). During mixing, the engineer will then pick and choose the best of those...a line here, a phrase there, and then bounce them down to one *complete* performance. After that, if they desire, they can start the process all over again! Paul Simon likes to do this with his leads.

    Of course, back in the "old days"...you had the other side of the coin. Where a great singer might sing it live in the studio, from start to finish, and that was the final performance...amazing! He was out the door and golfing by 11AM!
     
  22. David R. Modny

    David R. Modny Senior Member

    Location:
    Streetsboro, Ohio
    ...or how about George Martin mentioning in his book that he used to have to double Billy J. Kramer's lead vocals with a piano line (playing the exact same thing but mixed lower), to help create the illusion of Billy singing in tune!

    I also remember reading that, back in the original teen-idol days - they used to sometimes mike the singer in a way that the voice would travel through the open, stringed part of a piano...anything to add some some richness and resonance(and then manually double track it, of course)! Very interesting technique!
     
  23. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host

    I love that stuff. Totally neat.

    I remember seeing Billy J. Kramer on the Ed Sullivan show. He must have practiced by then....
     
  24. Claviusb

    Claviusb A Serious Man

    Slightly off topic

    Hey Steve, do you know if groups ever lip-synced on Ed Sullivan the way they did on American Bandstand, or was it always live performances?
     
  25. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host

    As far as I know, up until 1965 everything had to be live. After '65 (or '66), they allowed the BACKING TRACK to be pre-recorded in some cases, as long as the lead vocal was live.

    Billy J. Kramer and all of that Invasion stuff on Sullivan (Animals, DC5, Gerry, Freddie, etc.) was all live.
     
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