SH Spotlight Studio Historians - 1950's-'60's typical recording studio setup & use

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Tim S, Mar 9, 2007.

  1. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host

    Two mono machines, yes. Both going at once for protection. Two three track machines both going at once for protection. They used a LOT of tape! On Fred's right the producer (A&R Man) would sit.
     
  2. dongle

    dongle New Member

    Location:
    CA
    Thank you! Stereophile mentioned once that there were four original session tapes for Kind of Blue, two mono & two three-tracks. Everything else I'd read contradicted that. With two mono machines clearly in the room it seems likely though.

    Would they cut the mono LPs directly from that first-gen tape, or would they need to do a "mix" tape with the fades and all?
     
  3. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host

    Fades were done in mastering or live. Either way, Columbia always cut their mono from first generation mono tapes. Usually the first machine tapes were stored as sessions for protection. The second tape machine tapes were edited up for album masters.
     
  4. dongle

    dongle New Member

    Location:
    CA
    That explains why my mono copies sound so darn good!
     
  5. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host

    Yes, a mono Columbia from that era will without exception sound better than a stereophonic Columbia.
     
  6. jtaylor

    jtaylor Forum Resident

    Location:
    RVA
    Thanks, Martin.

    I haven't looked at that book in a while; will go back and check it out.
     
  7. Tim S

    Tim S Senior Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    East Tennessee
    Regarding reverb and ambience, did other studios take to the idea of constructed chambers pretty quickly? It would seem to me that a studio could get a lot of business at this time just from having things like good sounding chambers.

    I've also read that EMT introduced the plate reverb in 1957. Was it so expensive at the time, that constructing a chamber was still more cost effective?

    I'm listening to older recordings and really keying on the ambience of the vocals - in particular, Sinatra's "Glad to be unhappy" has a great deal of "hall-ish" sounding reverb on the vocal. What was used for that? It sounds like a (not so great) plate, and to my ears does have an artificial sound,but of course that could not have been a plate in 1955.

    I have more ambience/reverb questions, but I don't want to overload one post. Thank you to everyone who has posted, I am really enjoying this.
     
  8. MMM

    MMM Forum Hall Of Fame

    Location:
    Lodi, New Jersey

    The master does not have that - those 4 "small group" songs on that album are pretty dry and intimate sounding. Get a gray label, or EARLY black/rainbow label LP. The later LP's come from a dub with a lot of echo added to that song. The Norberg CD uses the same tape. The Walsh CD uses the correct master, but then added stereo echo. The disc in the UK 21 CD set should be correct as far as this goes, but I've only heard a clip of "Mood Indigo" from it.

    That album was recorded at Capitol Melrose. They had a rooftop echo chamber.
     
  9. MMM

    MMM Forum Hall Of Fame

    Location:
    Lodi, New Jersey

    I just pulled it out - it's on page 113.
     
  10. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host

  11. Tim S

    Tim S Senior Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    East Tennessee
    Ugh, I hate recording history "revisionists" - I thought that sounded awfully strange for a recording from that date. I guess the same thing happened to my version of Nat King Cole's "Mona Lisa" where it sounds like the nylon guitar on the intro is running through Dick Dale's fender verb.

    Is there a special place in hell for the people who make the decision to do this crap?
     
  12. Tim S

    Tim S Senior Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    East Tennessee
    Thank you for this and other great links, Steve - especially regarding Bill Putnam, Sr. I wish there was more on him, I must say over the past week or so he has become something of a hero to me.

    Russ Gary also pointed me to:

    www.wallyheider.com

    Another really interesting and enjoyable site (the pic section is kinda squirelly, but I really dug the stories).
     
  13. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host

  14. MMM

    MMM Forum Hall Of Fame

    Location:
    Lodi, New Jersey

    They did use the echo chamber at Melrose, but not like that. John Palladino would have never layed that much echo on Frank's voice...

    Which version were you listening to?
     
  15. Tim S

    Tim S Senior Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    East Tennessee
    I don't know the version, maybe early 90's Capitol, I cannot imagine that there's a version that has any more added echo than this one - I sure hope not.
     
  16. MMM

    MMM Forum Hall Of Fame

    Location:
    Lodi, New Jersey
    Larry's master then, from 1991? Try playing it in mono. A lot of the stereo echo cancels out. Still not right, but it'll help.
     
  17. Tim S

    Tim S Senior Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    East Tennessee

    Attached Files:

  18. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host

    You guys saw this WRECKING CREW "Wall Of Sound" session photo at Gold Star Recording, Studio A, right? Look at the small amount of microphones compared to the large number of musicians... That's the way to do it! No isolation, no nuttin'!
     

    Attached Files:

  19. dongle

    dongle New Member

    Location:
    CA
    Outdoors you mean? How did that work?
     
  20. MMM

    MMM Forum Hall Of Fame

    Location:
    Lodi, New Jersey
    It was a "room" on top of the building. Still there, at least as of a few years ago...
     
  21. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host

    I had a request for a thread bump...

    Here ya go, back to Music Corner from FAQ section for a limited time.

    The question was asked of me WHY THREE TRACK instead of TWO TRACK for early stereo recording?

    I think the answer is that over at RCA-Victor they had a classical soloist that kept moving around and his instrument would go from channel to channel. The Ampex with a solid center channel would prevent that from happening so it was used (I think it was Jascha Heifetz in 1956). From then on it was used everywhere in the major studios, whether it was needed or not..

    Ironically this meant that the final stereo mix had to always be bumped down from three track to two track tape for cutting (called a "reduction mix"). This added more tape hiss and usually more echo, distortion and fiddling with the music. This trend of "remixing" the music has unfortunately never gone away and it's been SOP for a zillion years.

    The pure vintage two channel recordings from the cheaper studios (Heider, Contemporary, Rudy Van Gelder) used a 1/4" two-track machine and cut their records directly from this two track tape for the highest quality (and saving money at the same time by using this same tape to cut their mono records as well).

    Bell Sound in NYC had a 1/2" Ampex Four-track machine as early as 1959 (used only for more complex recordings like Ray Charles' HIT THE ROAD, JACK) and of course Atlantic Records had their creaky Ampex 1" Eight-track machine by the late 1950's. Eight hissy channels of tape, mixed to mono seems pointless to me but what can I say? Tom Dowd wanted to be able to "remix" after the session. Sounds logical but at what cost to the "feel" of the music?
     
  22. Some great pics in this thread - many thks.
     
  23. Grant

    Grant Senior Member

    Location:
    United States

    Interesting!

    Well, Tom Dowd was a gear-head. Gear-geeks like to fiddle with things. That's my guess as to why he would tolerate hiss for flexibility.

    I know it's been said that echo was added to music to give it a more, uh, mature sound, but can you shed some light on the real reason it was added, especially to stereo mixes?
     
  24. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host

    Echo (when done right) always enhances the sound. Before 1952 records were made dry. Studios went out of their way to keep their music reverberation free. They figured that the home that the music was being played back in would add the ambiance when the recording hit the walls. In 1952 the "Hi-Fi" era started. That was when the upstart record labels (like Mercury LIVING PRESENCE) started to record orchestras in real concert halls instead of dry studios. Those recordings sounded BIG. And there was no turning back. Bill Putnam adapted a radio echo chamber for recordings and then the days of dry recordings was over. Just compare a Sinatra or Nat Cole recording from 1951 with one from 1954 and then one from 1957. Yikes!

    In the stereo era getting the reverb in stereo as well was a challenge but they figured it out. I think they figured that since echo meant HI-FI to the new audiophile crowd so stereo records would have DOUBLE the reverb for double the speakers. Double yikes!

    Come to think of it, audiophiles still crave reverb. Think about all of those current audiophile recordings that sound like we are sitting in the cheap seats or in the back of a church. The echo level is equal to the music. In other words, too much (for me.) They must hate it when I REMOVE a bunch of reverb from some of the stuff I remaster.:eek:
     
    Krzysztof Maj and Yosi like this.
  25. Grant

    Grant Senior Member

    Location:
    United States
    I'm still trying to figure out how to do that.
     

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