Old 03-06-2010, 04:11 PM   #1
cerendir
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Default Faking a '70s production?

Jamming on my acoustic yesterday, and playing around with NuBiLe and SpinnerLE earlier today, I got really inspired to write and record a higly seventies-flavored progressive rock tune. Think mid seventies Kansas/Genesis/Jethro Tull, or some kind of unholy amalgam thereof. And by seventies-flavored I don't just mean musically, but in terms of production as well. I figured it might be fun to try and recreate a really retro sound, partly for the nostalgic value and partly for educational purposes, as I've never attempted anything like that before. Instrument selection is a no-brainer of course. But when it comes to recording and processing, I have no idea how to get the sound I'm after. Obviously I need to make digital recordings and sampled/virtual instruments sound like they're not digital recordings and sampled/virtual instruments, and I know there's a completely daunting amount of plugins out there designed to do this. Emulations of this or that vintage hardware, tape/tube saturation plugins and so on. The problem isn't really finding the right tools, it's knowing how to use them to reach my goal.

So, I would basically like some pointers on how to 'fake' a seventies sound with modern technology. Doesn't have to be 100% authentic -- I don't want to turn this into a science project -- but relatively close. Tips on specific plugins (within the free realm!) to use are very welcome, as well as more general advice on how to get in the sonic ballpark. I have a notion that strategic use of mic and room ambience IR's on sampled instruments might help alleviate some of that up-front, crystal clear modern sound, but I have yet to try this in practice.

I'm also kind of stumped as to how to get that characteristic seventies drum sound using pristine modern samples. Perhaps it's not even possible to get that dead-damped, flat sound of the era without setting up a drum kit the exact same way and sampling it? The right combo of eq, compression and gating might do the trick but OTOH I have a vague fear that it will sound silly rather than retro. Tips on drum samples that might fit the bill are of course very welcome.

Writing this I get a feeling that it might be interpreted as "wat plugs do u use to get a retro sound?" type of request, as if it was just a question of loading the right effects and boom, there you go. That's not my intention. I'm fully aware that gettting a vintage sound with modern equipment is a whole field of science in itself -- and TBH most of the debates about this emulation versus that vintage h/w goes waaaay above my head (or ears). I'm just interested in hearing people's takes on how to get a good seventies-esque sound, I'm not asking for a cut-and-dried formula.

Wow, I'm completely unable to make a long story short
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Old 03-06-2010, 04:40 PM   #2
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The drum sound from the 70s comes from drummers leaving the bottom (resonant) head off the drums, except the snare of course, to leave room for engineers to stick the mics directly inside the drums aimed at the middle of the head. I double any of the sample libraries have bothered to get this sound, it's been out of style for decades. I'm going to say what I always say about sample libraries here and say get a real drummer. =D

Ultimately I wouldn't worry about matching the sound exactly, what matters more is the musical style and that you get the feel right. Try to evoke the feel rather than trying to slavishly duplicate everything exactly.

One thing I'd do specifically though is try to stay away from too much layering, compression, and/or other tricks used to "fill up" the mix. Leave the mix fairly sparse, apply effects to busses rather than using sends or putting them on individual tracks.
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Old 03-06-2010, 05:01 PM   #3
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not hard really. dead drums in a small, dead room, close mic'd, evans hydralic heads or remo black dots. don't have real drums? sample some off an al green record. otherwise IF you must, find the dryest kit of the sample kits you have and use a transient designer to to cut the sustain down. and don't use the room mics.

keys? just the classics. good ole piano, b3, wurlitzer & rhodes (played through a fender twin), mellotron, cheezball fake strings, maybe some crappy, annoying monophonic synth. i.e "wish you were here," or steve miller band.

bass? 4 strings only. no 5's, just a p-bass, jazz bass or maybe a rick.

geetars? no pointy headstocks, no high gain, no chorus, but maybe add a craptastic big muff fuzz pedal.

vocals? sing in tune without a plugin to do it for you

fx? setup 1 plate reverb, 1 slapback delay, and 1 long delay, and ONLY use those via channel sends.

a big pile of cocaine and/or heroin helps too.
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Old 03-25-2010, 08:48 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by d. gauss View Post
not hard really. dead drums in a small, dead room, close mic'd, evans hydralic heads or remo black dots. don't have real drums? sample some off an al green record. otherwise IF you must, find the dryest kit of the sample kits you have and use a transient designer to to cut the sustain down. and don't use the room mics.

keys? just the classics. good ole piano, b3, wurlitzer & rhodes (played through a fender twin), mellotron, cheezball fake strings, maybe some crappy, annoying monophonic synth. i.e "wish you were here," or steve miller band.

bass? 4 strings only. no 5's, just a p-bass, jazz bass or maybe a rick.

geetars? no pointy headstocks, no high gain, no chorus, but maybe add a craptastic big muff fuzz pedal.

vocals? sing in tune without a plugin to do it for you

fx? setup 1 plate reverb, 1 slapback delay, and 1 long delay, and ONLY use those via channel sends.

a big pile of cocaine and/or heroin helps too.
Wow, yeah...this is the formula. but make that slapback on a 1/4" otari 5050!
and if anyone can point me in the direction of a plug-in that emulates the sound of a studer A80 running ampex 456@+3 15IPS no Dolby, I'd be forever in your debt.
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Old 03-25-2010, 01:50 PM   #5
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Cool idea! Man, I love the old prog stuff. I was actually listening to Selling England by the Pound while reading this thread...

First and foremost, you need the SONG and ARRANGEMENT. The great prog bands were MASTER arrangers. Pick a few favorite tunes and just write out arrangement notes... what instruments when, keys and time signatures (if needed), comments on dynamics and mood shifts, complete lyrics, etc. You can learn a lot about how they were put together that way. Then do your composing along those models. I'd start with something small and contained - compare Yes' "Siberian Khatru", or King Crimson's "Epitaph", or somesuch. Don't try to write "Supper's Ready" right out of the gate!

Second, compose within your own chops and abilities. Check out the Flaming Lips album "The Soft Bulletin" for great ideas there. They aren't huge chops players, but they got the prog feel (and modernized it).

Now for production stuff, here are a bunch of ideas, many of which have already been mentioned:
1. Use only plate or chamber reverbs. I'd be a little more generous here and allow a tiny amount of room reverb on individual tracks, but just put a plate or a chamber on a send and make all the instruments share it.
2. Extensive use of mono and hard panning. Don't record instruments in stereo, generally.
3. Use characteristic instruments of the time... mellotrons and organs, dry thuddy toms, fuzz pedals.
4. Since you're relying on sampled drums, try adding live hand percussion for a more live feel.
5. Make a "desk". Use ONLY a single, "character" eq on every track. If it can't be done with something like Stillwell 1973, you live without. Compressors should be on busses and shared, and not many of 'em.
6. Limit the track count on your "desk" to 24, max. If you need more, render a submix and then delete the originals (you'll want to do this right away with the drums). Make commitments!
7. Don't ever edit timing on a track. If you can't play it perfectly, live with the imperfection.

I actually do a lot of this stuff as regular practice. I very nearly switched from Reaper to Propellerhead Record just for its forced traditional mixing desk and no-vst limitations. Ultimately, I stayed with Reaper largely because Record can't touch my NI B4 organ or Redline Reverb...
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Old 03-25-2010, 02:00 PM   #6
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I don't know about the idea of bouncing to cassette.

Just because people listened on cassette a lot doesn't mean that the source material sounded like cassette tapes.

For organ sounds I like the free Proteus VX (or the full Proteus X).
Play with the mod wheel, they have leslie and distortion programmed into some of the sounds.
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Old 03-06-2010, 05:02 PM   #7
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I do Reggae music myself and yes, getting the old sound and knowing certain techniques is a long study. Hearing things about the snare, etc are good info. Some of us are just lo-fi, I suppose :P
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Old 03-06-2010, 06:06 PM   #8
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In addition to the tips above, I'd try throwing a good tape saturator on everything in sight. I tend to use Antress ModernAnaloguer a fair bit, and there was a good from Bootsy that escapes me at the moment. Start with a medium amount of saturation/color/compression at any point where you'd have a mic in real-life (after guitar impulses, after drum samples, on the drums' "room" track, etc), and then put some on the master for good measure.
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Old 03-06-2010, 09:28 PM   #9
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"Thin" things out a bit - don't go "modern" with you're EQ'ing, etc. (Less or no "point" on the kick, very little bottom on the guitars, very little high's on the bass, etc)

Use some copies/clones of "classic" compressor plugins, to taste. EQ's, too.

Play REALLY well, lol.

Listen to a bunch of those ALBUMS (what's that?), and try to zone in on the types of room sounds and reverb being used. That's a toughy. Doesn't necessarily need to be "dead", though.

Tape and/or tube saturation plugins on the master bus, and individual tracks to taste, as well.
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Old 03-06-2010, 10:31 PM   #10
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Default Here are some drums that will work for you....

Go to the Abbey Roads Drums website http://www.abbeyroadplugins.com/ and take a look at their new release called; "Abbey Road Drums". Recorded samples in Abbey Road....the Beatles room, with a real 60's Ludwig kit. Old vintage mics, but also with newer mics... I just bought a copy...hasn't arrived yet, but I can't wait. Check out their demo video...pretty cool. Oh, it only works with their N.I. Kontakt 4 player which you can download for free... Good luck.
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Old 03-07-2010, 02:53 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nfpotter View Post
"Thin" things out a bit - don't go "modern" with you're EQ'ing, etc. (Less or no "point" on the kick, very little bottom on the guitars, very little high's on the bass, etc)

Use some copies/clones of "classic" compressor plugins, to taste. EQ's, too.

Play REALLY well, lol.

Listen to a bunch of those ALBUMS (what's that?), and try to zone in on the types of room sounds and reverb being used. That's a toughy. Doesn't necessarily need to be "dead", though.

Tape and/or tube saturation plugins on the master bus, and individual tracks to taste, as well.
I agree! Also songs back then were more dynamic..... and perhaps a touch of pink noise in the backgound for that analog recording equipment feeling?

...oh yes, and don't forget to cut a vinyl!
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Old 03-23-2010, 07:15 PM   #12
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You should bounce all the stems to a cassette deck and mix that. The analogue tape sound from yesteryear is the low-fi cassette sound because that is what we heard at the consumer level. In the old days you would have to have the absolute best equipment during the entire production chain because every thing you did added distortion to the signal. The lower grade of analogue that tape decks produce can be fixed with digital plugins because it doesn't degrade the sound any further. And using digital plugins after you bounced to tape still sounds like analogue. Once you sprinkle magic fairy dust(iron oxide) on the sound its analogue forever. Changing the record levels and bias will give you different kinds of compression, saturation, distortion, low end boost and high frequency roll off. And you get wow and flutter which is a very underrated feature that contributes to the magic of tape. In this way you are using the tape deck as an effects box. It changes the way you mix ITB.
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Old 03-23-2010, 09:24 PM   #13
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You're recording each track separately to cassette tape and then re-importing it to your DAW? I've always wanted to try that! Do you have to do a lot of nipping and tucking to keep things in sync?
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Old 03-23-2010, 11:07 PM   #14
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He said bounce stems...bouncing separate tracks is liable to be a bit much. If you have a three head machine sync won't be an issue.
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Old 03-24-2010, 04:12 AM   #15
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This is starting to sound more and more like a science project instead of a recording
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Old 03-24-2010, 05:29 AM   #16
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Which open source kit are you using ?
The Open Source Drum Kit.

Here's a short clip of the drums in action, completely unprocessed. I've replaced the default kick and snare with the ones in The Real Snare Drum package (wow, these guys come up with the most imaginative names) from the same site. I think these samples will fit the style quite well.
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Old 03-29-2010, 02:47 PM   #17
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This is starting to sound more and more like a science project instead of a recording
A lot of 1970s prog sounds more like a science project than a recording...
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