Old 03-24-2010, 06:32 PM   #1
J Kennedy
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Default how to get that 60's sound

Donít know if anyone knows about how they did this, because it was too long ago.

We donít get many radio stations here. We got the Oldies station, a country station, a generic rock station. Sometimes you can pick up OPB and a lame religious station.

Blessed with a beautiful commute to work and spend a lot of the time listening to oldies. These 60ís guys achieved a recording quality I canít get with all the digital overkill.

Guitar, not shredding leads, but the rhythm guitar. Clear, clean, thin and fat at the same time. This was a common element they achieved somehow. Micing, amps?? Can't get it even close, and it's not just an artifact of analog tape saturation. Something they did.

This sound was all over the records. Dave Clark Five, Honeycombs, Turtles, hordes of other bands. I did YouTube searches to look at the videos. Most of the videos were lip sync'd, guitars not plugged in and no amps in the background, so not many clues. Much less how they got the sound committed to vinyl in the studio.

These guys didn't have any effects beyond a spring reverb, tremolo and tone controls. Don't know if they even had condenser mics. Interesting to me is that the effect or quality was gotten regardless the type of guitar, single coil or hollow body with dual coil pickups getting the same sound that was signature of the era.

Off topic sorta, but I always liked the critical Shades of Deep Purple album with R Blackmore. Cutting strat or single coil sound obvious to anyone. Learned that the clean razor tracks were done with a Gibson ES-335. This is crazy.

What the heck was happening back then, or what did they do that we can't get now with a thousand times the toys.

Probably no takers on this because the technology may already be lost or not well documented.

Hope every one of you are doing well.

John
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Old 03-24-2010, 06:40 PM   #2
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This book will help: http://www.recordingthebeatles.com/

Anyway, it was tape, tube condenser mics, ribbon mics, some nice compressors and excellent players in the same room.
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Old 03-24-2010, 06:43 PM   #3
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Christ, that move was quick. Less than a minute. Even the 70's request hung out for a couple weeks. Guess here's where it belongs though if there's any advice.

JHughes, just saw your post. The tube condenser mic may well have been a big part. Thanks for the link.

JHughes, this looks like a dynamite reference

Last edited by J Kennedy; 03-24-2010 at 06:49 PM. Reason: checked the link
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Old 03-24-2010, 06:52 PM   #4
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Donít know if anyone knows about how they did this, because it was too long ago.

We donít get many radio stations here. We got the Oldies station, a country station, a generic rock station. Sometimes you can pick up OPB and a lame religious station.

Blessed with a beautiful commute to work and spend a lot of the time listening to oldies. These 60ís guys achieved a recording quality I canít get with all the digital overkill.

Guitar, not shredding leads, but the rhythm guitar. Clear, clean, thin and fat at the same time. This was a common element they achieved somehow. Micing, amps?? Can't get it even close, and it's not just an artifact of analog tape saturation. Something they did.

This sound was all over the records. Dave Clark Five, Honeycombs, Turtles, hordes of other bands. I did YouTube searches to look at the videos. Most of the videos were lip sync'd, guitars not plugged in and no amps in the background, so not many clues. Much less how they got the sound committed to vinyl in the studio.

These guys didn't have any effects beyond a spring reverb, tremolo and tone controls. Don't know if they even had condenser mics. Interesting to me is that the effect or quality was gotten regardless the type of guitar, single coil or hollow body with dual coil pickups getting the same sound that was signature of the era.

Off topic sorta, but I always liked the critical Shades of Deep Purple album with R Blackmore. Cutting strat or single coil sound obvious to anyone. Learned that the clean razor tracks were done with a Gibson ES-335. This is crazy.

What the heck was happening back then, or what did they do that we can't get now with a thousand times the toys.

Probably no takers on this because the technology may already be lost or not well documented.

Hope every one of you are doing well.

John
Being a young, inspired producer and knowing only the digital domain of audio production, I have to say getting the classic vibe is something that isn't necessarily impossible, but unlikely. With the plethorea of quantization tools, strict "to the grid" editing, and overall technological advancements that have been made, recordings have lost the "human" vibe. With all aspects of music being quantized (Esp drums) the music we hear tend to sound more like computers playing it, rather than humans.

Back then, it was all about getting good takes and pasting/cutting/pasting tape on your analog gear. I think thats why these recordings are as you describe. As producers, we are never satisfied with takes, they have to be perfectly on time and in key. As Engineers, we have to use all of our editing tools...everything has to be gridlocked, vocals will be "melodyned" or "autotuned" to harmonize an instrument or add flavor.

Back in the days of vinyl, recording bands was more or less capturing the live vibe to a record, nowadays, it is all about how many tools we can use to make these things as polished and "presentable" as possible...yet some people argue that the old analog way is pure (I won't argue, both methods have pros and cons)

Sometimes keeping the take of the guitarist accidently overstrumming a chord or a drummer hitting the rim instead of the snare head can add that vintage vibe.

One thing is certain, there will always be those people, the analog guys: The Phil Spector's and the Jimmy Page's. And there will be those digital guys: The Joey Sturgis's and the Andy Sneap's
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Old 03-24-2010, 07:04 PM   #5
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Besides the plain technology in front of the mixer, the stuff was played live into 2- and 3-track recorders, in the late 60s on 4-track and very rarely on 8-track recorders, with very limited usage of overdubs (either "Phil Spector"-technique with the band in stereo and the vocalist on the third track, or mixed techniques, or Joe Meek-style using 2 tracks for overdubs mixed in mono etc.). "Sound-on-sound" techniques were rarely used, resulting in a further degradation of the signal quality.

Microphone techniques were according to this, with a tendency to use mics on groups rather than close micing individual instruments, also depending on early or late 60s, drums were mostly recorded as a whole with a single mic. Recording technology evolved a lot in that decade which is reflected much in the recordings. All this and little concern of engineers re distortion (levels were hot since effective noise reduction technology was not invented in the first half of the 60s ) contributes to the "typical" sound (actually a whole variety of "typical" sounds, just like in the 70s).
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Old 03-24-2010, 07:34 PM   #6
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Chase,

What I was trying to figure out was how to achieve the specific sound quality of the rhythm guitars of the time, what they did to get the unique sound quality recorded. Always sounding near like single coil Fenders going thru Fender amps but with something else that made the guitar cleaner than clean, compressed and defined. Many of the oldies songs were hallmarked by the simple rhythm chords that cut your ear and brain to the root. The experience was more than could be defined by a lot of the flash technical feats of the lead guitarists. All these guys had to do was strum and you were blown away.

Looking at all the plugins and guitars in my studio. I can go from dull humbuckers to tin can single coils, but can’t hit the place these guys got somewhere in the middle by just stumming a chord. They hit the soul clean and definitive.

JHughes must be on mark with his assessment of tube based condensers as a bridge between some generic guitar and a generic amp.

I’ve always kept an eye on the ironic attempt to reintroduce analog flaws into digital objectivity. The plugs are usually named “vintage” in the effort.

Have a friend I’d mentioned who looks way down on Reaper because it isn’t ProTools. He records in distant studios to get ProTools support, but turned out it was the peripheral hardware he was chasing. The studio had a 1930’s tube mic with a 1945 tube salvaged from a WWII Nazi sub. Then into a $30k Neve console. The thing sounded fantastic.

My quest is to find if there is either a hardware solution or a “vintage” vst plug or chain that can get even close to the masters. These guys set the bar almost impossibly high even without knowing it.

John

Stein, thank you also for your feedback.
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Old 03-24-2010, 07:53 PM   #7
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Honestly probably 95% of it is simplicity of approach.

Better instruments, better performances, careful placement of fewer, better, and more distant mics, and really and thoroughly exploring and exploiting the tools available, as opposed to late-night, glassy-eyed, preset-flipping.

In the 60s, a Fender electric guitar or a decent microphone cost as much as a new car. A 4-track studio cost as much as an apartment building, and was a wonder of technology. A cutting-edge guitar amp might have as many as three or four knobs.

That means that the people using this equipment were actually learning it, and building sounds around what they could do with the tools available. Until circa Pet sounds or Sgt Peppers, recordings were very much more like an ideal rehearsal-space demo, and "quality" was more generally regarded as an objective measure of accuracy and clarity. Sonic and instrumental arrangements tended to be simpler and less ambitious (although not necessarily less musically sophisticated), musicianship tended to be better, and everyone from the musicians to the engineers tended to have fewer distractions, excuses, and options to distract them from the pursuit of getting the best possible sound quality from whatever they had to work with.

If you only have one amp with three knobs and you play it every day with the same band, you're apt to develop a playing style and approach that is very particularly suited to the strengths and peculiarities of that amp. If you have racks of home-studio gear and four guitars and a thousand plugins and twelve mics and four preamps and a host of sample and loop collections, you're apt to spend a lot of that time instead looking for tricks and gimmicks to get that extra 1% of size, drama, coolness, whatever.

Which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it is a significant difference from a studio that records five songs per day with all different bands, all in the same room, using the same four mics and the same reverb box, where all the bands are expected to come in and play the song correctly three times in a row and then pick the best take and send it off to the disc-cutter.

Same with the bands. If there are no samplers, sequencers, harmonizers, vocal processors, effects racks... then a four-piece band means four people who each own one instrument, and that's the only tool they have to create music with. Imagine taking everything you know about sequencing, effects, digital editing, latency, microphones, operating systems, tubes vs tape vs digital vs emulators, etc, and imagine that all that learning and knowledge was instead directed to a single instrument with three knobs. Or a single drum kit with four pieces and two cymbals, and that's all you had, your whole musical world. All you jammed on, all you worked out ideas on, all you played with after work, all you had to work with (and no forums, no internet, no "home recording for dummies" books, no user manuals)...

You'd probably be REALLY freaking good at getting the most from that instrument. If you were a drummer, your drums would *always* be the best-tuned and best-set-up kit on the block, since that's the only way you can improve your sound. If you were a singer, you'd be singing harmonies and unisons by ear every day and focusing on the sound of your actual voice in actual air, because you'd have no vocal mics or tube preamps or harmonizers or auto-tune or proximity effect or anything else to experiment with.

If you played guitar or bass, you'd not only be constantly working to improve your sound through finger and playing approach, you'd also be gradually whittling out ideas and approaches that DIDN'T work with your specific rig, since your rig is all you got. There's no trying a different amp sound, or double-tracking, or wondering whether what you really need is a rickenbacker for this track... if it doesn't sound good, even after adjusting all three knobs, then all that's left is to alter your picking or fingering approach, or to alter the part to something better-suited to the instrument you have. You'd probably get damn good at creating parts that worked with that rig, and at getting the most out of it every time.

Along the same lines, it was not an era when musicians or audiences made excuses for "live sound" or took it for granted that studio airbrushing would take care of all the bad/ugly stuff. The studio's job was to capture the best, clearest, and most accurate reproduction-- to "record" your sound in a very literal sense, like an audio transcription.

It's a totally different approach. And that approach is a way bigger difference-maker than tube this or tape that or germanium or genuine plate reverb or whatever.

The gear *was* different, and often better, but frankly a lot of it was also worse and more limiting. And the sonic "improvements" of vintage/boutique gear tend increasingly to be on the margins of perceptibly compared with good prosumer gear.

All that plus the masters didn't have all the life crushed into distorted high-frequency hash by digital look-ahead limiters. That loudness race stuff really does significantly degrade sound quality when you step away from the desk and hear songs, as opposed to A/Bing sonics.
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Old 03-24-2010, 08:08 PM   #8
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i figure its a case of thinking about the *subtle* muddying/saturation/tubey/tape/drive/old style compression / lp filters etc. at every conceivable step, adding little bits often using them lightly but on every part/signal and at every point in a chain where you figure it was involved.

then using typical fx / treatments like the ones already mentioned. nevermind performance!


i feel if you add up all the little things you can get pretty close sonically.

def not a case of launching a "sounds of the 60s" mastering plug i feel.

e.g :
i have been having a bit of fun trying to 'replace' jim morrisons vocal from 'love me two times' as i had the multitrack stems to play with,
A: its good vocal practice, but mainly B: was trying to recreate the vocal production sound, which was far trickier than youd imagine and gave an insight into what they did. so trying not to sound like you weren't some crisp digital alien landing atop the mix.


eg. became clear the compression levels were pretty high and deep on the vocal, whether he was singing light at the verse or screaming at the end it was all pretty level and thick, then its eqing away alot of top end and 'detail' freqs, then a bit drivetube grit, appropriately warm verb, then some tape sat to smooth things out some more.

turned out ok here - A/B ing between me and jim (in some places) was quite a double take! . no i won't post anything.

taking a look at multi stems of old stuff is one handy way of figuring out the mix tho - edutainment all the way.
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Old 03-24-2010, 08:58 PM   #9
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If we just had a decent road map of what equipment they used and how they recorded it. JHughes gave a valuable link to the technology of the time. I get the sense that some of the guitarists were just rhythm guitarists (not in a negative way). They showed up in the studio and did their thing, their guitar through a cord into their amp. Somewhere in the recording and rendering was where the velvet touch happened. I doubt the effect was live.

It was said that the Byrds were one of the worst bands to hear live if you were expecting to hear what was on their albums, though never heard them live so can't really have an opinion. Magic was done in the studio with almost no effects or processing to fall back on.
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Old 03-24-2010, 09:24 PM   #10
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I left out transformers. There were lots of those in the signal chain back then, and for good reason. They really simplify circuit design for one thing, but another reason they're cool is that you can hit them really hard and they won't buzz or crackle when they clip. Another important thing about the older recordings is they would roll off around 14-16 kHz.

As far as the guitar sound, it really has to come down to the players and producers. They used strobe tuners which are more accurate than the cheapos you usually see and that makes a huge difference. Also the chords that they played. The great ones knew which inversion would serve the song.

It irks me no end nowadays watching most bands play. Typically I see two guitar players strumming the same chord in unison down at the bottom of the neck. Either a straight 4/4 or eighth note pattern. Sheesh man, that's stuff you should know after a month of playing, not what you expect from professionals.

My four complaints:

1) Two guitars should not be playing the same chords, at the same place on the neck.
2) Playing at the bottom usually means mud and leaves no room for the other instruments. Good guitar players are usually in the middle of the neck somewhere.
3) Bar chords are cheating, like using a capo. It means you don't know any other way to play one of the simple three chords you've learned.
4) A straight four or eight note pattern is wanking.

Yes, good players use capos sometimes, etc. But what I've described seems to be the boring, repetitious norm nowadays. It makes me yawn. What Terry Kath, Hendrix, Glen Campbell, Chet Atkins, Les Paul, Steve Cropper and on and on had in common was they played interesting parts that served the song. They didn't do any of my four complaints.
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Old 03-24-2010, 09:48 PM   #11
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If we just had a decent road map of what equipment they used and how they recorded it...
In all seriousness, this is not very hard. There were only a handful of manufacturers back then, and the "legendary" models are all well-known, and still widely-used today (U47s, Universal Audio, etc). The sonic difference in modern radio singles is not due to a shortage or under-appreciation of old gear.

For that matter, Abbey Road is still in business, and is still cranking out plenty of radio singles. And many of the same engineers are still working. If it was the gear, then shouldn't all the stuff recorded in the past 40 years have that Beatles magic? You can book it yourself, and you might even be surprised at the rates if you work it a little.

RE: the Byrds, and whether their sound was a studio construct, producer/engineer Harvey Gerst actually runs a budget studio these days that you can book quite cheaply. His go-to vocal mic was a $100 MXL as of a few years ago (I think he's branding his own mics in the $200-$300 range these days), and he's one of the most famous proponents of low-budget gear. He's actually quite accessible and is pretty active online for an old guy.

RE: the "recording the Beatles" book, it's a terrific book for audio types if only because it is such a laborious and dedicated work of love, whether you're a Beatles fan or no, but frankly their producer George Martin is most famous for his sentiment: "All you need is ears". And any research into his recording philosophies reveals that he did *NOT* mean that all you need is "golden" ears, he quite literally meant that all you need is functional hearing.

On a similar note, *all* of the Detroit-era Motown records were recorded in Berry Gordy's tiny, low-ceilinged, dirt-floor basement. Guitars were recorded direct into the mixing console with a reverb bus. Two drumkits, acoustic and electric piano, all the horns, Jamerson's bass amp, and all the singers all packed into that little basement known as the "snakepit" and recorded 3,4,5 top-40 singles per day, just changing singers. That includes all the stuff by Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross and the Supremes, The Temptations, Martha and the Vandells, the Isley Brothers, the Four Tops, etc. That band/songwriting/arrangement team, with a rotating cast of singers, cut more number one records than Elvis, the Beatles, the Stones, and Sinatra combined, all in the cellar of Berry Gordy's little house in Detroit.

the gear is easy. You can book the same studio as the Beatles today, as tons of acts do, and have done for the past 40 years. U2 cut tracks in Sun Studios, but they sure don't sound like Elvis or Johnny Cash.
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Old 03-24-2010, 10:42 PM   #12
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You're very anti bar-chords! Bar chords can be very, very nice

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Old 03-24-2010, 10:45 PM   #13
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If we just had a decent road map of what equipment they used and how they recorded it. JHughes gave a valuable link to the technology of the time. I get the sense that some of the guitarists were just rhythm guitarists (not in a negative way). They showed up in the studio and did their thing, their guitar through a cord into their amp. Somewhere in the recording and rendering was where the velvet touch happened. I doubt the effect was live.

It was said that the Byrds were one of the worst bands to hear live if you were expecting to hear what was on their albums, though never heard them live so can't really have an opinion. Magic was done in the studio with almost no effects or processing to fall back on.
It wasn't magic. The Birds didn't play on their early albums. Those were studio pros playing on the albums. Only McGuin Played the 12 string stuff. It was the same for many bands back then.

They really just put a mic up and recorded. No magic.

People didn't overdrive their amps back then.
There was no distortion coming out of the amp.
Some people actually love the sound of a guitar.
They used mostly Fender amps, and some Vox in England.
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Old 03-24-2010, 10:59 PM   #14
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I'll only add that today there is more concentration on gear than ever before. It has been bad enough over the last 30 years, but its even worse now with the advent of plugins and emulation galore. What most people never, ever realize is it is rarely, if ever the gear. It's all in the hands and always has been.

We could debate (as everyone does) endlessly about amp A, transformer B etc., and they do have differences but what creates that magic is talented people and the human brain has little or no ability to separate vibe created via talent from vibe created via gear. Does anyone really think that Hendrix would have sucked without the infamous marshal/strat? Of course not, nothing could stop the talent, he used what he had. Gear is always secondary and those who think otherwise, either don't get it or haven't admitted to themselves yet that they don't have that magic.

As far as the original question, keep it simple and play it well. You could cover a few bases by using some of the basic techniques (which is the original question), but not because they are magic, but simply because that is what was available at the time.

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Old 03-25-2010, 05:04 AM   #15
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It is really great thing that we now have remastered CDs from those days. The first generation of those CDs were horrible. Especially old jazz stuff that we now can hear in its full glory is really humbling. That advent of Hi-fi is simply the golden age in my opinion. It went worse from there. Of course we have had great records later too and techology has made many things possible (well, that's a double-edged sword, but still). Of course vinyl lovers knew this all the time. Sadly I haven't had a turntable for 15 years..

One of my favourite albums ever is Nina Simone's Pastel Blues from around 1966. First of all, the music is great but also the sound is just amazing. What I hear from that album is cohesion that comes from playing it together. There are some funky panning like upright bass and drums far right and maybe piano and guitars far left etc. but it works very well. And one reason is that apart from some chamber reverb (and maybe even spring reverb occasionally) the sound of the room that bleeds to every mic is like glue that you can't get from the store. It also makes those wild pannings much better. I've tried to fake this with many different room impulses etc. but it is very hard. With real band, good room and live take it can be done as easily today as before.

Also the sounds don't have too much highs and lows. It is not lofi, meaning it sounds natural but just not hyped as nowadays. Like is said before, move those mics back a little. Very close miked sound makes strange noises like fret buzzes, finger noises, sibilance and lip smack too prominent.

Funnily, one of my favourite singers, Julie London never considered herself much of a singer as she had to sing close to the microphone Well, that gave her really mesmerizing voice but even that isn't too sibilant, so probably she isn't even eating the mike that hard, compared to some modern practises. They also cleverly leave enough room for her voice to really blossom. Check out her album "Julie at home" that is recorded in her home in 1960. That is just my kinda heaven.

Anyway, like always, I'd say that the song and arrangement is most important. Instruments need space and even though 60s guitars are not as "huge" as nowadays, they fit the overall music better, not drowning everything. They have their space like every instrument should have.
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Old 03-25-2010, 06:20 AM   #16
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Chase,

What I was trying to figure out was how to achieve the specific sound quality of the rhythm guitars of the time, what they did to get the unique sound quality recorded. Always sounding near like single coil Fenders going thru Fender amps but with something else that made the guitar cleaner than clean, compressed and defined. Many of the oldies songs were hallmarked by the simple rhythm chords that cut your ear and brain to the root. The experience was more than could be defined by a lot of the flash technical feats of the lead guitarists. All these guys had to do was strum and you were blown away.

Looking at all the plugins and guitars in my studio. I can go from dull humbuckers to tin can single coils, but canít hit the place these guys got somewhere in the middle by just stumming a chord. They hit the soul clean and definitive.

JHughes must be on mark with his assessment of tube based condensers as a bridge between some generic guitar and a generic amp.

Iíve always kept an eye on the ironic attempt to reintroduce analog flaws into digital objectivity. The plugs are usually named ďvintageĒ in the effort.

Have a friend Iíd mentioned who looks way down on Reaper because it isnít ProTools. He records in distant studios to get ProTools support, but turned out it was the peripheral hardware he was chasing. The studio had a 1930ís tube mic with a 1945 tube salvaged from a WWII Nazi sub. Then into a $30k Neve console. The thing sounded fantastic.

My quest is to find if there is either a hardware solution or a ďvintageĒ vst plug or chain that can get even close to the masters. These guys set the bar almost impossibly high even without knowing it.

John

Stein, thank you also for your feedback.
A quality tube amp miced with a top shelf Neumann or AKG of the day. Mics were not crammed into the grill cloth like they do today. 1-3 feet away was more the norm.

You will need a good amp but something like an AT4050 or CADM179 through a GT Brick or UA610 micpre should get you in the general vicinity. Those sounds are as much in the technique as they are the gear.
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Old 03-25-2010, 08:40 AM   #17
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fewer mics, farther away.
pure tone - distortion is bad!
tubes and transformers
2 tracks, no overdubs - play it again til you got it right, and don't waste time on the studio clock: practise, preproduction!!!!
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Old 03-25-2010, 08:57 AM   #18
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Guys,

I appreciate all this info. Best to print it all out when thereís this much. Iíll have to skip a No-brainer to get the book. Mic placement and choice probably big issues and will try greater distance from grill to mic. Mic knowledge and placement is my weakest skill area. Maybe a vintage compression plugin to compensate.

Got to search these forums for a post about a year ago on some brand of cheap mics. There were links given for a useful series of videos on studio mic techniques.

Iíd also noticed the difference in chord structure in YouTube videos available, not bars or standard chords the rhythm guy was playing. The old lip sync videos are a treasure mine. Wish they would show more of the guitarists. To many of them give a couple flashes of the band but keep centered on the vocalist. Nothing worse than having some beautiful guitar work going on and the cameras are on a chic in the chorus line. A lot of non-standard, extinct guitars being used also, but the videos blurry enough that you canít tell the brand.
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Old 03-25-2010, 09:27 AM   #19
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do check out the multi-stems of famous tracks that around now courtesy of rockband etc -
being able to solo each part of a hit 60's track would surely be of interest when recreating the sound?

would make the task less daunting, as you can see what each part is contributing.
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Old 03-25-2010, 09:29 AM   #20
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If you're really interested in this stuff, you really need to read Sound-On-Sound magazine.

Every month they have an article called "Classic Tracks" where they interview the engineers and performers of old classic tracks and tell you how they did it. HUGE amount of learnin' there.....

Oh and you can read a ton of 'em on-line for FREE:

http://www.soundonsound.com/articles/ClassicTracks.php
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Old 03-25-2010, 12:54 PM   #21
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To start with, look at their gear... they didn't have digital, but analog studio gear then was every bit the equal of the best analog gear today. Microphones, preamps, eqs, compressors, and monitoring were fantastic. But this gear was quite expensive (there was no market for cheap recording gear), so it tended to be housed in commercial studios with great-sounding rooms, not crappy basements (Motown notwithstanding). So great analog gear in great rooms.

OTOH, track count was limited (four tracks was a big deal, eight didn't really happen until the end of the decade), so overdubs had to be done with bouncing, which degraded quality. Serious editing was done with razor blades and sticky tape, not a mouse! So maximum performance and minimum overdubbing was critical. Musicians tended to play together.

Studio time was also expensive, and music distribution costs far higher than today. Labels expected hits, and had high musicianship standards. If you couldn't perform, you didn't get (or keep) a contract. None of today's fix-it-later attitudes! Much of the best commercial music was tracked by in-house session musicians who recorded all day as their day jobs. If you're recording 40-50 hours a week and expected to nail a song in a couple of takes with the same musicians you do it with every day, you get GOOD. That's much of the secret of Motown and LA pop... the singers may change, but the band was always the same small cadre of session pros. I know I'd be a better studio musician if I cranked out three albums a week rather than three albums a year!

So only great players got to trump the session musicians. So who was that? Guys who put in HARD TIME in the bar scene with very high standards... the Beatles did 12-hour days playing covers in strip clubs in Germany. Jimi Hendrix toured with the likes of Little Richard. They were used to playing consistently great, live. When the Beatles sat down to track, they didn't have to worry about sloppy time or out-of-tune instruments, because they were hardened pros.

Now, consider the other effect of time... that from our vantage point 40-50 years later, only the best of this music has survived. The piles of wannabes were long ago forgotten. The oldies station today plays the best of the best, known through decades of refinement. Only collectors know about the junk.

Then there was the target media... AM radio and 45s. Tinny little transistor radios and 45rpm vinyl both, quite frankly, sound like shit. No highs, no lows, surface noise and interference, very limited dynamic range, low volume. Recordings were designed to cut through that haze. Rhythm was just timekeeping, melodies simple and clear, guitars dynamic and biting, vocals up front. Any subtlety had to be in the arrangement and performance (for extra credit, think about today's brickwall-compressed hyper-loud recordings in the context of playback on mp3 players and FM). Take a Motown record or Phil Spector production, put it on your studio monitors, and listen closely... you'll find that individual instruments that aren't explicitly stating melody are pretty much a blur, and there is little bass or high-end shimmer.

So today, we're hearing the best of the best music, played by musicians held to very high standards, tracked on analog gear that would cost a fortune today, often in great rooms. And you're SURPRISED you have a hard time getting that sound? Drop $50k on gear, then get a handful of incredible musicians and have them work on terrific songs for 50 hours a week for a few years, and see how much better your studio's output sounds.
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Old 03-25-2010, 12:59 PM   #22
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Couple more things... first, I'm SO glad to be recording today, where my decent budget gear can make such terrific recordings right in my basement. I don't HAVE to produce hits or make a profit! I can treat recording as a hobby.

Second, I believe it helps to limit your options. Rather than testing 23438 different Neve-knockoff EQ plugins, pick one or two, and stick with them. Those old mixing desks were very limited, so live similar limits. I see two key benefits to this. First, it helps to give you a "house sound", something tonally consistent in your own work. Second, it greatly reduces analysis paralysis.

As an extension, consider avoiding presets on principle. Any time you turn on eq or compression or reverb or whatever, turn the knobs yourself to get the sound you want. That's how it was done in the olden days.
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Old 03-25-2010, 05:56 PM   #23
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Guys,

Floored by the knowledge base of this forum, expertise of the individual and the time taken to share. Didnít expect any response to my question because this genra was done before most of you were born. Learning process for me who lived through it and now being taught by better historians decades after the fact. You guys rock big time. All the advice, links, leads taken to heart.

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Old 03-25-2010, 07:42 PM   #24
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But let's face it, it's totally impossible to create an authentic 60s sound without wearing one of those:



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Old 03-26-2010, 12:47 AM   #25
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Damn you, Steindork, for bursting my retro bubble!

Now, pants like that are a crime against fashion but on me they would be crime against humanity!
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Old 03-26-2010, 09:41 AM   #26
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Hey, those were the ones I gave to the thrift shop last week. Had second thoughts and decided to keep the shirts.
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Old 03-26-2010, 11:25 AM   #27
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One thing that they did and basicaclly no one does now is using high gauge flatwound strings.

But for most I think a tube amp with the right speaker gives you that tone. I wish I could read that beatles book. I'm sure would learn a lot.
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Old 03-26-2010, 11:35 AM   #28
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Blasphemy: is it worth studying the techniques and tools used back then (other than for historical reasons)? Musicianship+sentimental value aside, I don't find 60s recordings to be anything spectacular. Compared to the technical+human skills we have today. I am a hi-fi person I admit. And comparing apples to apples, the "abbey roads" and "george martins" of today may be a lot more interesting to get into?
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Old 03-26-2010, 11:56 AM   #29
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And comparing apples to apples, the "abbey roads" and "george martins" of today may be a lot more interesting to get into?
Who are they?
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Old 03-26-2010, 11:58 AM   #30
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Blasphemy: is it worth studying the techniques and tools used back then (other than for historical reasons)? Musicianship+sentimental value aside, I don't find 60s recordings to be anything spectacular. Compared to the technical+human skills we have today. I am a hi-fi person I admit. And comparing apples to apples, the "abbey roads" and "george martins" of today may be a lot more interesting to get into?
Nonsense. Its ENTIRELY worth studying how they did things. I find to this day that Axis: Bold as Love for example sounds better than anything done in the 40 years since. Same with any number of albums from that era. Just because its not "modern" doesn't mean its not better. With all of these new toys we haven't managed to improve sonically. AS such I think it makes more sense to understand how they did it back then than it does to study modern counterparts.
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Old 03-26-2010, 12:39 PM   #31
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I see the essence of modern days daws being the way people approach the whole song writing process, stepping by 4-bars instead of thinking to the song as a whole thing to get finished.
Amongst my old band mates, you can easily tell by results:
A) who is writing songs with a cheap guitar in the dinner room (the old way: usually, melodic line first, then chords and arrangement) and
B) who creates his crap on his computer (me, the up-to-date smart guy: catchy 4bars loop filled with poorly assorted melody)

different feelings in making things make things different

that's the pre production missing point, at least in a common home recording environment, not to mention that even the bands asking for professional recording have a computer-conceived cd project in their pocket as a sketch... dunno if you get what I mean.

Then, I'm bored of all those emulators attempting to give you that vintage smell, since "vintage sound" is what most of us consider good songs we used to love the way they've been written and performed in the past...

another reason why we love "vintage" songs more than the modern ones, in my opinion, is the ears fatigue due to the ever fighting loudness war also...

I'm miles away from being nostalgic here, tho... ;-)
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Old 03-26-2010, 12:44 PM   #32
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I agree - "classic recordings" sounds great, and more appealing to my ears than most "modern" stuff. But we still have to remember that the gear used was anything but "neutral" sounding, although that was probably the aim for the equipment built and used.

So, when talking about hi-fi, the tube and transformer-balanced sonics of the time does not really capture high fidelity, but the attempt may be more sonically pleasing.
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Old 03-26-2010, 12:47 PM   #33
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Who are they?
It's not hard to find pristine modern recordings and noteworthy achievements in sound engineering. Just because there's so much mediocrity nowdays, doesn't mean there's lack of quality, talent or skill.
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Old 03-26-2010, 03:49 PM   #34
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Fly,

The strings, flat wound strings used in the day. This had to be a major factor.
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Old 03-26-2010, 11:27 PM   #35
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It's not hard to find pristine modern recordings and noteworthy achievements in sound engineering...
In all seriousness, could we have some examples?

I have quite a few favorite records from recent years on the one hand, sound quality notwithstanding, and I have a few records of recent release that I think sound pretty good, audio-wise.

But I have a hard time thinking of great songs that really sound great in recent years.

To my way of thinking, perfect recordings might include "Kind of Blue", "Take Five", "Good Vibrations", "What's Going On" (that last recorded not only in Berry Gordy's cellar, but with perhaps the finest bassline in the history of popular music cut by a guy who was too drunk to stand, playing flat on his back in the basement).

For more modern-sounding, high-gain or sample-based stuff, I might include AC/DCs "live" boxed set, Lords of Acid's "VooDoo You", or NWA's "Straight Outta Compton".

It's hard for me to think of anything in the past ten years or so that I would think of as great recording, in the sense of the kind of thing people will be listening to in 50 years and wondering how they got that sound quality. I'd be curious to hear suggestions.
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Old 03-27-2010, 12:15 AM   #36
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PS-- in all seriousness, if you think the lack of some piece of vintage kit is really holding you back, go ahead and buy it: it doesn't cost anything, since you can always re-sell vintage gear for whatever you paid for it. The money you pay is not so much a purchase price as it is a temporary deposit to posterity, since the world will pay you back when you're done with it.
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Old 03-27-2010, 06:27 AM   #37
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My four complaints:

1) Two guitars should not be playing the same chords, at the same place on the neck.
2) Playing at the bottom usually means mud and leaves no room for the other instruments. Good guitar players are usually in the middle of the neck somewhere.
3) Bar chords are cheating, like using a capo. It means you don't know any other way to play one of the simple three chords you've learned.
4) A straight four or eight note pattern is wanking.

Yes, good players use capos sometimes, etc. But what I've described seems to be the boring, repetitious norm nowadays. It makes me yawn. What Terry Kath, Hendrix, Glen Campbell, Chet Atkins, Les Paul, Steve Cropper and on and on had in common was they played interesting parts that served the song. They didn't do any of my four complaints.
Hmm, this kinda makes me feel like you may not be a guitar player....
... none of that has anything to do with it, as a guitar player/guitar tech and amp tech for the last 2 plus decades. All of those players you listed used Barre cords, of many forms, constantly, for example. I'd say personally it has more to do with lack-of-knowledge of one's own equiptment and how to get the best of it.

But regardless of that, here's some opinions on the sound you are referring too...

Limited bandwidth, those recordings rolled-off rapidly from around 60hz and down, as well as from around 12k and up. It's important to the overall flavour of the recordings and when you do this intentionally with the digital gear it goes a long way towards getting that kinda flavour you are talking about.

The Rooms... that's the missing link IMO, in a lot of recordings, when you are trying to capture that 60's vibe. Recording the rooms was as, or more, important than the close-miking of the source. And close-miking then was a lot "looser" I think then, as opposed to now. Mics were not tight on the grille-cloth, but spaced more... and then more attention given to the room mics. Guitar amps were recorded in rooms we generaly wouldn't consider now also... bathrooms, hallways, stairwells.... reflective spaces with lots of nodes, and a lot of re-positioning of room mics.
And the rooms tended to be large, far larger than most home-based guitar recordings were done in.

And then the other stuff mentioned.... the mics, preamps, boards and tape machines.... yeah, but I think that stuff had far less to do with it overall as opposed to the rooms and micing techniques themselves.

My thoughts anyway.
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Old 03-27-2010, 06:33 AM   #38
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In all seriousness, could we have some examples?

I have quite a few favorite records from recent years on the one hand, sound quality notwithstanding, and I have a few records of recent release that I think sound pretty good, audio-wise.
I've taken a pretty serious liking to both the band and the record, how it was recorded, and the overall sound, I like it all;

Band of Skulls; Baby Darling DollFace Honey

Has that 60's vibe to my ears, and a very honest recording IMO.
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Old 03-27-2010, 08:42 AM   #39
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Hmm, this kinda makes me feel like you may not be a guitar player....
You're right, I'm not a guitar player. I'll rephrase my disclaimer "Yes, good players use capos sometimes, etc.". The etc. means "Yes, good players use capos (and bar chords) sometimes, etc.". I also checked and it looks like you can spell it either way, bar or barre.

You say "All of those players you listed used Barre cords, of many forms, constantly,". That's not my impression, as a recordist or a fan. I see bar chords rarely used, certainly not constantly. I guess less than 5% of the time. Anyway I don't care what a good guitar player does, I'm talking about the use of bar chords by substandard players as a crutch.

I have an old record called Learn Guitar With the Ventures, or something close. I learned one song in there, and it uses bar chords. Imagine how I felt when I saw them playing the real thing. The chords they used were nothing like what I had learned, and they weren't bar chords.
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Old 03-27-2010, 09:12 AM   #40
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You're right, I'm not a guitar player. I'll rephrase my disclaimer "Yes, good players use capos sometimes, etc.". The etc. means "Yes, good players use capos (and bar chords) sometimes, etc.". I also checked and it looks like you can spell it either way, bar or barre.

You say "All of those players you listed used Barre cords, of many forms, constantly,". That's not my impression, as a recordist or a fan. I see bar chords rarely used, certainly not constantly. I guess less than 5% of the time. Anyway I don't care what a good guitar player does, I'm talking about the use of bar chords by substandard players as a crutch.

I have an old record called Learn Guitar With the Ventures, or something close. I learned one song in there, and it uses bar chords. Imagine how I felt when I saw them playing the real thing. The chords they used were nothing like what I had learned, and they weren't bar chords.
Sa'll good, I think we might probably agree more than not in person, it's difficult to get the gist of people's meaning on the internet sometimes.

I guess it may depend on what the term barre-chord means to you or any other individual... I'm betting now you are talking about the barre form of open E or A moved around... the "powerchords"; if so, I'm on board with ya 100%. Gets boring/lame quick.

I had a pretty significant life-altering expirience when I was living in Wisconsin, got to meet Mr Paul on quite a few occasions and was floored by his musicianship. Videos or TV does not convey the width and depth of his talent at all. Anyway, he's kinda old school and I am too, a barre chord in that context is really any of the open chord forms repositioned somewhere on the neck, and with the normal "open" strings barred with the index.
So not just that "E" or "A" slid around and riffed.

Also the basis of a couple of methods of lead playing actually, using chord forms as building blocks for scales and modes.

Anyway, I think its just semantics, I'm with ya otherwise.

Besides all that, I do belive its frequency range, room and mic position, and like YEP touched on, a lot about technique of the players, that is what is at the heart of the sound you are seeking.
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