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Author Topic: IS RECORDED AUDIO BETTER OR WORSE TODAY...?  (Read 13544 times)

WhyKooper

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Re: IS RECORDED AUDIO BETTER OR WORSE TODAY...?
« Reply #15 on: February 04, 2005, 10:59:25 pm »

....."I also believe that when we had less tracks to work with, the music had less chance to become "stale", both to the musicians and to the engineers and producers. All the comping, editing, and delaying of mix decisions has taken us to perfect, but often boring, levels of performance......."


Woah Harvey, I DISAGREE with that one big time.  I remember those days vividly.  When there were less tracks to work with, my days were filled with the stress of submixing 4 tracks down to 2 in order to open up tracks...often in a desperate attempt to do so before the inspiration and magic of the session would disappear.  Those days were HORRIBLE.  It didn't get much better in the 8 track days.  Or even sixteen.  

And especially in the early days, there was the absolute frustration of dealing with submixes and not being able to undo something that was submixed ten passes ago and now no longer fit in the mix.....those days were HORRIBLE.  If working on tracks got stale...those were the days for it.

I read the Beatles sessions book a couple of years ago, detailing the nightmares THEY had to go through from 1962
onward.  Such frustration was not an uncommon thing.  

I think this is the best,best time there's ever been to be creative in the studio.  I wouldn't trade the repeatability, unlimited tracks, plug-ins for those old days for anything.  

If ANYTHING, this is a great time for an artist to fill up a zillion tracks, take it to an outside producer who might say...okay, we're only gonna use these four tracks, the other 200 gotta go.  THAT'S OK.

But the old days were terrible.  Less tracks would've only been great for Hootenanny/Kingston Trio guys...or bands who intended to go into the studio, spend two hours setting up mics, record Louie Louie in one pass and then go home.  I don't miss them at all.
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Bill Mueller

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Re: IS RECORDED AUDIO BETTER OR WORSE TODAY...?
« Reply #16 on: February 05, 2005, 12:27:00 am »

Good question.

Music. In the case of Rock music, it was new and fresh in the fifties, sixties and seventies. It was also closer to it's blues roots, which made it more genuine. It is very difficult to create a song today that is not a rehash of some other song.

Naivete. Real naivete, not just letting the guitars feedback at the end of a song. Music used to mean more, so there was a greater range of acceptable emotions expressed. There were diverse individuals from Richie Havens to Ravi Shankar making music that was felt by millions. Today, so many musicians rely on image (or a lack of image, image) that it is very challanging to be naive about anything. Everyone is jaded and that makes the music stilted.

Church. Many of the greatest singers in pop history went from the altar to the stage. The depth of emotion that can be expressed when you either believe in something, or have felt that belief in church, cannot be created otherwise.

Meaning. I grew up in the Vietnam era and I think music meant something more then. Lots of us were getting killed. In this regard, unfortunately, we may soon be experiencing more meaning in our pop music.

Experience. Engineers and producers used to work under the supervision of an experienced mentor. After the Tonmeister programs, and apprentice programs of private studios, recording schools went on to train a few great engineer/producers. Artists were brought to professionals by PR experts who put them together with a writer, producer and studio like a great casting director teams up actors today. Today, anyone can walk into a Guitar Center with a decent credit card and come away with a 24bit 24 track recorder/mixer/sequencer/sampler/mastering suite/cd recorder. Giving a 10 year old a loaded pistol is not a good idea either.

Technology. Classical engineers were the first to adopt digital recording. In my opinion this was not due to the improved signal to noise, but to the incredibly improved WOW and FLUTTER performance of digital. If you have ever tried to record a concert piano on a 15ips 1/4" master, or worse yet tried to make a reference cassette for a client, you know what I mean. The rock solid stability of a digital medium was a breath of fresh air. However, there have definetely been ups and downs in equipment quality. Professional equipment has always swung 28 volts in my opinion. Now, we have "professional, -10db" systems that can't swing half that. Class A circuit design, discreet components, tube microphones; these will always have a special sound. I also agree that for some reason that I cannot understand, producers, or label execs are demanding their product be compressed to the point where they actually sound WORSE through a broadcast chain. Can't they be educated?

Sequencers. One time through a sequence and stick a fork in me, I'm done. These horrible devices are responsible for more unadulterated crap than anything else in the industry. Throw them OUT!

Digital editing/pitch correction. I have been guilty of moving a couple of bass drums in my time, however quantizing every beat takes the life (live) out of music. Keep the people in the music.

Best Regards,

Bill







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Lee Flier

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Re: IS RECORDED AUDIO BETTER OR WORSE TODAY...?
« Reply #17 on: February 05, 2005, 11:06:01 am »

WhyKooper wrote on Fri, 04 February 2005 22:59


If ANYTHING, this is a great time for an artist to fill up a zillion tracks, take it to an outside producer who might say...okay, we're only gonna use these four tracks, the other 200 gotta go.  THAT'S OK.



No it's NOT OK.  In fact that's a good deal of what's WRONG with so many records - the "artist" throws everything AND the kitchen sink on a track and leaves the producer or mix engineer to figure out the "arrangement" later.  This whole process SUCKS IMO - it basically leaves the performance out of the hands of the performers.  And as a musician I know for a fact that what I'm going to play when I know ahead of time what the arrangement is, will be different and much more focused than if I didn't know.

Also that's why people are striving now for this utter boring "consistency" - no variations in tempo, only the most extreme variations in dynamics - because that makes it EASIER for some mouse jockey to cobble together an arrangement after the fact.

I agree with your basic point that submixing sucked.  But having limited tracks DID force people to commit to a frigging arrangement and let the performers play accordingly... cuz you really couldn't do it any other way.  Now, you don't have to commit to ANYthing - the arrangement, the tempo, the tones of the instruments, the room sound, EVERYthing is subject to change.  And yet ALL of these things affect the vibe of the performance at the time the tracks are going down.  It's just one of the many things (some of which have already been mentioned) that kill the urgency of a recording.

Just because you CAN have 200 tracks doesn't mean you should.  Use em if you really need em - and yes it's great not to have to worry about it if you just need another track or two for that conga drum or those cool sound effects.   And yes it's great to be able to change an arrangement at the last minute if you really think it's going to make the song better.  But don't use the technology as an excuse to not have your shit together at the source.

hargerst

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Re: IS RECORDED AUDIO BETTER OR WORSE TODAY...?
« Reply #18 on: February 05, 2005, 12:17:56 pm »

What Lee said.  And what I said.
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Harvey "Is that the right note?" Gerst
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ted nightshade

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Re: IS RECORDED AUDIO BETTER OR WORSE TODAY...?
« Reply #19 on: February 05, 2005, 12:30:14 pm »

[quote title=Bill Mueller wrote on Fri, 04 February 2005 21:27]
Technology. Classical engineers were the first to adopt digital recording. In my opinion this was not due to the improved signal to noise, but to the incredibly improved WOW and FLUTTER performance of digital. If you have ever tried to record a concert piano on a 15ips 1/4" master... you know what I mean.
Quote
I've got a 1968 1/4" 4 track here where the wow and flutter is completely undetectable to my ears. I can record and playback a triangle, and there is no wobble that I can detect. Piano is no problem either. It is too bad that they made so many tape machines with so much wow and flutter... cheap? lazy? I wonder why?

Quote:


The rock solid stability of a digital medium was a breath of fresh air.



Was digital rock solid at one time?!

I think we could make better recordings today, but for the most part, we are not. The stuff I'm trying to beat is all from ca 1959...
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compasspnt

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Re: IS RECORDED AUDIO BETTER OR WORSE TODAY...?
« Reply #20 on: February 05, 2005, 12:34:51 pm »

Lee Flier wrote on Sat, 05 February 2005 11:06

...having limited tracks DID force people to commit to a frigging arrangement and let the performers play accordingly... cuz you really couldn't do it any other way.  ...

The answers to the original topic question I posed have gone much farther than I originally envisioned, leaping into the realm of production decisions (which have always been there, just more options available today for execution) and more.  This is great, I think, and all worthy of discussion.

I think there are many great and valid points being made here on both sides of several issues.

However, "What Lee Said" is certainly very true concerning the quoted statement above.  As I said elsewhere, The Beatles did OK with very limited tracks available!  "Hey Baby" by Bruce Chanel, a tremendous recording, was recorded in a radio station bathroom, with one track available...it was one of The Beatles' favourite records, and one of the inspirations for their recorded work.  There are many examples like this.

I TRY to make as many decisions as possible as soon as possible....but I'd hate to totally give up my track availability!

TM
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hargerst

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Re: IS RECORDED AUDIO BETTER OR WORSE TODAY...?
« Reply #21 on: February 05, 2005, 03:20:35 pm »

compasspnt wrote on Sat, 05 February 2005 11:34

I TRY to make as many decisions as possible as soon as possible....but I'd hate to totally give up my track availability!

TM

Just commit!  Stop being such a wuz!  Very Happy

Remember when 8 track  recorders came out ("what the hell are we gonna do with 8 tracks?")?
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Harvey "Is that the right note?" Gerst
Indian Trail Recording Studio

canada

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Re: IS RECORDED AUDIO BETTER OR WORSE TODAY...?
« Reply #22 on: February 05, 2005, 04:08:23 pm »

It's better today because nearly every album sounds like it was recorded by the same guy.  So, I can use old engineer tricks that are totally not my ideas and sound really clever using them!

Just kidding.  I think the best recordings ever made are probably 60's: Orbison, Beatles, 50's Elvis, Beach Boys, Marvin.  You get the picture.  Then there's another breed of recordings from the seventies that blow me away of course, like some Pink Floyd, Supertramp and Abba (not joking).

Now that there's such a huge legacy of embarassing moments, like Metallica's movie "Some Kind of Monster," I'm not sure anything made in a modern studio can have the integrity it used to.
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WhyKooper

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Re: IS RECORDED AUDIO BETTER OR WORSE TODAY...?
« Reply #23 on: February 05, 2005, 06:07:30 pm »

........."But having limited tracks DID force people to commit to a frigging arrangement and let the performers play accordingly... cuz you really couldn't do it any other way...

What era are you talking about where that was the case?  1949?

Nobody in the 60's after about 1965 was locked into any finite track count that I remember.  And many many known artists were stretching the technology to come up with the 30-40-50-60-100 tracks they needed to record the stuff that are classics today...that to my knowledge, these are things that nobody complains about as being "vibe deficient" because of excessive track count.
 
The 60's...there's the ha-ha story where some people like to promote that Sgt Pepper was all done on a 4 track.  As we all know, it was done on two four tracks..each consisting of a massive number of mono tracks overdubbed/submixed/overdubbed/submixed... many songs pushing 60 tracks in reality. I don't hear many folks say that Sgt Pepper has a bad vibe. Have you ever read the session notes on what the Beatles had to go through on stuff like Revolver or the "Hello Goodbye", Penny Lane recordings?  Stuff like putting the bass on last....ie recording the drums and a rhythm guitar by tehmeselves (that must've made for a good vibe and good idea of the final arrangment)....and then start stacking one or two tracks at a time...submix to a second machine...overdub two tracks....submix...overdub two tracks...submix...oops...overdub another piano because the original one's starting to fade away in all the submixing.....while tring to figure out what to leave till the end that absolutely must be able to be undone before being buried in the submixes.

And then there were the 70's...  Have you ever read about how places like Criteria had to cope on a daily basis to get the track count they needed...which was constantly exceeding at least 49-80 tracks.  I don't think those pencils/rubberbands 2" tape strung across the room (talked about in R-E-P in those days) made for a very instant "band recording vibe".

There is a very cool obscure top 20 pop recording that I loved in the early 70's called "Rings".  Lots of air in that one and if you listen to it, you figure it might been done on an eight track machine...maybe 16.  Well, in speaking with the guys who did that recording (Chips Moman), the multitrack for that song is 32-48 tracks full of stuff...all the result of having to submix to get them all in....BUT..listen to it, you don't hear 32-48 tracks of STUFF.  You don't hear what was mixed below the surface.  You don't hear what was decidedly left off.  You also don't hear the long long long hours of submixing decisions that had to be made along the way just to end up with this great little recording.

I call it subtractive mixing.  And I'm glad there's the flexibility we have now.  I'm glad for stem mixes.  I don't personally conceive of putting 200 tracks towards a single song...but if I want to have ten or twelve tracks devoted to an instrument and it's alternate takes...I can do that. x however many parts there are.  It's all there for me to use...or not use ..at mix time.  

There was great stuff being made in the 60's-70's-80' that consisted of 50-100+ tracks.  Today...same thing.  It's just much easier to manipulate.  Which I think is absolutely great.

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Bill Mueller

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Re: IS RECORDED AUDIO BETTER OR WORSE TODAY...?
« Reply #24 on: February 05, 2005, 06:51:49 pm »

ted nightshade wrote on Sat, 05 February 2005 12:30


I've got a 1968 1/4" 4 track here where the wow and flutter is completely undetectable to my ears. I can record and playback a triangle, and there is no wobble that I can detect. Piano is no problem either. It is too bad that they made so many tape machines with so much wow and flutter... cheap? lazy? I wonder why?


Even the best analog recorder has detectable wow and flutter. Just because you can't hear it does not mean it's not there. Analog cassettes had horrible wow and flutter and they were the medium we sent home with clients for years before the CD came along. If you ever cut a record and had 30% of them manufacured with the hole out of center, you will also know what I mean.

Quote:



Was digital rock solid at one time?!



In terms of wow and flutter. Always.

Oh yes, I forgot a point before.

Collaboration.
From the beginning of time, music has been a social experience. Music is a collaborative endevour. Today, too much music is being created by one person trying to be the composer, multi instrumentalist, producer, engineer, cook and bottle washer. Music that is played by a group is rich with a variety of influences, by it's very nature. Without a group to influence it, music becomes thin, plain and uninspired. The real value in the human experience is that we are able to stand on EACH OTHERS shoulders. Come out of the basement. Find a friend. Let them help.

Best Regards,

Bill
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Bob Olhsson

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Re: IS RECORDED AUDIO BETTER OR WORSE TODAY...?
« Reply #25 on: February 05, 2005, 07:13:00 pm »

WhyKooper wrote on Sat, 05 February 2005 17:07

...
There was great stuff being made in the 60's-70's-80' that consisted of 50-100+ tracks.  Today...same thing.  It's just much easier to manipulate.  Which I think is absolutely great.


The difference was that we had to commit to both the performance and to a part of the final mix at every single step of the way. It was practically unheard of to record just one part at a time other than lead vocals. Prior to '65 most people also couldn't punch into record.

And by no means was everybody working that way. At Motown, arguably where using lots of tracks and mixing on the board was invented, we rarely used more than three generations of 3 to 3 or 8 to 8 and rarely bounced tracks after we moved to 16 track. MOST 3-track and early 8-track recordings were used as a backup for a live mono or stereo mix that was used for the record.

Lee Flier

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Re: IS RECORDED AUDIO BETTER OR WORSE TODAY...?
« Reply #26 on: February 06, 2005, 01:51:43 am »

WhyKooper wrote on Sat, 05 February 2005 18:07


Nobody in the 60's after about 1965 was locked into any finite track count that I remember.  And many many known artists were stretching the technology to come up with the 30-40-50-60-100 tracks they needed to record the stuff that are classics today...that to my knowledge, these are things that nobody complains about as being "vibe deficient" because of excessive track count.


"Excessive track count" is not what I was complaining about - lack of committing to an arrangement is.  As I said... if you really need a bunch of tracks to make your song work, so be it.  But like Bob said, in the analog days although you COULD always make room for more tracks, you had to commit to something at every step of the way and you had to have some clue where it was all headed to make it work.  THAT is what a lot of people - and I mean a lot - don't do now.  So many records are made by throwing on a zillion tracks and deciding how the song is going to go later.  Most of the time I do not think this is good for the music or for the musicians.
 
Quote:

Have you ever read the session notes on what the Beatles had to go through on stuff like Revolver or the "Hello Goodbye", Penny Lane recordings?


Yes.

Quote:

Stuff like putting the bass on last....ie recording the drums and a rhythm guitar by tehmeselves (that must've made for a good vibe and good idea of the final arrangment)


But that's just it, they DID have a good idea of the final arrangement ahead of time, which is how they decided on which tracks to do first.  It's not like they were just blindly piling on tracks and not having a vision of how the result was going to be.

Quote:

I don't think those pencils/rubberbands 2" tape strung across the room (talked about in R-E-P in those days) made for a very instant "band recording vibe".


Hey, I was around for some of those kinds of sessions.  Some of them were kind of fun actually.

Quote:


I call it subtractive mixing.  And I'm glad there's the flexibility we have now.


I never said I wasn't glad.  I think you're reading a lot into my post that wasn't there.  I think the technology is great, I just don't think most people are using it very well.

Quote:

...but if I want to have ten or twelve tracks devoted to an instrument and it's alternate takes...I can do that. x however many parts there are.  It's all there for me to use...or not use ..at mix time.


Yeah, for YOU to use... not necessarily for the performer to have played... or to have had any clue what the outcome would sound like.  THAT is what I have a problem with.  I've mixed a few records that involved comping 12 tracks of vocals that somebody laid down "because they could" instead of getting one really focused performance and maybe a couple of comps or punches... and that was a few too many.

Lee Flier

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Re: IS RECORDED AUDIO BETTER OR WORSE TODAY...?
« Reply #27 on: February 06, 2005, 02:36:20 am »

compasspnt wrote on Sat, 05 February 2005 12:34

 The answers to the original topic question I posed have gone much farther than I originally envisioned, leaping into the realm of production decisions (which have always been there, just more options available today for execution) and more.  This is great, I think, and all worthy of discussion.



Well, especially because it seems the engineer has more power than ever to actually shape the performance, and often does.  Therefore I think a lot of these decisions have a great deal to do with your original question!

And by the way, it's REALLY nice to have you aboard here Terry. Smile

lucey

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Re: IS RECORDED AUDIO BETTER OR WORSE TODAY...?
« Reply #28 on: February 07, 2005, 01:28:35 am »

audio is better, recorded music is worse ... which are you asking about?

music: suffers from less pre production, more reliance on technology ... and at the same time that gear has become so powerful and cheap, creativity is at an all time low in it's value and street cred.  the indistry is scared of it, and everyday people flock to re-create last weeks sound in most cases.  the youth are group thinkers, not creative thinkers.

recording:   limitiation gives rise to increase and unlimited technical tools have created some lazy work product for all but those whose real work needs all the latest tools (and those styles are out there) in response, i record my own and others music to 2" 16 by choice (with a computer to chase if more tracks are needed ... seldom)

mastering:  same thing ... better tools, more potential, more power to screw up.

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ted nightshade

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Re: IS RECORDED AUDIO BETTER OR WORSE TODAY...?
« Reply #29 on: February 07, 2005, 10:59:27 am »

Bill Mueller wrote on Sat, 05 February 2005 15:51

 
Even the best analog recorder has detectable wow and flutter. Just because you can't hear it does not mean it's not there.



Right, but it's what I can hear that concerns me.



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Ted Nightshade aka Cowan

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