R/E/P > Brad Blackwood

Is G.A.S. destroying modern records?

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Once a powerful force becomes available to you and your competitors, the inclination is toward mass-buildup and stockpiles of said force as a deterrent. This MAE, or Mutally Assured Equipment, causes all participants to earmark greater and greater percentages of their GNP to keep pace.

Sensible parties will meet and agree to scale down the stockpiles and allow confirmation via inspections, in the interest of protecting our children's future.

The alternative is unthinkable.

Yes, I think this is undoubtedly true, Brad, and thanks for bringing it up.

It's a sizeable subject, but one small area of it that gives me particular heebie-jeebies is the whole microphone preamp thing - you'd think reading some internet forums that mere ownership of the Hokey Cokey 2000 or whatever mic pre is a guarantee of a great recording, apparently ignoring (or in ignorance of) factors which are *far* more important such as the song, musicianship and arrangement. This is not to say that gear is of no importance, but it's just a means to an end and I'll freely admit it took me a long time to realise that!

When I look back on recordings I've made over the years, those that still stand out to me and others are those with a 'people vibe', something that usually owes little or nothing  to the equipment used.

Thomas W. Bethel:
If what I see at GC and Sam Ash is any indication GEAR and LOTS of it seems to be the new way of operating. I stand at GC and listen to the people talking to the "salesmen". They are all looking for the one piece that will make their recordings a million seller. They drool over new microphones, new pre amps new processors and of course new software. They want to own something that will make them stand out from the rest of the crowd on the radio or on a CD.

In the "old days" you had a limited amount of equipment and you had to learn how to use it to the best advantage. There was lots of time spent figuring out how to get the best S/N ratio on 4 tracks so when you bounced it you would still have a good sounding recording when you wiped off two of the tracks to add the vocals and you had to how to get the best performance from gear that was at best "vintage" because new gear was very expensive and very hard to get.

Today, thankfully,  you don't have those limitations. Digital if done correctly has a dynamic range that we could only dream of in the '60's and '70's and we have so much equipment to choose from it is mind boggling. Studios that use to be proud to state that they had 8 or 16 tracks today can boast almost unlimited tracks. Microphone technology has come full circle and every day there are more and more ribbon microphones coming out and TUBES are the new in thing. Even with the simplest recording rig people today can access the complete resources of a studio of 30 years ago in a box that costs 1/100th of what the same equipment would have cost 30 or 40 years ago. IT should be a time of GREAT improvements in the sound of recordings but it is not.

Why is that?

Here are some problem areas....

1. People no longer take the time to learn how to record. They just open the box and plug it in and start recording. Their "experience" is measured in hours and days instead of weeks, months and years. They also don't develop the ears that engineers use to develop since in a lot of cases they don't have any good reference recordings to base their listening experiences on and they wrongly assume that since they are doing the recording everything they are doing sounds the way it is suppose to sound.

2. People today no longer have to learn how to sing or play instruments. They can fix all their mistakes in a Pro Tools session.

3. There is so much equipment that no one has time to learn all of its complexity and most people today use unmodified presets for all their needs since to learn a piece of equipment would take time and by the time they learned it completely it would be superceded by something that can do 100 more things and cost half of what they were using.

4. The magazines of today offer cookie cutter approaches to recording, mixing and mastering. If this process and equipment worked for so and so then by having this equipment and doing what they did with it you can have a million seller album.

5. The magazine of today don't review equipment like Hugh Ford did in the old Studio Sound magazine, they hype the equipment and make it seem that by owning this you can be  Bruce Swedien or at least get things to sound like it was recorded by Bruce Swedien.

6. Before, in the old days, when you went into a studio you had to be prepared. You had to write good music, you had to practice the music and be proficient at playing it and you had to be ready to get it done is a reasonable amount of time since the clock was running. Today, working in your own studio,  you can put down a scratch track and then modify it and build off of the track and come up with new ideas and basically write the song as you go. In one sense this is great because you literally have all the time in the world to work on your ideas with no one worrying about how much this is all costing. But on the other side pre planning something was and is a very good thing to do and being prepared for a session and having the clock ticking was good for the adrenalin rush that was a part of every recording session.

7. The push for having everything louder has not helped the music that is being published today. It is like the arms race the person with the most weapons (or the loudest CD) wins.

8. With more and more plug ins being written everyday and with most software coming with a plethora of plug ins people who do recordings and mastering think that because they have them they have to use ALL of them on every track. I see posting on the Wavelab site and the person is complaining that there are only so many slots available in the master section and  they want to use 12 to 20 plug ins to master the song. <If you have to use 12 to 20 effects to master a song there is something REALLY wrong with the song IMHO>

9. in the old days the recording of music was a collaboration between the musicians, the producer, the A&R person and the engineer. Music was talked about, it was changed, it was played again and changed again so that when it finally came out it was a team effort. Today so much music is written, performed, recorded, mixed and mastered by one person who is doing this all by him or her self and has no one else to bounce idea off of or tell them what sounds good and what does not.

10. Music today is not happy music. If you listen to the tunes of the 40's 50's 60's and 70's most of it makes you feel good. Today music is much darker and the lyrics are about things that would not even be talked about in a high school men's locker room let alone in polite company. It is raw, it is in your face and it is loud.  In the old days music was an enjoyable part of your life and you took the time to savor it and learn from it. Today most music is background and you very seldom, if ever see someone sitting down for any length of time actually listening to music. It is always done literally on the run, whether driving the car, on your IPOD while you are traveling somewhere or as a background to other tasks that you are performing. It has become the background sound for this generation and is just part of the background clutter that they have to deal with on a daily basis.

My thoughts....and FWIW.

<Interesting discussion topic. I was discussing the same thing with the Station Manager of the local classical station about two weeks ago. His take was that technology is overwhelming us and that no one has time to understand the current technology before you are working on new technology which will then be superceded by newer technology in the coming weeks so no one tries to learn anything since it will be old technology by next week. His current example was the IPOD and where it started from and where it has gone in a couple of short years. "There are people walking around today with 7,500 songs in their IPOD and no time to really listen on one song so why take the trouble to download and upload all those songs if then you don't have time to listen to them" was his final comment on the subject....>

Arif Muhmin:
G.A.S.? What equipment? I only use a PC these days. And it sounds far better than the days of racks and mixers. And not to speak of how much easier it is to deal with.

But for a while there I thought you meant G.A.S. the electronic music band/producer, who makes some good music.

I don't think I own nearly as much gear as I used to. No one I know owns as much as they used to now that I think about it. I used to have racks and racks of gear to be able to record. Now all you need is a few select pieces. the gear used to be huge which ment you needed big rooms, which ment you could get more gear. I see it more as fewer pieces doing more things now.


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