Q) What are the sonic
characteristics that define the pop recordings made in the late
Sixties? When we hear a classic song by the Beatles or the Byrds or the
Zombies, we immediately know they were recorded in the Sixties, whether
we are familiar with the song or not. What is it that tips out ears off?
there something about the EQ? Is it a matter of compression? Is it
in recording techniques? -Kevin
of the above. To understand this, go from the source to the final
product. The bands then were influenced by earlier sounds, and so their
playing had a characteristic based on those influences. Their
instruments were constructed in such a way as to produce certain tones.
This is why many vintage instruments are so valued. Their very
construction altered the tone. For instance, a 54 Stratocaster had
individual cuttaways made closely fitted to each pickup. In new models,
one large "swimming pool" hole is where all three pickups sit. It
when the artists were in the studios, all of those vintage
Neumann mics were nearly brand new! All tube electronics (very slow
slew rate) and bulldozer-solid construction was used in very minimal
circuit consoles. Crude (by today's standards) monitor speakers were
the "lens" that the engineers "looked through", so a whole eq curve was
the model - far different from today's listening systems.
studios themselves were designed differently, and had a sound. The
tape of yesteryear had a sound, and the machines were made like tanks.
The attitudes were different then too. It was rare for the musicians to
make production decisions, especially at mix time. Engineers were more
a quirky, conservative breed, with mostly a classical recording
background. Mastering engineers were mysterious scientists with
glasses, shirt-and-ties and thinning hair, who rarely even met the
Think of the clients they had in those days - the big bands, the
one-day-a-song recordings made by everyone playing at once, and very
In those days, there weren't samplers and loops and presets and Pro
Tools. The players had to PLAY it correctly, or it didn't make vinyl.
They had to be creative with physical objects, vs. computer-driven
The singers knew that they would have to sing every chorus, not just
one... and then the rest would be flown in via sampling or digital
cloning. So they had a whole different intent when they rehearsed and
recorded. The engineers didn't have 48 tracks to take a zillion
different versions and then patch together the best take. The take was
So there was a different flavor, a different context.
I know consideration had to be made for
bass levels so that the stylus wouldn't jump on record-players.
and phase content, to be more exact. Many
mastering engineers had equipment that made the signal mono from
60hz-down, and a total roll-off at 20hz. But since many consumer
speaker systems and turntable systems were colored in their response,
it didn't matter as much as it does today, with our
super-duper-boom-a-mudo hyper Jogman listening systems.
It's become a bit of a personal quest for
me to record a song that sounds like an AUTHENTIC Sixties
fun to me!
I realized how hard it is to actually pull
I think what's hard is getting people to turn off their auto-tune
gizmos and be called to sing each chorus, sing it in tune and in the
pocket. People don't realize how much training the engineers of
yesteryear gave to musicians. Nowadays, recording at home robs artists
of the invaluable feedback they'd get from an experienced expert who
knows in a heartbeat when the track isn't grooving, the arrangement is
cluttered, or the part is being overplayed.
I understand that, in comparison to modern
music, the recordings I'm talking about are probably seriously
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. From where I sit, I don't think
we have to buy rules. We buy results. Music in the 60's was special, if
not magical. Record companies had many more musically sophisticated
people in places of power, and far less lawyers calling the shots.
Entertainment had a certain excitement from the newness, and some
extent the shock value, but it wasn't as disturbing as some of today's
styles. There was more hand-holding and fewer jagged little pills.
But I'm interested in embracing and
duplicating those flaws.
Start with tight drum booths and deadened drum heads. Classic mics,
consoles, amps, instruments, and arrangements based on minimalist
overdubs. Add in analog tape, great miking methods, natural room
reverbs, leakage, basic passive eq ... and musicians who want to give
peace a chance instead of gunning down their enemies in the hood ...
and you'll have a great start!
I think that making magic, whether it's musical or otherwise is what
life's all about. Your own touch is part of making heard that which
is yet unheard.... and mixing differences together can have cool
results. Drum loops are a great example where an old groove gets shaped
into a new technological hook.
Even in our daily lives, we can co-mingle our differences if we have an
open mind to greater possibilities. It's just a bonus way to create
something original. Now, I do have to acknowledge that in the past our
spiritual differences have lead to some serious issues... ...but
there's good news even about that...
Principles of quantum physics are setting new foundations for
scientific stuff that explains the previously unexplainable.
(Thousands of years ago a television would have been unexplainable,
right?) Today's new discoveries are so fantastic that the distinctions
will start to fade between what is called "normal" and what is called
"holy." That could mean that our spiritual differences can start to
hold unified ground, where before, we perceived great oceans between us
all. Woah, that was heavy! Far out man! So like musical differences can
blend into a new groove, life differences of all people can hold a new
tone of harmony and love for one another. Now there's a '60's concept
for ya! Peace!
Created 11/22/00 - Modified 03/18/03
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