quick question about how music is recorded

robin

Well-known member
you know the way when you listen to an album by a band what you are listening to is not the band playing their song together,but rather each instrument recorded separately and the synchronised later on by the engineer or whoever?

basically i'm wondering if this is how old jazz records (studio albums obviously) were recorded also,or were they recorded "live" in a studio?
 

Guybrush

Dittohead
I’m not an expert, but it’s safe to assume that most recordings before 1960 were recorded in one take, the whole band playing together. I would think that the technique of recording different instruments in different takes and splicing them together was introduced after the arrival of multi-track recorders; I don’t know when such first came into usage. Simple test: If the recording is in stereo (or the sounds spread across the stereo spectrum), then it’s possible that the recording is a blend of different takes. If it’s mono, on the other hand, then it may still be a blend, but it’s less likely. That is, the instruments being spread across the stereo spectrum is a sure-fire sign that the original recording was done using at least two tracks, allowing for the possibility for the record being a blend; but if they are not, it may only mean that the different tracks were layered on top of each other, Wall of Sound-style. Sorry for all the caveats. I hope someone more knowledgeable can shed some light, as I’m curious of the answer myself.
 
Last edited:

Mr. Tea

Shub-Niggurath, Please
I think plenty of bands these days still record 'live' in the studio, especially if they're any good - if they can pull it off on stage under the bright lights and in front of thousands of fans, why not in a studio? Then of course they'd use multi-tracking to add backing vocals, guitar/synth overdubs and so on.

If this is waaay off the mark I'm sure someone more knowledgeable will correct me, but I think that's how it's still done by some bands.
 

petergunn

plywood violin
Simple test: If the recording is in stereo (or the sounds spread across the stereo spectrum), then it’s possible that the recording is a blend of different takes. If it’s mono, on the other hand, then it may still be a blend, but it’s less likely. That is, the instruments being spread across the stereo spectrum is a sure-fire sign that the original recording was done using at least two tracks, allowing for the possibility for the record being a blend; but if they are not, it may only mean that the different tracks were layered on top of each other, Wall of Sound-style. Sorry for all the caveats. I hope someone more knowledgeable can shed some light, as I’m curious of the answer myself.

not nessarily true

plenty of jazz records are recorded live in stereo, it's just a matter of mic placement and decent room seperation. like putting a mic on the left side of the drums on the left channel and putting the mic on the right side of the drums on the right channel.

but, there is a truth to what you are saying, in the sense that, yes, without a multitrack recorder, you have no choice but to record live. two track was obviously the first progression, but often times that was used to simply record the rhythm track and then record the vocal on the other track.

in terms of old jazz records, they were recorded live almost exclusively. very rarely are overdubs done. even alot of the electric Miles stuff from the late 60's was live, it was just tape edited later. like they would play for a bit and then stop, decide the direction and then start playing again, and then the two takes would be spliced together.

i can't recall ever hearing about jazz guys recording in layers, just b/c such a key element in jazz is the interplay between players and the natural and spontaneous improvisations that occur.

i am sure once the early 70's fusion days started, there were plenty of overdubs, just b/c they were leaving the jazz format behind. i am thinking about certain Les McCann or Billy Cobham records that have alot of drums machines and sequencers and so by that nature alone can't be "live"...
 

Logan Sama

BestThereIsAtWhatIDo
I think plenty of bands these days still record 'live' in the studio, especially if they're any good - if they can pull it off on stage under the bright lights and in front of thousands of fans, why not in a studio? Then of course they'd use multi-tracking to add backing vocals, guitar/synth overdubs and so on.

If this is waaay off the mark I'm sure someone more knowledgeable will correct me, but I think that's how it's still done by some bands.

You would be surprised at the number of bands who don't even play their own instruments on studio albums. A LOT of hard rock/metal bands don't use live drums on albums.

Pretty much every single album made today records each instrument separately unless it is like some underground student 4 piece recording a demo
 

Gabba Flamenco Crossover

High Sierra Skullfuck
Jazz, folk and classical recordings are generally documents of a performance, and the engineers goal is to capture what is happening the studio as accurately as possible. Rock and pop on the other hand are about building sonic artifacts in the studio, and the source material plays second fiddle to the finished product. In electronic dance music, the source material has no real existence at all outside of the context of the finished work.

Because it's about documenting a performance, jazz is pretty much exclusively recorded live, with no overdubs. Partly this is because multitrack recording only really took off in the 60s, well into jazz's lifespan. More importantly though, as petergunn says, the whole point of jazz is that musicians are playing spontaniously with one another and the give and take of playing together is happening in real time. Overdubbing abstracts that real-time relationship. Most purists would be hardline about it and say that records using overdubs aren't really jazz records, and I've got some sympathy with that view. When you boil away all the nebulous talk about vibe, cool, groove, feeling, etc, jazz is defined by that real-time, real-space relationship.

Working in real time doesn't preclude using the studio as an instrument, but jazz players want to play in close proximity to one another so they can communicate visually and through body language - and because their instruments are acoustic, you can't seperate the sound source from the player. This creates big problems for engineers in seperating the instruments, because they all tend to bleed into each other's mics. This limits the scope of the producer for controlling the individual sounds, and it means that in terms of timbre jazz records tend to sound very similar to one another.

Jazz has flirted with multitrack recording. Bill Evans recorded Conversations With Myself, where he used overdubbing to play two piano parts 'simultaniously'. As the title implies, though, it's something of a novelty record. It's also a step towards an insular world of solo musicianship which is arguably antithetical to jazz's group/audience dynamic. Miles Davis's association with Sly Stone at the end of the 60s was a more serious engagement with multitracking - Miles played extensively on There's A Riot Going On and tried to transplant Stone's ethos into his 70s fusion albums. Sly obliterated the concept of time and space ("I make time" was his catchphrase through this period) - he recorded constantly with whoever was around, piling up mountains of overdub-saturated tapes. Ultimately though, Sly's expansion of time was based on detachment from reality and massive, massive drug use - it wasn't strong enough to support a new offshoot in jazz, and Miles eventually ran into a dead end. He had drug problems of his own, of course, as did Bill Evans. Part of the reason for jazz's failure to keep pace with the musical innovations of the 60s was that heroin had knocked so many of it's greatest innovators into a pit of insularity that they couldn't get out of. While pop culture raged outside, they preferred to stay home, with an audience of true believing jazzers, jacking up and having conversations with themselves.

Jazz is an antique in modern music - anything that isn't teeth-achingly 'retro' is confined to the experimental margins. It's a shame that the tradition of real-time real-space recording didn't make it's way into the 21st century, in a form that contemporary musicians can access without 'going jazz' and noodling all over everything, because doing computer music on your own is often quite isolating. I've argued with friends of mine that the webspace built up around electronic music is a new kind of virtual 'real-time real-space', where ideas get shared around and developed, and people negotiate musically with one another, but it doesn't cut any ice with real jazz fans - for them, people have to be in the same room at the same time, none of this 'virtual' bollocks. And like I say, I've got sympathy with that - even the biggest web evangelist knows deep down that it's not a substitute for real human contact.

I really wish that some of the Jazz innovators had made it to Jamaica in the late 60s and early 70s when reggae/dub was at it's most fertile - they could have reconnected with Jazz's roots as popular dance music, and learned how to combine great musicians playing in real time with some of the most mind-blowing studio-as-instrument techniques ever invented. We could have had jazz quartets made up of drums, bass, sax and mixing desk... who knows where that would have lead? A massive, massive shame that those two strands never came together:(

(Sorry, mad rambling thread hijack even by my standards.)
 

mms

sometimes
Jazz, folk and classical recordings are generally documents of a performance, and the engineers goal is to capture what is happening the studio as accurately as possible. Rock and pop on the other hand are about building sonic artifacts in the studio, and the source material plays second fiddle to the finished product. In electronic dance music, the source material has no real existence at all outside of the context of the finished work.

Because it's about documenting a performance, jazz is pretty much exclusively recorded live, with no overdubs. Partly this is because multitrack recording only really took off in the 60s, well into jazz's lifespan. More importantly though, as petergunn says, the whole point of jazz is that musicians are playing spontaniously with one another and the give and take of playing together is happening in real time. Overdubbing abstracts that real-time relationship. Most purists would be hardline about it and say that records using overdubs aren't really jazz records, and I've got some sympathy with that view. When you boil away all the nebulous talk about vibe, cool, groove, feeling, etc, jazz is defined by that real-time, real-space relationship.

Working in real time doesn't preclude using the studio as an instrument, but jazz players want to play in close proximity to one another so they can communicate visually and through body language - and because their instruments are acoustic, you can't seperate the sound source from the player. This creates big problems for engineers in seperating the instruments, because they all tend to bleed into each other's mics. This limits the scope of the producer for controlling the individual sounds, and it means that in terms of timbre jazz records tend to sound very similar to one another.

Jazz has flirted with multitrack recording. Bill Evans recorded Conversations With Myself, where he used overdubbing to play two piano parts 'simultaniously'. As the title implies, though, it's something of a novelty record. It's also a step towards an insular world of solo musicianship which is arguably antithetical to jazz's group/audience dynamic. Miles Davis's association with Sly Stone at the end of the 60s was a more serious engagement with multitracking - Miles played extensively on There's A Riot Going On and tried to transplant Stone's ethos into his 70s fusion albums. Sly obliterated the concept of time and space ("I make time" was his catchphrase through this period) - he recorded constantly with whoever was around, piling up mountains of overdub-saturated tapes. Ultimately though, Sly's expansion of time was based on detachment from reality and massive, massive drug use - it wasn't strong enough to support a new offshoot in jazz, and Miles eventually ran into a dead end. He had drug problems of his own, of course, as did Bill Evans. Part of the reason for jazz's failure to keep pace with the musical innovations of the 60s was that heroin had knocked so many of it's greatest innovators into a pit of insularity that they couldn't get out of. While pop culture raged outside, they preferred to stay home, with an audience of true believing jazzers, jacking up and having conversations with themselves.

Jazz is an antique in modern music - anything that isn't teeth-achingly 'retro' is confined to the experimental margins. It's a shame that the tradition of real-time real-space recording didn't make it's way into the 21st century, in a form that contemporary musicians can access without 'going jazz' and noodling all over everything, because doing computer music on your own is often quite isolating. I've argued with friends of mine that the webspace built up around electronic music is a new kind of virtual 'real-time real-space', where ideas get shared around and developed, and people negotiate musically with one another, but it doesn't cut any ice with real jazz fans - for them, people have to be in the same room at the same time, none of this 'virtual' bollocks. And like I say, I've got sympathy with that - even the biggest web evangelist knows deep down that it's not a substitute for real human contact.

I really wish that some of the Jazz innovators had made it to Jamaica in the late 60s and early 70s when reggae/dub was at it's most fertile - they could have reconnected with Jazz's roots as popular dance music, and learned how to combine great musicians playing in real time with some of the most mind-blowing studio-as-instrument techniques ever invented. We could have had jazz quartets made up of drums, bass, sax and mixing desk... who knows where that would have lead? A massive, massive shame that those two strands never came together:(

(Sorry, mad rambling thread hijack even by my standards.)

one name: Teo Macero, worked as a Jazz studio producer thru the 60's then the 70's ...........
 

michael

Bring out the vacuum
I kind of hate to bring him up (cos it seems to derail threads with bitching about the guy) but Steve Albini's Electric Audio studio at the very least does initial recordings live in a room.

Even when recording a band live you can still record the input of every mic to its own track if you so desire. Others have pointed out some of the limitations of this, but it is possible.
 
As a free improv player, I'd just like to add that multitrack recording totally 'sucks'... suddenly, I'm dangerously close to wearing a 'keep music live' t-shirt and attending Ocean Colour Scene gigs...
 
So you don't like any other music at all?
You dont like any pop, rock, soul or disco recorded in the last 40 years?

I hope you're just exaggerating for the sake of effect otherwise, well.... you're the one missing out!
 

m77

m77
Albini

you know the way when you listen to an album by a band what you are listening to is not the band playing their song together,but rather each instrument recorded separately and the synchronised later on by the engineer or whoever?

basically i'm wondering if this is how old jazz records (studio albums obviously) were recorded also,or were they recorded "live" in a studio?

I'd imagine it would have been done as a whole band simply because there wasn't the equipment (or enough of it) to record seperately and especially not to sync it all back up efficiently.

Some people still prefer it done in a minimal amount of takes to capture the band together. Steve Albini is probably the most famous for this.

"On In Utero one can find a typical example of Albini's recording practices. Common practice in popular music is to record each instrument on a separate track at different times; see multi-track recording for more information. However, Albini prefers to record "live" as much as possible: the musicians perform together as a group in the same room, and the ensemble is recorded with microphones. Albini places particular importance on the selection and use of microphones in achieving a desired sound, including painstaking placement of different microphones at certain points around a room to best capture ambience and other qualities." (from Wikipedia)
 

KernKätzchen

Well-known member
Jazz, folk and classical recordings are generally documents of a performance
I see what you mean, but that depends on what you take as a 'documents of a performance'. If you want to be purist about it (and some people in the classical world are, believe me) then only a recording done in one complete take, i.e. a 'live' performance will do. But the vast majority of classical recordings are spliced together from many takes, which doesn't really make them documents of any one 'real' performance. I was at a recording session recently where a friend's ten-minute-long work was being recorded. It took about thirty takes to get the whole of the piece down on tape in some kind of satisfactory form. I take the point that classical recordings undergo much less production than most pop music though.
 

Guybrush

Dittohead
But the vast majority of classical recordings are spliced together from many takes, which doesn't really make them documents of any one 'real' performance.

Another illusion wrecked. :( A recording being unaltered and captured in one take ought to be a huge selling point, so I’m surprised that not more records are marketed as such. Assuming that such recordings exist nowadays.
 

Logos

Ghosts of my life
As a free improv player, I'd just like to add that multitrack recording totally 'sucks'... suddenly, I'm dangerously close to wearing a 'keep music live' t-shirt and attending Ocean Colour Scene gigs...

Surely you can see that along with the development of multitracking you got the idea of the studio as an instrument istself, or at least the organising principle, and not just a tabula rasa? Pretty revolutionary advances in music (e.g. dub, disco as Edward says) wouldn't have been possible otherwise.
 

Martin Dust

Techno Zen Master
We still jam live, 3 laptops and load of studio gear, using edits and cuts to help build structure, often adding loops, samples and spot sounds on the second session - loads of fun but a real bast if you can't find the groove. We've just completed a couple of remixes this way as well...We use our studio as just another instrument, the only bit I don't like is the mastering stage.
 
Top