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Recording Session Methodology

With the advent of modern digital recording and production techniques, we finally have commercially available high-fidelity recordings with unprecedented dynamic range, frequency response, stereo imaging and incredibly low noise floors. Multitrack recording schemes allow musicians to record solos ``after the fact'', or sing lyrics after a drum track has been laid down. Networked multitrack studios even enable entire songs to be assembled with musicians performing in different states. Compact disks as a nearly indestructible recording media have changed the way we listen to music forever.

Nevertheless, the public is beginning to express their dissatisfaction with all of this purity. In the midst of all this digital technology, Western Electric Export, now a division of AT&T, is re-opening its vacuum tube manufacturing facility to make ``300B triodes'' for audio amplifiers. Rock bands, notably the popular Pearl Jam, are insisting that their albums be released on both CD and LP microgroove vinyl. Record companies that possess the rights to the jazz labels Impulse! and Prestige are re-releasing their catalogs on conventional and heavy ``audiophile'' vinyl LP's.

Many people feel that in the theoretical ``purity'' of digital audio production techniques, something in the immediacy and warmth of recordings from the 1950's and 1960's is nowhere to be found on today's jazz albums. It is for this reason that I felt it best to attempt to recreate an early 1960's recording session as completely as possible.

To this end, I have outlined the following simple concepts for the recording session, flying completely in the face of modern recording techniques.

I am increasingly of the opinion that the sound of jazz recordings of the 1950's and 60's was largely determined by the use of the RCA 77-DX ribbon-type microphones. Take notice of the following picture (figure C.1), reproduced from the Harmolodic World Wide Web site:

Figure C.1: Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry with an RCA microphone

Luckily, I have been able to obtain a pair of RCA 77-DX microphones from local radio station WTAG, for the purposes of my recording session. These microphones will be used for each of the horns, where they are most needed to insure accurate tonal reproduction.

Figure C.2 shows the recording setup, followed by a key (Table C.1 indicating each specific type of microphone used.

Figure C.2: Positioning of microphones during recording session


Key Microphone Model Directivity Pattern
A RCA 77-DX Polydirectional Unidirectional setting
B ElectroVoice RE-55 Dynamic Omnidirectional
C Sennheiser MD421 Unidirectional
Table C.1: Microphones used in the recording


For recording media, I chose to utilize the hi-fi audio track of a conventional stereo VCR for the live master. This method is widely accepted as the best method for recording on a budget. It is higher quality than cassette tape but lower than that of digital audio tape.

Mix levels were set up during a test recording and were not changed during the performance. (I was the sound engineer, and I had to play!) Four channels of a Mackie MS1402-VLZ were used, with each horn panned hard to each side of the stereo image and bass and drums slightly panned.

The resultant recording is, in my opinion, reminicent of the older techniques, and not a ``modern sounding'' recording.

next up previous contents
Next: It Ain't My Responsibility Up: No Title Previous: lorenz-ng.c: For solving and

Mike Andrews
Wed Oct 23 01:18:29 EDT 1996