I had the pleasure of seeing The Steel Wheels at the Musikfest Cafe in Bethlehem, PA on September 9th. One of the best shows I’ve seen in a long time. The band is an amazing group of musicians playing riveting and fun Americana. I’ve always loved listening to a variety of different styles of music and have played and recorded a lot of different types over the years. Over the last couple of years Americana and bluegrass has exerted a pull on me the same way punk and post-punk did years ago. The Steel Wheels show had all the points I love in that style. The instrumentation’s sonic mix is wonderful. Each instrument has it’s own voice and blends together like a vocal choir. As a result, the instruments don’t step on each other and can each be heard clearly even when everyone’s playing at full throttle. Standup Bass, guitar, banjo, fiddle and mandolin is a great mix. No real need for percussion since the style played is so rhythmic. The band also had incredible vocals and harmonies. For someone who is in to recording and sonics I loved that all the vocals were done live on one mic. The sound mix is controlled by the musicians by where they stand in relation to the mic and how much volume they give to their part. That’s not an easy thing to do, especially live. The Steel Wheels nailed it and the result gave you chills in the best possible way.
I’ve added some photos from the show and a few links to videos below. If you ever have a chance to see the band live or buy a CD I highly recommend it.
…and a live performance video…
Well, I’ve certainly been AWOL the last couple of months. A lot has been going on, some good, some bad, some blah, blah, blah. Thought I’d throw a couple of things up for you to peruse.
First, for anyone who is interested in starting out in recording music there’s a site that shows you the basics of mixing and listening….and you get to play around with Peter Gabriel’s music..and post your own mixes in SoundCloud. I’ve only touched some of the basic parts (pretty hard to pull my butt out of my own studio) but what I’ve seen is pretty interesting.
On another note, recently spent a night with the legendary Reverend Horton Heat. Totally ass-kicking (and I so want that guitar). Here’s a live video for your enjoyment. Hope to post some pictures from the show soon.
So what do I do on New Year’s Eve? Listen to music. And what music do I listen to that blasts me blissfully in to the new year? To set the proper tone for 2014?
Seriously, this cheers me up. A song that should be blasted at full volume to enjoy. Head banging is good on New Year’s eve. Not that I’m advising banging anyone else’s head – that would be BAD. Just your own.
Then watch a live performance video (not great quality video, but the sonics are pretty good). Compared to the albums, the live band was much more punk. Amazing amount of energy!! Which is, of course, what you want coming in to a new year – energy!! good grief!!! the logic is indisputable!!!! (no, we’re not a cult – sheesh – a few exclamation points and people start to worry).
See!! Happy New Year!!!
I came across this video of Frank Sinatra recording in the studio. For anyone who has interest in recording and recording technology, there’s a lot to see here. First, the vocalist and a orchestra in the same room while recording? The sound has separation and clarity despite being in the same room – try that one at home. You get a few glances at the mic placement when you see the orchestra and the mic setup for Sinatra. Interesting that he talks about ‘popping’ – there’s no ‘pop screen’ – they went by mic adjustment, singing technique and I would imagine some EQ adjustment in the booth. Again, amazing separation without multitrack or overdubs – right down to two track tape. Sinatra also discusses vocal technique. I don’t know if as much attention is payed to that today. His vocal sound is amazing and looks effortless.
Sinatra may not be your cup of tea, but there’s a lot to be learned watching recording history.
We’ve covered many different avenues of the recording process in previous posts. I’ve come across two different items that present an inside look at recording before the ‘digital revolution’. The first is a recording of the Queen song ‘Under Pressure’. Most people have probably heard the song before. What’s recently been released is the vocals of the song minus all the music. The amazing factor in this is how crisp and ‘real’ the vocals sound. No digital manipulation, no ‘autotune’ (maybe an effect here and there). Just listen to Freddie Mercury and David Bowie give life to the vocal sound. Clean, clear, amazing. A big treat is Mercury’s vocal in the middle of the song where he holds a note then keeps raising it higher. If you listen in the background you can sometimes hear the music bleeding through their headphones.
The second clip shows The Rolling Stones mixing the song ‘Little Queenie’ from the live ‘Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out’ album. Some stuff to watch in this: The mixing booth is pretty small and plain – function is more important than looks. No automated faders – at times it takes three people working the board to test the changes they want. Finally, they’re mixing by sound, not over concerned with watching meters – eyes closed and listening – the band was very involved in the mixing process. Also enjoy the sound of two inch analog tape being rewound when they go back to certain parts of the song.
There are many great things about today’s recording tech, but the simplicity of the past also had some advantages.
Some people may have grown up in the digital age and not be aware of the specific differences between analog and digital recording. I’ve attached an article titled ‘The Case Against Digital Recording’ although my point is not so much which is ‘better’ or ‘worse’ as much as opening a discussion about the differences. Besides the tech differences, this article also discusses different styles of recording music in general. I actually find that part of the article more interesting.
For full disclosure, ChurchHouse Studios is a digital based studio. Digital recording has made the editing and storing of music much easier. We do, however, create most of our songs using a more ‘old fashion’ process. I favor recording song tracks straight through rather than cut and paste. I also tend to enjoy the subtle differences (some people may say ‘mistakes’) it creates from verse to verse and chorus to chorus. For me it breathes life in to a song and makes that particular recording unique, moments that can’t be recreated. One of my favorite examples is in the Rolling Stones ‘Gimme Shelter’. At about the 2:59 point of the song during the female vocalist’s solo your hear her voice crack from pushing the note so hard and Jagger giving a little shout in the background. For me that moment is chill inducing and priceless. Would that be edited out in today’s world?
I don’t think either digital or analog recording is ‘better’. They both have their place and music, like all art, is subjective and will always remain that way. It’s your choice.
Here’s the article:
This discussion also allows me to throw in a plug for one of our favorite artists, Jack White. His Third Man Records studio is analog and he’s quite a proponent of analog recording.
OK – You’ve twisted my arm – I’ll also throw in a video of Jack White live on Austin City Limits.
Music tech advances as fast as you can blink. Check out this video from Beck covering David Bowie’s ‘Sound And Vision’. The interpretation is cool enough, but the tech behind it is remarkable. It’s the recreation of a 360 degree immersive environment using state of the art recording and an old but not that well known recording technique called binaural recording. Binaural is very different from stereo recording because it takes in to consideration the natural way a human head hears sound. The Sound and Vision project takes your ears in to that natural recording space as well as letting you travel through the video visually. You can now be in the concert space without leaving your home. It won’t be able to replace the full body experience of live music, but boy are they getting close.
Here’s the video:
I’ve also included an article discussing the tech involved:
Saw these guys on Letterman and just had to share it. At this point there may be nothing really ‘new’ or ‘original’ in the world of rock and roll. So what. Doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of good stuff going on. At ChurchHouse we enjoy and record a lot of different styles – and try to share what we find on this blog as well as info on studio tech, the music business, art and whatever else floats our happy little boat. Watching this made me feel that balls to the wall badassery is alive and well. It’s one thing to do it in the studio but pulling it off live with a classic four person rock lineup…….
– Vintage Trouble on Letterman –