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What gear had most impact on how older tracks sat in a mix?
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Production Techniques  
Author What gear had most impact on how older tracks sat in a mix?
Gringo Starr
Just bought Hawkwinds second album. One of the acoustic tracks jumped out at me. It wasn’t the song writing but the way it sounded. And I’ve noticed this with other older albums as well. It seems like acoustics recorded back in the day sat so well in the mix. They weren’t so upfront and smeared across the speakers even if they were the only track playing during a specific section but they were still just as clear and present.

Since I don’t hear this ever in modern recordings does it have mostly to do with the type of compression you get from tape? Eq? Instruments in older recordings across the board sound to me like they sit back and are way less up front and loud but still retain just as much clarity and presence within the mix. I’m not saying anything is better or worse now vs. then. I’m just wondering what the main ingredient(s) that make the difference between now and then. Tape?
Hi5
It's more a question of how much compression and how general mixing techniques have changed. Older records let the playing, mics and board do their thing instead of squashing every voice to a singular plane.
Gringo Starr
Hi5 wrote:
It's more a question of how much compression and how general mixing techniques have changed. Older records let the playing, mics and board do their thing instead of squashing every voice to singular plane.


So it’s more to do with the current trend of mixing techniques? Basically people are over compressing these days?
dogoftears
Gringo Starr wrote:
Hi5 wrote:
It's more a question of how much compression and how general mixing techniques have changed. Older records let the playing, mics and board do their thing instead of squashing every voice to singular plane.


So it’s more to do with the current trend of mixing techniques? Basically people are over compressing these days?


yes, the modern style of mixing is tons of presence, dirty sound okay if it gives you that in-yo-face feeling. so loads of saturation, compression, whatever. so called "punch" has become a bit secondary to a thick, tonal sound. noise floors on many records are higher today then stuff from the 70's. an audible noise floor or ungated instrument is considered hip.

sounds great for some genres/records, but has permeated other stuff that would obviously benefit from a more open or dynamic sound, and most record industry decisions at this level are what i would call "fear-based" ones... gotta sound like this other succesful record, gotta be loud, or else the record will fail (a fear-based delusion).
GuyaGuy
A lot of modern engineers also like to make the room sound as neutral as possible, whereas the room sound is pretty important on a lot of older recordings. That also has an effect on where the instrument sits--a very physical kind of EQ, reverb, and even compression.
FlipFlops
Loudness wars unfortunately so now (mostly)everything is overly compressed and limited to the max which squash the dynamics. Overproduction saps the life out of music, so it has less of raw live feel. Things like over quantizing will remove the feel of a song as well, it doesn't allow any swing in the groove. That can be good thing depending on the type of song/music you're making but it is basically just applied to everything these days regardless of genre, so it can make a lot of songs sound a bit bland.
criticalmonkey
don't discount the old rooms things were recorded in - they were a lot bigger than most the tracking rooms today, and they had lots of character that shows up -

the other big difference is most mixing only had a console and maybe a few channels of outboard gear - 1 reverb, a delay or 2
today every freaking channel is smothered in plug in perfection - who knows if the band can play, cause the engineer has made sure it sounds like it "supposed" to

still great music out there- just hidden by all the attempts at "perfection"
Zube
Acoustic guitars got brighter over time, I think. Listen to a Taylor guitar vs a vintage Gibson, it's night and day. Going to 2nd the modern engineering comments. In many recording situations there was the artist, the engineer, and a producer all present; the engineer's personal opinion was non-existent. But now, the engineer is treated like they're in charge, and the artist defers to them. It's difficult to find people who will even try the "out-there" ideas. To me it's this mentality and lack of time, not the plug ins that are the problem...
xenosapien
With Hawkwind, I bet the secret was LSD... wink
Dilibob
My view is the “old days” people focused on leaving holes in the arrangement for the lead to poke through. Also the mixers really rided the faders and tended to use compression as an effect (but not for loudness). To me riding faders is a whole existential art form, it’s a bit like “why modular”, but the results really speak for themselves when you hear a mix from a expert that knows how to ride the faders. I do think in the old days they were in similar loudness wars, whom ever had the loudest 45 that really popped won, but the approach to the loudness war changed.
nbirnel
Number of tracks can make a difference, both in the room there is for individual instruments, and in the room that allows for how they are recorded.

The 60's and 70's studio books I have talk about micing guitars (for example) from 3, 4, 5 feet away. This is hard to convince a modern engineer to even think about. Room sound or not, that is going to give a much different (more guitar-like, to my ear) tone than micing from inches away, or using on on-board mic.
xenosapien
something I just thought of over the weekend... something I noticed in almost ALL old recordings...

BLEED !
Mic bleed, to be precise...

there is TONS of mic bleed all over the place... more often than not, most of the tracks would be recorded with pretty much everyone in the room (maybe drums separated from the rest)

while drum bleed is still pretty normal and even a feature in many drum plugins, people tend to forget that it was also a (small) factor in tracking guitars, bass etc.

having a faint ghost guitar signal on the drum mics, maybe on the bass cab mic, etc...
really seemed to glue stuff together more.

also there are tons of noises on some records that are simply people talking/coughing/opening doors in the background... there´s a famous bit about a split second where you can hear Paul McCartney say "FUCK" on "Hey Jude" when he supposedly screwed up a note razz

add that to everything else mentioned:
tighter playing, less cuts and edits, "gritty" sound (due to harmonic distortion of tape, preamps etc.), more mic bleed... and what nbirnel said, more natural room sounds instead of reverb on everything...
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