April 26, 2012, by Joe Gilder
Do you know the reason we rave over those “vintage” recordings?
Forty years ago, they didn’t use tubes, transformers, and tape by choice. Nope, it was all that was available to them at the time.
The “sound” of so many of our favorite recordings from that era came from running the audio through gear that couldn’t faithfully and accurately reproduce the signal.
Each piece of gear added something to the sound — warmth, low end, smoothness, punchy-ness, even noise.
In short, it was near impossible to get a clean, accurate recording. The gear added to the sound.
Our recording heros aren’t heroes because of the tools they used. They’re heroes because of how they USED the tools.
They took this “imperfect gear,” with all its pros and cons, and they made great music with it.
I really believe we have a huge advantage today.
We have access to affordable equipment that will give us nice, clean, accurate recordings. AND we can also get the “vintage” gear sound if we want, too.
The key difference between now and then? We have a CHOICE.
Do those “vintage” albums sound great? Sure.
Does that mean we need to make our recordings today sound just like those? Heck no.
Here’s what I think.
I vote that we constantly push the envelope, and use the technology available to us RIGHT NOW to make great-sounding music, even if it doesn’t sound like the hallowed vintage recordings we hold so dear.
Don’t get stuck in the past. You don’t need a $3,000 tube compressor to get great recordings. Heck, you might even find that the big fancy comp doesn’t even give you the sound you really wanted anyway.
Use whatcha got. That’s what the old-school folks did, and it worked well for them.
For example, I’m still amazed at the different tones I can get with a simple, run-of-the-mill compressor plug-in.
You can too.
Joe Gilder is a Nashville-based engineer, musician, and producer who also provides training and advice at the Home Studio Corner.Note that Joe also offers highly effective training courses, including Understanding Compression and Understanding EQ.