Regarding Recording

How Hugh Padgham Got the Phil Collins Drum Sound

Recorded on October 27th, 2016

My friend Derek asked me about the crazy drum kit Questlove played when The Roots backed up Phil Collins on The Tonight Show. We wondered if the missing bottom heads on the toms were integral to recreating the classic sound or not. My feeling is that they were done that way to match how Collins played his kit back in the day, and they may have helped control the sound a bit on the live stage. Who knows?

Here’s where I did my research. A very fun read:

Classic Drum Sounds: ‘In The Air Tonight’ | MusicRadar

John Baccigaluppi of Tape Op on Leaving the Mac Environment

Recorded on September 28th, 2016

John Baccigaluppi of Tape Op magazine has had it with the new Apple strategy of constant updates and the effect it has on his studio sessions. His contention is that the Mac is fast becoming a non-pro platform that doesn’t serve a professional recording scenario. The operating systems and the machines they run on are all so entwined with each other, but also ephemeral, that it seems like you’re only renting anything you buy anymore. Combine that with Apple’s tendency to incrementally remove input/output ports with each successive generation of the Mac, and you have a studio-hostile environment. I’m sad because I’m still firmly in the Apple fan-boy camp.

Earlier this year, OS X was rebranded macOS (to better align with Apple’s iWorld-centric vision). I’m currently running four macOS versions — 10.5, 10.8, 10.9, as well as the newest “El Capitan” 10.11 — spread across six different Macs. I need the older versions to open archived sessions, as well as to ensure that I have a stable recording platform for my clients. During the recent upgrade process mentioned earlier, our main DAW was repeatedly getting error messages in the middle of recording, and we lost performances as a result.

I don’t have much experience here, but it’s illuminating to hear him (and Andy Hong, also of Tape Op) now endorse PC-based DAWs like RADAR, which has always seemed like a cool rig. I sure wouldn’t want to be in the business of recording bands and also trying to keep a stable software/hardware setup going these days.

George Martin

Recorded on March 9th, 2016

By Capitol Records (eBay item photo front photo back) Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Somewhere on the web is a copy of all the video segments of The Compleat Beatles. I looked for one today but struck out. The reason I want one is for a pivotal scene when George Martin describes how he and Geoff Emerick arrived at the construction of the backing tracks for “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite”. Here’s a very similar text version of the same story.

From The Beatles Bible:

I knew we needed a backwash, a general mush of sound, like if you go to a fairground, shut your eyes and listen: rifle shots, hurdy-gurdy noises, people shouting and - way in the distance - just a tremendous chaotic sound. So I got hold of old calliope tapes, playing ‘Stars and Stripes Forever’ and other Sousa marches, chopped the tapes up into small sections and had Geoff Emerick throw them up in the air, re-assembling them at random.

– George Martin, The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn

That video is unfindable right now, but when I saw it in the 80s on a VHS tape, it cemented my love for George Martin. This was the guy who was the spark behind the “Mr. Kite” sound effects, the string arranger for “Yesterday” and “Eleanor Rigby”, and figured out how to glue together the mismatched takes of “Strawberry Fields Forever” in a way that complemented both of them.

Sgt. Pepper was always my favorite Beatles album. I know that Revolver or Rubber Soul probably have a larger number of great songs on them, but Sgt. Pepper was imprinted on me at a young age, and as a pioneering work of sound-art, it’s flawless. What a legacy to leave to the world.