The Velvet Underground Sounds

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Girl Toes
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Re: The Velvet Underground Sounds

Post by Girl Toes » Sat Feb 12, 2005 9:01 am

I think this is a great instance where the recording becomes part of the music. Had they stuck a mic in the bass drum, it would have totally changed the record. Musically, you don't hear a lot of bands of this style recorded with such a fuzzy warmth while sounding so quiet and, geez I dunno. Its just a great sound.

I love the band, and surely the record wouldn't be so great with out them. But Nico is just a fantastic recording, and it adds so much to the music, its a real marriage. Such as when symphonies may have a special bond with a certain concert hall. Sure, its a great symphony, its a great orchestra, but the hall makes a difference and can in fact make add or subtract from the music.

I think that's a big thing that a lot of people miss, is finding a way to record a band that compliments their sound. Its not just getting the highest fidelity or the best gear, its just matching it with the music, and this album is a great example. I don't think that was done so well on some of their other albums even, and as much as I love them, just don't have that match-up. That's why I love recording though, that's part of where recording really becomes art. Maybe this was just a happy accident, but it works, and I still think its one of the great rock recordings, regardless of the band. The band is a whole other topic.

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Re: The Velvet Underground Sounds

Post by pscottm » Sat Feb 12, 2005 9:46 am

regardless of the techniques employed during recording there would be no mistaking the velvet underground's sound. it has nothing to do w the recording. it has everything to do with the sound they make while they are playing. i mean, to what extreme would you have to misposition a mic in order to mask that sound? i think it would be difficult to make a recording that's NOT instanly recognizable as them.

not to take anything away from whoever recorded their music, but the velvets were such a force that i think any good engineer could have captured that sound w any given equipment available at the time.

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Re: The Velvet Underground Sounds

Post by Girl Toes » Sat Feb 12, 2005 10:14 am

pscottm wrote:regardless of the techniques employed during recording there would be no mistaking the velvet underground's sound. it has nothing to do w the recording. it has everything to do with the sound they make while they are playing. i mean, to what extreme would you have to misposition a mic in order to mask that sound? i think it would be difficult to make a recording that's NOT instanly recognizable as them.
That has nothing to do with what I'm saying. The band and the recording are two totally different things. They come together to form one thing in the end, that's what I mean by marriage. Some marriages work, and some don''t. But I am talking about the recording, not the band.

Can you imagine how that album would sound if only acoustic guitar was used??? What a difference was made by using a xylophone to open the record. The track order makes a huge difference too. If things like these can effect the way a record sounds, why wouldn't the way in which it was recorded??? Ultimately, the recording technics do become part of the music.

I hate the argument "its just a really good band." Sure, but there are ways to record them that would really distract and hurt the ultimate sound, the same way a bad track order can ruin a record, or bad instrument choice.
Its the same thing why I have this album on vinyl instead of CD. Sure, its still a great album on CD. But isn't the LP that much better??? If your playback technic can have such great effect on the record, why wouldn't the recording technic?? Either way, its still a great band.

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Re: The Velvet Underground Sounds

Post by pscottm » Sat Feb 12, 2005 11:13 am

hi lance, my $.02 was aimed at the subject, and general over-emphasis of gear when talking about a band. not just replying to your post. you have good points.

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Re: The Velvet Underground Sounds

Post by soundguy » Sat Feb 12, 2005 11:38 am

perhaps this needs clarification.

In many of these cases where people are saying "its the band, not the recording" you'll probably notice that that statement is generally applied to records that wer made in the late 60's and early 70's, most often. Why is this? The common ethic in commercial studios then was to make a recording of the band where the recording technology available was simply used to capture what was happening in the studio, or whatever environment the band was recording in.

As time marched on, engineers got better and better at using the new technology, designers got better at designing new technology and producers got better of bringing a new paradigm to recording. By the late 70's and most certainly by the early to mid 80's, you had people not simply making a cool recording of a band, but taking a band and the technology available and combining both to create a new space that exists only on the records. Perhaps Todd Rundgren was toying with the idea of "produced" in the very early 70's but for ease of example, everyone here can probably relate to Roy Thomas Baker and what he was doing, its somewhat easy to shine the light on him as the guy that really knocked 'em dead first. Queen was probably the baddest rock band around, but their records for the most part are hardly recordings of just a band rocking out in a studio, there is a complete third party space happening on those recordings and while of course you need Queen to make those records, the term "its the band not the recording" does little to explain or qualify something like bohemian rhapsody. If you look at the Cars records he did, sure the cars might have been a cool band, but those records sure as hell are not some simple recordings of the cars in a studio rocking out. The cars are put THROUGH the RTB process and in the end you got a record that was greater than the sum of its parts, the parts being the band and the producer and the engineer. If you misdirected a microphone on those sessions, you would have intensely changed the sound of the record.

Of course by the 80's you had all kinds of reverbs and DI midi instruments which brought this further along, making it harder to hear the band in the rooom over the sound of the band on the record. Now we have non-linear technology which really just makes anything the band can accomplish in the studio almost entirely irrelevant, if the singer is flat, the computer can fix it, if the drummer is out of time, the computer can fix it, if the song isnt long enough, the computer can fix it. Now when you hear the band rocking out in the studio, you have to wonder wether or not its even the drummer hitting the drum in the room, or some other drummer hitting some other drum in some other room layed in there.

Perhaps this brings some perspective to "its the band not the recording". If you took someone of equal skill and put them in on the VU records, surely you would have gotten a diffferent sounding record, but the record woudl have still sounded like VU. So many different people recorded led zeppelin in so many different places over their career, yet those records have a marvelously consistent sound, granted there was the consistent producer in that example but still, the band managed to sound the same with a host of people turning knobs for them. Had you taken someone else and put him on Queen, you would have likely had a TOTALLY and completely different sounding record. When you look at bands like aerosmith that had consistent records through the 70's and then totally lost their sound in the 80's, you can hear in real time how the ethic of "make a good recording of the band" changed to "use the technology to make a 'good' recording".

There are nuances in the old recordings that completely make them great, but the focus at that time was never rooted in the engineers ego to show off the nuances (generally speaking here kids) but rather to capture the band in a righteous way. Some point along the line, the nuances of the recording process got to become at least as important as the recording of the band itself and in some cases yielded astonishing rresults. Now today, the nuances of the recording in the majority of cases Im contesting far outweigh the recording of the band. This probably isnt worthy of debating, my opinion on that one is fairly solid. At any rate, claiming "its the band" in regards to specific recordings created under a specific work ethic is certainly not in all cases someone just trying to blow off a discussion, so far as Im concerned, its a valid description of the recording process that was used on a recording.

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Re: The Velvet Underground Sounds

Post by Judas Jetski » Sat Feb 12, 2005 12:45 pm

Here's my question: how much tape from VU sessions didn't wind up on their albums? It seems to me that people were still pretty much experimenting in those days. Seems like the editorial process was a lot more important--not just in fixing songs, but in deciding what was worth keeping and what wasn't.

If I was trying to get the VU sound here's what I'd do: watch the Lawrence Damn Welk Show and see what kinds of mics they were using in 1967. I'd try to find those mics or something similar at a flea market for $45. EV's or something. You'd be surprised what can show up at a church rummage sale.

I'd set these mics up in pairs and try to get a decent stereo image on the drum set, with a good mic on the kick and something decent on the snare (a good bass drum sound is more important now than it was in 1967. That and some kind of noise reduction would be the only concessions I'd make). Seems like the same room might work both for solo multitracking or with a band, but I can't say for sure about the band.

I'd record using the oldest reliable gear I could afford (I can't afford much). I'd do everything within my power to think like it was 1967. And then I'd start taping. When I had about 20 songs, I'd pick out the best eight and use them. I'd make sure the overall recording was like 35 minutes long. If the thing didn't sound perfect, I wouldn't fuss too much as long as it sounded ok.

If that didn't work, I'd start the whole thing over again and keep doing it until I had a sound I liked.

That's what I'd do. But what the hell do I know? I'm a two-bit hack.

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Re: The Velvet Underground Sounds

Post by Girl Toes » Sat Feb 12, 2005 12:52 pm

This was also a time when an act's producer made a HUGE difference. In this case, Andy Warhol was the producer. I would try doing some research on Andy Warhol's recording technics, which I honestly can't imagine.

I'm not sure about White Light/White hEat. I bought that record and the people I lived with at the time destroyed it before I even got to listen to it.

And I guess what everyone would agree on is very simple, don't over produce it technically. Choose your gear carefully, set up, record.

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Re: The Velvet Underground Sounds

Post by Slider » Sat Feb 12, 2005 1:20 pm

Girl Toes wrote:This was also a time when an act's producer made a HUGE difference. In this case, Andy Warhol was the producer. I would try doing some research on Andy Warhol's recording technics, which I honestly can't imagine.

I'm not sure about White Light/White hEat. I bought that record and the people I lived with at the time destroyed it before I even got to listen to it.

And I guess what everyone would agree on is very simple, don't over produce it technically. Choose your gear carefully, set up, record.
Andy had nothing to do with the recording, other than offering his advice and support (and forcing Nico on them).
I don't think he was even at most of the sessions.
I know Lou and Moe HATED the White Light album's sound.
They believed the recording was crap because the engineer didn't know what he was doing.
I think it could have been a much better record in many ways.
Even some of the performances are questionable.

I would try to capture some of the same spirit of these recordings rather than try to get the exact sound by using the same mics and engineering techniques.
Last edited by Slider on Sat Feb 12, 2005 3:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The Velvet Underground Sounds

Post by Judas Jetski » Sat Feb 12, 2005 1:46 pm

It seems to me that overthinking is a plague on most of the new music I'm hearing these days. There's more to a good recording than technical accuracy. Definately, definately I would say don't over-think things.

(But it does pay to go back and re-read your own postings to see if you sound like an an a-hole...sorry if I'm coming off as severely opinionated. I need to spend more time recording and less shooting my mouth off.) :oops:

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Re: The Velvet Underground Sounds

Post by syrupcore » Sat Feb 12, 2005 2:57 pm

Slider wrote:...spirit...

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Re: The Velvet Underground Sounds

Post by blixton » Sun Feb 13, 2005 2:05 pm

What instrument is that guitar/organ/string sound that is constantly playing through the song Heroin? It really holds the song together. I love that sound.

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Re: The Velvet Underground Sounds

Post by joeysimms » Sun Feb 13, 2005 2:20 pm

blixton wrote:What instrument is that guitar/organ/string sound that is constantly playing through the song Heroin? It really holds the song together. I love that sound.
That would be John Cale's amplified viola playing a drone.
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Re: The Velvet Underground Sounds

Post by bigbrainjob » Sun Feb 13, 2005 4:28 pm

Let's see.... In early days, the Velvets would often have several instruments going through the same amp. They would turn up the amp to hear the natural tone of the hum and tune their guitars to that tone. This, in combination with guitar tunings usings fifths and octaves, creates it's own minature "wall of sound" with thick overtones..... they used Vox amps...... John Cale put mandolin strings on his viola...... Mo turned trashcans upside down, threw a mic in there, banged loud, and turned down the gain.

The first two Velvets records were recorded mostly live in a single room so there was a lot of bleeding over with the sounds.

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Re: The Velvet Underground Sounds

Post by Girl Toes » Sun Feb 13, 2005 5:38 pm

bigbrainjob wrote:Let's see.... In early days, the Velvets would often have several instruments going through the same amp. They would turn up the amp to hear the natural tone of the hum and tune their guitars to that tone. This, in combination with guitar tunings usings fifths and octaves, creates it's own minature "wall of sound" with thick overtones..... they used Vox amps...... John Cale put mandolin strings on his viola...... Mo turned trashcans upside down, threw a mic in there, banged loud, and turned down the gain.

The first two Velvets records were recorded mostly live in a single room so there was a lot of bleeding over with the sounds.
Now there is an answer!!!!

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Re: The Velvet Underground Sounds

Post by pscottm » Sun Feb 13, 2005 5:48 pm

Girl Toes wrote:
bigbrainjob wrote:Let's see.... In early days, the Velvets would often have several instruments going through the same amp. They would turn up the amp to hear the natural tone of the hum and tune their guitars to that tone. This, in combination with guitar tunings usings fifths and octaves, creates it's own minature "wall of sound" with thick overtones..... they used Vox amps...... John Cale put mandolin strings on his viola...... Mo turned trashcans upside down, threw a mic in there, banged loud, and turned down the gain.

The first two Velvets records were recorded mostly live in a single room so there was a lot of bleeding over with the sounds.
Now there is an answer!!!!
like i said, it's the band.

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