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Soundboards vs. Pro recordings - from Bill O'Neil

From: <email address not valid>
Subject: Soundboards vs. Pro recordings

 

Hello Jean and All --

 

Dec. 15, 1996
Peter writes that it would be difficult for Jimmy to put together a good live box set because sound on many boots is bad. Presumably Jimmy would not be putting it together from boots. Doesn't he have soundboard recordings of every concert? With those, and the modern ability to separate and mix sound, I don't think it would be at all impossible to put together great-sounding performances of 40-50 songs.

 

I just wanted to pass along a little recording technique information that might help various members of the list envision what's entailed in a professional live recording.

 

1) A soundboard tape has no relation to a live album, except that the same moments in time are captured on both. A professional recording is almost always done on a multitrack recorder, which means that each instrument is put on its own tape track: the guitar, the bass, each of Jones' keyboards, Plant, Bonham's snare, kick, hi-hat (etc); each of these is committed to its own track, which allows it's volume level and equalization to be altered (in a studio environment) independently of the others. Also, the actual tape used to capture these tracks is of very high quality. This is why "The Song Remains the Same" sounds so much clearer than any bootlegs.

 

2) Once in the studio, these independent tracks must be "mixed" into a final stereo recording. It is this mix that the consumer (you and me) will hear. Believe me, creating a superb mix is extremely time consuming, and terribly difficult. Should the guitar be louder here? Are the vocals loud enough, or too loud? In a regular studio recording, mixing usually takes as long or longer than it took to record a song.

 

3) In creating a live album culled from multiple live dates, each of these mixes must be further tweaked to give them a cohesive sound. Here's an example of what I mean: I'm sure some of you out there have a bootleg or two that came from multiple sources. When the sound switches from one set of "sound values" to another, you probably find it momentarily jarring. This is the last thing the maker of an album wants. So while these mixes are being made, the producer and engineer must take great care to make each song sound as though it came from the same "space," even if it didn't. These "spaces" can be further tweaked in the "mastering" stage, when final EQ and compression are placed upon the recordings. A further example of what I mean: We all know that most of Zeppelin's studio album were recorded at several different studios, but each album sure has it's own sonic signiture. I promise you that great care was taken to make each album sound as cohesive as it does.

 

4) All of these technical sound-quality considerations have nothing at all to do with picking the "best" version of a song. That's another extremely time-consuming and emotionally painful process unto itself.

 

5) Unrelated, but interesting: Most soundboard tapes come from the monitor board, not the front-of-house (FOH) board. The FOH board is the board used to mix sound for the audience; this board is designed to take in all the sounds from the stage and regurgitate one mix for the house. The monitor board provides sound for the bandmembers on stage. Monitor boards are designed to take in the stage sounds and regurgitate many different mixes, because each member of a band likes to hear different things in their monitors. For example, Bonham probably needed to hear more of Jones' bass than of Page's guitar, but Page probably needed to hear more of Bonham's drums than of Jones' bass. Because a monitor board can output many different mixes, one of these mixes is dedicated to making a tape with each band member (hopefully) mixed correctly.

 

Hope you found that interesting.

 

Bill O'Neil
Venice, CA, USA
Maker's Mark is mother's milk.

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This Month in
Led Zeppelin History

May 31, 1948 - John Henry Bonham was born at Redditch, Worchestershire
May xx, 1969 - The band’s debut album enters the US Top 10
May xx, 1969 - Recording sessions for Led Zeppelin II begin
May xx, 1970 - The band works on new material at Bron-Y-Aur
May 03, 1971 - Richard Cole jams on Whole Lotta Love playing congas
May xx, 1972 - Houses Of The Holy recording sessions on location at Stargroves and Olympic studios
May 27, 1972 - Warm-up gigs kick off in Holland for an upcoming American tour
May 04, 1973 - Led Zeppelin gross nearly $250,000 for their performance in Atlanta, GA
May 05, 1973 - 56,800 attend the second show of the 1973 US tour at Tampa. This sets a record for the largest attendance for a one-act performance, previously held by the Beatlesfor their Shea Stadium show in 1965
May 10, 1974 - Swan Song Records is officially launched
May 11, 1974 - Led Zeppelin attend an Elvis concert and are thrilled when Elvis announces that Led Zeppelin is in the building
May 10, 1975 - Showco ships their PA system and video screens for the Earls Court shows from Dallas to London
May 23, 1976 - Page and Plant join Bad Company onstage at the LA Forum
May 21, 1977 - The Houston Summit claims $500,000 in damages to their venue caused by rowdy fans
May xx, 1978 - The band reunite at Clearwater Castle to rehearse
May 22, 1979 - It is officially announce that Led Zeppelin will headline at the Knebworth Festival in August
May 15, 1980 - After many revisions the European tour dates are finalized and the band is scheduled to open in Germany
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