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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

April 24, 1969 - 2nd US Tour begins (1st as headliners) at the Fillmore West
April xx, 1970 - Robert comments about the violence in the audience near the end of the fifth tour
April 04, 1970 - Jimmy Page performs White Summer/Black Mountain Side on the Julie Felix BBC show
April 16, 1970 - Whole Lotta Love was certified Gold in the US after selling over a million copies. The single had peaked at No. 4 on the US singles chart. In the UK, Atlantic Records had expected to issue the edited version themselves, and pressed initial copies for release on December 5, 1969. However, band manager Peter Grant was adamant that the band maintain a "no-singles" approach to marketing their recorded music in the UK and he halted the release.
April xx, 1971 - Untitled is rumored to be released this month
April xx, 1972 - Recording sessions for Houses Of The Holy at Stargroves and Olympic studios
April xx, 1973 - Led Zeppelin rehearse their new stage show in preparation for their huge 1973 US Tour
April xx, 1974 - Swan Song concentrates its efforts on signing new acts
April xx, 1975 - Jimmy does some mixing at Electric Lady studios for TSRTS soundtrack
April 19, 1975 - 51,000 tickets sell in two hours for three nights at Earls Court, two added dates see another 34,000 tickets sold
April xx, 1976 - The band decide they will release their film to theaters
April 30, 1977 - Led Zeppelin breaks the record for the largest attendance for a single-act show in the Pontiac Silverdome with 76,229 in attendance
April xx, 1978 - The band hold a meeting, this time with Robert, to discuss Zeppelin’s future
April 03, 1979 - Page, Bonham and Plant jam with Bad Company again in Birmingham
April 27, 1980 - The band rehearses at Rainbow Theater for an upcoming European tour
April 26, 1988 - James Patrick Page III’s birthday. He is named after his father is the only son of Jimmy and Patricia Ecker. Jimmy spoke of his son saying: "He is wonderful. He has made a big difference to my life."
April 21, 1998 - Page and Plant released Walking Into Clarksdale.
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