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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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Led Zeppelin History


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September 07, 1968 - The band fulfills some old Yardbirds dates in Scandanavia
September xx, 1969 - Jimmy Page is reported saying the second album will be harder than the first
September 19, 1970 - Led Zeppelin gross over $100,000 for two performances at Madison Square Gardens on the same day
September xx, 1971 - Jimmy Page is furious over a live Yardbirds release. It was forced off the shelves
September xx, 1971 - The band vacations in Hawaii
September xx, 1972 - Discussions to play various countries ends with a decision to play Japan again
September xx, 1973 - Jimmy Page considers a live release of material before releasing a new album
September 14, 1974 - Led Zeppelin and CSN&Y jam at an after party
September xx, 1975 - Jimmy meets up with Robert in Malibu, where he is staying on a tax exile
September 12, 1976 - Page and Bonham return to Switzerland and record a drum piece title Bonzo’s Montreux
September 08, 1977 - Page takes to the stage with other well knowns at a WEA records sales conference
September 15, 1978 - Zep road manager Richard Cole and Bad Company’s Simon Kirke get married in a double ceremony
September 17, 1979 - Promoter Fred Bannister forced into liquidation over Knebworth Sales with Led Zeppelin
September 18, 1980 - Jimmy reviews a new stage set up and technical details for the Eighties Part One tour at Swan Song offices
September 25, 1980 - John Bonham is found dead in Jimmy Page’s Windsor mansion by sound technician Benji Le Fevre
September 12, 2007 - It was announced at a press conference by Harvey Goldsmith that the remaining members of Led Zeppelin would reunite with Jason Bonham on drums.
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