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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

March 17, 1969 - A four-song performance is filmed for TV Byen in Denmark (aired on May 19, 1969)
March 21, 1969 - Zeppelin’s debut TV appearance on "How It Is"
March 25, 1969 - Filming session for the Supershow
March xx, 1970 - The band turns down many TV offers worth large sums
March 05, 1971 - Led Zeppelin started a 12-date "Thank You" tour for British fans, appearing at the clubs from their early days and charging the same admission prices as in 1968. The first show was at Ulster Hall, Belfast, Northern Ireland where they played songs from their upcoming fourth album, including the first public performances of Black Dog, Stairway To Heaven, Going To California and Rock And Roll.
March 12, 1972 - Page and Plant rehearse some songs with the Bombay Orchestra
March 25, 1973 - Led Zeppelin finally release Houses of the Holy after production issues with the album cover
March 28, 1973 - Led Zeppelin released Houses Of The Holy in the UK. The album title was a dedication by the band to their fans who appeared at venues they dubbed "houses of the holy". Houses Of The Holy has now been certified 11 times Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for US sales in excess of 11 million copies.
March xx, 1974 - The band decide to release a double album due to the amount of left over studio material
March 29, 1975 - Led Zeppelin saw all six of their albums in the US Top 100 chart in the same week, alongside their latest album Physical Graffiti at No.1. Physical Graffiti has now been certified 16 times Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for US sales in excess of 16 million copies.
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March 31, 1976 - Presence is released
March 28, 1977 - Zeppelin arrive in Dallas, Texas to rehearse before opening the eleventh tour of the US
March xx, 1978 - Robert and John spend some time hanging around the Midlands
March 26, 1979 - Robert takes lead vocal at a Bad Company gig in Birmingham
March 04, 1980 - John Bonham makes a TV appearance on "Alright Now" with Bill Connolly
March 26, 2006 - Readers of Total Guitar magazine voted the guitar solo by Jimmy Page in Led Zeppelin’s Stairway To Heaven as the greatest guitar solo of all time. The 1971 track was voted ahead of tracks by Van Halen, Queen, Jimi Hendrix and The Eagles. On the 20th anniversary of the original release of the song, it was announced via US radio sources that the song had logged up an estimated 2,874,000 radio plays - back to back, that would run for 44 years solid.
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