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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

February 7, 1962 - Deborah Bonham, sister to John, was born in Redditch, Worcestershire, England
February 23, 1966 - Warren Grant, son of Peter, was born.
February xx, 1969 - Led Zeppelin enters the Billboard Top 40
February 16, 1969 - Led Zeppelin wrap up their first American tour in Baltimore, MD.
February 07, 1970 - Edinburgh gig cancelled after Plant receives facial injuries in a car accident
February 28, 1970 - The band performs as "The Nobs" in Copenhagen after threat of legal action from Countess Von Zeppelin
February xx, 1971 - John Paul Jones involved in legal issues regarding a musician who shares the same name
February xx, 1971 - Overdubs for the fourth album are recorded at Island Studios
February 14, 1972 - The band is refused admission into Singapore due to their long hair
February 16, 1972 - The Australian tour begins in Perth
February 21, 1972 - Led Zeppelin: Rock and Roll b/w Four Sticks (Atlantic 45-2865) 45 single is released in the US.
February xx, 1973 - The band makes final preparations for the European tour
February 16, 1973 - The release date for Houses Of The Holy is pushed back due to some sleeve problems
February xx, 1974 - Sessions for Physical Graffiti continue
February 14, 1974 - Page, Plant and Bonham attend a Roy Harper concert
February 04, 1975 - Zeppelin perform a last minute show at Nassau Coliseum to accomodate fans after being banned in Boston
February 24, 1975 - Physical Graffiti finally issued worldwide to phenomenal sales
February xx, 1976 - Media reports that Zeppelin are due to release an album entitled Obelisk
February xx, 1977 - Robert contracts a bout of tonsillitis postponing the American tour
February xx, 1978 - Robert Plant helps produce a record for punk band Dansette Damage
February 16, 1978 - The cases against Bonham, Cole & Grant stemming from the Oakland incident are heard and all receive suspended prison sentences and fines
February xx, 1979 - Although absent from the US stage or market, Led Zeppelin rank best in many music magazine categories
February xx, 1979 - Mixing sessions for In Through The Out Door take place at Polar Studios. Rumors fly of a European tour
February 03, 1980 - Robert joins Dave Edmund’s Rockpile at the Birmingham Top Rank
February 13, 2005 - Led Zeppelin receives a Grammy for Lifetime Achievment.
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