Studio Accidents: Gear quirks and surprising icons

Phrases by Andy Lloyd-Russell

There was numerous moments within the historical past of recorded music during which accidents have occurred within the studio

Gear misused, abused, or simply downright thrown into the incorrect state of affairs, however, these adventurous mishaps have gone on to create a number of the most iconic sounds ever captured.

Whether or not or not it’s a damaged guitar amp speaker serving to create the distinctly distorted guitar sound of rock ‘n’ roll within the Nineteen Fifties, or the usage of Auto Tune within the 2000s, generally it’s highlighting the quirks of explicit tools getting used within the “incorrect” manner that actually conjures up these artistic moments within the studio.

We’re going to try some particular items of substances that unintentionally impressed a number of the most artistic and iconic sounds ever captured. Because the golden rule of engineering dictates, there are not any guidelines.

Learn all the most recent options, columns and extra right here.

The SSL “Hear Mic” Limiter

It’s humorous how issues work out within the studio, when merely urgent a button on the console as a way to discuss to the drummer can actually change all the things! To not sound hyperbolic, however this little studio accident helped create probably the most iconic drum sounds ever recorded. That drum sound in fact refers to, the Phil Collins drum sound.

Within the early ’80s, the famed Townhouse Studios in London had simply gotten maintain of a brand new SSL 4000 console, being solely one among a pair obtainable on the time. Other than the brimming channel strips of this new beast, the SSL additionally had a few intelligent talkback paths, usually used for communication between the management room and reside room; permitting the engineer/producer and artist to have open streams of communication with out taking on helpful enter channels.

To assist alleviate doubtlessly blowing up studio screens, the pay attention mic’s audio path featured a really heavy handed limiter, drastically taming doubtlessly harmful sounds coming from the reside room when this channel was open. These limiters had been certainly ruthless, holding no prisoners when it got here to squashing audio. They sounded aggressive as hell!

Throughout the monitoring classes for Peter Gabriel’s third studio album Soften, which Phil Collins was a visitor drummer on, producer/engineer Big Padgham pressed the pay attention mic button on the console to speak with Phil out within the reside room. The drum sound he heard again when the channel was engaged was explosive, thunderous, and in contrast to something heard earlier than. Sadly, with the console in its default state, this channel path wasn’t in a position to be recorded, so Hugh requested the in-house tech to switch the console in order that the pay attention mic path might be recorded individually and additional processed with the channel strips gate and different processing, a brand new drum sound was born.

This then impressed Phil Collins to rent Hugh to report his debut album Face Worth, desirous to get the identical drum sound he obtained on Peter Gabriel’s album.  This may famously be heard on the monitor ‘In The Air Tonight’. Who doesn’t love air drumming that preliminary drum fill, come on! 

Tech 21 NYC SansAmp

Launched in 1989, Tech 21’s SansAmp to many was one more stompbox pitched at guitarists. Cool, just like the ’80s wanted extra distortion pedals proper? However upon strolling right into a Guitar Heart (sic) and seeing the SamsAmp behind the counter upon a plastic plinth, Tchad Blake (pioneering recording and blend engineer) noticed extra than simply an amp modelling pedal with some dip switches on the entrance, and thus, the SansAmp discovered itself being utilized in methods it didn’t intend.

Prominently used on the Los Lobos album Kiko, Tchad began utilizing the SansAmps not on guitars satirically, however quite within the processing chain of the kick and snares drums, including a characterful grit and thickness, creating a particular new sound to the drums, whereas nonetheless retaining the punch, readability, and depth Tchad had develop into recognized for. The pedal and the Avid Professional Instruments plugin has develop into so synonymous with Tchad’s physique of labor; you’d be exhausting pressed to discover a recording or combine that he’s labored on that doesn’t characteristic a SansAmp, even when its tucked away deep in a session.

After all, the SansAmp has definitely discovered its manner onto many guitarists pedalboards in its quite a few iterations and updates through the years, however in audio engineering circles, the pedal (and plugin) has been constantly utilized in so many different methods, the creativity and sounds of this one pedal has helped encourage is nearly unmatched.

Common Audio/Urei 1176 Limiting Amplifier: “All Buttons in Mode”

Now we’re probably the most, if not the most iconic compressor/limiters of all time, however not for the explanations one may assume.

There’s a surfeit quantity of explanation why the 1176 is so revered however our Ten Best Compressors of All Time Half One and Half Two are the place to go for that.

Since its inception within the Sixties, the 1176 has develop into so synonymous with recording and mixing that it’s practically inconceivable to think about what music would sound with out this prized studio workhorse. However like many items of professional audio gear, there’s one uncommon characteristic that many would utterly miss.

Like most compressors, the 1176 has a number of ratio settings to select from with a close to clear 4:1, a barely extra assertive 8:1, after which 12:1 and 20:1 ratio’s for limiting. Nonetheless, a quite illusive characteristic will be unmasked when all of the ratio buttons are pressed on the identical time, unleashing the “all buttons in mode”, or “Brit” mode. This dramatically modifications the ratio, curve, and lag time of the assault of the compressor, thus altering the way it reacts to and shapes transients and “crushes” alerts going above its fastened threshold.

Distortion and harmonic artefacts are additionally part of this distinctive mode and the impact is something however delicate, as a substitute having the aptitude to utterly pulverise supply materials, however in such a satisfying manner.

Usually utilized in parallel so as to add character and energy to a combination, the all buttons in mode is further icing on an already very wealthy and scrumptious cake!

Auto Tune

Fairly probably probably the most polarising musical instruments ever created, Auto Tune at its inception was neither meant to be seen nor heard. Fairly, it was initially meant to be an invisible device, serving to to cleverly masks or appropriate pitching points; usually pitched at aiding recorded vocal performances, and later {hardware} items for reside performances.

Launched within the mid-late Nineties by Antares Audio Applied sciences, Auto Tune was first noticeably heard on Cher’s traditional hit Consider, the place the vocals within the refrain are noticeably pitch bent with the usage of the software program. From this level on, artists, producers, and mixers have develop into obsessive about how the software program can be utilized, with quite a few genres, types, and certainly artists changing into synonymous with the software program, notably artists similar to T-Ache, Lil Wayne, Kanye West, and the Black Eyed Peas.

Whereas Auto Tune has certainly acquired frequent denunciations from each artists and music critics alike, there are those that sing its praises. Many argue for its artistic makes use of, its help in creating new types and types of artistic expression, quite than specializing in its negatives, which usually revolve round its capability to make anybody in a position to sing in pitch. No matter which facet of the fence you sit, it’s exhausting to disclaim that from the second Auto Tune was utilized in methods is wasn’t initially meant for, the flood gates of inventive expression opened, for higher or worse.

Shure Stage-Loc PA Limiter

Initially designed to assist management the dynamics of the human voice whereas talking right into a microphone at a lectern, the Shure Stage-Loc couldn’t have been extra simplistic and unassuming. The just about comical selector change on the entrance panel was meant to assist decide the extent of compression or limiting required depending on how distant the speaker was from the microphone. The Stage-Loc’s quite haphazard design didn’t precisely make for an incredible public deal with limiter in the long run, however it did nonetheless, when put in the suitable palms, make for an extremely artistic audio device, albeit for all of the incorrect causes.

Tchad Blake as soon as once more flipped the engineering and mixing worlds on their respective heads along with his quite unorthodox but uniquely artistic use of this easy piece of substances. His preliminary use of the Stage-Loc on drums went on to encourage different engineers and musicians to create a number of the most cacophonic, explosive, and crushing drum sounds to return out of the ’90s and ’00s, with the likes of Tom Waits, The Flaming Lips, and Tame Impala every getting a wholesome sprinkle of the Shure Stage-Loc’s distinctive bombastic magic!

There’s rather a lot to be stated in regards to the meant use of studio tools, with the designers of such tools seemingly wincing at how their beloved items have been misused by quite a few people and in numerous productions over many years of music creation. However when it boils right down to it, exposing some the issues, faults, or quirks of substances is what makes them so distinctive and fascinating – making them the unintentional icons they’ve develop into.

Head right here for extra from Tchad Blake.

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