This month at PS Dot Com: Pro Audio Equipment of the early 1960s

I do not trust you, microphone.  Yet.  

The next few weeks at Preservation Sound: we bring you: in no particular order: some of the state-of-the-art in studio recording equipment of the early 1960s.  A period that I like to refer to as the ‘pre-rock-era.’  As-in, Rock And Roll existed, but Rock?  That was at least one Ed Sullivan show/protest song/freedom march/long haircut/draft card/Godard film away.  Also of note: the period 1960-1963 was also the end-of-the-line of the first Golden Age of vacuum tube audio development.  Although new valves and valve-operated products were still being introduced, it was only a short while before Solid State became the defacto state-of-the-art.

Enjoy the material, and as always… if any of y’all are using this kit in the studio these days, drop us a line and let us know…

Posted in Pro Audio Archive, Recording Studio History | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Mics of ’56

Above: Belden 8411, 8422, and 8412 microphone cable.  I still use Belden 9451 for most studio hard-wiring tasks, although I have to admit that I am very devoted to Canare StarQuad for actual mic cables.  Anyone out there prefer Belden mic cable to the Canare?

Above: The Altec 680A omni dynamic.  This one looks very strange.  I am very curious to know what it sounds like.  Anyone?

The Altec M20 condensor microphone.  These seem to still be is use in studios.  I hope I turn up one of them soon…  folks seem to like them a lot.


Posted in Altec, Technical | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Audio Manipulation Technologies c. 1956: Radio SFX

From Radio And Television News, 2/56: a short article concerning the creation of sound effects for use in radio commercials, AKA., radio ‘spots.’  The focus here is on creating special-effects (pitch shifting, echo, filter effects, etc) through direct physical manipulation of the tape-recorder (as opposed to utilizing additional outboard equipment).

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Fine Recording Inc: Pioneers in High-Fidelity Studio Recording: UPDATED – 4

C. Robert Fine and Wilma Cozart Fine c.1961 (Source: T. Fine)

Today at Preservation Sound dot com we are pleased to present a special guest: T. Fine, son of high-fidelity recording pioneers C.R Fine and W.C. Fine.  The elder Fines were active studio owners/engineers in the early days of stereophonic LP recording and their efforts brought the world one of the most successful series of LPs ever manufactured: Mercury Records’ Living Presence series (click here for a contemporary reissue of much of this material). 

The younger Mr. Fine presents a history of Fine Recording, INC., the studios, and the equipment that was used; he has also generously provided PS Dot Com with some previously unavailable images of the operation.  We’ll begin with a five-page article from Popular Science (1967) which documents a recording session at Fine Recording, INC.

Click here to read the original article at Popular Science Dot Com

(image source: Popular Science, August 1967)

T. Fine: ” Fine Recording Inc. (h.f. FRI) was a production complex that eventually encompassed four studios, extensive disk-mastering operations, and Walter Sear’s Moog laboratory.  FRI was located in the Great Northern Hotel on 57th Street in Manhattan.

The Great Northern Hotel, Home of FRI., as it appeared in the 1950s (SOURCE: T. Fine)

“The building was torn down in the 80’s and the Parker Meridian Hotel is on the site now. The studio began operation in 1957, first doing mixing and disk mastering while the hotel’s former Ballroom was transformed into a recording space.

Above: The ballroom of the Great Northern Hotel c. 1900, later to become Fine Recording Studio A. The Tiffany glass ceiling remained throughout. (SOURCE: T. Fine)

“In the summer of 1958, the first recording sessions took place in Ballroom Studio A, and continued almost daily until 1971. Studio B, which was located in what had been the ballroom’s service kitchen, was used for small-group sessions, voice-over recording, transcription services and other purposes not requiring a large recording room.

Fine Recording, INC rate-card c. 1959.  In today’s currency: multiply by 11.  (SOURCE: T. Fine)

“A growing sound-for-film business required a film-specialized space, and Studio C was built in 1959, in the suite of rooms on the top floor where conductor Dimitri Mitropoulos had lived. A few years later, the adjoining suite became available, and Studio D was built as a second sound-for-picture studio. Studio C and D shared a film-machine room and both were equipped for 35mm and 16mm synchronized picture and sound work.  The disk-mastering suite, also on the penthouse level, had stereo and mono mastering rooms.

In the late 60’s, Walter Sear had a studio/Moog synthesizer production lab on the 12th floor. Sear was Walter Moog’s NYC regional representative and he provided Moog effects exclusively to Fine Recording clients. After the success of Walter (later Wendy) Carlos’s Moog album, “Switched On Bach” (Columbia), other artists quickly jumped on the Moog bandwagon. Among them were Dick Hyman and Richard Hayman, who recorded several Moog-centric albums for Command. (Ed. note: click here for an excellent  Moog cut from Hyman). Walter Sear did the Moog programming and some of the engineering on those albums, and also recorded his own Moog album for Command, “The Copper Plated Integrated Circuit.”

From the early 1960’s until the end of operations, there was a large tape-duplicating operation in the basement.  Duplicating was originally set up for quarter-track, full-track and 2-track reels, but Fine Recording was also one of the first east coast facilities to duplicate 4-track “Muntz” cartridges, 8-track Lear cartridges and the Philips Compact Cassette.

The studio ceased operation and was sold to Reeves Cinetel in 1971.




As for equipment: Studio A started out with a Gates Dualux mixing console, which was modified heavily over the years. By 1960, a center-channel buss had been built, and facilities for echo send and return were present from the get-go. The version pictured in the PopSci article (see above – ed.) shows the full extent of the modifications.

Above: the 1960 Gates Dualux console, a slighter later version than installed at FRI.  The Dualux at FRI used 5879 tubes in the mic preamps rather than EF86.  Click here to DL schematics for the Gates 5879 preamps: Gates-M5215_preamp.   Click here to download data on the Gates Dualux: Gates_Dualux_1960

“Fine Recording did not use the Gates Console’s line amps.  Instead the console outputs went through Altec 322C Limiter Amplifiers, which were set to a fixed gain (click here to DL the Altec 322C schematic: Altec-322C)). If you wanted a clean, linear signal (IE., no compression), you just used the console channels conservatively. If you drove the channels beyond a certain level, you’d hit the threshold of the limiter/compressor. This is how the “Command Sound” was achieved, characterized by  bright up-front horns and crunched drum set, but retaining dynamics and punch in the percussion.  (ed. note: ‘Command’ was a prominent record label in the 1960s. For an example of the typical Command sound, click here)

Regarding the session depicted in the Popular Science article: it is of special interest because the master medium was 35mm magnetic film, not tape. The article covers the process from session to mastering to pressing plant. The record in question was one of Enoch Light’s early releases on his Project 3 label (Light started that label after he left Command Records in 1966).

(image source: Popular Science 8/67)

“In 1969, Studio A was rebuilt.  The new Audio Designs & Manufacturing (ADM) console installed was, at the time, among the largest desks outside of Hollywood.

Above: The Fine ADM Console. (SOURCE: T. Fine)

“It featured early assign-automation featuring a patented system. Studio A was originally mono and 2-track.  It later evolved to mono and 3-track, and the 1969 build was for 16-track recording and also 6-track monitoring and mixing for films.

Studio B started out with an RCA console from the former Fine Sound studio on 5th Avenue. This desk had been rebuilt for 3-channel in the mid-50’s (it was based on 3 separate mixers of 4 inputs each, with 3 echo sends and returns). In 1967, Studio B was rebuilt for 8-track, with a new ADM mixing desk. In those days, engineers like to monitor all the tape tracks, but using 8 Altec 604 monitors was not practical. Fine Recording contacted JBL and the famous JBL model #4310 three-way monitor (which was also sold by the thousands as a home-stereo speaker, the Century L-100) was born.  (click here to download further information regarding the JBL/ FRI connection).  Studio B later evolved to a 12-track (a short-lived 1? tape format made by Scully), and then 16-track.

Studio C, the first film-mixing room, had a 1940’s vintage Western Electric/MGM all-passive console, also originally installed at Fine Sound on 5th Avenue. The console took line-level from the machine room and its output was down to about mic level, so Altec amplifier/compressors were used to get back the gain and control peak modulation. Hundreds of films, TV commercials, and special productions were mixed on this console over the years. It later lived at Sear Sound and is now owned by the Museum of Sound Recording group. Studio D’s console was the first all-transistor board at the studio, built in 1966 out of early ADM modules by studio chief engineer Bob Eberenz.

Monitoring was done on Altec A7’s powered by McIntosh amps. Studio B eventually ended up with 8 JBL 4310 speakers powered by smaller McIntosh amps. Tape machines were generally Ampex, but there were Scully 8-tracks and 12-tracks in Studio B for a while.  Mics included a bunch of U-47’s, a bunch of RCA ribbon mics (mainly 44BX and 77DX), some EV 666 dynamics, Church mics acquired from Everest, Schoeps M201’s (used on the Mercury Living Presence recordings, and in the studio),  and a few other types here and there. There were Pultec equalizers all over the place. Also, there were many special-purpose effects devices and modifications to “stock” pieces in order to gain various sounds and effects desired by clients.

From Popular Science 8/67: The mics of Fine Recording.  Evidently there was some editorial confusion regarding microphone-type classification.

“The cutting lathes were Scully, with customized Westrex heads. Stereo cutting amps were McIntosh 200W, capable of 1kW clean peak power! Mono cutting amps were Westrex. Most of the equipment in the duplicating operation was customized or modified.

R. Fine at the Lathe, c. 1959 (SOURCE: T. Fine)

“In 1960, Fine Recording acquired the defunct Everest recording studio in Bayside Queens (see image at head of this article – ed.). This was operated as a separate studio for several years. The Everest studio had a custom Westrex console and was designed for 3-channel 35mm mag-film recording. Eventually, the Bayside location was shut down and the equipment integrated into the Manhattan facility. The old Westrex console sat in a store room and was eventually tossed; think of the value of those components today! (UPDATE: we’ve added detailed information about the Fine Bayside location at the end of this article.  Click here and scroll down to read more). 

The principle players at Fine Recording were owner/president C. Robert Fine, VP and head of mastering George Piros, VP and chief technical engineer Bob Eberenz. Notable recording engineers who worked at the studio over the years included Fred Christie (later of MediaSound), Russ Hamm (Sear Sound, Gotham Audio), Walter Sear (Sear Sound), John Quinn (The Mix Place), Kenny Fredrickson (The Mix Place) and Gerry Block (Sigma Sound Studios NYC). Projectionists, machine room techs and various other employees also had long careers around the NYC studio scene.

Along with owning and running the studio, Bob Fine owned a recording truck, used primarilly to make the Mercury Living Presence classical recordings. His wife, Wilma Cozart Fine, was the VP of classical music at Mercury Records until she retired in 1964 to raise their family. Bob Fine was also an inventor, receiving ten U.S. patents. After Fine Recording, Bob Fine worked for Reeves Telecine until 1974, and then worked as a consultant and studio designer. Fine designed, oversaw the building of, and initially ran the Armstrong Audio/Video complex in Melbourne Australia (later AAV Australia). He later worked at The Mix Place in NYC. Bob Fine passed in 1982. Wilma Cozart Fine returned to the music business in the 1990’s, remastering more than 100 Mercury Living Presence albums for CD release. Wilma Fine passed in 2009.”

Follow the link below for a list of some noteable albums recorded at Fine Recording INC.   And for an excellent + thorough interview of Bob Fine by Bert Whyte, click here to download:  Audio-681_Fine_Recording.pdf

Continue reading

Posted in Recording Studio History | Tagged | 37 Comments

AWA (Amalgamated Wireless Australasia) Broadcast Equipment

Download a 24pp pdf with schematics and technical information regarding all AWA-brand vacuum-tube broadcast audio amplifiers circa 1967:

DOWNLOAD: ABCstudioEquipment

Big thanks to PS dot com reader E. Lorden.  E. lives in Australia and has provided us with extensive schematics and technical data on AWA broadcast-audio equipment.  AWA was the ‘RCA’ of Australia throughout much of the 20th century: they made and marketed both consumer and professional electronics equipment as well as engaging in actual broadcasting.  Due to a very protective import-taxation scheme in place in Australia until the early 1970s (as well as the high cost of shipping imported goods to that country), AWA was highly incentivized to develop its own unique line of broadcast audio equipment for the Australian market.  I have personally never seen any of these items myself, and many of the circuits are different than any US broadcast audio components that I am aware of; perhaps there is more of a Telefunken heritage to this kit.  Or perhaps it’s genuinely just unique.  Anyhow, plenty to dig into… limiters, mic preamps, power amps, etc…  Although the document is dated 1967, the circuits covered extend well back to the 1940s, judging by the types of ‘valves’ employed.

All photos in this post credited to E. Lorden

Posted in Technical | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Audio Transformer As Signal Processor

Sometime in the past couple of years, Tape Op ran a short piece by Allen Farmelo titled “Using Transformers to Transform Audio.”  You can read the piece in its entirety here.   My reaction at the time was ‘it’s about time!’  Audio transformers are a crucial part of what we think of as an ‘old-school’ or ‘vintage’ sound.  My clients at both the studio and the shop often ask me what makes tube-audio gear desirable, or ‘better,’ and I am always quick to relate that when vacuum tubes are operating in a linear (IE., not-distorting) way, you shouldn’t really ‘hear’ the tube – it should be amplifying, nothing more, nothing less.  Of course once you push a tube into breakup the effect can be quite different than a distorted FET or transistor but you get the idea.  A clean tube signal should sound… clean!  So, anyhow, the next point that I will make is that tubes are rarely very far from audio transformers, at least in pro-audio equipment, owing to the usefulness of ‘free-gain’ at input stages and the necessity of plate-or-cathode-matching at output stages (if this sounds like jargon to you/// basically/// tubes need transformers in order to play-nice with other pieces of gear).   The point: what we think of as ‘that tube equipment sound’ is really due to the transformers as much as the tubes themselves.

I won’t go into all the various effects that transformers create, as Farmelo does a very good job of explaining it in his piece.  Suffice to say: it is a very real, and very subtle effect.  Audio is a game of inches, though, ain’t it.  So when a regular customer of mine recently ordered a custom piece to allow him to use some high-quality transformers as a subtle signal processor in his studio, I was ready to go.   Here’s what I whipped up:

A single-rackspace unit – two 4PDT toggle switches on the front offer clickless true-bypass for each channel.  The switches are beautiful Japanese made units; each can handle 12,000 (yes twelve thousand) watts of electricity.  They should last…

On the rear we see Neutrik XLRs (my price/performance favorite) and…  a pair of 600:600 FREED output transformers pulled from some Scully 280 electronics that were too far gone to rebuild.  The transformers themselves are flawless, though, and they sound great; I have many of them at use in my own studio for various tasks.

Inside it’s just a buncha wire… Belden 9451… and at the rear you can see the heavy copper ground buss with a single chassis-contact point on the left.

Overall the transformers introduce a 1db loss in level to the program.  The effect is certainly subtle at reasonable levels, but I notice a more ‘organized’ sound to the extreme low end – it seems less vague while still moving retaining the full extension in the subwoofer.  Your mileage may vary.

If you are interested in a similar piece, please contact us.  Price is $400 USD plus shipping.

Posted in Custom Fabrication, Technical | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Stereo Audio Power Amplifier (Home Use)

Above, a recently completed piece.  Built on commission for KJ.  K. selected the well-tarnished steel case from my stock; it is one of two identical NOS cabinets that I pulled from a Milford CT basement some years ago.  “Are you OK with the rust ETC” I asked her; and yes she was.  Aside from the unusual enclosure, this is the same “iPod” stereo amplifier that I usually build; see here and here for other examples.

The meter (0-30V DC) is a bias meter for the output tubes.  The switch below selects left, right, or off position.  This will help alert the user as to an appropriate time to replace the output tubes.  The circuit is very simple: RCA jacks on the back feed a 100K dual-pot, then on to a 6SL7 (one half per channel) and then to a single 6L6 per channel.

Inside the cabinet are a very large EDCOR power transformer, two paper-wrapped output transformers, a choke, and a whole bunch of filter caps. Rectifier is a 5U4 and filaments are AC.  Electronically it is nothing special but visually it is one of my favorite pieces yet.

Posted in Custom Fabrication | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Audio Anthology: Collected Hi-Fi articles from AUDIO ENGINEERING in the 1940s

PS dot com reader Paul R. was kind enough to send us a scan of “Audio Anthology,” (ed. C.G. McProud) a 124pp softcover published in 1950.  “Audio Anthology” (hf. ‘AA’) is a collection of project-construction articles aimed at hi-fi (rather than pro audio) enthusiasts.  All of the material had been previously published in Audio Engineering magazine during its first four years of publication (1947 -1950).  See here, here, here, here, here, and here for previous 1940’s AUDIO ENGINEERING MAGAZINE coverage on PreservationSound. 

Above, an interesting boost-EQ stage that could be helpful in an instrument or mic amplifier.  Can any of our helpful readers advise which caps or resistors in this circuit could be modified (and within what range) to alter the turnover frequency of the two filters at work here?  I am guessing that the answer is: all four caps that follow the input DC blocking cap… which would basically get us back to this piece, which i swore i would never build again…

Above, the most complicated tube amp I have ever seen.  Kinda feel like Shadow Hills Engineering must have come across this image at some point.  Dynamic noise suppressor, phono pre, two eq controls, visual feedback of high and low frequency drive, variable metering, tons of input switching… talk about the kitchen sink.  This project is organized around the very interesting 6AS7G dual-triode power amplifier tube: basically two 2A3s in one glass envelope with a 6V heater supply.  This is potentially some useful information, especially when you consider that a 6As7G is only about $13 from AES (priced out 2A3s lately?). I think that there could be a unique new guitar amplifier in the works soon…

My lord.  At least they didn’t try to thrown in an AM/FM tuner.  Follow the link at the end of the this post for schematics and parts lists for some 6AS7G amplifiers.

‘Audio Anthology Vol 1′ is available at Amazon dot com.

FOLLOW THE LINK BELOW for 6AS7G project schematics…

Continue reading

Posted in Publications, Technical | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Out-of-print Book Report: “Making 4-Track Music,” John Peel (TRACK pub., 1987)

Download a seven-page scan of some interesting hardware on offer in “Making 4-Track Music,” Track Publishing 1987:

DOWNLOAD: 4trackMusic_JohnPeel

Includes advertisements for Yamaha MT2X, DX100, and RX17 drum machine; Akai MG614 four-track machine, Tascam Porta2 4-track, Fostex 160, the Boss Micro-Rack series (RDD-20 delay, RPS-10 pitch shifter, RCL-10 compressor, RRV-10 reverb, plus a ton more), and KORG’s multieffects.




First-things-first: I have no idea if the ‘John Peel’ to whom this book is credited is the John Peel, he of legendary status as a DJ and taste-maker for an entire generation of rock and pop music.  There is nothing whatsoever in this 98pp paperback volume (found in a Manchester OXFAM back in the early 00’s)  that offers any indication pro or con.  A third option would seem to be the ghostwriter scenario.  Anyhow.  “Making 4-Track Music” (h.f. “M4TM”) is an A5-sized paperback that attempts to introduce readers to the equipment and processes of using 4-track recorders.

The 4-track recorder, for those unfamiliar, is a category of product first introduced by the TASCAM corporation in 1979 with their model 144.

The 1979 TASCAM 144.  Bruce Springsteen recorded his greatest album on this small plastic machine, believe-it-or-not.  (Image source)

TASCAM already dominated the home-recording market with their 3440 1/4″ open reel tape recorder and the associated mixer-units that were marketed alongside it.   These systems had a rather high cost of entry, though: they cost much more than a good used car.  The 144 brought the basic concept of multi-track audio recording and mixing to a far lower price-point by using consumer cassette tape rather than 1/4″ open reel tape as the recording media, and by combining the audio-recording device and the audio-mixing apparatus into one single item.  This made for a much more affordable system and it also made for easier use: no wires to hook up, no redundant or unnecessary features.  Just the basic technology needed to record a performance and then add 3 additional performances in perfect synchronization while retaining the ability to control relative volumes and treatments of each track.   With a creative user, the 4-track machine is capable of much more, but this is the basic concept.

“M4TM” covers all of this, and more; there is an explanation of the various recording and mixing features that the consumer would encounter in the marketplace, plus good treatment of the various types of additional processing equipment that a 4-track owner might like: digital time-based effects (delay, etc), compressors, gates, EQs., etc.

The aesthetics/art of making recordings is not really considered at all; there is a lot of talk about money, costs, (e.g., KORG’s above-depicted rainmaking) and the improved ‘recording quality’ that such expenditures can deliver but no mention of improving the presentation of songs and sonic ideas via any of this technology.  Here’s a typical passage:


As someone who’s work is largely based on the commercial recording studio that I own and operate, I find it rather… alarming/offensive that the prime benefit of making a recording in a pro studio is the sound-quality, to extent that this benefit could be completely undone by several generations of tape-duplication.  Jesus.  I like to hope that I give my clients something more than a good signal-noise ratio and even frequency response.  The passage above kind of makes it seem like it’s the EQUIPMENT in a studio that is doing the work, rather than the engineer…   is this how most musicians feel about studios?  Is this how I used to feel about studios, when I was 4-tracking at home at age 19?

(me at home, age 19: via Tascam Porta 03, Boss Micro -Rack effects): 07 The End

Furthermore, M4TM does not even entertain the aesthetic or artistic possibilities of all of this ‘4-track’ equipment.  Rather, the emphasis is very much on ‘making-a-demo’ en route to possibly getting a ‘record deal,’ and all that this will entail (presumably the “Riches and Fame” for which you will have KORG to thank).   The idea of possibly creating a compelling piece of artwork with this equipment is simply absent.

I wonder when this changed.  By the time I started recording heavily on a four 4-track machine, a mere 8 years later (1995), musicians like Bill Callahan (aka SMOG) and Jeff Mangum (aka Neutral Milk Hotel) were already getting attention specifically as masters of 4-track recording.  These guys did not appear too interested in making a ‘real record’ in a ‘pro studio.’  The 4-track medium, with its attendant tape hiss, awkward usage once you went past four tracks, and total absence of any sort of editing ability, was a huge part of the artwork that they created.  Artwork that has truly endured.

(image source)

I went to see Jeff Mangum perform last week here in CT.  He did a solo set at the Shubert Theatre in New Haven.    Jeff Mangum has not released a major album of his own in 13 years.  The Shubert was nearly sold-out to it’s 1591 capacity.

(image source)

Have a listen (above) to “Naomi” from Neutral Milk Hotel’s 1996 4-track masterpiece “On Avery Island.”  Would these songs have been rendered any more compelling had they been tracked and mixed in a studio?  I think we all know the answer to that…  Ultimately, though, what Mangum’s solo-acoustic-gtr-and-voice performance at the Shubert last week demonstrated to me was more the fact that it probably honestly didn’t matter how he had made those seminal recordings: the songs themselves are so good and his voice and affect are so well-wrought that their properties can impress regardless of the presentation.

Perhaps I am reading into this all too much…perhaps my ideas and taste are a bit ‘off’ and therefore I have ‘niche’ values.  Mangum seems, to me, to be a very straightforward singer/songwriter.. but perhaps my appreciation for artists like Jeff Mangum simply indicates that I have ‘weird’ taste, that I am out-of-step with ‘mainstream’ values…  Goggle seems to think so.   Here’s what you will see if you play a Neutral Milk Hotel song on Youtube:

Is your significant-other cheating on you?  Maybe you need to lose those glasses: improve yr appeal?  Fuck it, man, you’re a GEEK.  Face it.  Geek geek geek.  Date another geek.

I am so confused.

1987/2012:  Maybe our John Peel simply wrote “M4TM” in a lost era, simple as that… an era when there still was a vigorous economic basis for the music-recording-industry and therefore the idea of recording music as INDUSTRY rather than EXPLOIT was still the dominant theme.   It’s also interesting to consider that around the time of the first Neutral Milk Hotel album we also saw the introduction of Tape Op magazine, the first (that I am aware of…) widely-distributed publication that embraced the ethos of home-recording as a serious art form.   And all of this happened just-in-time for the introduction of the first affordable DAWs (e.g., Pro Tools LE), which completely changed both the technique and the aesthetics of audio recording forever.  You still need to be able to write a good song though.  That much hasn’t changed.

 Previous 4-track coverage on PS dot com:

Fostex recorders of the 1980s

Musician Magazine 1976-1999

Posted in Publications, The 4-Track | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

Out-of-print Book Report: “Professional Rock And Roll” (1967)

Download a six-page excerpt regarding ‘the sound system’ from “Professional Rock And Roll” (Ed. Herbert Wise, Collier, 1967):

DOWNLOAD: Professional_Rock_And_Roll_Excerpt

Very much along the lines of “Electric Rock” (1971)  and “Starting Your Own Band” (1980), “Professional Rock And Roll” (h.f. “PRR”) is especially interesting in that it was published a mere three years after The Beatles appeared on Ed Sullivan, an event which is widely considered to have marked the beginning of The Sixties Rock Era.  In such a short span of time, enough of an industry and codified set of working-practices seems to have formed around young teen-oriented electric-guitar-based groups to have resulted in the large paperback that I now hold in my hand.

“PRR” parses the idea of what it takes to be a ‘professional rock and roll band’ in some interesting ways.  There is the chapter on PA equipment, with the various above-illustrated items discussed (BTW, I still regularly find most of these items at the estates+fleas, so points to the author for accuracy), as well as a chapter each on Electric Guitars and Keyboards.

Above: the three types of Electric guitar: ‘Early,’ ‘Solid Body,’ and ‘With Accessories.’

Above: The Rock Organ Player

We also get chapters on putting a band together, chords, songwriting, lead-singing, hitting-the-road, and managers/agents/publishers.  Somewhat more surprising is the in-depth chapter on how to locate and buy stage-clothing and the chapter on light-shows.

I think it’s somewhat interesting to learn how important the idea of visual-accompaniment-to-music was in those early years of the Rock industry.  We’ve been told so often how MTV changed the visual/sonic balance of musical-signification so drastically, to such varied effect as manufacturers’ increasing the size of their logos on equipment (E.G., Zildjian Cymbals) and even the barring of rock-stardom to homely female performers (I.E., the Janis-Joplin-wouldn’t-have-made-it-today assertion).   I can’t really say that this changes the argument, but it’s worth consideration.

“PRR” also has a number of charming anachronisms, such as the diagram above.  The authors felt it necessary to explain how a group should properly stage their gear on BOTH of the common types of stages: the theatre-type stage (band faces the audience) and, of course, the round stage.  Wow.  Were rock-shows on round-stages really that common in 1967?  I’ve performed probably a thousand shows since the early 1990s, in venues as small as basements and as big as 10,000+ festivals, and never once on a round stage with the audience on all sides.  Crazy.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about “PRR” is the subject that it totally omits: there is nothing offered on the subject of recording.  Not demo recording, not studio recording.  No mention.  Also lacking is a chapter on promotion and publicity.  To most musical groups today, these seem to be the central issues that occupy most of their energy:  thanks to all of the incredible, affordable audio-recording equipment and software we have now, recording and composing music have effectively become the same task; they are inseperble activities.  Likewise, the public promotion, marketing, and branding of a musical project can now begin as soon as the first track is mixed down.

*Is there a similar book to “PRR” published for the modern musical era?

*If a high-school age band were today to study and implement the ideas in “PRR,” could they generate a 1968-type garage-rock group?

*Did anyone reading this purchase “PRR” as a young musician?  Did you find it helpful?

Next up in this series: “Making Four Track Music,” John Peel, 1987.

Posted in Concert Sound, Guitar Equipment, Publications | Tagged , | 4 Comments