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RE/P Files: Quincy Jones & Bruce Swedien—The Consummate Production Team

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RE/P Files: Quincy Jones & Bruce Swedien—The Consummate Production Team

Post by Admin on Fri Nov 01, 2013 8:55 pm

RE/P Files: Quincy Jones & Bruce Swedien—The Consummate Production Team
by Jimmy Stewart

November 01, 2013

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From the archives of the late, great Recording Engineer/Producer (RE/P) magazine, this feature offers an interesting discussion with a true “dynamic duo” of the recording world. Quincy Jones is interviewed first, followed by Bruce Swedien. This article dates back to October 1989. The text is presented unaltered, along with the original graphics.

If the word “professionalism” can be epitomized by one of the most successful producers currently working in the recording industry, that man must surely be Quincy Jones.

The reports of his humanity, care and response to the needs of his recording “family,” and an almost telepathic rapport with his favorite engineer, Bruce Swedien, truly makes Quincy Jones a consummate producer.

During the many session hours that R-e/p spent with Quincy and Bruce in the studio, it became readily apparent that their complimentary skills — Quincy’s proven track record as a musician, composer, arranger, and record producer, married with Bruce’s mastery of the recording process —has resulted in a production team whose numerous talents overlap to a remarkable degree.

Having worked with Bruce Swedien on so many innovative album sessions, including Michael Jackson’s Off The Wall, George Benson’s Give Me The Night, The Dude, and Donna Summer’s Summer of ‘82, it came as no surprise to anyone in the industry that Quincy Jones should make such a clean sweep of this year’s Grammys, collecting a total of seven awards, including five for The Dude alone.

The following conversations with this illustrious production team were conducted during tracking dates for Michael Jackson’s upcoming album Thriller, at Westlake Studios, Los Angeles.

This is the first in a two part series of the conversations between R-e/p, Bruce Swedien, and Quincy Jones. Stay tuned for the next installment where R-e/p’s Jimmy Stewart speaks with Bruce Swedien.

R-e/p (Jimmy Stewart): How do you first get involved with a particular recording project? For example . . . Michael Jackson.

Quincy Jones: We were working on The Wiz together, and Michael started to talk about me producing his album. I started to see Michael’s way of working as a human being, and how he deals with creative things; his discipline in a media he had never worked in before.

I think that’s really the bottom line of all of this. How you really relate to other human beings and build a rapport is also important to me; energy that’s a great feeling when it happens between creative people.

I’ve been in some instances where I have admired an artist’s ability, but couldn’t get it together with them as a human being. To truly do a great job of producing an artist, you must be on the same frequency level. It has to happen before you start to talk about songs.

R-e/p (Jimmy Stewart): Then the important aspect, to your mind, is fostering a family feel during a project?

Quincy Jones: Yes. It’s a very personal relationship that lets the love come through. Being on the other side of the glass is a very funny position — you’re the traffic director of another person’s soul. If it’s blind faith, there’s no end to how high you can reach musically.

R-e/p (Jimmy Stewart): Is the special rapport you establish with an artist based on them saying something unique that triggers off an area in your creative mind?

Quincy Jones: That’s the abstract part which is so exciting. I consider that there are two schools of producing. The first necessitates that you totally reinforce the artist’s musical aspirations.

The other school is akin to being a film director who would like the right to pick the material.

As to what choice of production style I would adopt, your observations and perceptions have to be very keen. You have to be able to crawl into that artist, and feel every side of his personality —to see how many degrees they have to it, and what their limitations are.

R-e/p: Once that working rapport hits been established, how do you plan the actual recording project?

QJ: I think you have to dig down really to where yon think the holes are in that artist’s past career. I’ll say to myself. “I’ve never heard him sing this kind of song, or express that kind of emotion.”

Once you obtain an abstract concept or direction, it’s good to talk about it with the artist to see what his feelings are and if you’re on the right track. In essence, I help the artist discover more of himself.

R-e/p: Do you became involved with the selection of songs for the album?

QJ: On average, I listen maybe 800 to 900 tapes per album. It takes a lot of energy! I hear songs at a demo stage, and would like to think that the songwriter is open for suggestions.

If I say, “We need a C section,” or “Why don’t we double up this section” the writers with whom I’ve had the most success must be mature enough and professional enough to say, “Okav, I’m not going to be defensive about any suggestion you make.”

R-e/p: So what do you listen for in a song? The lyrics, melody, arrangement, instrumentation ...

QJ: I listen for something that will make the hair on my right arm rise. That’s when you get into the mystery of music. It’s something that makes both musical and emotional sense at the same time: where melodically it has something that resembles a good melody.

Again that’s intangible too. because it’s in the ears of the listener. So basically I’m saying… it transcends analysis. A good tune just does something to me.

R-e/p: Once the songs have been sorted, what runs through your mind prior to the studio session dates?

QJ: I try to get the feeling that I’m going into the studio for the first time every-ime. You have to do that because if we started to get to a stage where Bruce Swedien and I had a specific way of recording it wouldn’t work for us.

I’m sure some things overlap, because that’s part of our personality, but we try to approach it like everytime is the first time: we’re going to try something so that we don’t get into routine type of procedures.

With Rufus Chaka Kan I’ll do one kind of a thing, where we will have rehearsals at their home, and talk about things. Maybe even come in the session with everybody and do it like “Polaroids.”

That way you can hear what everything sounds like rough, and feel what the density, structure and contour of the song is all about.

Other times, like with The Brothers Johnson, we used to go in with just a rhythm machine, guitar and bass, and do it that way. We did the Donna Summers album with a drum machine and synthesizer, so that I could really focus on just the material. But with Bruce Springsteen everyone played live, as in a concert.

For George Benson’s album. Lee Ritenour came over and helped us with different guitar equipment to get some new sounds.

At the same time that Lee was there dealing with the equipment, and George was trying it out, Bruce Swedien came over for a whole week to just listen to George with his instrumentals and vocals, like a screen test.

R-e/p: You have obviously established a close affinity in the studio with Bruce Swedien.

How do the pair of you interact with one another, and how does he make the moves with you?

QJ: The thing is, what’s great about working with Bruce is I like him as a human being. In a funny way, we’ve the same kind of background.

The first record we did together was probably Dinah Washington. During that period of time we recorded every big band in the business. We did a lot of R&B in Chicago in those days ... a lot of big records.

Bruce’s first Grammy nomination was in 1962 for Big Girls Don 7 Cry. He studied piano for eight years, and did electrical engineering in school.

Along the way he recorded Fritiz Keiner and the Chicago Orchestra. And a lot of his time was also spent recording commercials.

So, from the sound aspect, and the musical aspect, the two of us kind of cover 360 degrees . . . well at least 40. We feel comfortable in any musical environment.

Bruce handled the pre-recording and shoot. He also designed some of the equipment for the location sound, did the post scoring, the dubbing and the soundtrack album.

To do all of it, that’s unheard of! Usually there are three to four different people to handle all those facets.

R-e/p: Is there a standard procedure you use for recording the various parts of a
song?

QJ: Each tune is different. “State of Independence” for the Donna Summer’s album is a good example of a particular process I might use.

We started with a Linn Drum Machine, and created the patterns for different sections. Then we created the blueprint, with all the fills and percussion throughout the whole song.

From the Linn, we went through a Roland MicroComposer, and then through a pair of Roland Jupiter 8 synthesizers that we lock to. The patterns were pads in sequencer-type elements. Then we program the Minimoog to play the bass line.

The programs were all linked together and driven by the Roland MicroComposer using sync codes. The program information is stored in the Linn’s memory, and on the MicroComposer’s cassette.

At this point all we had to do was push the button, and the song would play.

Once it sounds right we record the structured tune on tape, which saves time since you don’t have to record these elements singly on tape with cutting and editing. This blueprinting method works great when you’re not sure of the final arrangement of the tune.

We can deal with between three and five types of codes, including SMPTE on the multitrack.

With all these codes, we have to watch the record level to make sure it triggers the instrument properly. Sometimes we had to change EQ and level differences to make sure we got it right.

R-e/p: Do you try and work in the room with the musicians, or stay in the control room with Bruce?

QJ: I like to work out in the room with each player, running the chart down, and guiding the feel of the tune.

We will usually run it down once, then I’ll get behind the glass to hear the balance and what is coming through the monitor speakers, which is the way it will be recorded and played back.

Once I get the foundation of the tune on tape, and know it’s solid and right, it is easy for me to lay those other elements to the song. It’s the song itself that’s the most important element we are dealing with.

R-e/p: Any particular “tricks of the trade” that you’ve developed over the years for capturing the sounds on tape?

QJ: Bruce is very careful with the bass and vocals, and we try to put the signal through with as little electronics as possible.

In some cases, we may bypass the console altogether and go direct to the tape machine.

Any processing, in effect, is some form of signal degradation, but you are making up for it by adding some other quality you feel is necessary — we always think of these considerations.

Bruce has some special direct boxes for feeding a signal direct to the multi-track, and which minimally affect the signal.

With a synthesizer we very often can go line-level directly to the machine, while with the bass you need a pre-amp to bring it up to a hot level.

Lots of times we will avoid using voltage-controlled amplifiers, because there will be less signal coloration. Also, if possible we avoid using equalization. Our rules are to be careful, and pay close attention to the signal quality.

R-e/p: The rhythm section is often considered to be the “glue” that holds a track,together. What do you listen for when tracking the rhythm section?

QJ: I listen to the feel of the music, and the way the players are relating to that feel. My energy is directed to telling the players what I want from them to give the music its emotional content, and Bruce will interpret technically the best way in which to capture the sound on tape.

And we may try something new or different to highlight that musical character. Because Bruce has a good musical background, he is an “interpreter” that is part of the musical flow.

I like players who have a jazzman’s approach to playing. They have learned to play by jamming with lots of different people, and you can push them to their limits.

I don’t like to get stuck in patterns, so I need players who can quickly adjust to changes in feel. They must also be able to tell a story through their instrument. I look for players who can do it all! |Laughter]

R-e/p: You obviously have a keenly evolved sense of preparation for a recording project. How do you go about planning a typical day in the studio?

QJ: We do our homework after we leave the studio. Bruce will always have a tracking date planned out, with track assignments for the instrumentation, and so on.

For overdubbing, he will work out how the work-tape system will be structured, and Matt [Forger] our assistant will be responsible for carrying out that task.

I zero in on what my day’s work is going to be by listening to the musical elements; how they interact and work in the song in my listening room at home.

Bruce does the same by working out in his mind the best method of capturing the music, and structuring these elements so they can be used in future overdubbing and mixing.

I keep a folder for each tune, and make notes as the tune progresses. It may be that changing a stereo image to mono is one way to strengthen an element: stereo for space; mono for impact.

If it’s a wrong instrument or color it will be redone. Bruce understands the music and the musical balance, and never loses his perspective.

Our communication after all these years working together is very spontaneous. This is one of the reasons for our success!

R-e/p: It’s obviously important to you that Bruce is able to read music. How does this kelp you in the studio?

QJ: The way we work with music charts, I can get to any part of the tune. It’s fast for drop-ins, and you never end up making a mistake. Bruce will make notes on his music chart to he used later in the mix.

R-e/p: How often do you listen to a work cassette during an album session?

QJ: I’ll listen over and over again to a song until it’s in my bones. Some songs have just a chord progression and no tune.

Others may be a hook phrase and a groove, and sometimes the song may call for a lot of colors. Each song is different . . . when it’s played on the radio and jumps, I’m happy.

To keep the session vibe up, I use nick names for the guys I work with: “Lilly” for Michael Boddicker; “Mouse” for Greg Phillinganes; “Boot” for Louis Johnson; “Worms” for Rod Temperton.

And Bruce has many nicknames; it depends upon the intensity in the control room.

If things are going a little rough and I need a hired gun, I call Bruce “Slim”! [Smiles across room at Bruce Swedien]

And the way I keep in touch with the tracking musicians is to use slang: “Anchovy” is a mess up; “Welfare Sound” is when you haven’t warmed up to the track or the tune; “Land Mines” are tough phrases in an arrangement.

R-e/p: How do you gauge that a track is happening in the control room?

QJ: I listen on Auratones for energy and performance at about 90 dB SPL. I’m coming from a radio listener concept.

I have two speakers set up in front of my producer’s desk. I don’t have to ask Bruce to move so I can listen to his set of speakers, and we never play the two pairs of speakers at the same time. When i’t's a great take you can see through it!

R-e/p: With such wide experience over that I think is necessary to have in a record.

Digital sometimes gets a little too squeaky clean for me. But I know it’s going to improve, because it’s a wonderful direction.

With album sessions becoming more and more complicated, both technically as well as artistically, do you think a producer has to be a good arranger too?

QJ: I don’t know, because everybody produces with his strength.

That ability can come from the strength of an engineer, player, singer, instrumentalist, arranger, or a combination of these things.

R-e/p: As founder and president of your own record company, Qwest, do you find it hard sometimes to combine the creative ability of a producer, with the business side of running a label?

QJ: Let me give you some background. In I960 I got in trouble with a jazz band I had on tour, and when I came home with my tail between my legs from Europe I took a job with Mercury Records for about seven years, in A&R, and eventually vice president.

During the course of that time I had to understand a whole different area of the record business that I wasn’t even aware of before.

It was a big company because Mercury merged with Philips, which is now Polygram, and we started Philips Records in this country.

It was an incredible education, because I use to think that all these companies get together once a week to plan how to get new artists on the label.

You should be so lucky that you get past being an IBM number on a computer with a profit and loss under your name or code number. That gave me an insight into understanding what corporate anatomy was all about.

Understanding the rules of the game is important for a producer with a huge company like Philips, which is dealing with raw products, television sets, vacuum cleaners, and all the rest, at the that time we were doing $82 million a year worldwide, and music was only about 2% of the total.

R-e/p: So how do you communicate with the business person?

QJ: Somewhere along the way it’s got to make sense if it’s going to cost money. If you want to go to Africa and make a drum record, for example, you’re going to have to figure out how to get it done for the people who put up the money.

Somewhere along with your creative process you have to ‘scope out what the situation is, get your priorities straight, and don’t let that interfere with your creativity.

If they put a pile of money right in front of you, there’s no way to correlate the essence of what that means, and yet still tie it into the creation of music.

Being a record company president is a lot of responsibility, hut it’s going to be okay. To become a successful record company president, you have to apply and reinforce your creative side with a business side, but you can’t lead with the business side.

Jimmy Stewart’s interview with Bruce Swedien begins on the next page.

R-e/p: How do you see your role as engineer: working behind the console and handling the technical side of the recording process?

Bruce Swedien: Well, I guess I have to go back just a little bit in my background to really answer that question.

Number one, working in Chicago in the jingle field was tremendous training for getting a very fast mix, and being ready to roll because, quite frequently, jingle sessions only last an hour.

I recorded all the Marlboro spots, where it wasn’t unusual to have a 40-piece orchestra scheduled for nine o’clock downbeat, and literally be ready to roll at 9:05.

And when the band is rehearsing, I’m getting little balances within the sections: when the rhythm section is running a certain thing down, I’ll use that time to get the rhythm balance ready. It happens very quickly.

I guess I learned a lot about not wasting any movement or motion from the musicians in Chicago. In the early days of the jingles business — about 1958 through ‘62 - I worked with probably some of the finest musicians in Chicago at that time.

They were masters at making the most out of one little phrase. As they were putting the balance together and rehearsing parts, I would be getting it together very quickly behind the console. That was really great training for me.

R-e/p: Too much of an emphasis on the technical side of recording is often said to intimidate an artist in a studio.

How do you try and get into the musical groove with the musicians and the producer?

Bruce Swedien: You should be prepared down to the last detail, and get to the studio early. Start setting up early; there will always be things to do that you’re not apt to think of unless you have enough time.

If your session starts at 9:00 AM, be there at 8:00 AM - give yourself at least an hour to set up and prepare the average sized session.

Reduce as much of the routine of your work to a regular habit, and always do each job associated with the session in the same order. By scheduling all these mundane mechanical aspects of recording lo habit, your mind will be free to think of the creative facets of your work.

R-e/p: What type of musician do you like to record?

Bruce: A musician who gives it up… doesn’t hold back. Sometimes that’s a rare quality. So many musicians go into studios and they kind of tippy toe around, or they just don’t want to commit themselves.

I listen for the real sound of the instrument and player, not the interpretation.

I like to get to know the player and learn his sound. Ernie Watts, he’s my kind of player… disciplined! His energy is instant!

He never holds back; he’ll get it on the first or second take, because he’s so used to giving it up. Most of the solos on his album Chariots of Fire are first takes with the band. And that’s unusual for today . . . really unusual!

R-e/p: Obviously the cue/headphone mix is important to musicians in the studio. How do you help them get into the track?

Bruce: If the instrumentation is small enough, I’ll split the Harrison console [at Westlake Studio] and send to the multitrack with half of the faders, and use the rest for returns.

In that way you also get the cue mix on the multitrack return faders. It’s easier to see what you’re doing with the sound using the faders for the cueing mix, as opposed to monitor pots.

R-e/p: Quincy commented that it’s important to him that you are able to read music. What do you consider that a young engineer, in particular, should know about the musical side of recording to be a master engineer?

Bruce: I would say the best training is to hear acoustic music in a natural environment. Too many of today’s young engineers only listen to records. When a natural sound or orchestral balance is required, they don’t know what to do.

My folks took me to hear the Minneapolis Symphony every week all through my childhood, and those orchestral sounds have been so deeply imprinted that it’s very easy for me to go for an orchestral balance when that’s necessary.

And I’m talking about the whole range — even a synthesizer that is a representation of the orchestra. But, to put that sound in its correct placement in a mix is not easy.

My first advice would be to study the technical end first, so that you know the equipment and what it will do, and what it won’t do. Then hear acoustic music in a natural environment to get that benchmark in your mental picture

I think that it is very important for an engineer to understand a rhythm chart or lead sheet. I always make up my own chart with bar numbers on music paper and, as the song develops, I’ll add notes and sometimes musical phrases that will be needed for the mix.

R-e/p: Is it important to have a relative sense of pitch?

Bruce: No question about it… an absolute must. And I think a knowledge of dynamics is important too.

It’s not unusual in classical music to have a 100 dB dynamic range from the triple pianissimo to triple forte, and we cannot record that wide a range with equipment. In addition, it’s virtually impossible with most home playback systems to reproduce that dynamic range.

So, in recording we frequently have to develop a sense of dynamics that does not necessarily hold true with the actual dynamics of the music.

It’s possible to do that with little changes of level — what I would call “milking” the triple pianissimo by maybe moving it up the scale a little bit. And when you get to the triple forte maybe adding a little more reverb or something, to give the feel of more force or energy.

You see so many guys in studios with their eyes glued to the meters. I’ve never under-stood that. Take the clarinet, for instance, which can play softly in the sub-tone range; just an “understanding.”

An engineer would have to know how to deal with a player through the interpretation of the music that would be soft. On the VU meter, which only has 20 dB dynamics, so you don’t even see it. In those extremes, your ear is really on its own.

You can’t be the type of guy who has his eyes focused on the VU meter. It’s meaningless, absolutely meaningless.

The ear has to have a bench mark so you know where that dynamic should fall in the overall dynamic range. Quincy is always very aware of that, which is a real treat for me.

R-e/p: Having sat in on several of your sessions, I couldn’t help but notice that you and Quincy have your own jargon in the studio.

Bruce: You know Quincy and I don’t talk much when we work. We spend a lot of time listening: “More Spit” — EQ and reverb; “More Grease” — reverb; “More Depth” — enhance the frequency range, give it more air in the reverb; “Make it Bigger” — beef up the stereo spread; “More Explosive” — bring the level down, add some reverb, adding a trail after it. Quincy picks the sound or effect; I put the thought into application by choosing the “color,” if you like.

R-e/p: While there may be no hard and fast rules in the studio, have you picked up any tips about how to work creatively with a producer?

Bruce: An engineer’s important responsibility is to establish a good rapport with the producer. Nothing is a bigger turn off in a studio than a salty, arrogant personality. I have seen this attitude frequently in an engineer, and heard him describe himself as “Honest.”

It is very important for the engineer to know what a particular producer favors in sound. Producers vary somewhat in interpretation of a style, or musical character.

R-e/p: How does the engineer set a good vibe with the producer and the musicians?

Bruce: It’s a two-way proposition. I’ve been in situations early in my career — fortunately I don’t have to deal with that any more — where producers were not inclined to allow the engineer to be involved in a recording project.

I don’t think that’s the case anymore, at least in the upper level of the business, because it’s a fact that engineers do contribute a lot of useful input.

Yes, it’s absolutely true that an engineer can help an incredible amount in the production of music.

R-e/p: After the tracking and overdubs, how do you set yourself up for the mix?

Bruce: I’ll have many multitrack work tapes. For example, on Donna Summer’s tune “State of Independence” I had eleven 24- track tapes — each tape has a separate element.

Then I combine these tapes into stereo pairs. In the case of synthesizer, horns, back ground vocals, strings, sometimes I will use a fresh tape, or there are open tracks on the master tape.

The original rhythm track is always retained in its pure form. I never want to take it down a generation, because the basic rhythm track carries the most important elements, and I don’t like to loose any transients.

With synthesizer or background vocal you could go down a generation without loosing quality. I call this process pre-mixing, and we use whatever technical tricks it takes to retain sound quality.

We pre-mix the information on two tapes, and bring them up through the console. Having established the balance all the way through the recording process, we then listen to all the elements, and Quincy will make the decision based on what the music is saying.

We usually have more than we need. This stage is editing before we master —listening to everything once saves time, and we don’t have to search for anything.

Sometimes though, we may have to go back and re-do a pre-mix if the values are not right. For example, a background vocal part may have the parts stacked, and one of these parts might be too dominant.

Or sometimes everything sounded fine when we were recording the element, but with everything happening on the track the part gets lost.

Then we go back and re-establish a new balance by pre-mixing that particular element again. We also pay close attention to psycho- acoustics — in other words, what sound excites the listener’s ears. These are the critical things in the mix that will make the difference between a great mix and a so-so mix.

Also, we are sensitive to the reverb- content. Quincy may ask me to bring more level up on a given element. I may suggest adding more reverb, which will create more apparent level.

I establish what the mix will be, and Quincy will comment on the little changes and balances; these are the subtle differences that make for a great mix. We overlap our skills. Quincy becomes the navigator, and I fly the ship!

R-e/p: Does it take very long to get a mix that you both like?

Bruce: Quincy will work with me for the first few days until all the production values are made. Then we close down the studio and I will polish the mix until I like it.

After I get it right, Quincy receives a tape copy for the final okay. Because of Quincy’s business phone calls we have found that to be the best way to finish a mix. We know the mix is right when we’ve made the musical statement that we set out to make.

R-e/p: Do you use automation during the final mixing?

Bruce: Yes, because it gives you more time to listen by playing the mix away from the basic moves. Automation is a tool I use for re-positioning my levels. Then 1 can make my subtle nuances in level changes to get the right balance.

For monitoring the final mixes I am a firm believer in “Near-field” or low-volume monitoring. Basically, all this requires is a pair of good-quality bookshelf speakers. These are placed on top of the desk’s meter panel, and played at a volume of about 90 dB SPL or less. My reason for using Near-field monitor-ing is twofold.

The most important reason is that by placing the speakers close to the mix engineer, and using an SPL of no more than 90 dB, the acoustical environment of the mixdown room is not excited a great deal, and therefore does not color the mix excessively.

Secondly, a smaller home-type book shelf speaker can be used that will give a good consumer viewpoint. My personal preference for Near-field monitors is the JBL 4310; I have three sets.

Each musical style has its own set of values. When mixing popular dance music, for example, we must keep in mind the fact that the real emotional dance values are in the drums, percussion and bass, and these sounds must be well focused in the mix.

Making a forceful, tight, energetic rhythm mix is like building a house and making sure the foundation is strong and secure. Once the rhythm section is set in the mix, I usually add the lead vocal and any melody instruments. Then, usually the additional elements will fall in place.

For mixing classical music or jazz, how; ever, an entirely different approach is required.

This is where the mixing engineer needs a clear knowledge of what the music to be mixed sounds like in a natural acoustical environment. In my opinion, this one area is where beginning engineers could benefit their technique a great deal.

It is absolutely essential to know what a balanced orchestra sounds like in a good natural acoustical environment. Often, the synthesizer is used to represent the orchestra in modern music. A knowledge of natural orchestral balance is necessary to put these sound sources in balance, even though traditional instruments are not necessarily used.

R-e/p: You have provided us with a studio setup plan of the recent Donna Summer sessions at Westlake. How do you plan the tracking and overdubs?

Bruce: I generally record the electric bass direct. I have a favorite direct box of my own, which utilizes a specially custom-made trans-former. It’s very large and heavy and, to my ear, lends the least amount of coloration to the bass sound, and transfers the most energy of the electric bass on to the tape.

From my own personal experience though, active direct boxes are very subject to out-side interferences, such as RF fields — you can end up with a bass sound that has a lot of buzz or noise on it.

The miked electric bass technique alone usually does not work very well, primarily because there are very few bass amplifiers that will reproduce fundamental frequencies with any purity down to the low electric bass range. In jazz recording the string bass is always separately miked.

My favorite mike is an Altec 21-B condenser, wrapped in foam and put in the bridge of the instrument; I own four of these vintage mikes that I keep just for this purpose. You also can get a good string bass pick-up with an AKG-451, placed about 10 inches away from the finger board, and not too far above the bridge.

Bruce: Quincy came up with the term to describe the way I work — my “philosophy for recording music” if you like.

To be more specific, it’s really my use of two multitrack machines with SMPTE codes — “Multichannel Multiplexing.”

Essentially, by using SMPTE timecode I can run two 24 track tape machines in synchronous operation, which greatly expands the number of tracks available to me.

Working with Quincy has given me the opportunity to record all styles of music. „With such a variety of sounds to work with I could see that single multitrack recording not enough to capture Quincy’s rich sounds.

I began experimenting with Maglink timecode to run two 16 track machines together in sync. This offered some real advantages, but since then I have expanded my system to use SMPTE timecode and two ,24-track tape machines.

The first obvious advantages that come to mind are: lots of tracks, and space for more overdubbing. With a little experience I soon found *hat the real advantage of having multiple machines with Quincy’s work if that I can retain a lot more true stereophonic recording right through to the final mix.

An additional major advantage is that once the rhythm tracks are recorded, I make a SMPTE work tape with a cue rhythm mix on it, and then put the master tape away until the mix. In this way we can preserve the transient response that would be diminished by repealed playing during overdubbing.

Quincy usually has the scheme for the instrumentation worked out for the song so we can progressively record the elements on work tapes. For example: Work tape A may have have background vocals; Work tape B lead vocals; Work tape C horns and strings; and Work tape D may have 10 tracks of synthesizer sounds to get the desired color.

All of these work tapes contain a pitch tone, SMPTE timecode, bar numbers cues, sometimes a click track, and cue rhythm mix.

R-e/p: What kind of interlock device do you use to sync the multitracks?

Bruce: We use two BTX timecode synchronizers. A BTX Model 4500 is used to synchronize the two multitrack machines, and I keep the 4500 reader on top of the console in front of me to provide a SMPTE code readout We work with real time from the reader, and don’t depend on the auto-locator during the work tape stages.

There are times when I’ll use the “Iso” mode on the 4500 to move one element on a tape to a different place in the tune.

Say, for instance, you have a rhythm guitar part that isn’t tight in a section; I’ll find it on the slave work tape and move it to the new location on the master work tape.

R-e/p: How long does it take to make a work tape?

Bruce: We start by adding the SMPTE code, and I’ll make a few passes with a mix until I like it Then we record the pre-mix on to the new work tape.

I’m very fussy about the sound, and we’ll listen back and forth between the master and the slave tape to make sure the sonics match before we move on to the next work tape.

I always want Quincy and the dubbing musicians to hear my best. It takes about three hours per work tape to finish the job. To keep all the tape tracks in tune, we also calibrate the speed of tapes by going through a digital readout.


Editor’s Note: This is a series of articles from Recording Engineer/Producer (RE/P) magazine, which began publishing in 1970 under the direction of Publisher/Editor Martin Gallay. After a great run, RE/P ceased publishing in the early 1990s, yet its content is still much revered in the professional audio community. RE/P also published the first issues of Live Sound International magazine as a quarterly supplement, beginning in the late 1980s, and LSI has grown to a monthly publication that continues to thrive to this day. Our sincere thanks to Mark Gander of JBL Professional for his considerable support on this archive project.

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