Friday, November 10, 2017

Rockabilly Recording techniques

Time Machine / History of Rock / Rockabilly / Rockabilly Recording techniques
Slapback, slapback echo, flutter echo, tape delay echo, echo, and reverb are some of the terms used to describe one particular aspect of rockabilly recordings.

The distinctive reverberation on the early hit records such as "Rock Around The Clock" (April 12, 1954, released May 15) by Bill Haley & His Comets was created by recording the band under the domed ceiling of Decca's studio in New York, located in a former ballroom called The Pythian Temple. It was a big, barn-like building with great echo. This same facility would also be used to record other rockabilly musicians such as Buddy Holly and The Rock and Roll Trio.

In Memphis Sam Phillips used various techniques to create similar acoustics at his Memphis Recording Services Studio. The shape of the ceiling, corrugated tiles, and the setup of the studio were augmented by "slap-back" tape echo which involved feeding the original signal from one tape machine through a second machine. The echo effect had been used, less subtly, on Wilf Carter Victor records of the 1930s, and in Eddy Arnold's 1945 "Cattle Call".

According to Cowboy Jack Clement, who took over production duties from Sam Phillips, "There's two heads; one records, and one plays back. The sound comes along and it's recorded on this head, and a split second later, it goes to the playback head. But you can take that and loop it to where it plays a split second after it was recorded and it flips right back into the record head. Or, you can have a separate machine and do that. if you do it on one machine, you have to echo everything." In more technical terms a tape delay and a 7 1⁄2-ips, instead of the more advanced 15-ips. The recordings were thus an idealized representation of the customary live sound.

When Elvis Presley left Phillips' Sun Records and recorded "Heartbreak Hotel" for RCA, the RCA producers placed microphones at the end of a hallway to achieve a similar effect.

A comparison of rockabilly versions of country songs shows that while form, lyrics, chord progressions and arrangements are simplified and with sparser instrumentation, a fuller sound was achieved by more percussive playing—i.e., subdivisions of the beat receive more emphasis. Tempos were increased, texts are altered with deletions, additions, more intense, flamboyant loose singing, along with variation in melody from verse to verse.


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