I agree that Les Paul takes undue credit for many things but what Tom
describes as multi-track recording in Hollywood is not strictly speaking
correct. To me multi-tracking means being able to change separate levels
AFTER the process, what he is describing is more like sound-on-sound as
opposed to multi-tracking as we commonly understand it today. The same
is true of Mike Biel's assertion adding a sound or a voice to an already
existing recording, this involves a generational loss whereas with
multi-tracking and overdubbing as we employ it today it does not. But
sound-on-sound, stereo and a bunch of other so-called modern techniques
clearly had their unique antecedents which should be accorded their due.
I nevertheless stand by my basic assertion that the reason for so many
alternate takes was the recording process of the 78 era. I am well aware
that some exceptions do exist and I apologize for not duly noting them.
Tom Fine wrote:
> While the general gist of what Aaron said is true (MOST sessions were
> done live and MOST for-profit record labels did not want to pay for
> elaborate overdub or punch-in stuff if it was avoidable), Mike is
> right about Les Paul inventing very little, by any reasonable
> definition of inventing. However, Paul is indeed a superb musician
> with an innovative mind. I wish he wouldn't "take credit" for so many
> other people's hard work, since he's done plenty that he can
> legitimately take credit for.
> Anyway, Mike, how did Edison do "overdubbing"? Did he use some sort of
> acoustic mixing system or just play a cylinder into the room at the
> same time live sound was being made, with the horn picking up both?
> As for multi-tracking, just about as soon as electronic-optical
> recording hit Hollywood, people were figuring out how to mix
> sprocket-synchronized sounds. There were multiple sound elements to
> some very early optical-sound pictures. At least that was told to me
> by a restoration guy who has done some very high-profile films.
> -- Tom Fine
> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Michael Biel" <[log in to unmask]>
> To: <[log in to unmask]>
> Sent: Wednesday, June 24, 2009 12:59 PM
> Subject: [ARSCLIST] Recording Innovations (was: take numbers on
> emerson records)
> From: Aaron Levinson <[log in to unmask]>
>> I for one am not at all surprised by numerous alternate
>> takes in the 78 era, it makes perfect sense. Anyone that
>> makes records, and Tom will back me up on this, knows that
>> even in the era of multi-tracking takes can have a very
>> different feel if not outright errors. Everything was
>> live pre-Les Paul so no "punching" was possible.
> I wish people would stop giving Les Paul more credit than he is due. He
> was not the first to do overdubbing, he was not the first to do
> multi-tracking, and punch-in editing was not one of his things in the
> early years. He is an extraordinarily talented musician with a
> fantastically innovative mind, but his knack is to adapt new technology
> and expand on past techniques.
> It is not true that everything was live before Les Paul. Even Edison
> did overdubbing on tinfoil!!!!!!! I am not kidding. This is the
> absolute, well documented, truth. Just this weekend Dave Weiner showed
> a film at the Jazz Bash that showed a violinist playing a trio with
> himself in the 1930s -- both sound and picture. Voice over-dubbing was
> common. Adding instrumental tracks was common. Editing in and out of
> music -- punch-ins -- was common. I challenge you to show me anything
> Les Paul did that had not been done before. And you have to realize
> that by the late 1930s even many 78s by companies beyond Edison and
> Pathe (who had done it back to the turn of the century) were dubs, not
> recorded direct-to-disc.
>> The players wanted it to be right and at that time the only way
>> to insure that was to play it again Sam. AA
> It was not the ONLY way, it was just the usual way. I have been playing
> records for sixty years and have been researching the technology of
> recording for fifty, and one thing I have learned is to never think that
> something had never been done before. I am still constantly surprised
> by discoveries of earlier technologies. All too often when a statement
> is made "This is the first time . . ." it really should have been a
> question "Was this the first time . . . ?"
> Mike Biel