Recording - October 2017 - 68

musicians you have than even the kind
of room in which you're working.

Stereo and slam
Nobody really knows what was inside
it, but presumably this structure had a
microphone at the top of it that was being
added to the main mix.
Van Gelder does talk about how he
worked a long time at techniques to make
the organ blend. Listening to recordings like
the Jimmy Smith discs on Verve, though, I
don't hear anything particularly distinctive
except the use of some close-miking and
some equalization to reduce the popping
sound at the beginning of each note on the
Hammond. This does make for a sound
that is mellow and stands at the front of the
mix without jumping out too much.
I think that's kind of central to the aim
that Van Gelder had: to get a sound
that is tight and close and loud, yet still
has a good sense of ensemble and a
sense of reverberation and a real room.
Yes, in the real world these are absolute
opposites, but with the miracle of microphones you can combine the two very
different attributes together.
Oh, I should point out also that the
studio organ was a Hammond C-3, not
the more highly-prized B-3, and that
it clearly was not using the Leslie and
most probably was using a Tone Cabinet
rather than some custom speaker.
It's possible that he was at times using a
similar effect as done with the horns into
the piano, to thicken the organ sound,
but definitely not on all of the recordings
he did. Some of them do have a more
blurred and thickened sort of sound.

Drums

Drums were handled similarly. There's
an overhead condenser, there is a distant
delay microphone, and there is leakage
into the other microphones, and that's it.
No spots on snares or toms or even the
kick drum... and remember here that with
most of these drummers, the kick is being
used for accents and the snare is carrying
the rhythm. Some of these recordings
may not even have an overhead!
Try it for yourself. Set up a drum kit
with an overhead, then set up a mic
maybe 15 feet away to simulate the
leakage into the other mics, then set
up a mic some distance away at the
end of a hallway. Bring them all up together. Move the 15-foot-away microphone up and down a little to get a
good balance of the kit; you may find
there's a lot of everything but kick in
the overheads and you need to lower
the mic somewhat to get more kick. But
that's it: there's no secret, just a good
drummer who can play with the rest of
the band.
That's another point here: it's essential
for the musicians to be able to balance
against one another and keep their levels
under control, because the engineer has
little control over them once they have
started playing. If you have the kind of
drummer who just gets louder and louder
over the course of the evening, these
techniques are not going to work. They
are more dependent on the kind of

"LET ME BE CLEAR:
The 'Van Gelder/Lion sound'

was the sound of jazz in the 1950s."

Now, most of these recordings were
made in mono, but some of them were
made in stereo. In those cases, the
microphones were often panned hard
left, right, and center. The result is a
very exaggerated stereo image. Even on
the stereo recordings it sounds like the
hallway microphone is in mono; this is
probably fine since there's not a lot of it in
the mix anyway, but you can play around
with using a stereo mic there or not.
In the earlier recordings with Lion,
Van Gelder was generally hitting the
tape very hard to get some limiting, for
a little more loudness at the expense of
clarity. He didn't do this on the other
recordings, and my basic preference is
for the cleaner sound. You'll also notice
the top end on all of these recordings is
very bright and there's a lot of presence.
I suspect much of that is from the microphones and not from added equalization,
but if you're trying to get that sound
there's no reason not to use EQ. Don't
be afraid of using peaking equalization
with filters set way up above 20 kHz, to
just make for a rising top octave.

RIP

Rudy Van Gelder was one of the great
recording engineers of all time, and like
so many engineers working in areas
where he was pushing the available
technology, he invented a lot of new
production techniques. Unlike so many
engineers, though, he was unwilling to
share those techniques.
Many people have attempted to figure
out what he did, and some people have
attempted to figure out what went through
his head to make him do what he did, and
a lot of us have been keeping quiet about
what has been figured out in some attempt
to respect his wishes. Now that he has
passed away as one of the greatest figures
in the BeBop jazz movement, I have tried
to explain here the little bit that I know of
what I have been able to figure out. I hope
you find it useful in your recordings.
Scott Dorsey (dorsey@recordingmag.
com) is a recording engineer and audio
guru living and working in Williamsburg,VA.

68

RECORDING October 2017



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Recording - October 2017

Contents
Recording - October 2017 - Intro
Recording - October 2017 - Cover1
Recording - October 2017 - Cover2
Recording - October 2017 - 1
Recording - October 2017 - 2
Recording - October 2017 - 3
Recording - October 2017 - 4
Recording - October 2017 - 5
Recording - October 2017 - Contents
Recording - October 2017 - 7
Recording - October 2017 - 8
Recording - October 2017 - 9
Recording - October 2017 - 10
Recording - October 2017 - 11
Recording - October 2017 - 12
Recording - October 2017 - 13
Recording - October 2017 - 14
Recording - October 2017 - 15
Recording - October 2017 - 16
Recording - October 2017 - 17
Recording - October 2017 - 18
Recording - October 2017 - 19
Recording - October 2017 - 20
Recording - October 2017 - 21
Recording - October 2017 - 22
Recording - October 2017 - 23
Recording - October 2017 - 24
Recording - October 2017 - 25
Recording - October 2017 - 26
Recording - October 2017 - 27
Recording - October 2017 - 28
Recording - October 2017 - 29
Recording - October 2017 - 30
Recording - October 2017 - 31
Recording - October 2017 - 32
Recording - October 2017 - 33
Recording - October 2017 - 34
Recording - October 2017 - 35
Recording - October 2017 - 36
Recording - October 2017 - 37
Recording - October 2017 - 38
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Recording - October 2017 - 40
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Recording - October 2017 - 68
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Recording - October 2017 - Cover3
Recording - October 2017 - Cover4
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