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The succession of tones

Music is defined as the succession of tones and pitch variation that is arranged in such a way that it produces harmony. It is an integral part of the human society. Since the beginning of time, music has been used by humans as a medium for expression, entertainment or worship. As time progressed, people grew more curious about music and the nature of sound itself. They found ways to make music of their own. Thus came into being the operas, orchestras, choral groups and soloists. But immortalizing the fascinating symphonies, brilliant musical arrangements and remarkable vocal talents was a great obstacle of that time

But with the outstanding invention of the American genius Thomas Alva Edison, musicians have finally shed some light on their inquiry. In 1877, by attaching a piece of tinfoil around a brass cylinder, he created the phonograph and immortalized the words “Mary had a little lamb” as the first words to be recorded ever. But the records could not be replicated, and therefore was not much of any use. Later on, the graphophone was developed, which was an enhancement of the phonograph and used wax cylinders instead of tinfoil.

The patent was bought back by Edison, who used these devices for the initial purpose of voice recording, to be used by offices. But later, when phonographs were stationed as a source of entertainment in amusement parlors, it produced more profit than those installed in offices (cited in Gronow & Saunio & Mosley, 1998). Thus, music recording was born. Recent studies have uncovered that sound recording has long been discovered before Edison’s phonograph. The phonoautograph, which recorded a person singing, “Au clair de la lune, Pierrot repondit.

” is now being considered as the oldest form of sound recording (cited in Rosen, 2008). But since Edison’s phonograph led the way to the mass production of recorded sound, the phonograph could still be considered the pioneer equipment in audio recording. In parallel with Edison was the German immigrant Emile Berliner. He was the one who pioneered recording and reproducing music in flat circular discs by using his invention called the gramophone. It used the same principle as the phonograph, only it produced lateral instead of vertical cuts, since it is recording on a flat surface and not on a cylinder.

But his invention also faced a similar problem with that of Edison’s: it should be turned at a constant rate because speeding up or slowing down affected the pitch of the music being played. This was later somewhat resolved using wheels and a cross-belt, which was used to transfer power smoothly (cited in Millard, 2005). This was not enough for Eldridge Johnson. He soon perfected a quiet and well-regulated spring motor, which then led him to manufacturing complete gramophones for the Gramophone Company. But Johnson did not stop there.

He also improvised on the discs that Berliner previously produced, which resulted to a much louder reproduction than Edison’s cylinders. He also had solved the surface noise that was present in Berliner’s earlier productions. During these times, recording was done without amplification. The location for recording would be chosen, which will isolate the performance from outside noise such as the local ballroom or hotel rooms (cited in Jenkins, 2007). The process of recording with the phonograph was not an easy task, though.

Vocals and instruments were recorded in the same way. About ten phonographs would record while a singer or a brass band performs their piece. This way, ten duplicates are produced in one performance. At this rate, singers who are in demand by the public had to sing hundreds of times in order to reproduce their pieces for mass distribution. The studio, or then called the recording room was also set up to deliver high quality records. Musicians and singers were positioned around the horn in such a way that their own distinct sounds could be heard clearly.

Their exact locations were usually determined by the pitch and volume of their instruments. Those with soft and sensitive outputs, like the stringed instruments, were placed nearer to the horn while loud ones like the brass instruments were situated farther away. The piano had to be elevated and mounted onto boxes near the mouth of the horn for it to be heard distinctly. When the 20th century arrived, the commercial reproduction of duplicates of both cylinders and discs were started by Edison and Johnson respectively. The market readily accepted these new products.

The molded cylinder records, which sold for 50c each, only cost 7c to make. This pleased Edison, who correctly predicted the profit from this business. In 1902, he replaced the brown wax cylinders with metallic wax cylinders. A hundred and fifty records could be produced daily, which increased the production and consequently reduced the prices to 35c per record (cited Whitburn). On March 18, 1902, Enrico Caruso, a young tenor, recorded ten records for Victor Talking Machine Company, which was headed by Johnson. He demanded a fee of ten pounds per take for this initial recording.

His voice, with its baritone quality, was perfectly suited for the gramophone, since it reduced, if not totally erased, the surface noise, thus, creating records of the highest quality. This opened up the prospect of making sound recording into a serious business of music reproduction. Caruso’s records were sold in stores alongside with pianos and violins for five dollars, which was a week’s pay for the average person at that time. But its popularity was still so vast that it launched Victor’s Red Seal Label to the public. By this time, flame microphones and liquid or hydraulic microphones have been developed.

These could be attributed to Blondell and Chambers, Majoranna, Vanni and Sykes respectively. C. Egner and J. G Holmstron also came up with high-current microphones which functioned with carbon and water. Still another with a carbon component was invented by Marzi, which employed carbon powder. However, even after these microphones came into being, they were still not used for music recording since the companies still use the horn as a way to intercept audio signals from performers. As the years progressed, the popularity of cylinders began to decline. But Edison refused to give in to this.

He instead introduced the Blue Amberol Record in 1913, which was an unbreakable cylinder and was actually the most competent sound recording at that time. But this still did not raise the demand for cylinders. Edison announced the final demise of cylinders when he introduced the Edison Disc Phonograph. It plays the Diamond Discs, which have the best sound quality at that time. The recording industry continued to prosper. But the acoustic era was coming to a close to give birth to another stage: electrical recording. Microphones and radio technology were used in the First World War.

It took a long time for the electrical recording to become fully established, so acoustic recordings were still favored. Joseph Maxfield and H. Harrison worked out an electric recording system for Western Electric, which records audio using microphones and vacuum tubes. The equipment was leased for $50,000, as well as a certain amount of royalty fee for each disc reproduced. Maxfield and Harrison also introduced the Orthoponic, a player designed to efficiently play electrically recorded records. Later on, Western Electric made another brilliant innovation in electric record playback: electric loudspeakers.

By the year 1930, electrical recording has been employed by recording companies. Electric recording provided a relief for recording engineers. Instead of a horn, a microphone was used to pick up everything. This allowed the recording room, or the studio, to have a wider floor area, since musicians and singers did not have to crowd around a horn. Needless to say, the microphone became a vital element in studio recording. Carbon button transmitter was first used but was later replaced by condenser microphones. Condenser microphones were more responsive but presented a problem when they produced noise in high humidity.

The recording engineer was still faced with the task of arranging the performers around the microphone in order to achieve the greatest effect. Some of the other microphones used back then were the moving-coil, ribbon, and cardioid, microphones. The moving-coil, or also called as dynamic microphones, was dependent on the impedance of the coil system, and not on the frequency. This was developed by W. C. Wente and A. C. RCA introduced the ribbon microphone, which was mainly used for recording voice. It relied on the variations in the sound pressure, which caused a ribbon inside a magnetic field to move.

The cardioid microphone is a unidirectional microphone which is able to intercept signals only from its front side. All this time, the records that were being reproduced were 12-inch shellac discs, which played for three and a half minutes. These were called 78s, which really meant 78 revolutions per minute. This is the American standard of recording speed, although it varied with other countries. These were used for both acoustic and electric recording techniques. In 1931, Alan Dower Blumlein from EMI, a merger company of the Gramophone Co. (HMV) and Columbia, acquired a patent for the concept of stereo.

Stereo is recording sounds separately and divides the sounds across two channels. The sounds are then combined so that elements are routed to the two channels. This will enable the listener to hear all the sound’s components. Also by this time, the method of recording on magnetic tape is already making its debut. This was brought into reality by American inventor J. A. O’Neill and German engineer Fritz Pfleumer. As early as 1929, Pfleumer already had a patent for the audiotape. In 1935 they produced a prototype of a reel-to-reel magnetic recording device called the magnetophon.

It utilized a kind of plastic tape with a coating of magnetic powder. The first group to record using it was the London Philharmonic orchestra. They made use of a Neumann bottle microphone, which is a condenser microphone mainly used to broadcast speeches. However, the output recording left much to be desired. Record companies reached a crucial period during the Great Depression. Sales went down to $6 million and companies were merging in order to stay in business. During this time, the industry relied on classical music, since the market for it was the upper-class.

Victor also released the long-playing records, though its existence was cut abruptly but was to be revived in the later years. These records were made of Vinylite plastic. It proved to be of high quality and introduced the concept of “high fidelity”. It turned at 33 ? rpm, thus, were called 33s to set it apart from its predecessor, the 78s. The problem that arose were the players that, aside from being unreasonably expensive, transmitted low-frequency noise and therefore varied the speed of rotation (cited Morton, 2004). It was not until 1948 that Columbia refined the 33 ? rpm discs.

In the same year, RCA also introduced another format, which was the 7-inch, 45 rpm vinyl disc. This format could only be used with a player that was also manufactured by RCA Victor. A “war of speeds” between the two companies commenced, and ended with both reproducing their formats for its own purpose. Then Capitol Records, in 1949, introduced a player that was compatible with all three formats. Concurrently, the tape recording system was slowly creeping back into the music industry. The Germans have exploited magnetic tapes in the World War II, at the same time significantly developing the technology.

However, LPs still proved to be the consumer’s choice for music playback because of its exceptional sound quality, which was further enhanced by the birth of studio LPs in 1958. But record companies finally recognized the advantages of the magnetic tape. This method allowed record engineers to edit out mistakes by cutting and joining back the tape, which enabled them to produce more refined recordings (cited Daniel and Mee and Clark, 1998). The utilization of magnetic tapes aimed at the flexibility and scaling-down of the editing procedure of recording.

It gave the companies the ability to record layers of music. This was done through what was called overdubbing. To overdub means to record music into a recorder, and then play back the record through a mixer while adding another layer of instruments or voice and finally feeding the signal into another recorder. It was a great discovery in music. However, after several layers of music, noise builds up and the output becomes distorted. In 1955, Les Paul, an American jazz guitarist, got in touch with Ampex to get them to help him create multi-track records.

Through the help of Ross Snyder, then Ampex manager of special products, they created a system called Sel-Sync or “selective synchronization”. Multi-tracking became possible since Sel-Sync combined many functions into one. The Ampex 8-track recorder was the result of his concept. Les Paul bought the very first model for $10,000. It is a combination of a recorder rack and instrumentation recorder transport (cited in Petersen, 2005). However, it took a considerably long time for the record industry to fully utilize multi-track recording. Engineers and artists could not immediately grasp the potential of being able to record layers of music.

It was only in the 1970s that the music industry finally used the concept. The recording studio was considered as an instrument in itself. The environment that the artist and engineers are working in contributes much to the output of the recording method. The most important factor when building a studio was the acoustic isolation. This is keeping out the noises coming from outside and at the same time keeping in the performances so as to avoid disputes with nearby residences or establishments. Also being considered in a studio is the reverberation factor.

In order to record music and speech effectively, the bouncing of the sound waves should be controlled. The frequency balance of the room is also important. The way that sound is emitted should not be altered by the acoustic characteristics of the room. Finally, the cost of the studio is also taken under consideration. Unnecessarily shelling out money to build state-of-the-art studios is done by some record companies to suit their client’s needs. This could be avoided, though, by the application of acoustic techniques and careful planning of the layout and materials to be used in building the recording studio.

The seventies marked the growth of using multi-track equipment in recording studios, as well as newer technologies in studio recording. Ampex and Scully pioneered in producing multi-track equipment, with the 8-track recorder as the standard. An example of such equipment is the Ampex MR-70. This was considered the best analog tape deck produced. The two-track model cost around $5000, and was also available for up to 8-track configurations (cited in Sanner, 1999). The 16-track Ampex MM-1000, on the other hand, cost around $35,000.

The 24-track systems were costly and were had an inherent noise, but producers, for the sake of flexibility, wanted to utilize them. Because of this, studio rates went up to $100 per hour, which was overwhelming compared to the $30 per hour that was charged at the time when they used two-tracks. During this time, recording companies were trying to keep up with the technology of the equipment. The switching of consoles to increase the number of tracks meant changing their paraphernalia almost yearly. This and an additional $30,000 worth of Dolbys, which are noise reduction units, almost took its toll on the businesses.

This is why although digital recording was already slowly making its entrance it did not fully become widespread until the 80s. One company, the 3M Corporation introduced the DDS, a 32-track digital machine, in 1977. It cost about $180,000 but there were only a few artists, rock groups to be specific, who actually made use of the system because of its complexity and cost. Digital recording finally emerged in the 80s. The system involves an analog-to-digital converter (ADC), which converts sounds into signals or discrete numbers. These numbers, or samples, are then passed through a digital-to-analog converter (DAC) to enable playback.

Digital has proven to be more advantageous over analog recording on the context of maintenance and cost. Digital recording equipment cost less and requires less maintenance than analog ones. It also has minimal mechanical parts, so it is free from wear, unlike analog. There is also an error correction component called the Cyclical Redundancy Check Code (CRCC). The digital audio is then stored in compact discs (CD) or hard disks for storage. The pace of shifting from one standard to another picked up speed. Mixing consoles with computer monitors were introduced, such as the Solid State Logic.

Effects systems and synthesizers with Musical Instrument Digital Interface or MIDI and drum machines were also brought in. These changes took its toll on some companies who could not keep up with the demands of the new technology. And the cost of maintenance and operation of these machines caused the price of studio rentals to inflate to up to $400 per hour, if using the latest state-of-the-art technology. CDs became even more popular during the 90s. More and more households are buying CDs and players to be installed in their homes.

At present time, audio cassette tapes, although not completely phased out, are faced with obsolescence. The MP3 format triggered the higher demand for digital audio over analog. MP3 or MPEG Layer 3, allows the public to distribute and listen to music in the compressed format. Normally, the size of a one-minute audio recording would take up 10 MB of disk space. But due to the compression, the file size of audio in the MP3 format is reduced to up 10 times or more (cited in Frankel and Greely and Sawyer, 1999). By now, setting up a studio has become way more complicated.

There are various techniques and equipment that are being used, which depends on the type of music, the preferences of the artist and of the sound engineer, and of the budget allocated for the recording. A typical recording studio consists basically of mixing consoles, multi-track recorders, which could be either digital or analog, monitors, microphones and DAWs or Digital Audio Workstations. Professional studios often include digital effects like reverbs, delays, guitar effects and equalizers. Mixing consoles, or mixers, are considered the center of any recording studio.

They produce a single stereo signal as an output of sounds, whose number varies in accordance to the capability of the system. These individual sounds are mixed together (thus the term mixer) and manipulated through their own mixer channels. The overall effect of the output stereo signal could also be controlled by various features of the console, such as the panorama controls, the dynamic controls and master volume (cited Dufell & Duffel, 2004). The average mixing console could cost at least $50,000 for the 32-input models and up to $150,000 for the 96-input models. (cited Bullins, 2004).

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