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" <mbiel@xxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Wednesday, June 24, 2009 12:59 PM
Subject: [ARSCLIST] Recording Innovations (was: take numbers on emerson records)
From: Aaron Levinson <aaron.levinson@xxxxxxxxxxx>
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
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 . . . ?"