A round-up of the best recording-related books on the market.
Here's something on which to spend those mountains of book tokens that you've amassed over the Christmas Hols.
This book is really a logical extension of Craig Anderton's book on Home Recording and both complement each other very well. It's not surprising then to discover that both books are published by the same company! This particular book presumes some grasp of studio jargon and deals purely with the subject on a non-technical level.
Chapter one, entitled 'Participants In A Recording', describes the various roles of the people involved in the recording session such as the producer, engineer and arranger. Having covered the personnel of a studio, the text turns to outlining some of the typical equipment found in today's studios and then moves on to deal with the recording process, different types of music and the techniques required, including a good section on obtaining drum sounds.
Mixing technique comes next and it's given a lot of space looking at rough mixes, listening back at home, using various sound effect 'toys' and common mistakes encountered when mixing. The final sections of the book look at the preparation of the recording for editing and disc cutting. Last of all, 'The Future Is Here' concludes the book with a chapter on the state of automation in recording studios and the future developments in new technology. An extensive glossary of terms is also included.
As this is an American book, one or two points mentioned are irrelevant, namely the section of American record contracts and the various contract forms session musicians require. Nevertheless, it's still interesting. 'Studio Recording For Musicians' is certainly a valuable contribution that will help the home recordist or straightforward musician come to terms with what actually happens in a professional recording studio.
Other than achieving the obvious goal of informing its readership of how a modern studio may be run, there is another equally rewarding benefit from reading this book - that of professionalism! Even if you never use or work in a pro studio, the book may impart some of the attitudes, approaches and methods found in these establishments which may in turn rub off on you and help to improve your personal recordings. There's nothing wrong with trying to be professional, no matter what level you're at.
92 pages, £7.95. Published by Amsco Publications, New York and available from Music Sales Limited, (Contact Details).
Compiled by the APRS (Association of Professional Recording Studios) and edited by John Borwick of 'The Gramophone' magazine, this book has become the Bible of the recording industry. The content is broad-based with some twenty-seven chapters dealing with many aspects of the record, radio, television and film sound recording process.
Each chapter in the book has been written by specialists from all areas of the recording industry and deals in reasonable depth with each topic. There are chapters on acoustics, microphones, mixers, digital techniques, tape recorders and equipment maintenance plus a variety of 'technique' features covering the recording of speech, classical music, synthesisers and pop music.
Towards the end of the book a number of pages have been devoted to an extensive glossary of terms, a listing of various units of measurement used in the recording industry and some of the APRS information sheets dealing with topics such as correct procedure for the submission of master tapes, pressing of records, and copyright of sound recordings.
This is an invaluable book for both beginners and more experienced individuals who are interested in learning more about the professional approach to sound recording and the theoretical procedures it embraces. The book is well illustrated with useful photographs and diagrams, each chapter being presented in an easily understood and straightforward form which conveys the information in both a readable and not over-technical manner.
Oxford University Press, (Contact Details). £19.50. 503 pages, available from good technical bookshops and the APRS, (Contact Details).
Now in its 17th edition, Kemps (as it is known in the industry) is the information book. If this was a maths exam and you were allowed to cheat, this is the book you'd find all the answers in! If you can't find the service, manufacturer or bit of record industry info you need, then there's a good chance it wasn't worth knowing if it isn't listed in Kemps.
The book is primarily an advertising platform for the Do'ers, the Have's and the Where From'ers of the music industry; an hour spent leafing through this book will be interrupted by gasps of "so that's where you get them" or "I never knew anybody did that". Every page is packed with so much information that it's impossible to list it all here. However, as a taster, you can find details of addresses for all UK radio and TV stations, sound equipment manufacturers and hire companies, tour organisers and promoters, agents for many of the famous pop stars, concert venues around Britain, recording studios, all the music press, professional composers and record companies, plus a whole international section for those who can't lie still on the beach on holiday and want to pester the local recording studio in Venice or where have you!
Every industry has its book of secrets and this is ours - the big difference is that you can buy this book and read all the secrets for yourself. Each section of the book uses a different coloured paper making it particularly easy to locate the information you require.
400 pages, £15 direct from Kemps Publishing Group, (Contact Details).
Published in 1981, and therefore reasonably up to date in its approach, this book aims to present the 'how it works' aspect of sound recording.
The book has been broken down into 93 small sections of two or three pages and deals with each subject in a simple and concise way. Related subjects have been grouped together so that they follow on in a logical manner eg. magnetism, magnetic coils, recording tape, types of tape, the recording process, bias, the replay process, recording standards etc. Literally every aspect of sound and sound reproduction are covered in the book with sections on acoustics, microphones, hearing, noise reduction, tape formats, disc, turntables, digital recording, loudspeakers and much more. The text is straightforward and each subject is clearly illustrated.
224 pages, £13.50. Published by Focal Press and available from good bookshops.
If you were browsing through the shelves of your local library and came across a book entitled 'Abbey Road', there's a good chance that without opening it you would probably be able to say that it was about a recording studio where the Beatles made their records, and you'd be perfectly right. Today, Abbey Road is synonymous with the Beatles, but what is perhaps not so widely known is that Abbey Road was actually famous a long time before the Beatles had ever made their first recording.
Brian Southall's book opens with an intriguing first chapter that follows the house at number 3, Abbey Road, St John's Wood, London NW8 throughout its early life from first occupant up to the time in 1929 when the Gramophone Company Limited, later to become EMI, purchased the building. The house was extended and developed into three studios to become the world's first custom-built recording centre. In November 1931 the studios were opened and instead of a simple 'cutting of the ribbon' ceremony, it was suggested that a recording was actually made, and so the London Symphony Orchestra (conducted by Sir Edward Elgar) performed Elgar's own Falstaff suite as the first ceremonial recording. This grand opening set the precedent by which the studio was to be run and it's here that the real story behind the book starts.
This book is fascinating; it moves page by page through the history of the studio discussing the technical developments such as the design of the acoustics, the echo chambers, the invention of 'flanging' and the engineers, producers and stars that passed through its doors. It's interesting to note some of the famous names that recorded at Abbey Road in the early days: Yehudi Menuhin has recorded almost 250 works there, Arthur Schnabel, the world-famous pianist, recorded many of Beethoven's piano works there during the 30s. Entering the war years, Gracie Fields and George Formby recorded many of their famous songs in Abbey Road as did Glenn Miller and his Orchestra, even royalty itself made several Christmas broadcasts via landlines to the Abbey Road studios, then out to the listening millions.
In the 1950s, the esteemed producer George Martin joined the staff, and it's on this point that the book has a nice little quote from Martin: "I didn't even know what EMI stood for. I only took the job as a stop gap." Well, Martin went on to produce artists such as Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan, Matt Munro and, of course, the Beatles, as well as becoming the first freelance record producer.
In the latter half of the 1960s and early 70s, it was groups like Pink Floyd who recorded many of their albums down at the studios and in the 80s the names are still there - Kate Bush, Adam Ant and many more.
Well, there we have just a few of the stories and facts contained between the pages of this book. For anyone interested in the development of recording in this country over the past fifty years, the story of Abbey Road is an enlightening one. To conclude, it's interesting to read the list of number one hit records produced at the studios; perhaps these two pages alone sum up Abbey Road's place in recording history.
217 pages, £6.95. Published by Patrick Stephens Limited.
American in origin, this book is perhaps the closest in spirit to the technique articles published in HSR itself.
The book attempts quite successfully to cover the entire topic of recording from basic notes on what sound is, to creating the right acoustic environment, how the equipment works, choosing tape recorders, mixing multitrack recordings and equipment maintenance. There's a good section on tape recorder special effects such as backwards echo, and throughout the book you come across snippets of valuable information that are rarely covered elsewhere eg. how to fade a mix, various problems with a mix such as the cymbals being too loud and what to do.
Overall, the book represents a good starting place for those who require an intense introduction to recording and can't wait for HSR to get around to a particular subject. There are some good philosophical paragraphs dealing with production techniques and the handling of musicians and a final chapter devoted to some practical projects for those interested in building a mixer or reverb. A word of warning though; as this is an American book you should remember that the power supply circuits shown are not suitable for use in the UK and you will have to substitute them with an alternative circuit. This is not, however, too difficult.
180 pages, £7.95. Amsco Publications New York, available through Music Sales Limited, (Contact Details).