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How To Make An Instrument Sound Old??

Looking for advice on how to make a modelled acoustic instrument, in particular vibraphone, drums and piano, sound like it was recorded several decades ago.
I’m sure there are some tried and tested, industry-standard ways of doing this with EQ, limiters, filters, etc or even specific apps that do this in a pinch. Am looking for something subtle.

Thanks

Comments

  • @JanKun had a thread recently on how to make a vintage guitar sound. Perhaps he will post a link for you.

  • I tend to use Klevgrand's DAW Cassette, but it can be a bit too much depending on your taste/what you're after. REAMP can do the trick too and it can be much more subtle. If you have a computer you can demo both.

  • It’s really not too difficult to tell you the truth. Tape saturation and eq adjusted to taste will do the trick. I’d probably just put those two things in a chain however you like and play around with cutting the lows and highs in small doses

  • What about getting a sample of an old record player then looping it and then just mix it over the entire track?

  • @robosardine said:
    What about getting a sample of an old record player then looping it and then just mix it over the entire track?

    Bingo. Sampling iOptigan is good for this.

    Roll off the high end (5k)
    Roll off the low end (400hz)

    Add white noise. Some subtle volume automation/fluctuation

    Only use saturation after all that if it's needed.

  • @TimRussell first of all decide if your target sound falls into the time when mono was standard.
    Before 1957 all reverb was either natural or recorded in a special room (echo chamber).
    As you need reverb (to fake a room) pick one with a good ambience algorithm, or try to suppress all 'metallic' undertones as good as possible.
    Focus on early reflections and suppressing the reverb tail (if settings allow) helps.
    Don't underestimate vintage studio technology - it was quite high end in the early 50s, so there are great recordings. Just the consumer gear wasn't up to those standards ;)
    Drums weren't recorded as detailed as today, rarely more than 2 overheads and a mic for the kick.
    A mic modeller is a simple way to get some 'vintage' colour on clean instrument sounds.
    It's more subtle than modifying an EQ curve, but also more efficient.

  • Thanks @LinearLineman!
    @TimRussell, I recently tried to emulate the sound of old 78rpm recordings. I posted few exemples and an AUM preset

    https://forum.audiob.us/discussion/32814/how-to-get-that-good-ol-delta-blues-sound/p1

    I think I got close to the real thing, especially on the last two exemples. As mentioned above, it is mainly a work of EQ and tape saturation.

    In the case of 78rpm, the settings are far from subtle, but I believe these can be tweaked more gently to emulate recent analog gears.

    Apps from Klevgrand which were mentioned in a post above can achieve great results, but during my experimentation I also rediscovered an older app from Igor Vasiliev, Master Record, which might be your solution if subtlety is what you're looking for. I really wish this one was updated to AU though...

  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Ark_Studios

    "Perry was known for his eccentric and superstitious behavior during production sessions.[5] He would often "bless" his recording equipment with mystical invocations, blow ganja smoke onto his tapes while recording, bury unprotected tapes in the soil outside of his studio, and surround himself with burning candles and incense, whose wax and dust remnants were allowed to infest his electronic recording equipment.[5] He would also spray tapes with a variety of fluids, including urine, blood and whisky, ostensibly to enhance their spiritual properties.[5] Later commentators have drawn a direct relationship between the decay of Perry's facility and the unique sounds he was able to create from his studio equipment.[5]

    Perry has described his relationship to the studio thus:[10]

    “I see the studio must be like a living thing, a life itself. The
    machine must be live and intelligent. Then I put my mind into the machine and the machine perform reality. Invisible thought waves - you put them into the machine by sending them through the controls and the knobs or you jack it into the jack panel. The jack panel is the brain itself, so you got to patch up the brain and make the brain a living man, that the brain can take what you sending into it and live.""

  • “How To Make An Instrument Sound Old??”

    Ask it what the internet was like when he was a kid.

    Thanks, I’ll be here all week...

  • @TimRussell are you the Tim Russell sound engineer I worked with years back in London?

  • Daw cassette is great for this, also adverb2 is a nice old sounding reverb that can make things sounds older. Combine the two plugins and you have a nice vintage sound.

    Mellotron, ioptican and other sampled old instruments sound old out of the box naturally

  • Good suggestions about mono, and appropriate reverbs (also in mono!). When I think old instruments I think extra machanical noise, like clunks and pedal noise on the piano. AudioLayer would be nice to use as an extra layer to an instrument, because it can do round robin/random sample selection, and can do release samples, like a little clunk when you let up on the key.

    Amp sims are a nice lofi tool, on things other than guitar, like vocals.

    As a science project, I got a little power amp and a tactile transducer ( a speaker that doesn’t have a cone, but rather shakes whatever surface it is attached to) and played electric guitar into an acoustic guitar. Sounded pretty 40’s.

    https://www.parts-express.com/cat/exciters-tactile-transducers/18

  • edited June 13

    In the early days of stereo, mixing desks didn’t have pan knobs, they had a 3 position switch- left/center/right.

    They might have had one optical compressor in the whole studio, and used it on vocals, or the whole mix.

    Early recordings weren’t multi mic’d affairs, like many Motown records were one omni mic, for the band. To mix it, they would just move musicians closer or farther from the mic. For faking some of this with electronic music, one could try to make it sound like things aren’t close mic’d, by using a short room reverb or two to push things back from the listener’s ear. Even 100% wet on a short room verb to smear the sound a little, to sound less direct.

  • @Processaurus said:
    In the early days of stereo, mixing desks didn’t have pan knobs, they had a 3 position switch- left/center/right.

    They might have had one optical compressor in the whole studio, and used it on vocals, or the whole mix.

    Early recordings weren’t multi mic’d affairs, like many Motown records were one omni mic, for the band. To mix it, they would just move musicians closer or farther from the mic. For faking some of this with electronic music, one could try to make it sound like things aren’t close mic’d, by using a short room reverb or two to push things back from the listener’s ear. Even 100% wet on a short room verb to smear the sound a little, to sound less direct.

    Important points. I can't recall if I posted this here. This is something I originally wrote for a local studio's blog goes into some weeds on the subject.

    2D Sound in a 1D System
    Most humans live in three dimensional space - up/down, left/right, front/back. Typical audio systems have two channels - left/right. And you can think of our ears as being two left and right inputs.

    If we only have one dimensional hearing, how can we hear in two dimensions? If you were in a completely anechoic space, a space with no reflections, it would be much harder. (Interestingly, artificial rooms like this make people anxious and even hallucinate- google “anechoic Orfield Labs”).

    In natural spaces, however, we do perceive two dimensions. Left/right is easy. Tap something to your left, the sound reaches your left ear before your right ear. Your brain makes a calculation based on this.

    Near/far is more complicated. Some pre-requisites first...

    If you have ever looked at a reverb pedal or plugin, you may know the terms pre-delay, dampening, mix, time. But let's examine where those come from. Many people turn these knobs and aren’t clear on how they relate to perception of distance.

    First, a brief history of reverb. Humans long enjoyed the natural reverb characteristics of caves, cathedrals, and dungeons. Then our first artificial ‘analog’ reverb units used electricity and springs or plates. Spring reverbs are still quite popular in guitar amps; think of the iconic surf reverb sound. Digital reverbs have come much closer to simulating natural spaces. And now, coming in a strange circle, digital reverbs are becoming decent at simulating earlier analog reverbs.

    I tend to think of using reverb in two ways - to simulate a natural room or as a special effect. As a special effect, I might use a huge wash of reverb on guitar in place of a synthesizer pad. Or I might use a reverse reverb on a track - a sound that doesn’t occur in nature. Or a spring reverb [period].

    With special effects, there are absolutely no rules. In simulating a natural space, this is where we get back to understanding what these parameters do.

    Before we get to effects, of course you want to consider how you will record things. If you have a nice sounding room, you might want to put the microphones farther away to capture more of the room’s natural reverb. On the other hand, you might want to close mic them because some elements, e.g. a synth, might be overdubbed directly, or you might want to close mic things for isolation. There, you might want the freedom to add similar reverb to each element to ‘glue’ the mix later. Granted, you can have some room mics on the drums and dial in reverb on the overdubs that matches it, but this takes skill and practice and is hard to get perfect.

    With that background, here are the key parameters that help us perceive distance, our second D:

    Panning
    The farther something is from you, the smaller the difference is between any left or right signals. Image a room 20 meter long room. You are facing the drums. The low tom is on the left, hi hat on the right. If you are at the far end, the angles to your ears may only be a few degrees different. If you move the drums to a meter in front of you, they may be at 45 degree angles to your ears, making it much more obvious which is to the left and right.

    So anything intended to be far away should be panned more to the center. Close items can be panned anywhere, those are just perceived as being to your left or right.

    Pre-Delay
    Imagine again you are in the back of a room, a singer is in the middle. When they sing, the sound of their voice will go straight to your head. That is the ‘dry’ signal. Their voice is also radiating in multiple directions, off the walls, the ceiling, and the bass player’s vinyl pants.

    The pre-delay parameter adjusts the delay between the dry signal hitting you and the wall or ceiling reflections. If the singer is farther back in the room, some of the reflections would hit you much closer in time to the dry signal. If a guitar amp intended to be at the far wall, you might use a pre-delay of near zero.

    If you are trying to match overdubs or a specific hypothetical room, note that three milliseconds is about 1 meter.

    Reverb Mix or Wet/Dry- Far away sources tend to have more reverb overall. There is more opportunity for more reflections on the way from the source to you. In extreme scenarios it can even mask the dry signal - remember the way it sounded when you locked your accordion player in the basement? Raise the reverb mix to move items farther away.

    Equalization or Damping- High frequencies usually get absorbed more easily than low frequencies. So things that are farther away will have a high frequency cut or added 'dampening'. I don't have a particularly set starting point here. The differences have to do with the walls, debris in a room, and other factors. Auras of those at peak goth for example can absorb everything above 2000Hz.

    At the other end of the frequency spectrum, you tend to have a tighter window of what is cut. A roll off up to 200Hz is not unusual.

    Decay Time or Room Size - Things will tend to be perceived as farther away if the virtual room is larger. This one is more obvious, but note that if you are trying to ‘glue’ your mix, having a long decay on some tracks and a short one on another will sound unnatural. A slight variation though just makes the room sound irregularly shaped. Remembering that three milliseconds is about a meter, you should note that big concert halls may have just 2 seconds of decay. Most of the mixes I do where I have the luxury of recording in my basement studio, I will use a reverb time of under a half second and with a mix level that may be as low as maybe 10% of the dry signal. This is not something that people listening to the mix will perceive as reverb, just as depth.

    My advice having hopefully gained some understanding of these psychoacoustics, is to pay attention to these factors in your natural environment.

  • How To Make An Instrument Sound Old?? ...

    ...wait awhile.

  • With palette in hand, colour your sound.

  • Besides what has been stated so far... Great apps for this... AUFX:Dub, MasterRecord, WOW, Grind, RE-1

    The first two for some subtle warbling and saturation, Wow for further filtering dynamics.
    Grind and RE-1 are awesome in the right settings to add further spice to the sound :wink:

  • Thanks for all the contributions so far. Some really helpful suggestions.
    And some less so...but still enjoyable to read.
    I just bought the Reamp app which is on sale and already getting some good results on piano and drums. Will definitely try some of @Multicellular ‘s panning and reverb tips to - very interesting reading.

  • edited June 13

    @Processaurus said:
    Good suggestions about mono, and appropriate reverbs (also in mono!). When I think old instruments I think extra machanical noise, like clunks and pedal noise on the piano. AudioLayer would be nice to use as an extra layer to an instrument, because it can do round robin/random sample selection, and can do release samples, like a little clunk when you let up on the key.

    Amp sims are a nice lofi tool, on things other than guitar, like vocals.

    As a science project, I got a little power amp and a tactile transducer ( a speaker that doesn’t have a cone, but rather shakes whatever surface it is attached to) and played electric guitar into an acoustic guitar. Sounded pretty 40’s.

    https://www.parts-express.com/cat/exciters-tactile-transducers/18

    Exciter on the cardboard box sounded most antique. But PE seems to have a wide variety of exciters. Which one to choose....

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