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80's sound
Old 24th September 2012
  #1
Gear Maniac
 
Schattenmann's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
80's sound

Hi!

Let's imagine I suddenly started suffering from acute nostalgia (or masochism, depends on your point of view).
I spent the whole weekend listening to some 80's web radio and, now, I'm wondering how to reproduce that 80's FM sound.

So, guys, you're the producers on Glenn Frey's You Belong To The City. Or on Wet Wet Wet's Sweet Little Mystery etc.
Share your secrets.

PS: no offense to fans. I happen to really like both songs I mentionned above...despite the way they sound.
Old 24th September 2012
  #2
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vincentvangogo's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
I don't know those songs and you'd have to pay me before I'm checking out anything by Wet, Wet, Wet, but generally for an 80's sound I'd suggest a Yamaha DX7 doing lots of tinny brass stabs and a gated reverb snare about as loud as the lead vocal. Also take plenty of cocaine when mixing and maybe wear yellow jeans and some red-framed glasses.
Old 24th September 2012
  #3
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machoboy's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
I don't listen to any music made outside of 1980-1989. I think you have to have an IQ of 130+ to get it or something.
Old 24th September 2012
  #4
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jmikeperkins's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Roland Jazz Chorus 120 amps were very popular. So were various guitar synthisizers and gated reverbs. People were still using tape. Original Neumann U87 mics were everywhere and tube mics were considered old fashioned by most. The midi system came out in 1983 and all kinds of synths and drum machines used that control system to make an infinite number of 80's sounds.
Old 24th September 2012 | Show parent
  #5
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Schattenmann's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by vincentvangogo ➡️
Also take plenty of cocaine when mixing and maybe wear yellow jeans and some red-framed glasses.
Sorry, but my bad taste has limits. I could consider leopard spandex though, but only because I used to be a huge heavy-metal fan.

Back on the tracks: should we also blame SSL desks - or at least, people who used SSL desks - for the 80's sound? Especially over-using channel compressor/stereo bus compressor.
Old 24th September 2012
  #6
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2 Reviews written
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by vincentvangogo;
Also take plenty of cocaine when mixing and maybe wear yellow jeans and some red-framed glasses.
Ha!

With your yellow jeans add a blue jacket with the sleeves rolled up and maybe a headband.

I grew up in the 80s (no apostrophe btw) and I am astounded that people want to make music with sounds like that again. Each to his own.
Old 24th September 2012
  #7
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logicll's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
I think there are many great sounding albums in the 80's. These days everything has a strange "zing" digital, plugins, soft synths. Perhaps 80's song writing is helping my perception of the sound??

I think through time we can hear the mix more and more. I love listening to eurythmics, I just hear the song not a ton of mix tricks for the ADD generation..
Old 24th September 2012
  #8
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The Listener's Avatar
 
1 Review written
🎧 10 years
Gated snare would do 80% of the trick.

And tiny kick drum - not massive sub heavy thing we are used to hear today.

Some cheezy synth lines and clean electric rhythm guitar...

If you really have to use distortion - make it very silent in the background and it should sound like a little buzzing bee. And drown it in reverb again.

Tons of reverb... Digital synth licks, but also some nice analog pads and arpeggios. Also much synth bass lines.

Tons of chorus or some different harmonizer effect and reverb on vocals.

Nice open and breathing sound and arrangement. Headroom...

I love 80s music... Talk Talk, Nik Kershaw, Peter Gabriel, Duran Duran, David Bowie of that era (and all other eras), Talking Heads, Joy Division/New Order, Kate Bush, U2, Eurhytmics, The Police, Depeche Mode, Genesis (although I prefer them from the 70s), etc. I love the sounds of Roland D50, Roland Jupiter 8, Prophet 5, even dig some DX7 sounds, much love for E-mu Emulator II and III, etc. Love the sound of Eventide Harmonizer, Lexicon 224, etc., the singers who could sing and used different distinct singing styles and timbre, interesting chord progressions, etc. I really liked the whole new romantic sound and pose.

I guess we are marked by the era in which we were teenagers - I was in the mid-80s till mid-90s... so I can't dislike that sound.
Old 24th September 2012
  #9
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1 Review written
🎧 10 years
Rarely have the contemporary pop songs such imaginative and romantic power as some of those gems - that's some serious songwriting:

Talk Talk - It's My Life (UK Version) - YouTube

Depeche Mode - Enjoy The Silence - YouTube

The Police - Spirits In The Material World - YouTube

David Bowie/Pat Metheny - This Is Not America (Promo Clip) - YouTube

Nik Kershaw - The Riddle - YouTube

Kate Bush - Cloudbusting - Official Music Video - YouTube

Peter Gabriel - Red Rain - YouTube

Eurythmics - Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This) - YouTube

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VCD4r...eature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UmFFT...feature=relmfu

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lA5JXXVNML0

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DRtW1MAZ32M

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ct4C3...eature=related


Pop music used to be interesting back then... would it work without all the "cheeze" and gated reverb? Maybe not...

It is also interesting that since they didn't have the autotune yet they had to drown the not so pitch perfect singers in chorus and other harmonizer effects, hehe - and call it "style".
Old 24th September 2012
  #10
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machoboy's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
'80s Alan Parson Project mixes will go down in history as some of the greatest ever.

Now I shall unveil my signature and avatar.
Old 24th September 2012
  #11
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soypancho's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
It's not weird. For about a year I've been wanting to do an entire record of The Jesus and Mary Chain covers. Which I realize is a little different.
Old 24th September 2012
  #12
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Sudad G's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
The most sounds in that time came from Yamaha DX-7 and TX-802. In the late 80s more and more Roland D-50 and some sampling keyboards. Pads and leads came often from synths like Roland JX8P/10P/MKS70/MKS80 and Oberheim.

The Roland SRV-2000 was the most used reverb in that time - especially for gated reverb snare and large halls.

Sudad G
Old 24th September 2012 | Show parent
  #13
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Schattenmann's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by The Listener ➡️
I guess we are marked by the era in which we were teenagers - I was in the mid-80s till mid-90s... so I can't dislike that sound.
Same here. I started being really into music when I was 9-10 years old, so about 1984.
Great songs probably trenscend the (often) cheesy production. Still, many songs got ruined by it.
Old 24th September 2012 | Show parent
  #14
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The Listener's Avatar
 
1 Review written
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Schattenmann ➡️
Same here. I started being really into music when I was 9-10 years old, so about 1984.
Great songs probably trenscend the (often) cheesy production. Still, many songs got ruined by it.
Same here - I was even too young to watch Live Aid all through the night - I begged my parents to let me see Duran Duran, but I had to go to bad earlier... (didn't miss much as I learned later - not their best performance )

I was 10 and spent the whole day in front of TV for the occasion, blasting the radio broadcast simultaneously to have STEREO - TV was still mono by us.

It was one of the biggest media events of my childhood. I can still remember how great were the Queen who stole the show. And Phil Collins flying with a Concorde to play at both stages - in England and USA... wow, the 80s.

I remember I didn't like the more rockier american performances, but much more liked the more romantic, artsy british stuff - Sting, Bryan Ferry, U2, Queen, Howard Jones, Nik Kershaw, Sade, Bob Geldof, Elvis Costello, etc. That was MY music when I was 10.
Old 25th September 2012
  #15
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🎧 10 years
Tape, DX7, some analog synth, ssl desk, neve preamps (for AC/DC), some low bit sampling... And songwriting.
Old 25th September 2012
  #16
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🎧 10 years
i read in another thread, a trick for 80's top end sizzle is to turn the dolby off while recording and turn it on while playing back.

anyone remember this one?
Old 25th September 2012
  #17
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unsung's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Avalon by Roxy Music. Mr Clearmountain at his best...........
Old 25th September 2012
  #18
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chrispick's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
'80s production is a broader category than most will recognize. That said, if you want cliches for pastiche...

• Gated drums, snare up with added reverb trail

• Single-coil guitars through chorus and/or flanger fx. Don't be shy about palm muting. Add distortion and whammy bar dive bombs for the solo. You will have a solo.

• Yamaha DX7, Korg M-1 and Synclavier samples. Bass lines, brass stings and string pads. Layer 'em up, especially unison riffs. Put bell patches on top.

• Throw in some keyboard-triggered "ah" voice samples. You know the rhythms. Oh, and some Yamaha CP stuff through a Roland Dimension.

• Roundwounds on slap bass.

• Washy reverb on the lead vocal. Eventide-style pitch layering on background vocals.

• Throw in some reverse reverb stabs.

• Let a soul singer vamp behind the lead vocal. Really reverb her.

• Go aural exciter to tape. Dolby out the hiss.

• Minimal sub bass frequencies. This ain't the '90s.
Old 25th September 2012
  #19
Gear Head
 
Camembert's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Chrispick said it!

Another pretty gem of reverb world domination
Sandra - Maria Magdalena (Official Music Video) - YouTube

Oh and don't forget orchestra hits.
Old 25th September 2012 | Show parent
  #20
Kush Audio
 
u b k's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Here's my honest take on the matter: if your music sounds like it was written in the 80's, and you use 80's instrumentation when you arrange the parts, you'll have a hard time getting it to *not* sound 80's no matter how you produce it.

What you'll find is that making 'period incorrect' choices --- like trying to make the drums sound 70's-dry or the bass 60's-plucky --- simply won't sound or feel right.

Not every 80's tune had a gated snare or a dx7 rhodes or vocals washed in eventide chorus... but they all sound 80's. It's the song itself, the chords, the melody, the vocal register, the tempo, the beat, and the instrumentation... these things cue the association with the 80's. The production will flow out of them naturally and will only reinforce what's already there.


Gregory Scott - ubk
Old 25th September 2012 | Show parent
  #21
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chrispick's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by u b k ➡️
Not every 80's tune had a gated snare or a dx7 rhodes or vocals washed in eventide chorus...
Which is why I mentioned cliches for pastiche.

A Don Dixon production from that era didn't sound like a Trevor Horn one. The Replacements didn't sound like Scritti Politti. Michael Jackson wasn't the Scorpions.

You can take an '80s song and make it sound pretty new. Look at The Bird and the Bee and their Hall & Oates tribute stuff.

But if you want the ol' chestnuts...
Old 25th September 2012
  #22
Gear Addict
 
EisenAudio's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Direct guitars. No amps. Don't be afraid to try it. Take a single coil through some modulation pedals with the amount knobs turned nearly all the way down and then print it through your best DI.

I've been listening to **** tons of 80s pop music while staring at a DK meter the whole time, so I can tell you with some authority that the use of dynamic range is very different than 70s or 90s. There's usually more dynamic range (not from section to section, but in any given bar), and judicious use of it in shaping the mix. I wasn't making records then, and the 80s cat who first trained me to engineer had grown out of those techniques, so I can only deduce or speculate, but here are some observations nonetheless...

• Albums were being recorded for CD for the first time, and engineers were really psyched about not having to fear the noise floor so much and being able to maintain transients in the process. There was heavy use of noise reduction during track/mix, and mastering engineers were using the noiseless digital as an opportunity not to have to make things louder.

• Sampled, triggered, and synthesized sounds were so consistent in their performance volume that you didn't have to use compression. Moreover, studio musicians had been encouraged to play this way since disco, and good engineers could meet them half way, with the end result being little difference between man and machine. And when all of your performances have this quality of note-on always the same volume and note-off practically non-existent, then it leaves so much space for a open, dynamic mix, with fast and disparate sounds.
Old 25th September 2012
  #23
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Mario-C.'s Avatar
Why is it that whenever someone mentions the 80's words like "cheesy" are used ?
Musicians could play, singers could sing (no autotune) drummers and bass players could groove, engineers were engineering and producers were producing, not sucking the life out of every note by lining it up to a stoopid pro tools grid.

Can anyone really say an album like So by Peter Gabriel is cheesy ?
Old 25th September 2012
  #24
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t-hiho's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
I spent some time in evaluating equipment, that is common today and still help transferring that 80ies nostalgia sound aesthetics and magic.
I'd recommend recording vocals, bass and acgts with an elder U87 via a Focusrite ISA215 pre / EQ. Use the EQ! Compress with an 1178 and eventually LA3A afterwards.
On drums AKG C450 come to mind (SD, HH, OV). Actually todays Audix mics come close to that 80ies drum sound to my ears, given you use the right drum set, drum heads and tuning. Use reflective surfaces in the drum recording room. Put something really hard under the snare, like ceramic tiles.
Use real EMT 240 and AMS RMX for reverb (or impulse responses of those).
Be careful with the sound details of delays. AMS DMX work great, as do TC2290. Plugin-wise I'd try to limit resolution of the reverb returns (Sound Toys Decapitator works best for this).
Be close, but don't be MUCH TOO close with close mics on drums and on EG amps!
Don't fall into the trap of searching the ultimate high freqs while tracking, rather EQ out some muddiness in the midrange.
Use clear sounding pres, not clean sounding ones! A Great River would be my choice for those guitars, Shadow Hills Monogama for drums, not so much a 1073 or Germ or BIZ.
An excellent today pre for female 80ies influenced vocals is the Purple Pants!
Use great sounding EQs, search for clarity instead of colour here, e.g. I'd go with the Focusrite stuff or better GML 8200. Pultecs also CAN work, if setup carefully. 70ies EQs not so great on this (like Trident A, Helios or similar - I know many classic 80ies records are mixed on that console, but to my ears it doesn't work so good TODAY for that purpose).
SSL Bus (old original version) is greatest, as is Alan Smart (which is brighter, punchier and more modern / early 90ies to my ears) or 1178, even some vintage Neumann compressor cassettes can sound totally great on the mix bus of 80ies productions!
Then play 80ies style music with long haired guys, and You're almost there! :-)
Old 25th September 2012
  #25
Gear Addict
 
t-hiho's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
ah, and I forgot to mention my 2 secret reverb weapons:
Dynacord DRP20 (vocs, synths)
Korg DRV3000 (drums, guits)
Totally underrated, high class machines! Love them! Sit right next to my Bricasti! No reality is coming from those, but so many neon dreams. Make me think of blade runner...
Old 25th September 2012
  #26
Gear Addict
 
t-hiho's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
With synths I'd go for Kawai K5 for cold digital pads, leads and punchy bright basses and a Roland Juno 106 for warm pads and percy poly stabs.
Old 25th September 2012
  #27
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Wiggy Neve Slut's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
In a good sense of taste and artistic direction there were soem great albums made..

The The 'Mind bomb'

Tears for fears 'Songs from the big chair'

Lots of great 'The Cure' stuff..

Simple Minds etc etc..

Lets face it history repats itself its as sure as death and taxes!
Old 25th September 2012
  #28
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K. Osborne's Avatar
 
3 Reviews written
🎧 10 years
Have straight grooves and lots of staccato rhythms. The space on the super staccato stuff can be filled with verbs, too.

Props to Gregory... Great tips on his post, as well as all the others!
Old 25th September 2012
  #29
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Ward Pike's Avatar
 
15 Reviews written
🎧 10 years
Every decade's garbage pop music has its own cliches... that's not what defines it. The 80s also had so much amazing music, incredible vocals, great songs, performances and the single greatest advancement in instrumental virtuosity since the 1800s.

Please don't think it was all about reverb, DX7s and Eventides. It wasn't. Not even close.
Old 25th September 2012
  #30
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🎧 10 years
I recall that the synths and drum machines that defined that era were:
* The Oberheim DMX Drum Machine, which was used by New Order on that life altering track “Blue Monday”.
* Roland D-50- It was used on Michael Jackson’s “Bad”.
* PPG Wave - It featured extensively on Gary Numan and the Tubeway Army. Tears for Fears also had one.
* New England Digital (NED) - It was used by Hall & Oates. I saw one at a trade show in London. That beast was huge and at the time cost over US $190,000. If you bought one, NED would fly you over to Florida for a week to train you how to program it. I am sure they provided a lot of exciting extra curricular activities to customers on the trip to Florida.
* Jupiter 8 - It was used by Tears for Fears, Talking Heads, The Cars and on Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” album. The Jupiter 6 was popular too along with the JX3P and JX8P.
* Yamaha DX7 - It was used by Tears for Fears and many others such as Talking Heads, Brian Eno, The Cure.
* Fairlight CMI - It was used by Herbie Hancock, ABC, Tears for Fears (hear the kick drum on “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”).
* The Emu Emulator II - It was used by a lot of bands at Live Aid. I recall seeing the Pet Shop boys with one.
* The Linn LM-1 Drum machine was used by Prince on “1999”, The Human League on “Dare” and DEVO’s “New Traditionalists”.
* Linn Drum LM-2 - It used by Tears for Fears.
* While the TR-909 and 808 were launched in the 80s they didn’t really become popular until the 90s with the underground dance, ACID and house music.
In terms of gated reverb:
The AMS RMX “nonlin 2” was used extensively on drums. Phil Collins used it extensively (most notably on “in the Air Tonight”) as did Duran Duran. Bruce Springsteen used a gated reverb on his hit “Born in the USA”.
2 inch tape was used a lot along with SSL mixing desks.

Having sited the list of stereotypical synths and drum machines that defined that era, many bands emerged that did not initially use them. For example, U2's first album "Boy" featured their first hit "I Will Follow". That track had no synths on it. They later used a DX7 when they teamed up with Brian Eno on the Joshua Tree.
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