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Mid scoop and compression--why?

Discussion in 'Off Topic [DB]' started by PB+J, Oct 5, 2010.


  1. PB+J

    PB+J

    Mar 9, 2000
    arlington va
    I recently started a blog devoted to history and to music. I just put up a post about the "taste" for mid scooping and compression in modern music.

    http://theaporetic.com/?p=276

    It's designed to explain both to a non player and give some context. It has some cheesy examples of both--all electric bass, sorry to say.

    If any of you have any comments on the phenomenon, I'd love to hear them
     
  2. Big B.

    Big B.

    Dec 31, 2007
    Austin, TX
    I think that it is well written and thought out. I often wonder if this trend was brought by high performance car stereos that are designed to produce an artificial sound with extreme frequencies boosted. I have known people who would listen to music they don't even like because it "bumps harder" on their stereo.
     
  3. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    The taste for this sound in bass amplification could simply come from the 3-knob tone control circuit in historical Fender amps, which involved a bare minimum parts cost.
     
  4. salcott

    salcott Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2007
    NYC, Inwood.
  5. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol

    Vintage gear tends to emphasize on midrange because these frequencies are the easiest to properly reproduce.
    If you want to sound modern, you tend to get rid of mids to boost extreme lows and ear piercing highs.
    In other words, they do because they can.
    Sometimes though, old is the new modern.
     
  6. smeet

    smeet Supporting Member

    Nov 27, 2006
    Woodland Hills, CA
    Right, because they can. And they got carried away, as children do. Since the listening audience these days is generally not very thoughtful or discerning, they will listen to the loudest brightest boomiest sexiest sound, so that's how pop music sounds right now. But, I think it's getting better in the non-pop genres. I hope.

    Oh, and Miles >> Madonna.
     
  7. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    Based on my (limited) experience producing heavily multi-tracked pop tunes, I can say that MP3 encoding has a serious impact on your sound. I found the biggest differences didn't relate to frequency response as such. At least, not directly. For me the impact was on the sense of space in the music. Anything involving reverb and echo is going to be drastically changed by file-size compression (not the same thing as volume compression.) You work hard getting the tracks placed where you want them in sonic space -- up close, far back, wet, dry, etc -- and then you listen to the MP3-encoded version. Huge difference. All that space is flattened out and smushed together.

    If you're producing pop music for sale and you're NOT mixing for MP3, I think you're really missing the boat. It has a huge impact on the sound.

    After note: I've got a 14-year old son who's really into music. He and his friends listen mostly on their iPods and computers, but they all want a nice stereo with a turntable. Vinyl albums are to them the symbol of top quality sound. Sure, they're teenagers and vinyl is hip. But if they're really listening, once they hear the real thing they know well enough that MP3 is really just a thing of convenience.
     
    Jamiebassface and NMO like this.
  8. I don't quite grasp the statement about Leo Fender purposely designing for a scooped mid sound. Is there a reference for that point? One might think the ideal would be a design for a flat sound in the 50's, as mentioned earlier in the article. Also, the Fender Precision bass is valued in many rock recordings of the 50's and 60's for its mid-range sound, is it not? Where's Carol Kaye when you need her?
     
  9. PB+J

    PB+J

    Mar 9, 2000
    arlington va
    The Leo Fender quote is in Richard Smith, Fender, the Sound Heard Round the World p. 61

    Although Smith interviewed him in the 80s, long after he'd designed the P-bass

    The fender amp tone stack has a mid scoop--it's the fender amp sound, basically, and even with the tone controls set flat you get a mid scoop:

    http://amps.zugster.net/articles/tone-stacks
     
  10. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    This piece of software is a very good reference on passive tone stacks:

    http://www.duncanamps.com/tsc/

    My point is that the scooped response curve is a known feature of the Fender circuit. Interestingly enough, Ampeg amps are much closer to flat, but involve a lot more components.
     
  11. Thanks to all for the additional information. I see your point about the amps but the PB&J article states that both the Fender guitars and amps were designed to be scooped. Was that in fact the case? And, hard to believe, did Leo Fender actually push the scooped sound or was it more likely developed by the funk musicians? I don't know the answers to these questions, just wondering. I bet if this discussion was moved to the bass guitar forums there would be plenty of opinions but the streets can get pretty muddy there when it rains.
     
  12. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    But how popular were Fender amps? I've been playing since the 70's and it was rare to see anyone actually gigging with a Fender bass amp. They were predominantly the tool of guitar players.

    Compression is used by many as a crutch vs. a tool. For instance, if you can't control your dynamic range without compression/limiting, it's a crutch IMO.

    :D
     
  13. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    Ah, now you've got me. There were other amps with the Fender tone stack as well. This almost calls for a trip into the schematic archives to see how some of the prominent bass amps of the 70's were voiced. Ampeg was close to flat, as I suspect were many solid state amps.

    It's also possible that the scooped tone is a relatively recent development in the bass world, related to styles such as snap-n-pop.
     
  14. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    I'm trying to approach this from a sort of archaeological standpoint. We know a lot about how historical amps were voiced, because we have the wiring diagrams. There's a wealth of online data for old tube amps. Unfortunately, the trail gets harder to follow in the solid state era, because there are more brands and fewer published schematics.

    What we definitely know is that the Fender 3-knob tone circuit, introduced in the 50's, was scooped. Now, did Leo deliberately push scooped sound, or did they simply market a circuit that happened to be incredibly cheap to make? That's one for the historians.
     
  15. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    Seems like it got popular in the 80's.
     
  16. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    I'd guess the Fender tone stack made a lot of sense in light of what cabs it would've been used with back then.. Kept the mids clear and the highs bore no resemblance to what we're used to today. Certainly didn't need a mid boost.
     
  17. PB+J

    PB+J

    Mar 9, 2000
    arlington va
    Leo Fender always had a certain sound in mind, he claimed, and he used words like "clean" and "pure" to describe it. He described the scooped mid sound as having clarity with no midrange "muddle. He was also all about mass production and cheap, reliable construction. The fender tone stack accomplished both goals--minimal components, and mid scoop. I'm pretty sure the "both pickups on" tone of the J-bass reflects his sonic ideal much more than the p-bass.

    Why the mid scoop though? Steve Waksman, in his book Instruments of Desire, makes a big deal out of the desire for sonic "purity" and he connects it to the politics of the day--interesting but unconvincing read.

    Bass players never did love fender amps. Lot of people used the Dual Showman--that had a big mid scoop all the time. I wonder if the rise of mid scoop for electric bass came from imitating guitars?
     
  18. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    Another question along these lines: Were amps used in the recording of classic rock & roll hits, or did they feed the bass direct into the recording machine?
     
  19. pedrorolo

    pedrorolo

    Oct 4, 2010
    But aren't acoustic instruments like Cellos, guitars and violins designed to be mid-scooped BUT loud-sounding?

    The instruments that have a strong middle-range are usualy designed to be used in non-amplified performances in open spaces, like acordeons, bagpipes or resonator guitars. The mid-range is there in order to easily get the needed loudness to be able to - for instance - play in a noizy ballroom. It is allways cut when recording or amplifying. There's no way someone can say that a bagpipe sounds good in a closed space. It simply damages any ear around.

    Is it really a modern trend thowards a pointless goal? Or is it just evolution throwards the satisfaction of our natural taste?

    About compression... I really sucks to loose the dynamics. In a rythmic instrument like the bass, they are almost everything afterall...

    Should mid-scooping and compression be regarded as the same thing? For me, They should be discussed as separate things.
     
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    Primary TB Assistant

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