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  1. #1

    Say hello to Bob Ohllson.

    Well gang, my old Motown friend and super engineer Bob Ohllson, has agreed to do a Q and A with the forum members. They simply don't come any more knowledgeable or proficient than Bob. My brother would often tell me that if a song he was about to mix had Bob as the recording engineer, he knew the tape would be technically perfect. He is the only engineer I ever knew who brought his own microphones to a session. Bob, welcome to the forum. We are honored to have you here.

































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    Last edited by ralpht; 03-25-2021 at 04:10 PM.

  2. #2
    Hi! I'll be glad to answer what I can.

  3. #3
    Hello, Bob ...Pat Cosby here. Happy to welcome you aboard, dear friend.

    Thank you ...Enjoy!!!

  4. #4
    Wow, thank you so much to you all, and great to [[digitally) see all three of you on here!
    - Drew

  5. #5
    I've got a SUPER DUPER nerdy recording question! I mean "nerdy" with love, I feel like that term gets tossed around a lot whenever we mean someone is passionate about something.

    I was fortunate to be a pre-production engineering intern with Harry Weinger at Universal/Motown when it was in NYC, and I was fortunate enough to get to dive into multiple 8 track session files. I noticed it was often that the 8 tracks were grouped into things like lead vocals, group vocals, horns, strings, keyboards, guitars, drums & percussion, and isolated bass.

    As a forever-learning musician, I'm curious - how much mixing happened at the individual mic / instrument stage of recording, and how much happened at the grouped stage? Since I'm a drummer / writer / producer with a home studio, I'm eager to learn more about what EQ & Compression may have been recorded straight from the mic / line [[and with what musical aim in mind), and what may have been added [[and with what musical aim in mind) after the signals were combined into their respective group channels?

    For example, would the drum mics have EQ & compression on them at all individually to cut out unwanted frequencies or bring out nuance like ghost notes, and then the combined track would have minimal mixing [[levels, panning, further EQ / Compression, Reverb) in relation to the other 8 tracks? All of that might be completely wrong, but that's the type of questions that I couldn't help but have - ever since I've been working to learn more and more about the art of recording, my mind keeps going back to those 8 combined tracks that I saw day in and day out in HW's mixing cubbyhole! That internship was one of the most fun times of my professional life so far.

    Thank you for all you do and all you've done, and thanks for taking your time to do this here on the forum.

    - Drew Schultz
    www.Drew-Music.com
    Last edited by drewschultz88; 03-25-2021 at 08:06 PM. Reason: typo

  6. #6
    We rarely eq'd or compressed individual microphones because we only had four or five equalizers plus the bass and treble controls on an Altec mixer along with maybe four channels of compression. I'm going to post some pictures. I recently did a presentation to the Seattle section of the AES and managed to bring John Windt. John was introduced to me as the shop foreman. He turns out to have built a lot of the studio so I got to pick his brain. I'll put a link to the meeting below.

  7. #7

  8. #8
    Sixteen track mix consoles Name:  Electrodyne 2.jpg
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  9. #9
    That is amazing!

    Please stop me if my question is covered in that video, as I will absolutely dive into it as soon as I can -

    Were the tracks recorded in real time straight into the grouped channel, or were they recorded into tracks onto tape, then bussed onto another tape? I'm mostly curious becuase if they were recorded straight to the group, I'd imagine all the volume level mixing choices within that one group [[like which guitar part was loudest among just the guitars, mixing between the drums & percussion, etc.) were all made during the session in real-time as opposed to in post.

    Once again, thank you so much for that video, and my apologies if that question is covered within. Can't wait to dive into it!

  10. #10
    Hi Pat! You may be able to correct and add to some of what I said.

  11. #11
    Pat and Drew. So nice to see you again. Its been too long.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by ralpht View Post
    Pat and Drew. So nice to see you again. Its been too long.
    I'm right there with you! Can't wait for the first "official" get together once it's finally safe to do so - it's still slow going, but here's hoping that's some light we see at the end of the tunnel. Hope you're all doing well!

  13. #13
    Keeping my shoes shined, Drew.

  14. #14
    Bob. Remember the Xit project. Interesting time. Interesting band. I've stayed in touch over the years with the guys. The same guys are in the band as when we had them in the studio. Recently they were inducted into the New Mexico Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
    Last edited by ralpht; 03-26-2021 at 04:48 PM.

  15. #15
    Yes, I saw that!

    Something lots of people don't realize is that we were trying to move beyond our regular "Motown sound" out of fear that it was just a fad.
    Last edited by bob_olhsson; 03-26-2021 at 06:24 PM.

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by bob_olhsson View Post
    Hi Pat! You may be able to correct and add to some of what I said.
    LOL ...thanks Bob, but be careful not to give too much credit to the "old grey mare" ...she ain't what she used to be!

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by ralpht View Post
    Pat and Drew. So nice to see you again. Its been too long.
    Hey, Ralph ...thanks so much for bringing Bob on. Only a few of the "real" experts still around!

    Hoping all is well with you and yours ...

  18. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by pc_1 View Post
    LOL ...thanks Bob, but be careful not to give too much credit to the "old grey mare" ...she ain't what she used to be!
    I'm having to put hearsay together to understand my experience while you were probably at Motown more than five years before I was. Thankfully, I reached John Windt. He told me he'd just found out Mike McLean passed away back in November.

  19. #19
    Since this is going to be a somewhat technical conversation, I'll tell you a little story my brother related to me. This ones for you Pat.

    After a few years of recording 8 track and dealing with the limitations that occurred on a piece of tape attempting to produce a multitude of instruments, back up vocals, lead vocals etc etc, which meant a certain amount of pre production to figure out where everything would end up. Then along came 16 track recording. WOW!! The heavens were about to open. Hank Cosby would be one of the first to go 16, and Russ would tell me he would see Hank sitting at his desk after the session simply marveling at the fact he still had a few open tracks on the tape ready for use. You younger guys out there must think that pretty archaic compared to today's various recording programs with hundreds of tracks available. However, in spite of our limitations, we got the job done in spades. When 24 track became available, we were nearly slobbering with glee. It was here, I believe that the recording arts started coming into its own. 24 covered things nicely and there would, more than likely, be a couple of tracks left open after the sessions. So why the need for hundreds of tracks? I would eventually say that if you can't get it in 24 you don't belong in the studio. Anyway, for some odd reason whenever this comes up in conversation, I think of Hank sitting at his desk with a blown mind because he still had open tracks on a completed song.

  20. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by ralpht View Post
    Since this is going to be a somewhat technical conversation, I'll tell you a little story my brother related to me. This ones for you Pat.

    After a few years of recording 8 track and dealing with the limitations that occurred on a piece of tape attempting to produce a multitude of instruments, back up vocals, lead vocals etc etc, which meant a certain amount of pre production to figure out where everything would end up. Then along came 16 track recording. WOW!! The heavens were about to open. Hank Cosby would be one of the first to go 16, and Russ would tell me he would see Hank sitting at his desk after the session simply marveling at the fact he still had a few open tracks on the tape ready for use. You younger guys out there must think that pretty archaic compared to today's various recording programs with hundreds of tracks available. However, in spite of our limitations, we got the job done in spades. When 24 track became available, we were nearly slobbering with glee. It was here, I believe that the recording arts started coming into its own. 24 covered things nicely and there would, more than likely, be a couple of tracks left open after the sessions. So why the need for hundreds of tracks? I would eventually say that if you can't get it in 24 you don't belong in the studio. Anyway, for some odd reason whenever this comes up in conversation, I think of Hank sitting at his desk with a blown mind because he still had open tracks on a completed song.
    What years do these changes take place? Eight tracks to sixteen? Sixteen to twenty-four...? Seems like an EXTREMELY important element in the progression of pop music.
    Very misleading how even the more simplest sounding records can actually have layers of activity. I could see how a producer might feel the need to not want to leave that available sound space unused. Wasted opportunity, would probably have made me crazy not knowing when to say, OK, that's enough!

  21. #21
    Boogie, I arrived at Motown in 1969. At that time they had 16 track capabilities. Before this Mike McLean had home brewed an 8 track recorder. Interestingly, Motown did not have acceptable mixing capabilities in 1968 for 8 track recording. Tera Shirma was the first studio in Detroit with advanced mixing for 8 track, which gave me a lot of Motown business.

  22. #22
    1969. Interesting.
    Sounds like things really changed after the move to California. When I listen to records like KEEP ON TRUCKING and BOOGIE DOWN I feel like I'm listening to records utilizing those 24 channels ...

  23. #23
    Boogie, I believe both of those songs were Detroit productions, making them a 16 track product. L.A. got all the goodies including 24 track recorders and Neve consoles.

  24. #24
    Interesting Ralph. A lot can happen on 16 tracks.
    What would be an example of a 24 track song going all out by using such availability , I wonder ....

  25. #25
    I know that Earl Van Dyke ran the studio band on most occasions HOWEVER he was at rare times allowed out to tour with top Motown acts; for instance with the Supremes [see Baltimore show ad from Nov 65) ... Usually it was the likes of Popcorn Wylie, Choker Campbell or Hamilton Bohannon that led the touring band.
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    When EVD was away from the studio; who was in charge of the musicians in the studio ?
    Last edited by jsmith; 03-29-2021 at 07:37 AM.

  26. #26
    It wasn't Jamerson or Bongo Eddy. In all seriousness, I wasn't there at that time, but I'm sure sessions continued. Jack Ashford would be a good bet.

  27. #27
    Quote Originally Posted by bob_olhsson View Post
    Yes, I saw that!

    Something lots of people don't realize is that we were trying to move beyond our regular "Motown sound" out of fear that it was just a fad.
    Bob, I wasn't worried about Motown being a fad. At that time, things were smoking, Norman was on fire as was Frank Wilson. Rare Earth was hitting along with Dean Taylor. I guess my point being I was secure with Motown's success and it wasn't going anywhere soon. My interest was to make Motown into the style of Atlantic Records with the same diversity in talent, from R&B to Rock & Roll. We were well on our way until Motown pulled the plug and headed west.

  28. #28
    Hiring Harry and you was certainly part of broadening what we were doing! Another part was Norman bringing in some new musicians.

    I'm tied up finishing some rush mastering work but will be back over the next few days.

  29. #29
    Bob, see you when you get back.

  30. #30
    [QUOTE=bob_olhsson;614417]Hiring Harry and you was certainly part of broadening what we were doing! Another part was Norman bringing in some new musicians.

    I give Harry all the credit for the success of Motown at that time. The man brought "What's Going On" to the world against all odds. And then it all ended. Harry was gone and I decided not to transfer to L.A. Harry tried to save what was left of Detroit Motown, but something was going on behind the scenes that I didn't know about, and Harry was gone. So was I.

  31. #31
    Boogie, Russ sent me a list of a few of the many 24 track sessions at Mowest.


    All Night Long ... L. Richie
    Upside Down ... Diana Ross
    Being With You ...Smokey
    Standing on the Top ... Temptations
    Stuck On You ... L. Richie
    One Heartbeat ... Smokey
    I've Never Been to Me ... Charlene
    With You Im Born Again ... Billy Preston
    Just To see Her ... Temptations
    One Day In Your Life ... M. Jackson

    The list goes on and on!

  32. #32
    Earlier history told to me by John Windt:

    Our first three track session included "Please Mr. Postman" in 1961.

    Our first eight track session included "Where Did Our Love Go" in 1964.
    Tom Dowd told me that we had the very first eight track that actually worked for overdubbing. Atlantic's had only been used as a backup for full sessions because they saw stereo on the horizon and wanted to protect their investment in sessions.

    I don't know what was on first 16 track session in 1969. I remember Norman Whitfield asking how were we going to possibly hang on to more than eight faders on a console. The 16 track mix consoles above were the very first having VCA-type channel grouping which may well have been in response to Norman's concerns.

    Most of us didn't realize it but Motown had one of the most advanced recording studios in the world.

  33. #33
    The producer-songwriter and arranger ran the band on every session. There were chord charts with anything requiring a melody written out. The producer would often sing a bass line idea to James and then he would play an improvisation on that idea. He never repeated himself which was utterly amazing.

  34. #34
    thanks for this list!

    listening, as an example:



    I'm not going to lie and say wow what a difference 24 channels makes, but wow what a wonderful song , and love the full orchestration [and yes suddenly an acoustic guitar pops up on channel ?...french horns ...harp...harmonica ) ......where has it been all my life ....

    ...what a talent, that guy.....


    aded:
    I'M SORRY , I'M UNKNOWINGLY INTERRUPTING . CARRY ON !
    Last edited by Boogiedown; 03-29-2021 at 06:17 PM.

  35. #35
    Quote Originally Posted by bob_olhsson View Post
    Earlier history told to me by John Windt:

    Our first three track session included "Please Mr. Postman" in 1961.

    Our first eight track session included "Where Did Our Love Go" in 1964.
    Tom Dowd told me that we had the very first eight track that actually worked for overdubbing. Atlantic's had only been used as a backup for full sessions because they saw stereo on the horizon and wanted to protect their investment in sessions.

    I don't know what was on first 16 track session in 1969. I remember Norman Whitfield asking how were we going to possibly hang on to more than eight faders on a console. The 16 track mix consoles above were the very first having VCA-type channel grouping which may well have been in response to Norman's concerns.

    Most of us didn't realize it but Motown had one of the most advanced recording studios in the world.
    Ha ! If I'm understanding correctly , Norman is asking , how does one person manually manage the fader sliders for 16 separate tracks .....using at most ten fingers !

    added:
    hmmm, that was likely a guiding factor in choosing the eight track number in the first place , the number of tracks an engineer could properly manage with two hands?????
    Last edited by Boogiedown; 03-29-2021 at 06:32 PM.

  36. #36
    I don't think people were thinking in terms of mixing. At the time, most music recording was done live. When stereo came in, the majors continued doing live mono mixes but began splitting the console out to a three track backup for stereo instruments plus a soloist. Recording a separate backing track was unusual except for advertising. Motown really pioneered modern overdub recording as a standard procedure. Berry Gordy has actually been quoted as thinking we may have ruined music with all of the technology.

  37. #37

    Smile

    Quote Originally Posted by ralpht View Post
    Since this is going to be a somewhat technical conversation, I'll tell you a little story my brother related to me. This ones for you Pat.

    After a few years of recording 8 track and dealing with the limitations that occurred on a piece of tape attempting to produce a multitude of instruments, back up vocals, lead vocals etc etc, which meant a certain amount of pre production to figure out where everything would end up. Then along came 16 track recording. WOW!! The heavens were about to open. Hank Cosby would be one of the first to go 16, and Russ would tell me he would see Hank sitting at his desk after the session simply marveling at the fact he still had a few open tracks on the tape ready for use. You younger guys out there must think that pretty archaic compared to today's various recording programs with hundreds of tracks available. However, in spite of our limitations, we got the job done in spades. When 24 track became available, we were nearly slobbering with glee. It was here, I believe that the recording arts started coming into its own. 24 covered things nicely and there would, more than likely, be a couple of tracks left open after the sessions. So why the need for hundreds of tracks? I would eventually say that if you can't get it in 24 you don't belong in the studio. Anyway, for some odd reason whenever this comes up in conversation, I think of Hank sitting at his desk with a blown mind because he still had open tracks on a completed song.
    Too funny, Ralph ...reading your post, I can see the perplexed look on Hank's face.

    Enjoyed this ...thanks for sharing!

  38. #38
    Quote Originally Posted by Boogiedown View Post
    Ha ! If I'm understanding correctly , Norman is asking , how does one person manually manage the fader sliders for 16 separate tracks .....using at most ten fingers !

    added:
    hmmm, that was likely a guiding factor in choosing the eight track number in the first place , the number of tracks an engineer could properly manage with two hands?????
    It was just this situation that created the four handed mix. Two guys sitting at the console, one handling the rhythm and background. The other guy dealing with the rest. It worked. Became teamwork. Once Flying Faders came on the scene, two man mixing became history.

  39. #39
    https://youtu.be/kQXeVCwtb6k

    A video of Russ being interviewed by Fred Saxon, discussing latest recording technique.

    Or...the demise of the four handed mix.
    Last edited by ralpht; 03-30-2021 at 09:17 AM.

  40. #40
    Bob Dennis told me that we probably had the first automated mixer in 1967 which was called the "MixMatic." He said Berry Gordy had several people do both automated and traditional spliced-up mixes of the same song. When Berry compared them without knowing which was which, he chose the spliced up mix every time so "MixMatic" got tossed. I asked Mike McLean about it and he claimed that it had never existed.

  41. #41
    Sounds a little fishy, Bob. If Mike said it didn't exist, you can pretty much count on that.

  42. #42
    The name reminds me of some old Lucy show.

  43. #43
    I heard about it from too many other people to discount it. Mike had a really bad drinking problem towards the end. I need to ask John Windt.

  44. #44
    Go for it. I'm still betting on Mike.

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