Recording Elvis Presley with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

Today we wanted to bring you some behind the scenes footage into the recording process behind one of the worlds most prolific performers of all time, Elvis Presley. Here we’ll be diving into the mindings of the audio engineers who crafted some of the most influential and listened to music in human history, and what their expertise has brought into the equation. The first video is a documentary titled If I Can Dream: Elvis Presley with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. This exciting film revisits Elvis’ unmistakable voice and features brand-new orchestral accompaniment, along with a duet with Michael Bublé, and appearances by Il Volo and Duane Eddy.

Audio engineers are the silent magicians behind the music we consume on a daily basis. Many of them prefer to keep it that way too. For them, the love of the craft goes far beyond the song itself and into every detail along the way that brings the music into fruition. Among audio engineers is the term “gear junkie,” which describes someone so enthusiastic about the music equipment they essentially become hoarders  and collect more tools than they often have uses for.

We wanted to know the key tools that would be necessary to capture the voice of Elvis and why they are so essential. This was important to us because we know many of our readers are musicians themselves and are trying to create beautiful music of their own from their home studios. The complication in this particular scenario is the fact that technology changes really fast, and much of the recording studios of yesterday carried plenty of gear that is not typically found today. It tends to be clunky and inconvenient for the demands of modern recording but one thing that is undeniable is this vintage gears undeniable character. Without getting to technical, this comes down to circuitry and electronics. Manufacturers of modern music recording gear are very aware of this and either use similar components or model their components off the old ones.

Decca-console

The above image is from Decca Studios which was a recording facility in Broadhurst Gardens, West Hampstead, North London, England. Since 1929, the studio saw the likes of Fleetwood Mac, David Bowie, John Mayall, The Moody Blues, and The Rolling Stones. Consoles nowadays are much more advanced, but the concept remains. A single channel receiving audio will have the signal running through a series of EQ, compression, preamps, and perhaps a few processors before it is recorded. These color and define the signal going into them, and in some cases, their parameters can be altered later on. In some cases non. This was the job of the audio engineer.

What we find now is these individual pieces of hardware that existed on a single channel are now sold individually as consumer products so that the modern musicians can build their signal path as they please.

“So how do I sound like Elvis?” you may be asking? We first of all, no audio engineer would first answer with anything else than to sound that good you’ve gotta be that good. No piece of hardware or software will get you there, although they can really help. The vocal microphones Elvis used may have been hot in their day, and in some cases could still be. In order to get that vintage sound you’d have to get your hands on a vintage microphone. This is likely not within your budget and because many other factors are at play in getting this sound you’re best to find something that works within your budget, and find a good engineer who can treat your audio to help you get there down the road. Here we’ve included a link to a complete vocal microphone buying guide: http://www.hollagully.com/best-microphones-recording-vocals/

Next in line, one elements that will influence the tone of your recording more than any other in the signal path will be a microphone preamp. Again, these are now manufactured in smaller individual units fit for a home recording studio. At times, microphones can need a little boost to get the volume up to what’s called ‘line level” so what happens is their signal is put through a preamp. The job of the preamp is to boost the level and in doing so, a preamp gives the signal a sonic fingerprint and definition before sending it to the next unit in the signal path. This is due to the preamps circuitry. Some preamps contain hot glass tubes which power this circuitry and give off a vintage character that we describe as “fat” and “vibey.” For a complete guide on microphone preamps perfectly suited for recording vocals in a home studio, visit: http://www.hollagully.com/best-mic-preamp-home-studio-ultimate-guide/

The fact is, these old studios run entirely on hardware which has a sonic footprint of their own, every aspect masterfully controlled by the engineer. The remarkable tone that we identify in a recording as uniquely Elvis Presley is undeniably connected to the tools of the day. These sounds can be quite successfully replicated, but at the end of the day, that’s all you’re doing: replicating. Not originating.

For more buying guides and product recommendations for home recording, visit Hollagully. They’ve got a wealth of information to get you set up and rollin.

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Judith Mccoy