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SurfGuitar101 Forums » Surf Musician »

Permalink How do I get a better vintage sound?

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Who can help me creating a nice vintage sound?

Since my band split up, I recorded a 9 track EP on my own an played all instruments myself. I recorded guitars and bass directly into logic, in order to define the real guitar sound afterwards. I do not really have a clue of good guitar sound, since I'm a drummer and not much of a guitar player. The drums were recorded at the studio. It's all partly a bit sloppy, but that was my intention too.

Right know I try to figure out, how to get a nice vintage sound for all three instruments, though drums are pretty much defined by the recording and bass is bass, right?

If you listen to this rough mix, what suggestions do you have to make the sound more vintage style? More mono? More authentic reverb? Other plugins?
Please note, that I'm not really planning to do a puristic surf album, it's more surf rock and 60s inspired. The other tracks are partly more surf related.

So any suggestions? Thx!

Your tracks sound good.
I'm no recording/mixing expert so don't take my advice to heart but:

  1. Yes, you are a drummer. Your drums sound good. Too good if you're wanting a more vintage sound. You could try less microphones. One or two at the most for vintage 50's, 60's sounds.

  2. Since you are working in the digital realm try processing ALL of the instruments through the same room or reverb plug in. Remember that what you are trying to replicate was generally recorded with all instruments in one room. The room may have been good or bad reflection wise but there is a cohesiveness to the sound of "bands" recorded this way. Since it's just you performing the music you need to put all of your performances into that same "room". You'll want to be careful from over treating the bass in this manner. It should get the least, but not zero treatment.

  3. Hard panning. Some vintage mixes (after stereo came around or fake stereo) have drums panned hard right or left. This helps to keep them from sounding too clean or full frequency.

  4. It's o.k. to slightly overdrive inputs. It happened all the time on old recordings and when used tastefully can add some character.

  5. Spring Reverb for the guitars. I don't think there's a plug in yet that does this well and for the best authentic sound you should "print" the effect or record it to track with the guitar while performing. You won't be able to edit it later and this can drive some modern recordists crazy but that's the way it was back in the day. Part of what makes some vintage guitar tracks so cool is that there is too much (by today's standards) reverb or echo.

6."Bass is bass, right?" I guess your not trying to make friends with any bass players here, right? LOL.
Seriously, the bass is as important as the other instruments when trying to achieve a certain overall sound for a track. These aren't instrumental songs but listen to the Beatles' "Come Together". Now just think if that bass sound was more thin or plunky or...anything other than the big fat sound it is. That mix/track would not be the same. Sometimes a bass should be adding "notes" to the mix and sometimes the bass should be adding "movement" to the mix. This has nothing to do with the playing (that's important too) but with the sound of the bass.

  1. Many vintage mixes are just plain bad by today's standards and that's what makes them so funky and cool sounding. This can be a hard concept for the modern recordist to come to terms with when trying to emulate a vintage mix. The Link Wray recordings, most self recorded, are distorted, un-balanced and...wonderful! They have a life and expression that are perfect for his music. Don't be afraid to makes things a little "bad" sounding.

  2. Mics and preamps. The digital realm is wonderful for clarity and separation but with really good condenser mics is can be too easy to get sounds that are too clean and clear to pass for vintage. Try a cheap Ribbon mic or two for all or any of the instruments. Also, an actual tube preamp could help you get warmer and when wanted, more distorted sounds. Try a tube pre plug in on the drums or guitar and give it just a little bit of "hair" or distortion. Don't overdo it though.

Keep in mind that these are just suggestions and a talented engineer can in fact achieve some or all of this in the digital realm. There's no "right" or "correct" way to do it. As long as you are able to capture the sounds for your music or that are in your head the process doesn't matter.
Maybe listen to some old Shadows, Takeshi Terauchi, Link Wray and even Motown recordings and try to emulate those production outcomes.


Last edited: Oct 11, 2017 09:51:36


It sounds great for a modern recording of vintage style music.
It needs to be more lo fi / less highs a bit darker (assuming that's what you're going for) I like some of @CrazyAces recommendations such as less mics, overdriving preamp/mics, etc. You mentioned you're not looking for a purist recording/album I'd say it's pretty close.

I recently recorded with my lo fi blues band at a studio that specialized in that old "Chess Records" sound. We recorded with 10 watt amps, no headphones, super quiet, and NO effects on anything (e.g. amp reverb, etc), all tube mics and preamps. We played to the room. Very similar to how those old blues guys recorded very quiet, everything dry, play to the room add reverb/echo post recording (on the WHOLE mix) - oh AND in MONO.

'Vintage' doesn't man anything to me by itself. What year, what studio? Big difference between 1950's and 60's. Big difference between the Wrecking Crew and Motown. What are you going for?

All that aside, I'm not sure you're going to get there with those particular performances. Seems like everything I read on the subject agrees with a few things that'll knock off a few decades.

  1. Muffle the kick. Dampen the snare and toms. Use fewer mics. One overhead and one on the snare that can pick up the kick and hats. Less cymbal hits, unless you're going for something more garage-y.

  2. Mute the bass.

Note that there's 2 real effects to 1 and 2. The first is to cut out the higher harmonics. Back then, you had a lot of people listening to crap car radios and transistor radios. Not a lot of harmonic range.

The second is to cut decay, but that may be incidental on everything but the kick.

The song itself sounds more '67 to me than '63, if that makes any difference. A change I might make there is to have the bass line less track the rhythm and more syncopate with it, again, unless you're going for a garage sort of sound.

less is more. Limiting things to what was available back then works well, particularly with them drums. Good advice here above too. I do like your tracks though, very tight sound and not that easy an undertaking. If you'd have said it was a band, we'd have believed you.

Sounds good, I don't hear much of a reason to change anything.

I think the "big problem" is that you don't play in a vintage way. The cool rhythm guitar bit? That's super rad, but not vintage. It's you though, and that is important!

I would say, you mixed that like a drummer. Let a guitar player mix it and then you'll get a more vintage sounding mix as guitarists are going to bury your precious drums in the mix!

Some excellent advice given in this thread, especially from CrazyAces. Has anyone listened to those old recording from the Esquires surf band? I absolutely love the way it sounds (and feels). Having said that, the quality is very poor. Anyway, I know I will be using some of the techniques mentioned in this thread. Thumbs Up

Guitar player for the Driptones surf band.

These guys have a great vintage sound, maybe that could inspire you for your mixing :

There is a lot of tape saturation in there, that can be emulated with some plug-ins and give more character to the mix


Lead Guitar in Blackball Bandits :

Quick question, have any of you achieved what you consider to be a vintage sound when recording all of the instruments separately? If so, how?

The_Cholla wrote:

These guys have a great vintage sound, maybe that could inspire you for your mixing :

There is a lot of tape saturation in there, that can be emulated with some plug-ins and give more character to the mix

Actually your vintage sound sounds more modern to me. This is what I consider a vintage sound.

Last edited: Oct 13, 2017 14:29:17

The above vintage sound is what I think of as vintage first wave sound.
This is the surf sound I fell in love with as a teenager.
A very unprocessed mono sound.
No stereo guitars, no drum balancing, just plug in and play.
Sure it has a thin sound. But that's how it was at first.

A more fuller sound came later. Evan dick dale had a thin sound originally.

Last edited: Oct 12, 2017 22:50:53

A lot of the vintage material was recorded in under primitive conditions. Some of it was recorded at state of the art studios, but more than a little was recorded with simple equipment in improvised studios.

A few years ago, Clutch Draggin’ and the Lug Nuts recorded our rehearsals for reference purposes using a single microphone suspended above the band. Some of those sounded surprisingly good and well balanced. You can bet that some of the small label Surf bands were recorded with surprisingly modest equipment.

The point I am going for is that there probably is no right way to go about it. If the music is played well and the basics of the mix are in order you should have something to be proud of. Just make it sound good.

When Surf Guitar is outlawed only outlaws will play Surf Guitar.
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Dead Thread

I finally completed my album. It's not really Surf Rock, but I don't really care about genre anyway.

Nice job!

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SlippyFingers wrote:

I finally completed my album. It's not really Surf Rock, but I don't really care about genre anyway.

Well I listened to your whole set. VERY VERY well done! Classic surf sound, naw. But a Very modern surf sound it is! As good or better than most I have heard.
Your guitar playing is superb.
But as a drummer,,, well,,,Any band would have to be a great band to have a drummer of your class.
As posted earlier by someone, you are recording as a drummer though.
Move your drums to behind the lead guitar and just barely ahead of the rhythm guitar.
But it's just my opinion.
Your sound is great and you do a good job of being a band by just yourself.
Congrats !

I enjoyed your tunes, definitely surf, and some good one ! Mix-wise I agree that the guitars could be a little more upfront. The videos are cool too, nice angle to see your drums part. Well done !


Lead Guitar in Blackball Bandits :

Oh hell yeah, this is awesome! Great to hear a drummer step out from behind the kit to play guitar and then playing drums in the video (represent!). And doing both incredibly well.

I imagine you were bummed when the band broke up, but holy crap the creativity and effort put into these tracks may not have seen the light of day otherwise. Vintage sounding or not, I like the sound of these a lot. WELL DONE!


"I knew I was in trouble when the Coco-Loco tasted like water!" -- morphball

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