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Classic Rock History: Tools Of The Trade: 

Reverb, short for reverberation, is the effect of sound reflecting off surfaces in an environment, creating a sense of space and depth. The invention and development of reverb as an audio effect in recording and electric musical instruments is a fascinating journey that spans decades and involves numerous technological advancements. Let's take a look at the history of reverb, along with some examples of its use.

Early Beginnings

Natural Reverb

Before electronic reverb units were invented, early recording engineers and musicians utilized natural reverb. Recording in spaces with desirable acoustics, such as concert halls and churches, allowed them to capture the natural reverberation of the environment.

"Bridge Over Troubled Water" by Simon & Garfunkel (1970) Recorded in Columbia's 30th Street Studio in New York, known for its natural reverberation, the title track of this album features lush, natural reverb that enhances its grand, emotional impact.

Chamber Reverb

One of the earliest artificial reverb methods was the use of echo chambers. These were specially designed rooms with reflective surfaces where a sound source would be played through a speaker and then re-recorded with the natural reverb created in the room. The Abbey Road Studios in London famously used echo chambers in their recordings during the 1950s and 1960s.

"Good Vibrations" by The Beach Boys (1966) The Beach Boys utilized Capitol Studios' echo chambers to create a rich, immersive sound. Chamber reverb added a unique spatial dimension to their complex vocal harmonies and instrumentation.

Plate Reverb

In the late 1950s, the EMT 140 plate reverb was introduced by Elektro-Mess-Technik (EMT). This device used a large metal plate suspended in a frame. Sound was sent to the plate through a transducer, causing it to vibrate. These vibrations were then picked up by contact microphones attached to the plate, creating a reverb effect. Plate reverbs became popular due to their lush and smooth sound, and they were more practical than using large echo chambers.

"When the Levee Breaks" by Led Zeppelin (1971) The iconic drum sound on this track was achieved using an EMT 140 plate reverb. The dense and smooth reverb contributes to the track's powerful, cavernous feel.

Spring Reverb

In 1939, Laurens Hammond, inventor of the Hammond organ, patented the spring reverb unit, a device that would become a standard feature in many electric musical instruments and amplifiers. The spring reverb worked by sending an audio signal through one or more metal springs, which would vibrate in response. These vibrations were then converted back into an audio signal, creating a reverberation effect.

The spring reverb unit offered several advantages:

  • Compact Size: Unlike large echo chambers or plate reverb units, the spring reverb was relatively small and could be easily integrated into amplifiers and other equipment.
  • Affordability: Spring reverb units were less expensive to produce than other types of reverb, making them accessible to a broader range of musicians and engineers.
  • Unique Sound: The characteristic sound of spring reverb, with its distinctive "boingy" quality, became a defining feature of many recordings, particularly in genres like surf rock and early rock and roll.

Spring reverb became a popular choice, especially in guitar amplifiers. Leo Fender's use of spring reverb in the Fender Twin Reverb amplifier is but one notable example.

"Misirlou" by Dick Dale (1962) A surf rock classic, "Misirlou" showcases spring reverb's distinctive effect, integral to the genre's energetic and reverberant guitar sound.

"Pipeline" by The Chantays (1963) Another surf rock staple, "Pipeline" features the distinctive "boingy" sound of spring reverb, which was a hallmark of the genre.

The use of spring reverb in guitar amplifiers gave surf rock its characteristic spacious and vibrant sound.

Digital Reverb

The advent of digital technology in the 1970s and 1980s revolutionized reverb effects. Digital reverb units use algorithms to simulate the reflections of sound in different environments. This allowed for a much greater variety of reverb types and settings, including the simulation of rooms, halls, plates, and more.

One of the earliest digital reverb units was the EMT 250, introduced in 1976. It was expensive and bulky but set the stage for more affordable and practical units that followed. The Lexicon 224, released in 1978, became particularly influential, offering high-quality digital reverb that became a standard in recording studios.

"Thriller" by Michael Jackson (1982) The use of digital reverb on this iconic album, particularly the Lexicon 224, helped create the spacious, polished sound that defined many of its tracks, including the title track "Thriller."

"Let's Dance" by David Bowie (1983) Produced by Nile Rodgers, this track features the Lexicon 224 digital reverb, providing a polished and expansive sound that was characteristic of 1980s pop music.

Software Reverb

With the rise of computer-based recording in the 1990s and 2000s, software reverb plugins became common. These plugins emulate both classic hardware reverbs and entirely new reverb algorithms. They offer flexibility and ease of use, allowing musicians and engineers to apply reverb effects directly within digital audio workstations (DAWs).

"Bury a Friend" by Billie Eilish (2019) Modern software reverb plugins, such as Valhalla VintageVerb, are used extensively in Billie Eilish's music. The reverb effects contribute to the eerie, atmospheric quality of her sound.

Shimmer Reverb

Shimmer reverb is a modern reverb effect that adds an ethereal, otherworldly quality to sound by incorporating pitch-shifted reflections. This effect is often used in ambient and atmospheric music to create a sense of vastness and depth. Shimmer reverb works by combining traditional reverb with an octave-up pitch shift on the reverb tail, resulting in a lush, sparkling sound.

Shimmer reverb was popularized by ambient music pioneers like Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois in the 1980s. They used the effect extensively in their productions to add a celestial quality to their soundscapes. Eno's work on albums such as "Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks" and U2's "The Joshua Tree," co-produced with Lanois, are notable examples of early shimmer reverb use.

Shimmer reverb combines a few key processes:

  1. Traditional Reverb: Provides the initial spacious and ambient quality.
  2. Pitch Shifting: Adds an octave-up (or sometimes other intervals) pitch shift to the reverb tail.
  3. Feedback Loop: The pitch-shifted reverb tail is fed back into the reverb, creating cascading, harmonically rich overtones.

"Deep Blue Day" by Brian Eno (1983) From the album "Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks," this track showcases the shimmer reverb effect, contributing to its dreamy, floating ambiance.

"With or Without You" by U2 (1987) Produced by Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois, this track features subtle use of shimmer reverb on The Edge's guitar parts, adding a haunting, ethereal quality to the song's atmosphere.

"You Won't Know Where You Stand" by Aquilo (2018) This track uses shimmer reverb on the vocals and synths to create a spacious and uplifting sound that enhances the emotional impact of the music.

Modern Use and Popularity

Shimmer reverb has become more accessible with the advent of digital signal processing and software plugins. Today, many reverb plugins offer shimmer effects, allowing musicians and producers to easily incorporate this sound into their productions. Some popular shimmer reverb plugins and units include:

  • Eventide Blackhole: Known for its vast, modulating reverb sounds, including shimmer effects.
  • Valhalla Shimmer: A dedicated plugin for creating shimmering reverbs with extensive control over pitch shifting and feedback.
  • Strymon BigSky: A hardware reverb pedal favored by guitarists, which includes a shimmer reverb mode among its many features.

Modern Developments

Today, reverb continues to evolve with advancements in digital signal processing and machine learning.

Convolution reverb, which uses impulse responses recorded from real spaces to create highly realistic reverb effects, has become popular. This technology allows users to apply the acoustic characteristics of famous concert halls, studios, and other spaces to their recordings.

"Viva La Vida" by Coldplay (2008) Utilizing convolution reverb, this track incorporates the acoustics of real spaces, adding depth and realism to the orchestral and vocal elements. Convolution reverb allowed the producers to replicate the sound of famous recording spaces.

Impact on Music and Recording

The development of reverb has had a profound impact on music and audio production. Reverb effects help create a sense of space and depth, enhancing the emotional and aesthetic qualities of music. Different types of reverb are used creatively across genres, from the lush, expansive sounds in ambient music to the tight, controlled reverb in pop and rock recordings.

Rock and Roll

  • The use of spring reverb in guitar amplifiers by artists like The Ventures and The Shadows helped define the rock and roll sound of the 1960s.

Pop and Electronic

  • Digital reverb units like the Lexicon 224 were essential in shaping the sounds of pop and electronic music in the 1980s and 1990s, with artists like Madonna and Depeche Mode utilizing these effects.

Hip-Hop and R&B

  • Producers in hip-hop and R&B often use software reverb plugins to add depth and space to vocals and beats. For example, the lush reverbs in Frank Ocean's "Blonde" (2016) album create a dreamlike, intimate atmosphere.

Conclusion

Reverb technology has evolved significantly over the decades, from natural and chamber reverb to plate, spring, digital, convolution, and software reverb. Each advancement has enabled artists and producers to explore new sonic landscapes and has contributed to the distinct sounds of various musical eras and genres. By understanding the application of these technologies in popular music, we can appreciate the profound impact of reverb on the way we experience recorded sound.

Voices Of Classic Rock: 

David Clayton-Thomas is a renowned Canadian rock singer best known as the lead vocalist of the band Blood, Sweat & Tears. His powerful voice and dynamic stage presence have made him a significant figure in rock and jazz-rock music.

David Henry Thomsett was born September 13, 1941 in Kingston upon Thames, Surrey, England. Clayton-Thomas had a turbulent childhood. His family emigrated to Willowdale, Toronto, Canada, when he was young. He had a difficult relationship with his father and left home at an early age.

He spent some time living on the streets and was eventually incarcerated for petty crimes. During his time in a reformatory, he discovered his passion for music.

After his release, Clayton-Thomas began performing in local clubs. He initially played folk music and rhythm and blues, drawing influence from artists like Ray Charles and Bobby Bland.

He formed several bands during this time, including The Shays and later The Bossmen. His deep, soulful voice started to garner attention, and he began building a reputation in the Toronto music scene.

In 1968, Clayton-Thomas joined the New York City-based band Blood, Sweat & Tears (BS&T). The band was known for its innovative fusion of rock, blues, and jazz. The band’s second album, self-titled "Blood, Sweat & Tears" (1968), was a massive success. It included hit singles like "You've Made Me So Very Happy," "Spinning Wheel," and "And When I Die." This album won several Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year in 1970.

Clayton-Thomas’s tenure with BS&T solidified his place in rock history. His distinctive, instantly recognizable voice became synonymous with the band's sound. He had multiple stints with the band, with periods of departure and reunion over the years.

Clayton-Thomas also pursued a solo career, releasing several albums. His solo work explored various musical styles, including rock, jazz, and blues. Some of his notable solo albums include "David Clayton-Thomas" (1972), "Tequila Sunrise" (1973), and "Blue Plate Special" (2010).

In recent years, Clayton-Thomas has continued to perform and record music. His 2016 album "Canadiana" celebrated Canadian songwriters, and his 2018 album "Mobius" showcased his enduring talent and versatility.

Clayton-Thomas penned his autobiography, "Blood, Sweat, and Tears," published in 2010. The book details his tumultuous early life, rise to fame, and experiences in the music industry.

He has been inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and has received multiple accolades for his contributions to music.

David Clayton-Thomas remains a celebrated figure in rock and jazz-rock music. His enduring career, marked by his distinctive voice and impactful performances, has left a lasting legacy in the music world.

Voices Of Classic Rock: 

Paul Rodgers is a celebrated rock singer and songwriter, best known for his powerful and distinctive voice. Over his career, he has fronted several notable rock bands and has also enjoyed a successful solo career.

Paul Rodgers’ career spans over five decades, during which he has established himself as one of rock's premier vocalists. His work with bands like Free and Bad Company, as well as his successful solo endeavors, have cemented his legacy in rock music history.

Paul Bernard Rodgers was born on December 17, 1949, in Middlesbrough, England. He began his musical career in the 1960s, initially inspired by blues and rock 'n' roll artists like Muddy Waters, Otis Redding, and Wilson Pickett.

Rodgers formed the band Free in 1968 along with guitarist Paul Kossoff, bassist Andy Fraser, and drummer Simon Kirke. Free achieved significant success with hits like "All Right Now," which became a rock anthem. Their album "Fire and Water" (1970) was particularly successful. The band faced internal conflicts and disbanded in 1973.

After Free, Rodgers and Simon Kirke joined forces with guitarist Mick Ralphs (Mott The Hoople) and bassist Boz Burrell (King Crimson) to form Bad Company. Bad Company became one of the first bands signed to Led Zeppelin’s Swan Song Records. Their debut album, "Bad Company" (1974), was a huge success, featuring hits like "Can't Get Enough" and "Bad Company".

The band was known for their straightforward rock sound, and became one of the defining rock bands of the 1970s. Rodgers has participated in various reunions of Bad Company over the years.

In 1984, Rodgers teamed up with Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page to form The Firm. They released two albums, "The Firm" (1985) and "Mean Business" (1986), featuring hits like "Radioactive."

Rodgers has released several solo albums, including "Cut Loose" (1983), "Now" (1997), and "Electric" (1999).

He has worked with various artists and bands over the years. Notably, he performed with the surviving members of Queen from 2004 to 2009 under the name Queen + Paul Rodgers, releasing the album "The Cosmos Rocks" (2008).

Paul Rodgers is widely recognized for his vocal prowess and has been cited as an influence by many rock singers. He has variously been called "The Voice" and the "rock & roll singer's rock & roll singer". He was ranked 55th on Rolling Stone’s list of the "100 Greatest Singers of All Time."

Rodgers' forte may be that he never seems to sing a song exactly the same way twice. His vocals on record are perhaps the straightest renditions to be sure, but in live performance he stretches out, tweaking the melody with improvisation, like the Blues heroes of his youth, but never to the point of distraction. His voice is akin to a lead instrument, just one that happens to include the lyrics. And, most notably, time does not seem to have diminished his vocal abilities.

Rodgers has received various accolades throughout his career, including induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Free in 2000.

He is also known for his charitable work, supporting causes related to music education and animal welfare. Rodgers is married to Cynthia Kereluk, a former Miss Canada and fitness expert. They married in 2007.

Classic Rock History: Tools Of The Trade: 

The Leslie speaker is a unique and iconic sound device primarily associated with the Hammond organ. Invented in the early 1940s, it has become synonymous with the distinctive swirling, rotating speaker effect heard in many classic rock, jazz, and blues recordings.

The Leslie speaker was invented by Don Leslie, an engineer and inventor, in 1941. Leslie was initially inspired by the desire to enhance the sound of the Hammond organ, which was becoming increasingly popular at the time. The goal was to create a speaker system that could replicate the rich, full-bodied sound of a pipe organ within a smaller, more portable instrument.

Leslie experimented with different speaker designs and configurations until he developed a system that used rotating speakers to create a unique modulation effect. His invention utilized a system of rotating horns and baffles to spread the sound around the room, producing a swirling, Doppler-like effect that enriched the sound of the organ.

Leslie's invention quickly gained popularity, especially among musicians playing Hammond organs, as it added a dynamic, spacious quality to their performances.

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Classic Rock History: 

Jeff Porcaro was a highly respected and influential drummer best known for his work with the band Toto. Born on April 1, 1954, in South Windsor, Connecticut, Porcaro grew up in a musical family. His father, Joe Porcaro, was a session percussionist, and his brothers Mike and Steve also became accomplished musicians.

Porcaro's career took off in the 1970s and 1980s, during which he became one of the most in-demand studio drummers in Los Angeles. His precise yet versatile drumming style made him a sought-after collaborator for a wide range of artists and genres, from rock and pop to jazz and R&B. He played on numerous hit records, contributing his distinctive groove to songs by artists such as Steely Dan, Boz Scaggs, Michael Jackson, and Paul McCartney, among many others.

In 1977, Porcaro co-founded the band Toto with his brother Steve Porcaro, along with David Paich, Steve Lukather, Bobby Kimball and David Hungate. Toto quickly rose to fame with their self-titled debut album in 1978, which featured the hit singles "Hold the Line", "I'll Supply The Love" and "Georgy Porgy." Porcaro's drumming was a crucial element of Toto's sound, characterized by its precision, power, and groove.

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Classic Rock History: Tools Of The Trade: 

In the late 1950s, a groundbreaking invention emerged in the world of music— the Maestro Echoplex. Conceived by Mike Battle and released by the Maestro company in 1959, this tape delay effect unit swiftly became a trailblazer in shaping the sonic landscape.

Operating on tape delay technology, the Echoplex utilized a loop of magnetic tape to craft mesmerizing echo effects. Its mechanism involved recording the signal onto the tape and playing it back after a brief delay, resulting in a warm and distinctive sound. This innovation quickly found favor among musicians, particularly guitarists seeking to experiment with novel delay effects.

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Back Catalog Albums: 

Released September 20, 1975, "Masque" is the third studio album by the American rock band Kansas. Kansas is known for their unique blend of progressive rock, art rock, and hard rock elements.

I first became aware of this album, and of Kansas itself, when a fraternity brother from another chapter named Joe transferred to my school and moved into the frat house that year, bringing his collection of albums with him. Kansas' breakout album "Leftoverture" was still a year away, but "Masque" was my preview of coming attractions.

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Classic Rock History: Tools Of The Trade: 

The Gibson Flying V is a distinctive electric guitar known for its V-shaped body design. The design was the brainchild of then-Gibson president Ted McCarty, in an effort to update, modernize and generate interest in Gibson electric guitars. In the late 1950s, futuristic styling abounded and Gibson looked for ways to capitalize on it. In this article we cover the history of the Gibson Flying V.

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Guitar Heroes: 

Steve Vai is an American guitarist, composer, and producer who is widely regarded as one of the greatest and most influential guitarists of all time. He was born on June 6, 1960, in Carle Place, New York. Vai's musical journey began at a young age when he started playing the guitar at the age of 13. He quickly displayed exceptional talent and became dedicated to mastering the instrument.

In his early career, Steve Vai studied guitar with fellow New Yorker Joe Satriani, and later at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. Afterward, he started working as a transcriptionist and a music transcriber for Frank Zappa. Vai's virtuosic playing and his ability to execute Zappa's complex compositions led to his recognition as a remarkable guitarist.

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Classic Rock History: 

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a museum and hall of fame located in Cleveland, Ohio, United States, dedicated to preserving the history and celebrating the achievements of rock and roll music. Hundreds of artists have been inducted over the years. But it has not been without its controversies.

The idea for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was initiated by Ahmet Ertegun, the founder of Atlantic Records, in 1983. He envisioned a place that would recognize and honor the pioneers and contributors to the genre of rock and roll. Ertegun, along with other key figures in the music industry, formed the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation to oversee the project.

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