Concert stage layout -- who made who?

Last night I was visiting a friend to listen to his SET setup. It sounded very nice - kinda the polar opposite philosophically from my own system... but anyway.

We were listeing to Bave Brubeck's Time Out. I wondered after listening for a while about the soundstage placement of the musicians. The drums were on the right (in some tracks) along with the keyboards. The clarinet(?) and flute seemed to be in the left of center portion of the stage (that's not a political comment) while something else (I can't remember what it was) was placed far off to the left.

Generally nowadays with Jazz/folk/rock the drums are in the center/back, while the star/singer is in the front while the other status instruments are immediately to the right and left of the singer/star. Okay, so here's the question: did the layout of the soundstage dictate where people stood on the stage, or did the stage dictate the soundstage?
First of all Nate, it's BABE Brubeck's Time Out, not BAVE Brubeck.

I don't see how anyone can make such a silly error.
Given recording techniques at the time that I saw when I was young and that you can see in pictures in some of the record jackets (for example, check the LA4's Pavanne album), the recording was made in a studio, and the soundstage you hear is in all likelihood artificial. Usually there were acoustical screens (not so high as to prevent them from seeing and hearing each other) between the musicians in the studio, with the drummer generally in the back (I usually have Joe Morello's drums toward the left in my system, on at least Take Five) and the others set up as they preferred to perform the music for the recording. Each instrument was individually miked on its own track, and the screens were intended to keep the sounds of one instrument from getting through to the tracks of the other instruments. Their final placement in the soundstage on the record was really in the hands of the producer, therefore. I would also say that for rock especially and jazz, except in the case of purist recording companies such as Chesky or live recordings, today's soundstage for those genres is the same, in the hands of the producer--hell, many rock albums have tracks cut individually and blended on the console/computer, rather than the whole band performing together.
actually, its DABE!!!! you bozos!!!!!!!!
Kind of a tangential comment, but I'm constantly intrigued by the miking of drums...especially studio recordings. I was a drummer for many years, and I often notice that drums are miked "backwards". For example, in a standard drum kit, as one is looking at (or hearing) the kit, the hi-hat is on the right of the set, and the tom toms move high to low from right to left. Ride cymbals are typically on the left, but not always. I'm constantly amazed at how many recordings sound as if you are sitting behind the drums because the hi-hat will be on the left and the tom toms will move from left to right as you play from high to low. Honestly, this happens on 50% or more of recording I listen to, and it's darn disconcerting! Anyone else notice this?
Picking up on Rcprince's point where Russ leaves off, recordings like "Time Out" were recorded in the early days of stereo as a commercial sensation in reproduced sound. There was felt to be an imperative in those days to really "show" the music consumer the stereo difference - hence mixes tended to exagerate separation to the extent that instruments seemed to come from one channel or the other, with something (often the vocal if there was one) mixed to the center. Remember, a lot of the home stereos sold at that time were console types, so both channels were often located in one longish cabinet, but not with the degree of physical separtion that's usually used for individual L/R speakers. Played back on a modern system, these early stereo jazz and pop multitrack studio recordings typically display the kind of unaturally diced-up and isolated 'multi-mono' soundstage that you notice, whereas classical orchestral recordings of the same period were recorded in live performance in a concert hall from a more distant perspective, using minimal, true stereo microphone techniques.

Tvad: Yes.
Grant (Tvad),

I gather you must listen to a lot of Genesis, as well
as other bands with left-handed drummers.

He he he....
Tvad, know any renowned left handed drummers? Solo piano is commonly spread from the performer's perspective too, treble right, bass left. Symphonies seem to be displayed from the conductor's perspective, violins left, cellos right. In the good old days, so called full-featured preamps had channel reversal switches to flip the image 180 degrees.
Howard, I actually like Phil Collins a lot. His work with Brand X was amazing. But the reverse recorded drums on many discs really blows the illusion of watching (or listening) to a "live" band. And, the drums are often miked too closely, thus placing the listener on the drum throne instead of in the audience.

Black Light Syndrome is a recording that sonically places the listener behind the drums. Now, this may be intentional considering BLS was Terry Bozzio's project, and he wanted the drums to be prominent. But, the percussion is still oriented left to right. Is he left handed, too?
Phil Collins is a phenomenal drummer, for sure. His groove on Robert Plant's "In the Mood" is killer.

Terry Bozzio is right handed, but plays ambidextrously (sp?). In other words, he can lead with either hand. Simon Phillips does it like no one I've ever seen.

I guess if you want the proper drum orientation while listening to your system, you'll have to turn your chair around.
What i'm wondering is, just how big are some of these drum kits and how long of arms do some of these guys have? I hear cymbals five feet to one side and toms five feet to the other side. I don't know how they run back and forth hitting them while still keeping beat with the kicks : ) Sean
Sean: They sit on active stools maybe:)
It's a little known fact that Inkly Dinkly the giant squid passed on a lucrative deal in the mid-sixties at the height of his cartoon career citing health reasons. Dinkly then returned to his first love, music, but subsequent studio work was hampered by his constant need to remain submerged during rehearsal sessions. Though he is uncredited for numerous rock albums of the period, Dinky may be best remembered through his students, Ginger Baker, Jim Gordon and Mitch Mitchell. Dinkly's lasting tribute remains the Beatles tune Octopus's Garden, a creature with which he was often confused. On a sad note, Dinkly's slide into alcoholism began when promoters' reneged on a contract to make full accomodation for his 16 foot wide glass tank at Woodstock opting instead to provide him a common oaken barrel filled with Genessee Beer. Unconfirmed sightings suggest Dinkly played out the rest of his days along San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf where his simultaneous mastery of the bottleneck slide, tambourine, marimbas and banjo delighted tourists and locals alike.
Rock: :)
Sean, I'm willing to bet that your speakers are exactly ten feet apart.
I agree with Sean, there's an awful lot of panning of drumsets across the whole soundstage on a lot of recordings. More impact, I guess. I think Rockvirgo's explanation for this phenomenon is the most convincing I've heard!
Being a former drummer, I concur with Tvad. I think Sean makes a good point about the motives behind the mixing. Looking for more impact - but I often find it annoying - hearing the high-hat on one side and the snare on the other is just TOO much. OK, if it is the Doobie Brothers with two sets, you can see it :-) Rock is especially rife with examples of incorrect soundstaging. I've personally seen a number of bands a number of times who, for instance, ALWAYS have the lead guiatrist on the left side of the stage, the vocalist next, the bassists next, the keyboard on the far right with the drummer center and behind. Even on different songs within the same LP, these staging positions vary. Now, they may move around a bit on stage, but not a full shift from one side to the other. This sometimes occurs even on LIVE LP's. But, as long as it sounds good, I don't let it bother me - nervous tic aside... :-)
man..i though i was the only one that wondered how/why the drums were spaced so widely across the soundstage (I can understand it with the Dead)...I had pretty much chalked it up to the fact that compared to you guys my system sucks big time.
4yanx, on some occassions there may actually be a hihat on the opposite side from where the snare is by means of an extension hi-hat.

I am a drummer also and sometimes I enjoy having the drums go from left to right so I can picture the toms and cymbals I would be hitting. Luckily, my preamp has a "reverse" switch which allows me to swap the left and right channels. (Adcom GFP-750)
Bufus, a good point that I realize. I was more referring in the case I cited as the high-hat seeming to come from way left in the soundtage and the snare from the right (not being correctly spaced but in the proper relative location).

One that makes me laugh is a copy of Yes where Wakeman's keyboard renderings are stage left and Howe's gitter stylings far right. Never would have happened in a performance - but, maybe in the magic if the studio mix.....? ;-)
Hell, one of my favorite "panning" tricks was in the original Blind Faith album, where Clapton's and Winwood's guitar solos in the middle of "Had to Cry Today" started in opposite channels, panned to be together in the middle and then crisscrossed and wound up in the other channel (and you will NOT hear this effect in the MFSL CD of it, to their discredit!). To do that in concert you'd have to lift and move a couple of huge banks of amplifiers, not an easy trick!
What if the performance was played in "The Round"?

Would the soundstage revolve too?

Just kiddin'...........I'm not as dumb as Y'all think.

I think it's clear that the engineer has final say on band placement, how big his/her instruments are (no pun intended...right?) and how far the damn drummer has to reach! He (drummer) needs to work off his alcohol or speed anyway! (totally kidding, you drummers are so easily offended.)
To be quite honest, i think that "stereo" isn't exactly the most appropriate method of live sound reproduction, especially when working with a small ensemble. If you picture a typical small band i.e. one guitar, bassist, drummer, singer and maybe a keyboardist, the "soundstage" would get pretty dull and boring. While adding another guitarist on the opposite side would help to balance things out somewhat, you would still be stuck with the vocals and drums centered with the bass and / or keyboards stuck to one side of the presentation or the other.

In this respect, i've always tried to get bands to "stagger" their speaker cabinets on stage. That is, if you've got two guitar players each playing a "full stack", each side would have a cabinet from each player on it. The guitarist would place his amplifier on his cabinet with the cabinet from the other guitarist underneath that. The end result would look like a normal "stack", but each guitarist really had a cabinet on each side of the stage. This specific set up meant that each guitarists' own cabinet was at ear level, allowing the sound from his cabinet to take precedent over the sound of the other guy's cabinet. At the same time, he could still hear the other player's cabinet too, which was right below his. Splitting bass cabinets to each side of the drummer also helps to fill out the sound for the musicians themselves and improves the sonics for those sitting up front and center of the stage.

In effect, this gives you a "wide mono" signal*, which works much better for electrically amplified music. Not only can each guitar player hear the other now, which helps them work with and off of each other better, the sound is more uniform in every aspect. At some of the smaller shows that i did, i would even supply the guitar bass cabinets for the bands. This negated set-up / break down times, making the shows go much smoother and faster.

With this approach, i used four very large cabinets on the stage for the instruments. Each cabinet housed two 18's stacked vertically with two 10's stacked horizontally on top of the 18's. This gave us a total of eight 18's and eight 10's. If i had two guitar players, they would each get two tens on each side of the stage. Otherwise, the one guitarist fed all eight of the 10's. The bass was fed through all of the 18's. The solid bottom end of the bass provided a great amount of "drive" to the music with great dispersion / sound off of the stage for each guitarist.

Using such an approach though, one would have to resort to specific panning tricks on the mixing board, which is what they do in the studio. Unfortunately, they don't get the basic right / left mix right most of the time, which is why they need to play with the balance control so much. When playing live though, you don't typically have such effects. Another nice factor about using the approach that i did is that no side-fill's were really needed as each player could now easily hear the others i.e. they weren't getting drowned out by standing in front of their own individual "stack" of speakers.

The opposite is true of large groups of densely packed acoustically based musicians. One can obtain a very good sense of soundstaging / instrument placement using rather simple microphone placement and a standard "stereo" presentation. With very large groups i.e. orchestra's, i personally think that "three channel" would have worked best i.e. a left, right and a center to blend it all together. Paul Klipsch was an advocate of this approach, but then again, this may have had to do with the fact that his speakers were designed to be spaced in each corner of the room. In effect, using a center channel filled in the gap that existed due to the wide spacing of the left / right speaker when using K-horns. Sean

* Anyone remember the early bass on the left / guitar on the right ( or vice-versa ) "stereo" recordings? While this may be more accurate of what you see on stage, having all of the drums & vocals in opposing channels is what screwed things up. If they would have centered the drums and panned them "just slightly" off to each side as they are set up on stage, and kept the vocals centered, we might have been down main street. To be quite honest, i typically end up listening to most of these "early stereo" recordings in mono ( i.e. "wide mono with dual speakers" ) as the totally separated presentation of each instrument tends to drive me crazy. Then again, going "mono" with these early recordings tends to degrade the sonics somewhat, so your "damned if you do, damned if you don't", etc...
Sean...Your recording approach reminds me of scrambled eggs, as opposed to sunny side. I gather that by your arangement of musicians, and some judicious mixing, you aim to create a "soundstage" when the two channel recording is played back. OK, I believe you can capture a soundstage, and your method may be one way to do it.

However, I think that the oposite approach of isolating instruments to discrete channels (and perhaps a phantom center) can also be very effective, although it is fashonable to ridicule it as "ping pong" stereo. When the number of instruments is small, say six or less for a multichannel system, the result on playback is to transport the musicians into the listener's room rather than transport the listener to the recording venue. The "soundstage" that is developed is the one of your room. It is a real soundstage, not a reproduced one. Not all music lends itself to this approach, but when it applies and is done right the result is astonishing.
Eldartford, I think Sean was trying to describe the arrangement of amps for a live concert, not a recording. I think you're right in that what a lot of small ensemble jazz recording producers are trying to do is to bring the ensemble into your living room, rather than give you an illusion of the recording space, and it can be effective if done right.
I understand what you are saying Sean, but not sure I understand the need for it, unless there was a dearth of stage monitors for the players and not much more than the vocals being routed through the L/R PA mains for the audience (which is certainly sometimes the case, but usually only in venues so small that it might not make much difference). When I've played onstage, having the other guy's amp on the other side of the drums has been just about right in terms of my own personal mix balance, where I want to hear myself louder than the other amplified instrumentalists.

I concur about the annoyance factor sometimes associated with listening to early 'ping-pong' stereo mixes. I often wish for a preamp cross-mix 'blend' control, where you could balance the trade-off between excessive panning separation and the cancellation effects that can degrade a 100% mono'ed stereo signal. Unfortunately, these days it's a victory just getting a preamp with a mono button at all, much less the type of channel assignment capabilities you see on older Macs (or even 80's C-J's).