PAMS closed its doors
in 1978, and for a brief period thereafter its master tapes resided
on the shelves of Toby Arnold and Associates. Some PAMS commercial
tracks and a few ID tracks were tailored to fit the constraints of a
production library by the author of this article, Marshall Such.
Sadly, both Toby and Dolly Arnold, owners of that company, are no
longer with us.
The master tapes are now at JAM Creative Productions/PAMS in Dallas
and are available for re-sing through the
August 3, 2016
RECORDING AND PRODUCTION OF THE
COMMERCIAL MUSIC AND EFFECTS LIBRARY
By Marshall Such
Toby Arnold & Associates, Dallas
Author: Marshall Such began his career in music and
sound engineering in the early seventies as a
keyboardist and leader with a travel show band. His
producing credits include the worldwide syndicated Opus
Countdown, and 1982's widely syndicated Rolling Stones'
20th Anniversary Radio Special. He is currently a
freelance composer and producer, musical director for
Opus Productions, and a creative consultant and
production engineer for Toby Arnold & Associates.
When The Production
Bank was conceived by executive producer Dick Starr and syndicator
Toby Arnold, this writer was asked to be involved as creative
consultant and engineer.
Other than the standard production library fare of music, jingles
and sound effects, Starr wanted to make The Production Bank more
useful to both radio and TV stations. So, after consulting with Toby
Arnold's director of TV marketing, Walter Wienecke, Starr included
some new ideas, including short pieces of production music --Work
Parts, as he called them -- and acoustic music and short generic
jingles called "Zippers" and "Buttons" (in other words, jingles that
"zip" into a spot, or "button up" a spot). To assist the radio
stations' sales departments, another category was added of
prerecorded generic commercials featuring actors, actresses, and
spot announcers. The goal was national quality spots that could be
easily customized at the local station.
The music section of The Production Bank could read like a who's who
of music production, recording, and writing in Dallas. Nearly every
major studio, producer or writer can be credited.
Most of the production music was recorded during station and
advertising jingle sessions. These tapes were provided in the ideal
form -- two-track stereo. They were simply checked for level match
and mono compatibility, and found to be recorded at approximately
+3dB, the same elevated level our production facility was using.
(This ideal level match is probably due to the uniform alignment of
most tape machines in Dallas at 250 nWb/m.)
Remixing and Signal Processing
The first formidable task was remixing the PAMS of Dallas master
tapes acquired by Arnold. The plan was to take this music --
recorded and produced between the late Forties and 1975, on 2-, 3-,
4-, 8-, 10-, and 16-track tapes -- and making it useful for the
library. Fortunately, there was some great film score music on
two-track that was easily edited for production music cuts and
background tracks for the "Super Spots." While the rest of the yield
from the PAMS tapes was scant, we managed to find some interesting
At one time PAMS produced a series of 60-second jingles on 16-track.
This proved to be a good place to start mixing production music;
since we were using the 3M tape machine on which the material was
originally recorded, playback was excellent. The basic tracks were
usually stereo drums, bass, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, and
piano, with overdubbed, double-tracked brass and strings, and
The biggest problem encountered with these tracks was in the rhythm
section, since these tracks had been recorded in a very live
environment, and there was a good amount of acoustic bleed from the
drums onto both the acoustic guitar and piano tracks. Most of this
material was mixed through stereo UREI LN1176 limiters. The drums
needed to be kept down in the mix, and equalized by dialing out some
of the midrange - 3 to 6dB at about 2 to 3 kHz - and the low-end
boosted. There was enough midrange bleed from the other tracks to
keep the drums balanced.
Overall the mixes came out well considering time factors and the
problems of dealing with different tapes, engineers, writers and
track assignments. However, it was like reliving a part of Dallas'
We also pulled out some treasures -- 1/2-inch three-track tapes,
recorded when multi-tracking was in its infancy. These 30 IPS tapes
were mixed using a TEAC Tascam 80-8 1/2-inch eight-track. The band
track played back on tracks one and two of the eight-track, and
since the Tascam only plays at 15 IPS, we were half-speed mastering
before it was fashionable. Through mixing and listening, we got a
respectable tape. It was decided to keep the tracks in their pure
mono state, since [stereo] processing sounded somewhat strange. Due
to the style of these cuts, only a few were selected for the
ID Length Work Parts
ID length cuts recorded on 16-track were mixed as Work Parts in two
ways. Short brass statements were pulled-out, without bleed, from
other tracks, a little echo was added, and the two brass tracks
panned mid-left and right. When trombones or low brass were located
on one track and trumpets on another, 'bones would be centered, and
the trumpets panned to one side with a short (approximately 50
millisecond) delay used on the opposite side. These mixes provided
some nice stingers and transitions.
The second way Work Parts were mixed was simply to mix off the
tracks as was done for the l6-track jingles. Since these were
originally station IDs, instrumental logos or solo instruments that
would interfere with an announcer weren't used. These cuts were
grouped into categories according to musical style -- cuts with
strong chords were classified as "Closers & Tags", and pieces that
ended with a "suspended" feeling were categorized as "Openers &
Longer ID cuts were expanded to 30-second spots when possible. To do
this we would try to find 4- or 8-measure phrases that could be
looped. Sometimes there would be a 14-second track that could be
mixed full-length with the rhythm section, mixed again adding more
instruments, and then spliced to sound like a complete piece.
Often there were oddly timed cuts -- 12-, 10-, 11-second, etc. --
and in these instances it was a process of trial and error to make
the 30-second mark. Sometimes we would get a nice series of edits,
only to find the time was 28 or 32 seconds. Since two seconds
speeded up or slowed down over 30 seconds only varies the pitch
about a half step, vari-speeding these cuts to time presented few
Producer Dick Starr also came up with some novel ways of expanding
these tracks through the use of electronics. For example, we found a
cut that was about 8 seconds shy of 30 seconds, and had a nice
rising string intro that changed into an adult contemporary feel.
The tape was cued to this intro point and, using a Minimoog
synthesizer, a new intro was created by playing a low "dark" tone,
and gradually opening the cut-off filter. When we hit the 8-second
mark, Starr started the cued tape and we had an instant, natural
One of the more bizarre but highly effective mixes involved
expanding a 15-second cut into a 30-second cuts by using the repeat
(sample and hold) function of an Eventide Harmonizer. First, the
last chord of the track was stored in memory, and then the
full-length track was mixed with this locked-in chord coming back on
stereo faders. When the last chord of the track played, we opened
these faders and let the held chord run to the 28-second market. The
effect was that of the brass holding one note for 15 seconds - quite
a grand finale!
Other tricks included opening a mix with a triangle to add a few
seconds to the front, and then using the triangle throughout as
post-points; other percussion devices were used in a similar manner.
The addition of these instruments and electronic enhancement
techniques produced a new blending of the old with the new.
The ID length material and the mixed tracks from the PAMS jingles
provided some strong material, but not enough to complete the
production music section. Fortunately, Toby Arnold had acquired
another contemporary music library, so there was an additional
source of 60- and 30-second tracks with which to work. These tracks
were on 1/4-inch tape with Dolby noise reduction, and generally
comprised of two-track splits - rhythm section on the left, and
brass and strings on the right.
Since I didn't like the sound of the synthesized stereo rhythm track
-- it seemed to lose its punch -- it was decided to keep the rhythm
track in mono, and use an Orban Stereo Synthesizer for the brass and
strings. We got the punch we wanted, and stereo, too.
Acoustic Music Production
A disk of acoustic music was produced, and a few disks of electronic
music and effects. Since the production studio is set up with 2-,
8-, and 16-track tape machines, we had no problem with track
The biggest problem to be faced while recording acoustic music in
our small production studio was achieving an "open" sound. The
material recorded in-house was acoustic guitar with violin, oboe,
flute, or harmonica overdubs, and a Yamaha CP-70 grand piano with
sax or flugelhorn overdubs. Having composed this material myself,
and being aware of what was needed, we used a TEAC 80-8 with dbx
noise-reduction. First, click tracks were laid down; next the guitar
and piano tracks were recorded; then the violinist, woodwind, and
brass players were brought in to overdub their parts.
When the time came for mixdown, it was necessary to come up with a
way of adding some space to the sound, since everything had been
close mic'd. By assigning instruments to a digital delay unit, and
balancing this "pseudo" first refection into the echo, a small
concert-hall effect was created. While not Carnegie Hall, a more
open feeling could be added to the music.
With most of the electronic music I'm now writing and recording, I
use either the Linn Drum Machine or a Roland TR808 Drum Machine with
the individual drum parts run in to the console, where they can be
equalized and mixed. Our main synthesizer is a Roland JP-8
polyphonic, but a Minimoog is also used for fast setups of strange
sounds. We also have a Roland Vocoder Plus at our disposal, and
which is used on many of our rock tracks.
Vocal sessions are also done in the production studio; generally we
use four vocalists with one AKG C414 set on a figure-of-eight
pattern. Boys and girls are arranged on either side, with the
microphone about 12 inches from the boys and 18 inches from the
girls, thereby creating a balanced blend on the first track. On each
additional overdub, the proximities are changed, and the singers
perform in slightly different styles to create the illusion of a
large ensemble. We usually record four separate tracks for each
jingle -- two melody and two harmony. Voices are recorded flat
whenever possible, and very little equalizing is done in the mix;
limiters are used only if the track is winning out over the vocals.
The music tracks to which the vocalists sing are most often stereo
mixes on two tracks of the 16-track. The way these tracks are mixed
for vocal overdubs is simple: when the original recording is mixed
off the 16- or 24-track master, a duplicate stereo mix is made of
just the instrumental tracks. So, when new vocals are added, all the
nuances of the original mix remains intact.
The Super Spots were produced using voice tracks recorded by
announcers, actors, and actresses from around the country. Since
many of these generic commercials were dialogue situations between
two or more people, differences in level, EQ and ambience were
noticed from tape to tape. To overcome the ambiance problem,
background music, sound effects, or a separate ambience track was
used behind these spots. And since these people were rarely recorded
together, we achieved a natural sounding conversation by stepping on
lines slightly when the tapes were transferred to 8-track. When
mixed, the voice tracks were compressed to match levels, and then
final EQ added to the voice tracks to match one another. The overall
effect of the finished spots was quite natural.
Sound effects are obtained from independent recordists, location
recording, and often are built by multi-tracking. Sound effects
purchased from recordists are often in mono, and must be processed
for stereo. We have found that with certain sounds, an Orban 245D
Stereo Synthesizer produces a believable separation.
During the summer of 1981 this writer recorded some sound effects in
the canyons of Lake Powell in northern Arizona. Since I didn't know
what weather or safety conditions would be like, I took along a Sony
TC158SD stereo cassette deck, stereo condenser mike, Koss Pro 4A
headphones, and used Scotch FeCr tape with Dolby noise reduction.
Beside the standard effects -- splashes, engine sounds, fishing
sound, etc. -- a series of shouts were recorded using the natural
echo of these canyons.
People were placed about 200 yards up the side of a canyon, and
recorded shouting lines like "help!", "I'm lost", "big sale" --
lines that could be used in spot production. With the quiet of the
evening, we obtained a recording that would be difficult to
duplicate in the studio.
Some effects have been created by multi-tracking a group of effects
to form a sound picture. Our "Paul Bunyan" sequence -- a tree being
chopped down in a forest -- was created by first recording the sound
of a log being chopped in a wooded area near the studio using an E-V
635 mike; overdubbing the splintering sound by slowly pulling apart
a cedar log; and then adding the tree crashing in the woods. The
"crashing" effect was achieved by throwing a log through a low,
leafy tree, recording at 15 IPS, then on the playback running it at
7 1/2 IPS. As the log was just coming out of the tree, we switched
speeds to 15 for a "woosh-boom" sound. Since an AKG C414 had been
placed close to where the log landed, the combination of the mike
pick-up and the vibrations in the boom stand created a big effect.
Two versions were mixed -- one with a shouted "timber," and the
other without. For added punch, we mixed through stereo UREI LN 1176
Limiters were only used on sound effects when we had a low-level
signal, or when there is material with sharp peaks. Sometimes wind
noise can be a factor with location recordings, and we will use a
UREI Model 565 Little Dipper filter set to cut off the low-end
rumble. Sound effects recorded in the studio are sometimes enhanced
by using the Eventide Harmonizer delay, or a Lexicon Prime Time, to
beef up the sound or create more space.
Electronic effects are created in many ways. "Twinkles," "zaps,"
"pings," etc. are often created on the synthesizers, then
embellished with delays, Harmonizer feedback or flanging. We have
found that taking a particular sound effect and processing it with
outboard equipment can produce some awesome electronic effects. For
example, we recently went around the studio recording everything
from file drawers opening and closing to raising and lowering
venetian blinds at different speeds. A series of outboard effects
were then set up with the Harmonizer and its associated keyboard,
echo, filter set, delay lines and vari-speed. We ran each sound
effect forward, and tried different toys until we found something we
liked. (When we ran the venetian blinds sound effect backwards, with
vari-speed from 15 to 30 IPS, and pitch-shifted this up an octave,
the-result was a great laser/phaser electronic effect. The thin
metal of the blinds pitched high, plus the strong attack achieved in
reverse, gave this effect a sound that would be hard to create with
Often our potpourri of percussion instruments or a drum machine will
be used to create some unusual sounds. An electronic helicopter was
built by programming the Roland TR808 handclap sound to play a
series of fast claps. This was recorded, the tape slowed down to
lower the pitch, and then some top-end EQ and slow flange added.
A mysterious sounding alarm bell was created using the NBC chimes
run through the Harmonizer in the reverse mode with a little
One comical effect was designed by editing a dog bark to the rhythm
of "Yankee Doodle," then running it through the Harmonizer and
playing the melody on the Harmonizer keyboard to change pitches.
A "robot voice" was developed using the Minimoog as a tone driver to
the Vocoder Plus. By using a square wave with one oscillator and a
sawtooth on another, tuning them slightly out, and playing the same
note as was spoken into the Vocoder, "Robby Robot" was born.
We have found the Eventide Model H949 Harmonizer and the Lexicon
Prime Time to be very versatile in production of all our electronic
effects and music. With the H949's optional keyboard, it is very
user-playable for adjustable flanging, pitch sweeps and glissandos.
Organizing the vast quantity of these sound and electronic effects
on paper is done via an Apple II computer with Visifile software, as
was all the cataloging for The Production Bank. With this program we
can categorize, alphabetize, and cross reference all the 500-plus
effects and the other production parts for the catalog.
The Mastering Process
Once all the elements of The Production Bank were mixed, checked for
mono compatibility, leadered and timed, they were shipped to a
number of record manufacturers to expedite pressing. With the
initial 50 disks, our stereo tapes were ¼-inch, two-track at 15 lPS
with no noise reduction.
The update disks - three every quarter - are mastered by Dick McGrew
of A&R Records in Dallas. "The secret to good mastering," McGrew
offers, "is to check everything as you go along -- from the tape
alignment on playback, to the pressing of the final disk. A lot of
it is just good quality control."
With the new Neumann VMS8O lathe A&R Records is using, and the
excellent results they've been getting, The Production Bank has not
felt a need to become involved with digital mastering or recording.
Due to the high cost of the equipment, the fact that most of the
music and sound effects we buy are analog, and the current audio
requirements of radio and TV stations, we will continue to use
analog methods. We are finding, however, that digital technology in
outboard gear, drum machines and synthesizers is playing an integral
role in our production.
While there were many frustrating hours spent recording, mixing and
editing, the pleasure of working with all of the great people
involved in the project made this an interesting and rewarding
experience. As I hear this library being used by broadcasters in
markets large and small, I'm proud to have been part of the project
known as The Production Bank.
MULTI-TRACK MUSIC PRODUCTION
A Conversation with Bob Pickering, Chief Engineer,
Cecca Sound Studios
When Toby and Dolly
Arnold record music and jingles for The Production Bank,
they often call on chief engineer Bob Pickering of Cecca
Sound, Charlie Pride's new studio in Dallas. Pickering
not only engineers, but often produces and writes music
for these sessions, while executive producer Dolly
Arnold handles the administrative duties.
As Picking points out, "In Nashville or New York,
sessions are often done 'simul' with no overdubbing.
What is normally done on jingle sessions in Dallas is to
cut the rhythm track first, then bring in the strings or
horns, a solo vocalist, and finally the vocal group."
This latter method has been used for years in Dallas due
to the need for different versions of a track, and to
provide more control in mixing.
When recording jingle tracks, Pickering uses Cecca's MCI
JH-24 24-track at 30 IPS with no noise reduction. "You
get a different record curve if you're cutting at 30
IPS," he considers, "plus you get a little more
'present' sound when you cut with no noise reduction."
But, he adds, "If a tape is going to be used a lot (many
transfers) people will record at 15 IPS with Dolby,
Pickering feels that with the improvement of amplifiers
in consoles and tape machines, noise reduction isn't as
necessary as it was in the past. Which leads to the
question of noise build-up from the multiple generations
a tape goes through in jingle production. "That's
virtually a thing of the past," he says. "At one time,
it was true. But today you can go down a few generations
and nobody can hear a tape and say, "Yeah, that's three
With the smooth punch-ins now possible with today's
multi-track production equipment, Pickering has a little
trick he uses in mixing short cuts from longer tracks:
"One thing I do while editing on a track - like pulling
a 10-second lift off the end of a [60-second] track - is
start the mixdown machine, then run the 24-track a
little before the edit point. When the spot where I want
the edit to start comes up, I punch the mixdown machine
into record. This results in a very smooth ramp."
Regarding the equalization of a music track for vocals,
he says, "The writer has to do that. You can have a wall
of sound there, but that doesn't mean that someone's
playing all the time. The best writers are the ones that
write very simply, and fill all the holes while making
He tries to EQ "for flavoring. When I'm recording, I
usually check everything on the console, and if I have
anything that's in an extreme position, I'll change the
mike, change its position, or whatever. I won't go to
real extremes equalizing things just to make them work
-- they never work."
Pickering's mic choices include a Sennheiser MD 431 or
421 on the kick drum, two 421s on the snare (top and
bottom), MILAB VM-41s on the toms, with an Electro-Voice
RE-20 on the floor tom, and a Milab DC-96 as an
overhead. He usually takes the bass direct, but prefers
to mike the bass amp, when time allows. "When you're
doing a jingle session, you're going like gangbusters,"
Other mic favorites include an AKG C414 on the acoustic
guitar, a MILAB DC-96 on the electric guitar, one C414
placed overhead for strings, and Neumann U-89s for
Mixing for the Media
Engineer Pickering has an optimistic view of the future
of broadcast audio. "During the Beatles' era one of the
things that made them popular was they were so hot…they
were so bright, no bottom end; they'd give you a haircut
when you listened to that stuff! But you could hear it
on AM radio really clear." With the popularity of FM
radio, and the fact that people are listening on better
equipment, he feels that jingle music recording is
moving in a better direction. "You want the jingles real
hot. There are a myriad of subtle things you do with the
sound to make it hot. Everyone wants their jingles to
sound like the records on the radio."
The music that is being produced today for jingles and
commercials is being recorded and mixed in much the same
way as the Top 40 songs that share the airwaves with
these jingles. State-of-the-art equipment, attention to
detail, working with people who have learned the
techniques of recording quickly and effectively - many
of the same ingredients that go into the pop hits of
today - add up to make Cecca Sound one of the many
quality recording studios in Dallas.
Cecca Sound's control room boasts an MCI JH-536
console equipped with 36 input channels, linked to an
MCI JH-24 multi-track tape machine.