Motown is known as a clean and soulful genre. With its smooth arrangements and rhythms, Motown became a large hit in the 1960s. Black musicians have always had an influence on the music scene. With genres like jazz and Motown, black musicians were adding individuality and expression into music, and producers of the era perfected their techniques and created hit after hit. A new texture in music rose in popularity and has affected modern popular music even now.
What Makes Motown, Motown?
Motown was all about tight arrangements, catchy hooks, and good production. That specific sound starts early in production when a song is arranged and then recorded. It's best, whether tracking a cover or an original work, to try to emulate the vibe you want from the beginning. While technology and recording styles have developed past the era of tape, looking into the details of how a genre was recorded at its time of popularity can help with achieving similar sounds in your own mix.
Motown was performed and recorded in one room with all musicians playing and singing at the same time. Early in American popular music, most records were played and recorded in one room all at once, sometimes with only one mic, going again and again until a take seemed good enough. By the time Motown came along, there was only room for 16 tracks to be recorded for any given song, all tracked on tape.
Musicians who had individuality with unique playing styles and musical choices were the most common to rise into popularity in the jazz and Motown genres. By keeping the history and techniques used for these genres in mind, you can better create a solid mix with a similar tone.
How To Accomplish A Motown Sound In A Modern Studio
It's all about what kind of ambiance you want to bring into your mix, not just the base recordings alone. As most cannot commit to recording a mix all on tape, here is how you can get a Motown vibe to your mix with modern recording technology and techniques.
How an artist performs really brings energy to a mix and isn't something you can add later on. Motown was all about energy, and the genre is full of performers feeding off each other as well as featuring their individuality. Musicians recorded in small houses in square rooms with wooden floors, so the room you record in can add to the ambiance as well.
Digital tracking gives a lot cleaner sound than tape can. It's important to use EQs to imitate similar frequencies a tape machine would use. Midrange frequencies are the main show in Motown mixes. That is where the bold and low, sultry and soulful tonality comes to life. Distortion with plug-ins and amps can also give your instruments and vocals a more distinct sound. You can also combine two tracks to get a brighter, fuller sound that is so sought after in Motown. Adding different types of compression like running the final mastered mix through a tape machine, provides nuance and energy to your Motown sound.
Approach the sound you want by following and recreating the recording processes used before in the genre you want. Having a good beginning leads to a good mix. Getting a skilled Motown producer to polish it up will add more to your work's ambiance and tone quality.
For more information on how to create Motown, contact a Motown music producer near you.