On what song did Bowie use the gated mics trick?
May 30, 2006 11:09 AM   Subscribe

A question about vocals on a David Bowie record.

A few years ago, I saw an interview with Bowie in which he described a technique they'd used to record his vocals. They'd set up a main vocal mic, and then at distances of, say, 20 ft and 40 ft, they set up two other vocal mics and put gates on them.

So... when he would sing at a "normal" volume, only the first mic would be open. During louder parts, maybe the first mic's gate would open, and at extremely loud parts, both of the gated mics would open. Obviously, this would introduce various amounts of good times for each part of the track.

So, I guess I have a bunch of questions.

Does this sound familiar to anyone? If so, does anyone remember what song it was for? How does it sound? Have others used this technique to their advantage?
posted by jon_kill to Media & Arts (6 answers total)
I heard this was used for Heroes.
posted by matthewr at 11:10 AM on May 30, 2006

Best answer: Wikipedia says: Tony Visconti rigged up a system of three microphones to capture the epic vocal, with one microphone 9 inches from Bowie, one 20 feet away and one 50 feet away. Only the first was opened for the quieter opening vocals, with the first and second opening on the louder passages, and all three on the loudest parts, creating progressively more reverb and ambience on the louder parts.
posted by matthewr at 11:13 AM on May 30, 2006 [1 favorite]

What a vocal. I thought it was Eno that set it up though.
posted by ClanvidHorse at 12:04 PM on May 30, 2006

Yeah, it was "Heroes".
posted by Hanover Phist at 12:20 PM on May 30, 2006

My ex, who's a sound engineer, tells me this is now a standard effect on some processors.
posted by lunalaguna at 12:58 PM on May 30, 2006

i've used it, but without so much distance. i stick the gated mic maybe 3 or 4 feet further than the main mic, and then put an aural exciter or a flanger or something, set real weak, on the gated mic.
however, you need a very dynamic singer to be able to get anything out of it, or to even have fun with it for that matter.
posted by gally99 at 11:53 PM on May 30, 2006

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