Tom's contribution to the Music Industry


The Fifties:

Of notable account, credit and recognition must be given to Bill Putnam, friend, visionary and designer of United/Western Recorders, Hollywood (during the 50´s-60´s) for his pioneer work in studio room geometric design, acoustic echo chambers and electronic component development and marketing

Bill´s impact on the music industry was significant and although no longer with us, he was responsible for motivating «new thinking» with many of us of that time and era.

Exiting the Fifties:

There was the beginning of a major move in the music scene.

Acoustic orchestras of the time such as Nelson Riddle, Frank DeVol, David Rose, Gordon Jenkins, Billy May and others, were typically providing «star vocalists» and «featured instrumentalists» with twenty to thirty piece orchestra backing tracks, as well as providing sound tracks for the film industry. There was also Sauter-Finnigan, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Stan Kenton, Woody Herman, Les Brown, Ted Heath and other «Big Bands» of the era, along with the many acoustic jazz groups too numerous to mention, but they were/are musical giants and have become legends.

These productions were almost wholly acoustic in nature and as such, sound pressure levels (SPL) on the studio floor generated by these 20-30 piece backing orchestras and «Big Bands» were typically in the range of 95-110 SPL.

In 1966 at TTG Studios Hollywood, while standing in the middle of the 18-piece Basie Band, I measured 107 SPL at a triple forte passage.

As the cultural revolution began in the sixties «electronic instruments» with 5 to 8 piece bands began arriving at the studio playing very different music and at much louder levels. During this «transition period» of the sixties, while standing next to Eric Burden and the Animals´ 5 piece band in 1965 at TTG Studios, I measured 119 SPL.

Later, in 1978 at Mountain Studios in Montreux, I measured the Deep Purple 7-piece band at 132 SPL from the lead guitar on the studio floor (with ear protectors of course).

ALL THIS TO SAY, the sweeping change in the nature and composition of the orchestra and bands between the fifties and sixties brought about the need for acoustic change in the rooms (studios) that this «new music» was being performed and recorded in, along with new electronic techniques introduced in the recording process.

As a studio owner in 1965 whose room was capable of 75 musicians on the studio floor, I had no choice but to respond to this need with sweeping acoustic innovations of control rooms and studios from the then existing concept of the fifties to, and for the «new music» generations ahead.

As you review our «industry firsts» acoustic innovations from 1965-1998 which follow, the evolution of acoustic design put forward and implanted over the years is a «snapshot» of the early fundamental necessities (1965-1970), and the later refinements in the evolving design process from 1972-1998.

Tom Hidley