[Dixielandjazz] Re: Polkas and OKOM and Compromises

Dan Augustine ds.augustine at mail.utexas.edu
Fri Feb 28 14:17:16 PST 2003

>From: "Walker, Maurice" <maurice.walker at gwl.com>
>Date: Fri, 28 Feb 2003 12:59:55 -0700
>As you point out, the early New Orleans bands invariably used string bass
>and guitar. This is confirmed by photographs from the teens, in the period
>before NO bands began to be recorded. I used to wonder about this, and why
>the early recorded bands invariably used banjo and tuba.  I came to
>understand that the key word is "recorded".  Early acoustic equipment did
>not do well recording either string bass or guitar. The tuba and the banjo
>were used in their place because they did record well.
>In an article in the West Coast Rag years ago, NO bassist Steve Brown
>related how he was prevented from recording because the force of his bass
>kept causing the recording needle to jump from the groove or ruined the
>recording in some similar way. (Presumably all early bass players
>experienced the same problem.)  He finally learned to sit out when the band
>was making a test pressing, which was done using a softer wax.  Final
>pressings using a harder wax didn't experience the skipping problem.
>When the equipment improved, the banjo and the tuba were fairly quickly
>replaced by the bass and the guitar, restoring the instrumentation which had
>been typical before the NO bands began to record.
>The fact that most of the old recordings we treasure were done with banjo
>and tuba reflects the limitations of the equipment of the time.  As a banjo
>player (and sometimes doubler on tuba), it pains me greatly to have to face
>up to this.
>Maurie Walker
>Who still hasn't learned to play guitar
Maurie and others--
    I'm not following this.  WHY did the early recording equipment not record the string bass and guitar well?  Were they too soft or too loud? 
    It seems from what you say in the next paragraph that Steve Brown's string bass was too loud; is that true?  Louder than a tuba or sousaphone or helicon?

** Dan Augustine - ds.augustine at mail.utexas.edu             **
** Office of Admissions, University of Texas; Austin, Texas **

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