Abbey Road in a Box

A Hidden Message

Propellerhead Software

“Well you should see Polythene Pam
She’s so good-looking but she looks like a man
Well you should see her in drag dressed in her polythene bag
Yes you should see Polythene Pam.
Yeah yeah yeah”

The Beatles, Abbey Road

Many of you know that I’m a huge music fan. Much of my photography is inspired by music and my life pretty much has a constant soundtrack running. As I’m writing this post I’ve got Polythene Pam running in the background from The Beatles’ Abbey Road Album.

Why Abbey Road tonight? Well because I just got off a video ichat with my friend Josh who is a musician on the cutting edge of it all who excitedly told me about the latest things coming out of the digital music creation space, Abbey Road Keyboards.

Abbey Road Keyboards are a ReFill (essentially music sampling type add ons) that you can buy to plug into your “Reason Rack” (a software package to create music on your computer.) What Abbey Road Keyboards represents, is for the first time complete virtual sound control over seven instruments from the Abbey Road Studios. The same Abbey Road Studios where The Beatles recorded Abbey Road. You can read more about it here.

Now much of this is beyond my comprehension frankly, but with Abbey Road Keyboards, for about $300, anyone can now perfectly recreate the sounds as though they were recording in the actual Abbey Road Studios themselves.

“The Abbey Road Keyboards were recorded using the original mics, outboard and vintage mixing desk from Abbey Road’s Studio Two, recreating not only the sound of the instruments themselves, but the very signal paths, technology and recording techniques that is the Abbey Road sound. Each instrument was captured using multiple microphones placed at different locations in Studio Two’s beautiful sounding recording space, allowing for full ambience control in Reason.”

Why does this type of thing excite me? Well, in the olden days (can we call them that?), it used to be that in order to create something as professionally sounding as Abbey Road, you had to, well, record at Abbey Road. Not cheap.

Now certainly music creation software has been around for a while now. And we probably have as many weekend warriors screwing around with GarageBand as we do hacking around with Photoshop. But when you start introducing virtual studios like Abbey Road, I think you add even a more amazing layer on top of the whole world of amateur music creation.

Now I have no idea what it would cost to record an album at Abbey Road studios, but I’d bet that a week of recording time probably goes for at least $25,000 if not more. But now, musicians can essentially get something comparable in the form of software for $300. What this means is that a great barrier to entry is coming down. And I think this is a really good thing.

I also think that this can be a bad thing too. Because by giving any Tom, Dick or Harry cheap access to a virtual studio like this you are bound to get a lot of crap being produced. But… you also open music production up quite a bit to a new breed of emerging talent that in the past might not have been able to afford studio time.

In the end though, I’ll take this new tool. Even though you get more chaff, you also get more wheat, and this is a good thing.

My friend Josh actually recorded one of the sample tracks using this new Abbey Road software. It sounds nothing like the Beatles of course, but it’s amazing how you can still hear the Abbey Road production value in the keyboards on his track. You can click through here to hear the song he composed on his Mac with this new software called “I’m in Here.”

Take a listen and tell me if this does not sound as though it were actually recorded at Abbey Road.

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One Comment

  1. TravisP says:

    Thomas,

    Not sure if you knew or not, but BBC just did a 40th Anniversary gig for Sgt. Peppers. Thought you might be interested in trying to get a listen. It was played last weekend here in the UK on BBC Radio 2.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/pressoffice/pressreleases/stories/2007/04_april/06/sgt_pepper.shtml

    All of the versions were pretty good.

    TravisP