Ralph Dyck "father of midi" Part 1

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Ralph Dyck "father of midi" Part 1

Postby Dave Thomas » Tue Feb 11, 2014 4:52 pm

I decided to write about some of the experiences I have had with incredibly talented artists during my time as a Pro Audio tech and recording engineer in Vancouver.

Some, like Ralph Dyck who can only be characterized as a true genius. Ralph passed away last June from heart complications at the age of 71, his contribution to modern recording technology and music composition techniques has changed how we recording music. I decided to start out with Ralph who was a true inspiration and mentor in the creation of Advanced Audio Microphones. Ralph was one of the most, gentle intelligent, funny and talented musicians I have ever met as well as a true electronic genius; not only could Ralph repair and build electronic audio circuits as I did but Ralph could actually design and build circuits that played music from a sequencer of his design in the late 60’s plus he was a brilliant jazz musician and classical musician.

I first met Ralph Dyck in early 1971. In the late 60's I had worked at Kelly Deyong Sound in Vancouver as a tech and live sound mixer providing back-line support for acts like Led Zepplin,The Doors,The Jefferson Airplane,Three Dog Night, Hendrix and others.

In early 1971 I went to work for Long & Mcquade Music in Vancouver as a tech and pro audio salesman and remember Ralph coming into the store to get his Fender Rhodes repaired by me. Ralph was a first call Jazz player with incredible talent and was at home on the Rhodes as he was on vibrophone or accordion. We knew Ralph was working at UBC (University of British Columbia) in the music department building a synthesizer that could be played from some kind of sequencing computer circuit board.

I had become more interested in electronic music after being called down to repair Keith Emerson's hammond at the ELP concert in Vancouver in July 1971 and got to see his giant custom Moog modular set-up which took 15-20 minutes to stabilize the oscillators. We had also heard Walter (Wendy) Carlos an American composer & electronic musician who had released Switched-On Bach In 1968, a recording of music by J.S. Bach assembled phrase-by-phrase on a giant plug-in Moog synthesizer like the one Keith Emerson brought to Vancouver. The album Switched On Bach earned three Grammy Awards in 1969.

We had also just got the new Mini-moogs into the music store and I was learning how to repair them. I remember talking with Ralph about the oscillator circuits and the problem keeping the oscillators in tune which Ralph solved in his later synth designs.

http://rolandmc8.wordpress.com/2010/03/ ... ular-synth.

During this time I had build a 4-track demo/project studio in a shed behind a small rancher that my wife and I had rented in Richmond BC out by the Vancouver airport.

The control room was actually a small 6'x10' storage room at the back of the shed which was 10' x22'. So, the "control room" was not very reliable for accurate monitoring but we were the only DEMO studio in the Vancouver area at the time.

The shed backed onto a 5 acre property so isolation was not a problem except for the occasional change in airport flight plans. Bass notes could easily travel through the thin clapboard walls of the shed so the sound in the shed was not overly boomy.
Baring any change in the airport flight path or the occasional visit from the farmer who owned the acreage with his tractor to plow up the field, the studio sounded very useable.

The studio consisted of a 1/4" Sony 4-track that Ken Morrison who also worked at L&M had bartered for, a highly modified 8 channel discrete transformer coupled Traynor mixer plus a handful of Shure, EV and AKG dynamic microphones. Ken later became the majority shareholder in Ocean Sound Studios and was a master at the art of "Wheeling and Dealing" to his favour.

Ralph along with Laurie Wallace, who had an 8 track studio called Total Sound West were impressed enough with what we had recorded in the "shed" that they asked us if we could bring the 4-track and mixer down to Puccini's restaurant. They wanted to record tracks for a live record with Ralph Dyck (keyboards), Dale Jacobs (keyboards), Doug Cuthbert (drums) and Brian Harrison (bass). The Dale Jacobs Trio played at the Hogan's Alley bar at Puccini's restaurant five days a week and Ralph joined them for the recordings dates of mostly music he and Dale had written and arranged. The only thing I needed was a transformer split for the P/A microphone which I custom built.

We set our 4-track, mixer and AR (Dynakit bookshelf) speakers down in the wine cellar to record, then we took the 4-track masters to Laurie at Total Sounds West to mix.
The live at Puccini's record was a minor success and the very first record I was involved in making. It got airtime on the CBC and on a late night syndicated 3-hour jazz radio show emanating from one of the early Vancouver FM stations.
Sony 4 track.jpg
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This was really exciting for me I got to watch Laurie and Ralph mix some of record and learn about the process of cutting a vinyl record. The intro to the song Discovery for example was recorded in Ralph’s electronic music studio onto a 2 track. The 2 track intro mix was recorded over to another 2 track as Ralph played a live "string" synth part over top of the Discovery Intro as Laurie started up the 4 track mix of the live tracks we had recorded. At around this time Laurie was also working with the Hudson Brothers and Mark Hudson went on to write and produce with artists, such as Bon Jovi, Ringo Starr, Ozzy Osbourne, Celine Dion and Aerosmith. I believe Mark was working with Ringo Starr around this time and it was inspirational that a Vancouver "hippie" could be two degrees away from working with a Beatle.

The live at Puccini's morphed into a 16 episode live syndicated jazz radio show which Edward John and I would record at Puccini's once a week. Edward went on to build and engineer at the "bunker" Studio in North Vancouver which rapidly went from 4-track to 24 track within barely a 5 year period.

Mixing the radio show with Ralph and Dale was the start of Ocean Sound and by 1972 we moved the "demo" studio into a concrete block double garage studio in North Vancouver. We purchased a brand new Speck 16X8 console so we could mix the radio shows in North Vancouver as Laurie was so busy with Total Sounds West he had not time to mix the radio shows.
I have include a picture of the Speck.

The Speck was full of “new” 741 IC's so boosting any EQ completely annihilated the 741's already low slew-rate and cut not boost was the "mantra". The microphone preamps did not sound quite as smooth as the highly modified discrete class "A" Traynor mixer but it was much more functional than the homebrew mixer as it had 8 groups, 3 aux sends, 10-Vu meters, 16-channel in-line monitoring, solo, talkback and faders. It was pretty impressive to us in the early 70's that we had 16 long throw faders to play with.

Speck 16x8.jpg
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However, we basically used the Speck as a summing mixer and reduced the line input level to -10 and stayed away from EQ. The Speck drove a Revox 2-track with -10dbu inputs for the final mix. We had a rack of 4- Altec tube microphone preamps and we managed to make it all work.

Our reverb was an AKG 15bx spring reverb and there was an old Sony 2-track that we used for tape echo.
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Ralph played on the first few episodes of the radio series but then Ralph was hired by Paul Horn to play in his Quintet. So Dale would book guests for the Friday night radio show around Ralph's busy schedule with The Paul Horn Quintet.

Ralph and Dale would often come over during the mix and add some live synth parts as the mix went down to the 2-track. This is one of the reasons folks think these recordings were done in the late 70's not early 70's as the synth sounds are very thick and sophisticated.

The two of them even with mono note synthesizers of the day and playing together on a single overdub could create very nice harmony parts with great texture.

Paul Horn had needed a keyboard player with Ralph's musical pedigree and one who could capture the new electronic music "sounds". Paul had won two Grammy's and had five nominations over his career of playing with Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Frank Sinatra, Nat Kin Cole, Tony Bennett, Buddy Rich, Chick Corea, Donovan, Quincy Jones, Joni Mitchell and Ravi Shankar plus was first flute on the John Carson tonight show for many years. Paul is known as the ‘Father of New Age Music’ for his seminal album, Inside the Taj Mahal that he recorded with a mono Nagra & dynamic microphone slung over his sholder on a trip back from India "hanging" with the Beatles and the Maharishi in 1968. The record went Platinum by 1969 and cost next to nothing to produce. Unfortunately, we lost Paul earlier this year to a sudden illness and he was 84. http://paulhornmusic.com

I remember him telling me about a call he got to fill in for the 2nd Sax player on the Lawrence Welk Show and that he told "Larry" very politely that he couldn't make the date.
The TV date would pay much more money than Paul's gig later that evening as a guest artist in an LA Club with his friend Tony Bennett.

At the same time as playing with Paul and sitting in as a guest with Dale on the radio show Ralph continued to built synthesizer circuits and improve on his computer sequencing technology which later morphed into the Roland MC8 & MIDI. Ralph was also at the time using his sequenced synthesizer modules to score for radio and TV jingles.

http://rolandmc8.wordpress.com/2013/01/ ... -the-mc-8/

By late 1973 Paul Horn had a syndicated Jazz TV show shot in Vancouver that ran for 16 episodes. Ralph had invited me down to meet Paul and to watch the proceedings. The level of musicianship and collaboration between Ralph and Paul was truly inspiring.

I had also gone to visit Ralph at Little Mountain Sound Studios where he had a small studio in what is now the loading dock. He produced sequenced synthesizer parts and arrangements for a lot of radio and TV commercials during this time and continued to play on dates with Paul Horn. For the next few years Ralph was busy with Paul Horn and providing sequencing for film, TV and records and working on his synthesizer and sequencer.

Ralph continued to play with Paul but was also consulting with Roland to have his MC8 micro-composer put into production which happened in 1977. It wasn’t long before one got into the hands of some members from Toto and Ralph was called down to LA.

In late 1979 Ralph came up to Ocean Sound in North Vancouver which by now was referred to as “the bunker” because of its concrete block construction and an incident that happened with Vancouver’s punk rock band DOA... but that’s a story for another time.

Ralph had brought with him to the “bunker” Mike Pecaro from Toto and Guy Sobel who was producing a record for his wife Denise McCann. Denise and Guy had a big “disco” hit called Tattoo Man in about 1977 but “disco” died overnight in late 1979 while they were working on a 2nd record. Ralph had helped Guy to re-edit the new 20 minus disco “opus” into a 3:30 minute pop/rock song.

In 1973 we had bought the Scully 1” 8-track from Laurie Wallace at Total Sounds West. The Scully 8 track had lovely discrete transformer coupled microphone preamps on each channel.
So, you could record direct to tape and just monitor back on the Speck 16 Channel console and use it for mixing.
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In October of 1975 I had gone to New York to attend the AES and buy a used 16 Track Scully 2” machine from Bell Sound.
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We had the 16 track for a year and then had the opportunity to buy a used Studer 2” 24 track with a 16 track head stack from a studio in Montreal which meant we could get work from folks with both 16 track and 24 track 2" recordings.
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Also, in 1975 we bought a Soundcraft Mark IV 24x8x8 with full throw P&G faders and a patchbay. Ocean was now a professional studio but still in the garage.

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So, Ralph and Guy arrive with full blown 24 track masters in the garage studio with 4 tracks of drums, 4 tracks of strings and 4 tracks of the “tower of power” power horn section plus bass, guitars and keyboards. Ralph had written a chart for Mike Percaro to replace the “disco” bass line and Guy had Kat Hendrix (Mr. Absolute Time) replace the disco drum groove with something more rock oriented. Kat the quintessential studio drummer played on 7 out of the 9 songs on Hearts first record. Because the Denise McCann song has been cut down from 20 minutes to 3 minutes there was a slight pitch change to the strings at the edits so Jeff had to re-tune and we would punch him in at each of the edit points. Ralph then put on a new sequenced synth track somewhat in the tradition of the programming he did later on TOTO’s Africa.

At this time we were also finishing construction of a new two studio facility at Burrard and 2nd ave in Vancouver. Edward John designed the studio & control room layout and Doug McCann was given the challenge as chief carpenter of turning these plans into reality which he did brilliantly. I was responsible for everything electronic including the electrical layout.

We planned to move the Studer 24 track there and buy a new 32X24x24 Series 80 recording console for control room “A” and the Soundcraft would go into Studio “B”. We had long realized the ‘bunker” was too small and we would get more work in a bigger downtown facility. Hearing this Ralph told me that he and Paul Horn were looking for a studio to record a new record they were calling Jupiter 8. This involved arrangements he had programmed with his MC8 controlling the new Roland Jupiter 8 synthesizer and overdubs with Paul on flutes and saxophones.

Our new location was very close to where Ralph lived and he liked the idea of the new Trident recording console. They sent Laurie over to check out the studio console and acoustics then with Laurie’s blessing we started recording Jupiter 8 not two hours after I finished wiring up the last connections to the Trident Series 80.
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Laurie engineered the first couple of sessions and then handed the reigns over to me and came back later in the year to be part of the mix team. Ralph has brought back this prototype automation system from Roland and we only had to pan, switch in effects and change reverb levels for the mix. It was Ralph, Laurie and I with hands on the Trident Mixer while Paul directed the mix from his music charts.

http://rolandmc8.wordpress.com/2010/02/ ... alph-dyck/

The audio on the U-tube video came from the original beta camera used to film the first day of proceedings on Jupiter 8 and the dolby unfortunately was not engaged when is was transferred to U-tube. The complete audio track of transitions that appears above the U-tube video came from the original record mix and is much better quality.

I will try and remember some more of the details regarding the recording of Jupiter 8 on my next post.

Cheer, Dave
Dave Thomas
Posts: 172
Joined: Mon Dec 30, 2013 2:46 pm

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