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Can I get close to that Beatles sound?

Discussion in 'Recording' started by sproll, Dec 2, 2004.

  1. sproll

    sproll Active Member

    Hi everyone,

    Now before I get flamed or told I'm just stupid, I know what I'm about to ask is probably not possible... however, I thought you might be able to get me half decently close to the sound that I am looking for.

    The other day we were in our new project studio and decided to throw a couple mics up in front of a guitar amp. The guitar player is very good, his tone is excellent, and the gear he uses is top notch. However, upon trying to get what he likes translated to our PC, we didn't even come close. He really wants his guitar to sound something like the old Beatles records in the late 60s early 70s. Here is what we have for gear at our disposal.

    1965 Fender Princeton (Blackface, original)
    1973 Fender Telecaster Custom (original)
    **not using pedals for breakup, just amp

    MAudio Delta 1010
    Mackie 1604 VLZ Pro
    Studio Projects C1
    (2) SM57's
    Audix D1, (3) D2's, D4, (2) ADX-50's
    Shure Beta 87a

    I know it's not the greatest gear, especially the preamps we are using, but maybe someone could point us in the right direction as for what combos of mics to use, positions, etc. The sound we are getting from the 57 just doesnt sound like what the amp sounds like in the room at all. I also tried blending in the C1 and it helps, but not enough to make him happy.

  2. inLoco

    inLoco Active Member

    you know there are a lot of articles in magazines of the way the fab 4 recorded!
    so if you do a little search on the net on magazines like recording, eq, mix, you'll find them! try beatles fan pages! they might have!
    i know i have a whole beatles way they recorded here around my stack of magazines! it came out i think on the old home recording magazine (how i loved it...)
  3. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Better get a great big wide tape machine of some sort, couple it up with some electronic creations that were made by a bunch of electronic genius's from down the hall, connect several Telefunken mics made in the 40's to it,Hire Geoff Emerick to mess around with sound ideas when the committee isnt looking,get Sir George Martin to throw in a few pointers,be sure your recording space can hold at least 100 piece orchestras,make sure your songwriting skills and creative energy is on a level with John,Paul,George,and Ringo, and you might get close.

    no really....I'm serious.
  4. AudioGaff

    AudioGaff Well-Known Member

    What makes you think that even if the Beatles were together and recorded with the same gear as you have now that they would sound even close to what they did back then or that they would even want too??

    Get it? They wouldn't and they couldn't - and neither will you, ever. Best you could ever hope for is to copy or emulate their style.
  5. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Actually, the answer can be pretty much summed up in one word ... TUBES! Almost all the gear the Beatles used through most of their recording carrier was tube based. Mics, pre amps, compressors, even the recorders and cutting lathes used to cut the masters.

    BTW if you really want to hear what those records were supposed to sound like, look for some vinyl pressings on Parliphone ... the USA pressings were done off of safety masters that were down a couple generations and mucked up by the fu%kheads at Capitol in LA to make them sound more like "American records" ... I feel this is the case even in regard to the reissued CD masters that Sir George did. The original Parliphone pressings are the best sounding out of all of them, IMO ...

    It's fun to watch some young person who has never heard the original pressings and see their jaws hit the floor when I play my Beatle vinyl to them. The differences are astounding.
  6. sproll

    sproll Active Member

    So basically you're all saying forget it, there's no way I can get close to that sound with the gear I have, and my guitarist will have to suffice with having a Creed guitar tone?
  7. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Well to follow up on what Kurt and others are saying.

    First the Beatles were dealing with analog tape recorders and tubes and were using the technology available to them at the time they were creating their style of music. If you read the articles mentioned you will find that they did a lot of experimenting and spent a lot of time collaborating between themselves and their producer . A lot of overdubbing was done using two track tape recorders and later 4 track tape recorders. They had to work with what was available to them at the TIME and PLACE they were working. They had a good engineer and a good producer working with them and the production people knew how to get the most out of the equipment they had to work with. The Beatles were also good musicians and were able to overcome the limitations of the equipment with inventive ideas and ways of working.

    I read a post in another photographic forum that asked how one could take photographs like Matthew Brady (famous civil war photographer). The reply was get yourself a horse and buggy, build a darkroom on the back of the wagon, go without sleep and or food for long periods of time, be in the middle of the civil war and learn how to make all your own photographic equipment and chemicals from scratch. Then live the life that Matthew Brady lived and learn all the things that he knew about and forget about all the things you know about today and maybe you with lots of practice can do what Matthew Brady did but the chances are you cannot.

    The same thing applies to what you are doing. You are sitting on all the accumulated audio knowledge between the 1960's and now, you are using modern digital and analog equipment that was not even known at the time of the Beatles, you are not using tape recorders or tubes and you are not John, Paul, George or Ringo nor do you have their producer or engineer to work with you.

    If you really want to sound like the Beatles then get yourself some vintage gear similar to what they were using, read all you can about how they did their recordings and keep experimenting until you find what you are looking for.


    Best of Luck on your quest.
  8. IainDearg

    IainDearg Guest

    You cited these guitars:

    1965 Fender Princeton (Blackface, original)
    1973 Fender Telecaster Custom (original)

    Beatles at the time you mentioned were using Epiphone Casinos and a Gibson SG here and there. Martin D28s for acoustic. Rickenbacker bass. To my recollection no Fenders but I might have forgotten.
  9. inLoco

    inLoco Active Member

    geee man from a creed sound to a beatles sound...
    nuff said...

    try guitars with double and not single coil pickups!
    if it isn't possible try to emulate with the boss gt-6 or a pod! something like that...
    go tube all the way but still i think you'd need those beatle pres...
    wanna go to abby road? :)
  10. IainDearg

    IainDearg Guest

    sorry - just remembered - George did have a strat but whether he used it in earnest I don't recall.
  11. sproll

    sproll Active Member

    Let me re-phrase since I'm getting the responses I knew I would.

    The Beatles guitar sound was natural, full, and could have some slight breakup on it. Their sound is completely different than the guitars you hear these days.

    I would like to try and be able to make my guitar sound natural, warm and full and the breakup to be done by using the amp and overdriving it slightly. The guitar sounds GREAT coming out of the amp, just how I would like it to sound on the CD. However, somewhere along the way between the mic and the PC, its sound changes to something completely different.

    (drum roll) Can the sound that I hear coming out of the amp be properly recorded with the gear I have so it sounds like the original using mic placement, different mics, multiple mics, etc. OR, am I screwed and my guitar tone on the PC when recorded will always sound different than the source because I'm using digital. (or bad pre amps, or no tube gear, or no U47's, etc etc)
  12. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Short answer; NO ..

    Long answer; Recording guitars, in any situation is always a hit and miss proposition. It is almost impossible to get exactly what you hear in a room to the recorder ... At issue is first, mics ... all mics will affect the tone in some ways ... no mic will record the sound exactly as you hear it ... all mics add a sonic signature of their own .. The person who invents the "perfect" mic will become very rich. Second, is the electronics in the pre amps, compressors and recorder ... same thing ... almost all gear will add a sonic signature or at the very least, fail to capture the sound in its entirety. My solution has always been to consider the mic and front end as part of the sound and to work with it, rather than fight it. Monitor in the CR through the playback system and use the mic and front end as well as the guitar and amp to manipulate the sound until you get what you want.

    Another problem we are having is which Beatle songs are you talking about ... they actually had many different tones they used over the years ... some were recorded with the Gretch and Rickenbacker guitars through old vintage Vox "square top" AC 10s and AC 30 amps ... some tracks were done with (as mentioned already) Epiphone Casinos, SG's and Strats through Fender Twins. Some sound to me as if they were done direct through the EMI custom built console (Revolution) ...

    I always thought the guitars on the early recordings up to Revolver, were kind of thin and chunky sounding ... and there's a lot to be said for the way that the guitar parts were played ... Lennon learned some very weird banjo chords from his mother that he used on the guitar ... the combination of the chords and the 3/4 scale Rickenbacker he played produced some unique sounds when combined with Harrisons comping. Even early on they understood the concept of spreading the chords out and not playing the same voicings on both guitars ..

    My advice is to try to get the tone as close to something you can live with and focus on the song and performance.
  13. mikE@THECAVE

    mikE@THECAVE Guest

    get a nice tube mic and a tube pre and see what happens to your sound
  14. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Theres a LOT of Gibson JE-160 acoustic guitars in Beatles music.Round shouldered with a pickup.Very few Martin tracks.George used his Strat, called 'Rocky' a lot.They used this guitar from Rubber Soul on....John had a matching Sonic Blue Strat also...George's was painted psychedelic...It was his slide guitar...It is the guitar sound on Sergeant Pepper...And on Nowhere Man...and many others.....Mostly they used Twins...Mostly they recorded each song a minimum of 25 times...Sir George then pieced the tracks sections they liked best and made a completed song...If you want to hear Beatles as a band, the newest album...The Beatles Let It BE Naked..is the best way to hear bthem without a lot of production ....let it be.
  15. J-3

    J-3 Active Member

    Yep, recording elec gtrs can be tricky. I just picked up a Royer 121 ribbon mic mostly becasue I kept reading the phrase "it records what your ears hear in the room" or somthing like that. NOPE! Now I admit I've only played with it for about 2 or 3 hours and often I need a while to "learn" my new gear but I honestly had a 57 in the same position as my 121 and both going thru a Great River MP2nv and they sounded very similar. Infact, flip the 121 backwards to get a 10% trebble boost and myself and 2 other guitarist thought the 2 mics sounded very similar and couldn't tell one from the other. One cost $1200 the other was $45 from a pawn shop. When tracking percussion today (congas, shakers, timbales, tamborines etc, the Neumann TLM103 and SM57 beat out the 121 every time. Perhaps I got a bunk mic. It's new right from Royer.

    My best advice on guitar tone or anything for that matter is get the best tone/performance first the mic placement. IMHO this is more important than MP2nv/ribbon/mic/Neumann blah blah blah....(of course they dont' hurt...heh heh heh) Best thing I did to my elec gtr recording was better pickups, modified 60's tube amps and modified pedals. Also, the players fingers make TONS!!!! of difference.

    Good luck

    by the way my Royer Rant will be a post in the very near future!
  16. riffgibson

    riffgibson Guest

    I hear what you are saying, you just want a Beatle-y sounding guitar...that could be a number of sounds.. the funky Carl Perkins stuff he did on the early records with a Gretch and a Vox AC30..the mid-range boosted clean stuff from the Day Tripper period..the sharp fuzzy sound from She said She said or Paperback Writer..the "overload the console pre's"sound from Revolution..the Lesly'd sound from Let it Be..I'd probably start with hollow body electric thru a Vox AC30..by the way George is playing a strat for the first time on Nowhere Man...
  17. sheet

    sheet Well-Known Member

    Beatles sound? Find their same guitars, use their touch, use original amps, not the suck reissues, get some Chandler EMI preamps, mic the amps with Neumann U47's, record to a beefy analog machine like a Studer A80 with a 8-track head stack. That ought to get you close.
  18. wwittman

    wwittman Active Member

    A few things:
    One is, the particular choices they made on particular songs is HIGHLY contested and controversial.
    Some people swear George used the Rocky Start all the time, others swear he hardly did.
    Take a look at some other forums occasionally and you can read a hundred posts of opinions as to what guitar was used on a particular song! (not to MENTION what went into the opening chord of A Hard Day's Night... a quasi-religious quest)
    We're all GUESSING (and not without our own prejudices as to what we'd LIKE to believe it was)

    But assuming the question was reasonable, and you don't really expect to be the Beatles...
    Some things we DO know... they almost always recorded guitars with a single mic 1-3 feet in front of a single amp.
    An amp made before 1970... often a JMI Vox, but not always.
    In those later years, they did use fuzz and other effects including Leslie cabinets), sometimes the built in distortion in the later 7 series Voxes.

    The single mic was probably a large condenser, tube mic, often we see U-47's in pictures.
    We know Geoff was very fond of many things through Fairchild 660 and 670 compressors (except the bass guitar)...
    And we know the desks were tube EMI custom ones until the very end when the first EMI transistor desks appeared. (The Chandler EMI channel stuff is pretty close if you can get your hands on some)

    And we know they recorded to tape, at 15ips, almost certainly CCIR and usually if not always to all tube tape machines as well.

    MOST Beatle guitars were in fact single coil pick-up models. The Rickenbackers, the Strat and Telecaster, the Casinos (which all three had), the J-160e (which also has a P-90), and the Tenessean.
    Yes, there's also humbucking Country Gentleman and some SG Standard, but not the majority.
    They definitely also used acoustic Martins later as well (and John had a Framus 12).

    Does this help you?
    I wonder.
    I'm a big fan of a single large diaphragm condenser on an amp; into a good discrete transistor/transformer in, mic pre; followed by a tube compressor (and a Fairchild is hard to beat).
    It's my basic chain for electric guitars, and not specifically because it's Beatle-esque.
    That would be a good place to start.
    But that's if you CAN.

    of COURSE digital recording is going to sound different. But you're probably listening to a CD of the Beatles! Not an original analog tape.
    So that's not the WHOLE story.

    A great amp, great guitar, great mic and great mic pre (perhaps adding a great compressor) should put you in the ballgame.
    but of course this is not always available.

    You have to face it, that you can't always get what you want (no musical ref intended) with the gear you have at hand.
    Only as close as you can manage.

    hope this helps in some small way.

    william wittman
    (Cyndi Lauper, Joan Osborne, the Fixx, The Outfield...)
  19. sproll

    sproll Active Member

    Thanks wwittman, your answer was the closest to what I was actually asking. :)

    I know they used different guitars, amps, mics, outboard gear, etc... but I don't want to sound exactly like them. What I want to know is how to get the best sound out of the gear that I have. "Best" sound being NOT what you typically hear on the radio today... but closer to what the Beatles sounded like in the early 70's. It is only a reference point... perhaps I should've just said "a vintage sound" and not the Beatles. Warm, full, slightly overdriven but not distorted.

    If the closest I can get to that is sticking a LDC (in this case my SP C1 and not a U47) 1 to 3 feet in front of the amp, running it into my Mackie XDR preamp, (and not a vintage tube pre) and then recording digitally onto a hard drive instead of tape, then that is what I will have to do. My budget is extremely limited and I have to work with what I have. Tips like buy guitar x, play like Lennon, run through vintage everything in a great sounding room with Sir George Martin at the helm are pretty useless. (On the other hand I'm coming to realize that asking how I can get a Beatles sound using the gear that I have is pretty useless as well)

    If anyone wishes to further post on this thread, please try to give me some tips on getting a "good" guitar sound using the gear that I have. I also have access to many plugins on the computer, I don't know if they will help but it is another option I have.

    It's just a shame that the guitar player has such great tone coming out of his amp but I can't capture it correctly. Any ideas would be much appreciated.
  20. wwittman

    wwittman Active Member

    I honestly think the biggest improvement you can make is a high quality mic pre.

    But even given what you have, try the condenser about a foot in front of the amp and adjust the tone at the amp, as necessary, while listening through your monitors.

    Should be at least a start!

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