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Ok, so recently, I've been listening to a great deal of Motown, and I'm always amazed by the sound of the bass, specifically in songs like Papa Was A Rolling Stone. I doubt I'll be able to emulate that, and I also understand the bass players were simply great musicians, but just out of curiosity does anyone have any knowledge of the recording process used to capture the bass?


BobRogers Thu, 01/03/2008 - 08:06

I don't have much to add to the equipment discussion that has not already been said. But for reading/reference material you can try

Jamerson, Dunn, and Kaye had a lot of similar influences and playing techniques, but enough differences to make studying all of them worthwhile. As far as I can tell, none of them were really gearheads. They basically picked up the standard bass at the time - a Fender P - handed the other end of the cable to the engineer, and played. Tube compression and a board driven hard did what little needed to be done with the sound.

BobRogers Thu, 01/03/2008 - 12:07

TheFraz wrote: so did paul use a DI?

Somebody stole my copy of The Beatles' Gear, but if I remember correctly the answer is - sometimes yes, sometimes no. (Though as Remy said, some of the tube boards were sufficiently high impedance that you could go direct without using a DI.) They did mic up his Vox (or earlier, "the coffin") especially in the early days when either the entire track (first album) or the rhythm track was recorded live in the studio direct to mono. For Revolver and later - when he was mostly using the Rickenbacker in the studio, he went direct to the board often, though I seem to remember some cases where they talked about micing his amp. If you are really into this, you can try Mark Lewishon's book [[url=http://[/URL]="…"]The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions.[/]="…"]The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions.[/] I haven't read it, but it's cited by reliable people.

RemyRAD Thu, 01/03/2008 - 14:09

In October, I purchased Geoff Emerick's book, " My Life Recording the Beatles", which I haven't had time to finish yet. Have No Idea about Paul and His Bass? I have to admit, it was pretty cool just bumping into him in the aisles at the AES as I was heading to the booth where he was going to sell & sign/autograph them. It's amazing what an early start he got! His high school counselor got him a job interview at Abbey Road when he was 15, as the British kids who weren't going to college, could go into a vocation and leave school at 15! He got the job as an assistant engineer for the Beatles at 16 at Abbey Road Studios and became the primary engineer for them at 19! OMG! WTF! My high school counselors told me I didn't have enough gym credits to graduate in my senior year, after I built the high school radio station, was working at the community college 50 kW radio station and the biggest recording studio in Baltimore! So I dropped out after my junior year, picked up my GED and went back to work at the radio stations and recording studios that I was already employed by! Heck! George Massenburg dropped out of Johns Hopkins three years into his EE. I've been told he argued with his professors regularly since they didn't know what they were talking about, obviously.

I don't know what I'm talking about? Do I?
Ms. Remy Ann David

Davedog Thu, 01/03/2008 - 18:34

James Jamerson played direct in the studio on a 62 P-bass known as The Funk Machine. He had two amps for live performance depending on the venue, an Ampeg B15 and a Kustom 200 w/2-15". It was Blue.

McCartney recorded both mic'd at the amp AND DI. The DI at Abbey Road became a regular thing in 1967 and was developed by Ken Townsend. The amps used in the studio were Vox up until 1965 when the first Bassman showed up. The mics early on were STC4033's and then AKG D20's. The Rick also showed up in 65. Until then it had been the Hofner. In 68 the Jazz Bass showed up and got a LOT of use until the end as did the Bass VI....mostly played by John on things.

The use of the limiter used on Pauls bass is a bit scrambled. Possibly the 660 Fairchild but likely the 666 or a limiter in the REDD console.

One thing in the later recordings that they did was to put Pauls real bass part on last after reductions and tracks had been set. Its one reason it sounded so out front. It simply didnt have any generations like most of the other parts did.

moonbaby Fri, 01/04/2008 - 05:11

After reading these posts, I pulled out my copy of the "Let It Be" album. You know, the original one that Phil Spector butchered. It has a couple of great photos of them in the studio. The Bass VI that Dave referred to is seen laid down on the floor, behind Ringo. George and John are playing through silverface Twin Reverbs. Paul is playing a Hofner "Beatle Bass" into a large, vertical silverface Fender piggy-back amp, presumably a Bassman. I noticed that there was NO mic anywhere near that amp, leading to speculation that there was a DI involved.
Over the years, there have been a couple of interviews in MIX magazine
with Sir George Martin. He stated that they used "every Pultec that we could get our hands on" to boost the bass on the recordings. This did not sit well with the EMI engineers, who had strict rules about low end levels on the records. Geoff Emerick noted this in a later MIX interview, as well.

Davedog Fri, 01/04/2008 - 06:34

As an addition to this, when Norman Smith was the engineer for the Beatles, he was always stating this point to the Beatles , particularly Paul, who were all listening to Motown releases as well as American rock and roll records which had much more bass on them. On many occasions he would capitulate to them and promise he could add 2db's of bass. Paul called him 2dbs Smith.

FootPrints Sun, 01/06/2008 - 20:21

Wow, I stopped checking this thread for a few days and it extends to two pages. Well, I thought you might like to know that I sent an email to Bob Ohlsson, who engineered a great deal of the Motown recordings. He told me that yes, he did record Jamerson straight into the console, but it mainly sounded so good because Jamerson was just so damn good at that instrument. He told me that he tried to record other bassists exactly the same way after he left Motown, but was disappointed when he learned not everyone was as good at bass as Jamerson and Babbit. I also found an interview with him originally from Tape Op that you can read here (dead link removed) He goes over a lot of the technical details, which I love, and I'm sure all of you do as well.
Enjoy, and thanks for all the responses,

niclaus Mon, 01/07/2008 - 07:47

BobRogers wrote: [quote=TheFraz]so did paul use a DI?

If you are really into this, you can try Mark Lewishon's book [[url=http://[/URL]="…"]The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions.[/]="…"]The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions.[/] I haven't read it, but it's cited by reliable people.

Yes, one of my friend has it, and it's just amazing, you have amazing technical details in it...You should be able to know everything about how they did it back then... Plus great pics!!!

Davedog Mon, 01/07/2008 - 16:26

My Beatles recordings source is "Recording The Beatles" by Kevin Ryan and Brian Kehew. Its copy #596 signed and all.....( 8-) )

I will add to my earlier post that they used the Altec RS124 compressor on Pauls bass almost exclusively. Geoff's quote was "To me, at that time it was the ultimate bass sound. I couldnt improve it"

Geoff does indeed claim to have "never" used a DI on Pauls bass. Yet the setup sheets and track charts for various sessions prove otherwise. Ken Scott says that they ALWAYS set up the DI's as an option and mostly it was used as a way for Paul to play along though the phones with the boys while tracking guitars and drums. It was stated that they later would bring Pauls amp out into the room and mic it for his parts.

As a note, the entire single version of Revolution with the heavy fuzz guitars was completely DI. No amps were harmed in the recording of that little ditty.