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Motown bass

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?


FootPrints Wed, 01/02/2008 - 17:05

Thanks for your help, I'll definitely send Bob Olhsson a message. And MadTiger, I feel a bit dumb because literally right after I posted my question, I found the Jamerson page with equipment list at the bottom. Either way, a great sound, and maybe some day I'll get something close to it.

TheFraz Wed, 01/02/2008 - 19:22

I can not tell you for sure, but to me it sounds like it was DI. Also a fender P bass.
What I can do is try and ask some one when I go there in a few months.

TVPostSound Wed, 01/02/2008 - 22:18

No DI's in the 60s!!

Jamerson played a 57, and 62 P-Bass with flatwounds, plugged directly into the console!!! Also an upright.

After Jamerson:

Babbit played a 65 P-Bass

Neither used a pick.

(I worked on Standing in the shadows of Motown)

RemyRAD Thu, 01/03/2008 - 00:43

They could plug directly into the console because it had a 2,000,000 ohm tube input and would not load down the bass. Of course, later, much later, DI's were used with the transistorized consoles. They had a Neve in the end.

Born and raised in Motown
Ms. Remy Ann David

TheFraz Thu, 01/03/2008 - 07:17

Plugging directly in is borderline DI.
And did Sir Paul use a DI post revolver? Or did they just go straight into the console also?

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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.

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MadTiger3000 Thu, 01/03/2008 - 08:32

Add Joe Osborn to that list, and it represents (my estimate) 98% of all the popular music, TV themes, and movie themes from the 60s to mid-70s.

The Fender P is a workhorse

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BobRogers Thu, 01/03/2008 - 08:41

I didn't mention Joe because I don't know of a book to recommend. But to get up to 98% you need to include McCartney and for him I'd recommend the  Beatles Complete Scores  not perfect, but an amazing work by a couple of true fanatics.

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MadTiger3000 Thu, 01/03/2008 - 08:51

I was really thinking about studio folks, but Sir Paul is one of my favorites.

Yeah, no book for Joe. haha.

Crankitup Thu, 01/03/2008 - 11:12

pbass + ampeg fliptop + sm57 + awesome chops

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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

TheFraz Thu, 01/03/2008 - 17:16

thats something I will have to buy some day.
I am not a beatles nut, but to ignore them and their recordings in this business is close to suicide.

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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.

TheFraz Thu, 01/03/2008 - 19:25

Interesting to say the least.
I think the bass on the abby roads album is some of the best my ears have ever heard.
not to mention the phenomenal playing on that album.

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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.

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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.