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Stephen Stills 1970s sound


BillWelcome Home Studios

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For whatever reason I pulled out Stephen Stills and Manassas the other day, and I was reminded that in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Stills, Crosby, and some others had this particular acoustic guitar sound that just sounds wonderful. From the same period, James Taylors acoustics also have a beautiful tone.

 

I spent years pissing around trying to get the Beatles acoustic tone until I finally stumbled acorss the simple and obvious answer. Anyone know how CSNY or Taylor got that 'sound'?

 

Bill

"I believe that entertainment can aspire to be art, and can become art, but if you set out to make art you're an idiot."

 

Steve Martin

 

Show business: we're all here because we're not all there.

 

 

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Originally posted by Rampdog:

Not sure but I believe their guitars were miked... no p/u's.......

Like Stills song "Black Queen" Great sound on his ax....

Yeah, that is a given. Also I seem to remember reading at the time that all of those CSNY guys used one of their old Martins... some fancy 45 model or something. They all have great guitar collections but they each liked this same guitar and all used it often. But there is more to the equation than just the guitar itself... I don't think that I have ever heard a guitar sound quite like that.

 

Bill

"I believe that entertainment can aspire to be art, and can become art, but if you set out to make art you're an idiot."

 

Steve Martin

 

Show business: we're all here because we're not all there.

 

 

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Originally posted by Bbach1:

Yea Bill, share.
This one killed me.

 

I spent literally YEARS trying to duplicate that sound. Now, I've got all kinds of acoustic guitars and over the years I've had quite an array of them troup through my rooms. Eqs, micing, compression, .... I've tried all sorts of tricks. No dice.

 

Then one day I got my hands on a mid-1960s Gibson J-160e. According to Sir George, this is the guitar with which virtually all (but not quite all) of the Beatles acoustic work was done. According to history, when the Beatles signed their deal, they bought three of these axes. John later had his painted up, then had it stripped down and he used it on the bed-in and Give Peace a Chance.

 

Anyway, the guitar is kinda cheap (probably a plywood top or something...)....unlike the modern version, which is a nice acoustic guitar. It is kinda thumpy sounding, the neck is very thin, and to get any sound out of it, you pretty much have to strum it the way that the Beatles strummed theirs. (ahh-HA!) and the tone is exactly the same as that tone on all of those old Beatle records. All you have to do is stick a mic in front of it.

 

Turns out, my guitars had too much tone.

 

A good friend is a Beatle maniac. He sorta writes in a John Lennon style, and has recorded many albums with me. He played it and immediately his eyes lit up.

 

So, that is the Beatle acoustic sound.... just use an old crappy 1960s model of the J-160e.

 

Bill

"I believe that entertainment can aspire to be art, and can become art, but if you set out to make art you're an idiot."

 

Steve Martin

 

Show business: we're all here because we're not all there.

 

 

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Originally posted by Bill@Welcome Home Studios:

...So, that is the Beatle acoustic sound.... just use an old crappy 1960s model of the J-160e.

 

Bill [/QB]

There is no other guitar that I am aware of that comes close to approximating the sound of a J160e. I was floored the first time I played one. It was a total "A-ha!" moment.

 

Same thing the first time I played a vintage Casino through a clean amp. It was instant "Day Tripper." :D

Mudcat's music on Soundclick

 

"Work hard. Rock hard. Eat hard. Sleep hard. Grow big. Wear glasses if you need 'em."-The Webb Wilder Credo-

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Originally posted by Guitar55:

... Neil Young used a Martin D-45 .... Listen to the Woodstock version of "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes", I LOVE that sound!

Yes, that is the guitar. Thye passed it around in sessions, loaned it back and forth. I forget which one of them actually owns it.

 

But the sound... Stills, "Move Around", "Johnny's Garden" (G tuning), "The Task", Crosbys "Music is Love" (open C) etc etc... all of those songs have that same chime/bell tone.

 

Bill

"I believe that entertainment can aspire to be art, and can become art, but if you set out to make art you're an idiot."

 

Steve Martin

 

Show business: we're all here because we're not all there.

 

 

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The story I heard was that Stills was at an auction and that guitar was up for sale, a D-45, highly ornamented with abalone, as D-45s are. The people who were bidding against him were from a Japanese guitar company who wanted to buy the axe so they could take it apart and see what made it tick. Stills basically decided to save the guitar, and bid some outrageous amount for it, and the Japanese didn't want to spend that much for it, so Stills took the guitar home, and it wound up being used a lot.

A guy told me that story a very long time ago, and I think I remembered it correctly, but I don't recall the price Stills paid for the D-45. Anybody else heard that story?

By the way, Graham Nash had a J-200 he used a lot on the CSN&Y live recordings, and I am pretty sure Crosby played the 12 string on Deja Vu(the song) but a lot of the backing tracks for the CS&N album and Deja Vu' were done by Stills, particularly the guitar parts, so that D-45 wound up being used a lot for the recordings. I think Young did his own guitars, and played electric leads on things like "Woodstock". If you hear an electric guitar that sounds vaguely chaotic and weird, it's Young. Stills, managed to sound more melodic, and often used a wah pedal set somewhere in the middle of the sweep for a funky tone.

Always remember that you are unique. Just like everyone else.

 

 

 

 

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Originally posted by Bill@Welcome Home Studios:

Originally posted by Guitar55:

... Neil Young used a Martin D-45 .... Listen to the Woodstock version of "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes", I LOVE that sound!

Yes, that is the guitar. Thye passed it around in sessions, loaned it back and forth. I forget which one of them actually owns it.

 

But the sound... Stills, "Move Around", "Johnny's Garden" (G tuning), "The Task", Crosbys "Music is Love" (open C) etc etc... all of those songs have that same chime/bell tone.

 

Bill

Crosby also used some exotic tunings that he got from Joni Mitchell (or was it vice versa?)

 

That is a great acoustic tone on "Music is Love" I always thought that Crosby's "If I Could Only Remember My Name" was a very under-rated album. "Cowboy Movie" is a very cool story that is also an allegory for CSNY's tangled relationships with Joni Mitchell.

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Stills also had a pretty cool electric tone, and he approached being a very distinctive lead player ala Dave Mason, for a guy whose main strength was singing and writing...

 

I really liked his first two solo albums, especially the tunes with Hendrix and Clapton. "Fishes and Scorpions" and "Go Back Home" have some wonderful examples of EC at his prime...

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This peaked my interest. I had some old SCN&Y videos and it looks like most of the clips show them with mics on the guitars. The majority of the mics look like Shure SM57's

 

Peace

 

Sorry about the 2nd post. I got a page not found the 1st time I tired to post.

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Obviously, I'm talking about the studio sound, not the live sound. Bands had pretty much no clue about sound back then, and neither did most sound 'companies' to use the term loosely.

 

I have not seen the clips that you guys are talking about, but before the SM series of mics, Shure had the 545 and a bunch of similar numbers, in both the SM57 and SM56 format, with various switch and connector configurations, all of which look basically like a silver 57 with a black sleeve between the mic body and the capsule head. The heads all look like a 57 or 56. You'll see these in churches and high school assembly rooms everywhere, and in some of the photos of Hendrix in various studios, used on just about everything from vocals to bass drum. Who knew about mics then? Not the rockers, that is for sure. The SM series followed, with the body painted a matte color for video and film work, no possibility of any switches, and only one output impedance choice and one connector format.

 

But my question has to do with the studio sound. I've never tried to copy it, but it is really very nice.

 

I know that live, James Taylor got a pretty accurate copy of his studio sound by using some custom low impedance guitar rig for his acoustics... his brothers used the same rigs on their guitars, too.

 

Bill

"I believe that entertainment can aspire to be art, and can become art, but if you set out to make art you're an idiot."

 

Steve Martin

 

Show business: we're all here because we're not all there.

 

 

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Originally posted by Guitar55:

I know that Neil Young used a Martin D-45 back in the 70's, so Stills might have also. I think he used a Dropped-D tuning a lot if not a full Open D tuning. Listen to the Woodstock version of "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes", I LOVE that sound!

Stills used a unison tuning of 5 strings tuned to E, and I think the other was a B.

 

Unusual, at any rate.

Cass Anawaty, Chief Engineer

Sunbreak Music, LLC

High Resolution Stereo and Surround Mastering

www.sunbreakmusic.com

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