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Bass sound on "White Album"


dcr

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I have been a Beatles fan my whole life--literally, as some of my earliest memories are of listening to Beatles songs. Yet the more I listen to them, the more I'm amazed by (a) their artistry in general, and (b) the fact that McCartney absolutely rules as a bassist (and otherwise, of course).

 

I've been listening to the "White Album" today (an album that came out the same year I did), & I'm really struck by the sound of the bass on a few tracks, especially "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" and "Helter Skelter." It sounds like doubled guitar & bass, but the doubling sounds SO close I'm inclined to think it's just bass alone. I know that McCartney was using a Rickenbacker & playing with a pick. I also know he used flats & was pretty indifferent to their age. But MAN he gets an aggressive, bright tone on some of those tunes. It's no surprise that Chris Squire was a really big McCartney fan, when you hear the tone McCartney gets here.

 

Anyone know any of the "studio secrets" here? If nothing else, you've now got another reason to go listen to Macca! :thu:

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I hear ya, dcr. I got my start in music playing tennis racquet to Sgt. Pepper when I was about eight years old.

 

You really can't overemphasize McCartney's influence and brilliance as a musician. I've heard conflicting things about how his bass was recorded (Geoff Emerick claims they DI'd his bass, which was the last thing recorded from at least Pepper on), but I know there's a few books out that supposedly cover the "full story" of their recordings. Unfortunately, I don't own any of 'em.

 

I think you're right about it being a Rick with old flats on The White Album, but I've read that he switched to a Jazz on Abbey Road.

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Ah, the sixties!!

I was a Beatles fan from the very beginning. They were the only group my dad didn't mind me playing on the HiFi. He still wanted me to keep it turned down though.

 

McCartney is quite gifted to play bass and sing opposing lines at the same time, not to mention his song writing ability. The Beatles launched themselves from a "skiffle band" to full blown stardom in a very short time.

 

I'm only going from memory, but I thought the lines WERE doubled on Helter Skelter.

Helter Skelter had a stigma attatched to it after the Manson family slayings. Manson claiming he was the Son of Man and that the Beatles were confirming that by speaking to him through their music, esp. Helter Skelter. What a maroon!

 

I really liked those boys!

Visit my band's new web site.

 

www.themojoroots.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Originally posted by Big Daddy from Motown:

Every picture I've ever seen from that era has Sir Paul Plugged into a Silver faced Fender Bassman, with a condenser mic on the speaker cab.

That's what the preset on my PodXT uses for the Beattles tone.
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Originally posted by Quinn:

...I think you're right about it being a Rick with old flats on The White Album, but I've read that he switched to a Jazz on Abbey Road.

IIRC He played a Jazz on two tracks on Abbey Road. I'm not sure which ones, but I do know it wasn't on "Here Comes the Sun" or "Something." These were both the Rickenbacker.

 

According to the Lewishon book, the EMI engineers at Abbey Road at various times used DI, mic'ed cabinets and even a reversed speaker attached to the front baffle of the bass amp cabinet as a mic for recording bass sounds.

 

They did a lot of experimenting back then.

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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There was an interview of Ken Scott by Joe Chiccarelli in last month's _EQ_ magazine that discussed many techniques used in recording the Beatles lasts albums among many others. I guess Scott was an engineer at Abbey Road early in his career. IIRC, Scott said most things were recorded with Neumman mics a short to medium distance from the amps through the obvious Neve board. Early McCartney stuff was probably a Vox bass amp, while the later stuff was silverface Fender. The article also had some interesting stuff about recording with David Bowie, etc. Might be worth a peek.
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I've also heard (didn't personally read about it, though) that he experimented a lot with the way his amp was mic'ed.

 

I suspect this is getting rather off-topic, but the Line6 Bass PODxt allows you to specify modeling for things like:

* Type of amp

* Type of speaker(s)

* Type of mic

* Position of mic

* Characteristics of "room"

 

Note: You only have this degree of control when the Bass PODxt is set for "line-level" (+10dB).

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Originally posted by jrob:

...IIRC, Scott said most things were recorded with Neumman mics a short to medium distance from the amps through the obvious Neve board...

I liked Ken's obvious disdain (expressed in the interview) for the SM57 rammed into a speaker cone approach to amp micing. :)

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 Mudcat:

I liked Ken's obvious disdain (expressed in the interview) for the SM57 rammed into a speaker cone approach to amp micing. :)

I don't think there's anything wrong about close-micing with a SM57, but I certainly wouldn't respect an engineer who thought it was the only way to get good sounds. I suspect with the move towards home-based DAW recording we're going to move towards experimentation. I think budget limitations are going to lead people to try crazy new things, and I suspect many of them will work to some degree.

 

I actually found myself rolling my eyes quite a bit at the Scott/Chiccarelli interview because of his comments about the declining quality of guitar playing, etc. The guy is lucky enough to work with the Beatles and Bowie early in his career, and now he thinks the quality of guitar playing has gone down. Well, no sh*t assh*le, if you spent your formative years recording the Beatles and Bowie, things aren't going to get much better from there, are they?. Talk about a non-statement.

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Here's an idealized curve for the SM57. Looks like it's not at proximity because not only is it weak below 80 Hz -- it's weak below 160 Hz. And close-up as I recall, you get a big midbass hump which arguably might do for stage micing... maybe.

 

http://www.shure.com/images/response/fSM57_large.gif

 

There are so many mics that represent a bass guitar rig of any type better.

.
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GB, in the article Scott is expressing disdain for close-micing guitars with the SM57. I don't believe Mudcat's most recent comment had anything to do with bass, nor did mine. I think we'd all agree the 57 is a terrible choice for bass. Sorry for the confusion. Remember, some of us play both instruments. ;)
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I suppose I should read it because there's a lot of good musical guitarists these days. I wouldn't call the guy an asshole or anything because he recorded some big projects with legendary figures, but I'd say he isn't really talking about guitar playing, anyway ; }
.
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Originally posted by greenboy:

I suppose I should read it because there's a lot of good musical guitarists these days. I wouldn't call the guy an asshole or anything because he recorded some big projects with legendary figures, but I'd say he isn't really talking about guitar playing, anyway ; }

I didn't mean that this guy actually is an assh*le, only that his comment was stupid given his very unique life experience. Scott's comments about modern guitar playing are akin to a person who learned to drive in a Bentley complaining that the world is full of Hondas and Fords.
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There's a fantastic book about all of the gear that the Beatles used in the studio. Check out Beatles Gear: All the Fab Four\'s Instruments, from Stage to Studio . A great deal of the information has been documented over the years. Some of the info on books such as this one will go into what instrument got used on which track. Beatles fans are nothing if not fanatical about almost every aspect of the Beatles. If you don't want to buy it, just loiter at your local Barnes & Noble and thumb through this thing.

 

There are definitely some interesting notes about the period from Sgt. Pepper's forward. Around the time of the White Album in particular, Paul was using the Rickenbacker almost exclusively in the studio even though the Hofner makes appearances in the video for "Revolution" and also for the "Let it be" film. But Fender did make a concerted effort to get the Beatles playing Fenders. Case in point, they gave Paul a lefty Jazz bass. There's also a photo of George playing a Jazz bass as well as numerous instances of John playing a Bass VI. The lefty Jazz bass did see some action on the White Album. "Yer Blues" is one track in particular, and "While my guitar gently weeps" may be another.

 

I've been listening the White Album a bunch lately as well. And the bass sounds do rule! A lot of it gets back to Paul's muted picking sound. He's got a good deal of treble on the instrument (for the time period), and that accentuates the muting effect that he uses. In fact it makes the bass part cut very distinctly. Check it out on his big fill on "Everybody's got something to hide except for me and my monkey". He also makes use of some double stops in "While my guitar gently weeps".

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Originally posted by Nicklab:

There's also a photo of George playing a Jazz bass as well as numerous instances of John playing a Bass VI.

:cool: Nick got it right. It's the same bass model Aerosmith used on "Back In The Saddle Again". I think John and George took turns playing it on different cuts.

 

Also, George Martin (IMHO the real "5th Beatle" who made their recordings legendary and trained Eddie Kramer among others) documented in an interview once that on later recordings he would have Paul record direct into the mixing board (or through a tube preamp) on a separate track and that he would mix that in later to make the bass stand out. He also pioneered a little stereo separation on some tracks ("Lady Madonna") to have that clean bass track stand out more on a separate channel.

 

"It's all there on the vinyl". Engineers make it happen! :wave:

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