The "American bass sound"....Motown vs McCartney

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by audio, Nov 5, 2006.

  1. audio

    audio New Member

    Location:
    guyana
    I understand that right around "Revolver", McCartney wanted to achieve a bass sound like he heard on the US Motown records. I also understand what the engineers did to get the bass sounds that appear on the Beatles lps, such as using a bass speaker as a microphone, etc.

    What I'm wondering about is what exactly was the technique for miking bass on those Motown recordings? Was there a standard that was employed? I assume it was a Fender Precision bass through probably various Fender amps...with which microphone(s), etc, I don't have a clue. Anyone know?
  2. Doug Sclar

    Doug Sclar Forum Legend

    Location:
    The OC
    Among other things, they had custom built direct inputs in the studio. Jameson used strings that were dead as could be. He was rumored to have never changed his strings, and he lost a lot of work towards the end of his career as a result. There was also lots of dirt and distortion on his bass tracks. It's hard to tell if that was intentional or accidental, but it sure created an interesting and obviously sucessful sound. If you are interested, check out the Karaoke Motown mixes to hear his bass without the vocals in the way. Everytime I listen to those I get shivers. Also check out the soundtrack discs for the 'Standing in the Shadows of Motown' film. There are a few tracks on the Deluxe Editions with isolated bass.
  3. Damián

    Damián Forum Hall Of Fame

    Location:
    Spain now
    .

    Try here for a start.

    Edit: also here. Bob Olhsson posts on that last one (he should know a thing or two :)).
  4. Jeff H.

    Jeff H. Well-Known Member

    One of the other things Paul did to try and emulate James Jamerson's bass tone was by putting flatwound strings on his Rickenbacker bass. Rickenbackers usually were strung with roundwounds that give a much brighter and trebly tone. Jamerson always used LaBella flatwounds on his P-Bass, and never changed them unless they broke. Though having flats on his bass provided a deeper, bassier tone, McCartney's tone was always distinctively different from Jamerson's by virtue of them playing different instruments.

    Motown's engineers also used compression and limiting on Jamersons' bass to smooth and round out his tone.
  5. Grant

    Grant Forum Resident

    That was John Lennon who wanted to know why Wilson Pickett records (on Atlantic) had more bass on them that their records did.
  6. audio

    audio New Member

    Location:
    guyana
    What about Carol Kaye? She played on some Motown stuff, right? I remember reading in Tape Op that she used a p-bass and played through a Fender Super Reverb (4 x 10" guitar combo). But I also understand that she played on a lot of demos, but what actually made it to record was J.J. doing the tracks.....but I'm not sure.
  7. audio

    audio New Member

    Location:
    guyana
    Interesting. I'd not thought of that part of the equation. So are you certain Paul had his Rick strung this way all along? Do you know if he continued to use flatwounds with his Jazz Bass, Rick, and Hofner on through his first few solo albums?
  8. Grant

    Grant Forum Resident

    Hmm, this could also explain a bit why Rick James, who played a Rickenbacker, had a higher, tighter, tone.
  9. Jeff H.

    Jeff H. Well-Known Member


    Yes I am certain Paul strung his basses with flats. Hofners always come right from the factory with flatwound strings made for them by Pyramid in Germany. Fenders made during the 50's and 60's also came with flats. I'm sure you'll notice a complete absence of fret buzz or finger noise on any Beatles or McCartney solo albums on the bass. Flatwounds are the secret to this. Even on Beatles songs like "With A Little Help From My Friends" and "Hey Bulldog" where Paul is obviously using the bridge pickup on his Rickenbacker, that as bright as those tones are, they sound very clean but have no extraneous noise.
  10. Jeff H.

    Jeff H. Well-Known Member

    Very true. It's very noticeable on songs like "Mary Jane" and "Give It To Me Baby", when he slaps and pops the strings.
  11. Steve Litos

    Steve Litos Active Member

    Location:
    Chicago IL
    According to John Hall of Rickenbacker, Paul McCartney had his Rickenbacker 4001 strung with Rickenbacker Bass Set #4440 which were made by Maxima in Germany. They were a low tension flatwound & they are no longer made. The only thing similar is Tomastik Jazz Flats.

    According to many sources James Jamerson always recorded direct while working at Motown in Detroit. It was a home-made 5 input tube direct box that all the guitar players fed into. It was created to eliminate the guitar amps from the studio due to lack of room & inherent hum in the Fender Amp.

    Likewise from early 1965 onwards the bass was isolated on a track of his own on the 8 track & later 16 track recorder.

    Jamerson used a Ampeg B-15 & a Kustom Tuck N Roll amp for live work & sessions outside of Motown.

Users Viewing Thread (Users: 0, Guests: 0)