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Can't beat 70's bass sounds, can you?

Discussion in 'Recording Gear and Equipment [BG]' started by santana157, Mar 22, 2009.

  1. santana157


    Mar 21, 2009
    Pittsburgh, PA
    Why does bass sound so killer on recordings from the 70's?

    The tone is so fat and warm. I listen to a lot of different music, but the 70's bass sounds just reach out and grab you.

    Three examples that come to mind....

    "Feeling Stronger Everyday" /Chicago /Bass: Peter Cetera
    "Your Smiling Face" /James Taylor /Bass:Lee Sklar
    "Whenever I Call You Friend" /Kenny Loggins/Stevie Nicks /Bass: George Hawkins

    Granted, those are 3 very killer bassist, but what made those bass parts stand out? Is it how they were recorded, how the album was mixed, etc. I just don't hear bass lines these days that are so pronounced. Maybe they're just further in front in the mix? Why don't people lay down bass tracks like that anymore?

    Any suggestions for recreating 70's bass tones. (I should probably search...or does that have it's own forum?)
  2. I miss analog tape.:crying:
    cheu78 and MatronMother like this.
  3. bluewine

    bluewine Banned

    Sep 4, 2008
    Just remember those are recordings your listening to. None of those guys had those tones in any live setting.

    Back then we didn't even know what Ohms were:)
  4. Mike Shevlin

    Mike Shevlin

    Feb 16, 2005
    Las Vegas
    It carried into the '80s as well - this is the best bass sound I've ever heard.

  5. groooooove

    groooooove Supporting Member

    Dec 17, 2008
    Long Island, NY
    its not the basses, its the recording.

    the 70's basses (though definately better than other eras..) are nowhere near as juicy sounding as the 60's ones (for the most part, imo.)
  6. DougD

    DougD Bassman7654

    Sep 19, 2002
    North Las Vegas NV
    That was a P bass, I think :)
  7. winston

    winston Supporting Member

    May 2, 2000
    Berkeley, CA
    I love the '70s sounds of the Doobie Brothers' Tiran Porter and Van Halen's Michael Anthony. Both bands were produced by Ted Templeman and Donn Landee, who got super punchy bass tones.
  8. basslinejam


    Mar 21, 2005
    New York City
    I agree. Beyond what is being done in the mix and with EQ...

    my guess is:
    2" tape and Neve Boards help.
    Old school compressors are part of it too (Urei's etc...)

    I'd also bet there isn't a single tube in their signal path. (which doesn't mean tubes don't sound good btw :))

    Is it the old school op amp distortion?

    +1 on the lee sklar, (and jimmy johnson!) J Taylor stuff. It's one of the gold standards for melodic supporting bass part building.
  9. basslinejam


    Mar 21, 2005
    New York City
    With a sweet chorus on it...
  10. shamus63


    Dec 17, 2005
    San Mateo, CA
    My guess would be that 60's basses were being used on a lot of those 70's recordings.
  11. theres a big difference in recording volumes/direct and trying to project into a club room or a hockey rink....usually any process is made simpler with fewer variables and rooms/volume are big time variables
  12. santana157


    Mar 21, 2009
    Pittsburgh, PA
    Yeah, and how about Little River Band and Atlanta Rhythm Section. Very Groovy.
  13. I'm *this close* to dumping my 6s for a nice basic Precision & Jazz, in part for the tones we're talking about here. Dee Murray, anyone? :)
  14. DocBop


    Feb 22, 2007
    Los Angeles, CA
    Simpler, good bass (mainly PBass's), DI, sometimes a mic on a Ampeg B15 for grit, great old analog recording gear and good engineers. Whole different approach to recording no Pro Tools or digital over processing. Get a good signal on tape and then tweak. Also rhythm sections recorded as a group, tracks were laid down on bits and pieces copy/paste together.
  15. Mel Scharer had exploding fat tones on the Red Album (Grand Funk Railroad).

    Of course JPJ should be mentioned. I'm in a Led Zeppelin Tribute Band. It's a hard job that I'm still working on. I want to get an 8-string. He used one on several tunes. I use a jazz for everything now. I had to freshen up my keyboard and mandolin skills.
  16. lefty007


    Jan 19, 2004
    Miami, FL
    I'd say the producers of the time are responsible. The mixing was the most important factor there.

    And don't forget the styles we're talking about here: much of funk and disco revolve around the bass line. . .

    I love them records, too. All those '70's Herbie Hancock recordings, and George Duke, to name two. Nothing like a nicely slapped '70s P-Bass to brighten my day!

  17. Vetchking

    Vetchking Banned

    Mar 17, 2008
    President G.P.G. Co. "acoustic" USA
    Vetchking Here:
    If you study the bass sounds of the 70's, you'll find a ton of "acoustic" amps we're involved. Peter Cetera in Chicago was 100% acoustic for most of his career.

    Check out the wood stock movie. Santana, Crosby Stills. Etc.

    Check out the midnight Special videos. Every other band played the Acoustic 360/361 amp.

    Users were the doors, James Brown, Rufus, B.B. King. Stanley Clark, The Mahavishnu Orchestra, Led Zepplin. Fleetwood Mac, The Jackson 5, Mowtown groups galor, Rufus. Frank Zappa was a huge acoustic guy.

    Oh yeah, Jaco was acoustic for 99% of his career.

    I heard something about John Paul Jones using the "acoustic" 360's.

    The list is so long it's insane.

    Anyhow, 2" tape is in there, the studio can be thrilling in it's own right. The bass guitar is in there, great engineers are in there as well as, great producers.

    I will add this the 360 is often called the holy grail of bass amps. Many people have never seen one up close or ever had the thrill of playing one. It wasn't made very long.

    Later the acoustic company built a 370 power head and a 301 cab. It turns out many players know that unit better than the 360.

    All I can say is......... The old 360 is one the greatest bass amps ever made.

    Try to play one.......... It's a real treat............

    Rock on Guys.................... Later
  18. santana157


    Mar 21, 2009
    Pittsburgh, PA
    That's what blows me away. When I hear guys live w/ a P-bass and an old Ampeg SVT, I think, that must be how they did it.
    But, I have done some searching trying to unravel this mystery. It seems like all those guys, Sklars, especially, went through compressors and preamps (solid state) direct into the board. No bass amp. Somewhere on this net thing I found a whole interview about how he recorded in the 70's. I can't find it now. I think you are right about the Urei and Neve stuff.

    But lots of people today still record bass that way, but I'm not hearing any bass tones that knock my socks off like the 70's sounds. Which makes me wonder if a lot of it is the eq and mixing? Maybe the fact that everything else was so dry, (the 70's recording style), made the bass stand out more?
  19. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    No, it was all about Acoustic amps. Didn't you see Vetchking's completely unbiased and non-self-serving post? ;)

    Seriously, I think dryness had a little bit to do with it. But I don't know that all bass sounds of recent vintage sound bad. I think there are a ton that sound awesome. The music sucks, but the tones are great ;)
  20. Jools4001

    Jools4001 Supporting Member

    I was there in the '70s and I think that people are looking back with rose tinted specs. I tried all sorts of amps (yes, including Acoustic) and could never get the sound I wanted.

    Megabuck recording stars may've been more fortunate, but the resources open to them were in the stratosphere compared to the ordinary Joe. Either live sound or recording, we've never been closer to accessing the same quality gear as the pros as we are today.

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