How did they recording bass amps in the 60's?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by soma89, May 19, 2012.

  1. soma89


    Jan 7, 2006
    Toronto, Canada
    What was popular to play through in the studio? I know bass amps were available but how popular were they? I don't think they were recording through big bass cabs back then, but I may be wrong..Guitar amps perhaps?

    Wow, totally butchered the title of this thread..D: LOL
  2. RoadRanger

    RoadRanger Supporting Member

    Feb 18, 2004
    NE CT
  3. beans-on-toast


    Aug 7, 2008
    In the 60's they recorded bass with either a mic, a DI, or both. Just like they do now.
  4. RoadRanger

    RoadRanger Supporting Member

    Feb 18, 2004
    NE CT
    Does anyone know for certain they used DI's? I thought that came much later...
  5. Plucky The Bassist

    Plucky The Bassist ZOMG! I'm back from the dead!

    Jul 30, 2010
    Houston, TX
    I know that most of the famous Jamerson lines were DI'ed. They had a rather interesting rig that they all plugged into to record and monitor themselves.
  6. beans-on-toast


    Aug 7, 2008
    Studio guys had different creative ways of taping off signals from amp's pre-amp, phase inverter, or speaker output to feed into the mixing desk. This bypassed the speakers and eliminated the need for a mic. They also had mic and other pre-amps that an instrument would be plugged into that fed into the desk.

    According to Ken Townsend, at Abbey Road they used DI February 1, 1967 to record the bass line for Sgt. Pepper. Motown used the custom built unit shown below in the 60's. These designs, and others like them, evolved and eventually commercial DI units were available.

  7. RoadRanger

    RoadRanger Supporting Member

    Feb 18, 2004
    NE CT
    Wow, was that built by Dr. Frankenstein or what? LOL

    Thanks for the info :) .
  8. MrBEAR

    MrBEAR In Memoriam

    "On Pepper we were using the luxury of utilizing one track for bass overdub on some of the things... We used to stay behind after the sessions, and Paul would dub all the bass on. I used to use a valve C12 microphone on Paul's amp, sometimes on figure eight, and sometimes positioned up to eight feet away. Direct injection wasn't used on the guitars until Abbey Road."

    --Geoff Emerick

    So who is right?
  9. beans-on-toast


    Aug 7, 2008
    I think Geoff would know. But it gets murky.

    They discuss DI briefly in the book Beatles Gear by Andy Babiuc. Apparently documentation shows that a DI device built by EMI engineers was used for bass during the Sgt. Pepper sessions. It had an input for the bass and two outputs, one was fed to the amp, the other was fed to the mixing desk. Ken Townsend emphasized that the bass was derived from a mix of the direct signal from the DI as well as a mic on the bass amp's speaker. They go on to say that Geoff Emerick has a different recollection. He used a mic on the bass and didn't use a DI. Maybe Geoff was talking about just using a DI.

    In any event, Abbey Road was recorded in 1969 so, according to Geoff, DI was being used at the end of the 60's. It also seems that EMI was playing with the technology in 1967 and the Beatles had the first crack at it.

    Maybe both accounts are correct. I certainly don't know.
  10. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    I suspect that more than a few studio engineers knew how to wield a soldering iron, and there may have been a fair amount of DIY or modded gear in studios. There simply weren't a lot of different kinds of audio circuits.
  11. Jim Carr

    Jim Carr Dr. Jim

    Jan 21, 2006
    Denton, TX or Kailua, HI
    fEARful Kool-Aid dispensing liberal academic card-carrying union member Musicians Local 72-147
    In 1968 a friend, David Howe, borrowed my bass and amp (1966 Guild Starfire and Vox Essex), and drove down to New York from Kingston, RI to play bass on another friend's recording (a couple of sides).

    When he came home, he said, "They didn't use the amp." When asked why he said, "They plugged the bass into this small black box about the size of two packs of Pall Malls, and then into the amp. It buzzed, and they couldn't make it stop, so they didn't use any amp at all, just the black box."
  12. Thanks Dr J, today I don't feel quite so old.
  13. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Yamaha, Ampeg, Line 6, EMG
    I've seen pictures of B-15's back in the day with DI's bolted onto them that were run from the speaker out. I think they had some sort of a dummy load so you could record without the cab if you chose. There was a lot more tube/output transformer DI rigs back then, too. Mainly because that's all you had and solid state was still in its infancy. That's why high dollar channel strips and DI's and pres like the REDDI and Jule Amps Monique are getting popular for bass now, because they use tube/transformer technology like the tube amps, and they sound way more authentically tubey like the old stuff did. And by "tubey," I don't mean dirty, although some did use them for that. But most bassists who liked it dirty just mic'ed a tube amp and didn't use a DI, or they'd use a DI and mic a cab. But other than solid state DI's and pres becoming more prevalent starting in the mid-70's, there isn't a whole lot of difference in the way stuff was recorded back then as compared to now.
  14. Jim C

    Jim C I believe in the trilogy; Fender, Stingray, + G&L Supporting Member

    Nov 29, 2008
    Bethesda, MD
    I did work for a studio in the 80's that had a very good tech (back then older Neve consoles, 3M decks, Doby A racks, and Scully 2-tracks needed maintenance and callibration on a regular baisis).
    He built a number of preamps, DI's and other small gear as requested by the engineering staff
    There wasn't a whole lot of gear available in the 60's so it was not uncommon to build as necessary including consoles
  15. seamonkey


    Aug 6, 2004
    From what I've read, and hearsay. Amps were (are) noisy. Bent circuits to squeeze out more volume. Bass amps were rare Engineers wouldn't want to waste a lot of time trying to filter out hum and crackle. Worry about it just for guitar, and DI the bass. Bass players love(d) the DI sound.
  16. There were varying methods and it differed by studio and region.
    Mic'ing a small amp (all bass amps were small in those days) was the norm especially in the early to mid 60's later on some sort of DI became more in use. Motown was one of the earliest studios to use a tube mic pre/DI for the guitars and bass that all shared a monitor.
    You also have to recall that many of the recordings were done "live" to 2 or 3 track machines and later 4 or 8 track systems. Those 'state of the art' studios of the day look so primitive compared to today's standards, todays basic 4 trak portastudio has more capabilities than the studios that recorded many classic records of the 60's.
    But that does not take into account the skills and knowledge and dedication of the engineers of the day who often created or modified existing equipment for their studios use.
  17. Jim C

    Jim C I believe in the trilogy; Fender, Stingray, + G&L Supporting Member

    Nov 29, 2008
    Bethesda, MD
    In regards to post 15 & 16.
    Many studios were (and still are) smaller spaces and not like the old Power Station or Olympic.
    There just were not that many iso booths (2 loud guitars and a lead vocal make 3) and many enigneers wanted to control bleed (more now than then); not having an amp to isolate made for no bleed and for a quick set up / tear down. Many of those hit records we remember were often unkown artists that had a few hours to set up, record, tear down, and mix.

    Unbelieveable number of killer records that were recorded on 4 and 8 track machines; with track bouncing being the norm for the more "produced" records.
    While many of the engineers were super skilled it was the musicians that made it happen.
    Tony Bongiovi once told me that there are 3 ingrediants for a hit song: the song, the song, and the song.
    As long as there is some decent signal on tape with a decent artist, and a great song, a hit can be made.
    Not so sure that has been the case for many years considering how few hits have melody lines these days that can be sung much less remembered.
  18. tdoody


    Sep 5, 2008
    in 1965 through 1970 we recorded 4 albums, and 15 singles. we always used a direct box.
  19. Jeff Scott

    Jeff Scott Rickenbacker guru..........

    Now, they just call tech support in Pakistan! :bag:
  20. Giorgetto

    Giorgetto Fingers on 4 Flatwounds

    Dec 29, 2008
    Third rock from the sun
    Artist Relationship: Wilkins-Ampeg-La Bella
    In the late 60's and all through the 70's my bass was usually recorded on two tracks, one track from a miked amp, most of the time a B-15S and the other track through a custom made DI to the board, I recall that the bass tracks were mixed/combined on to one track. On some recordings we used only the miked track or the direct track which ever sounded better in the mix. When miking the amp, the engineer usually positioned the mike at the edge of the speaker rather than directly in front of it.
  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

    Oct 17, 2021

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