Chet Question about his Gretsch Recorded Direct

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Chet Question about his Gretsch Recorded Direct

Postby GaryL » Fri Jun 03, 2011 6:15 pm

Hello folks,
I thought I'd post a Chet question. He mentioned that he sometimes recorded his guitar direct without his amp.
I'm interested in listening to examples of his Gretsch CG recorded that way. Does anyone know any songs he did that way? I think he did some on the Almost Alone CD with his Gibson, but I would love to hear Gretsch CG examples (I know I've already heard them, but I don't know which ones they are).
Thanks,
GaryL
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Re: Chet Question about his Gretsch Recorded Direct

Postby bill park » Sat Jun 04, 2011 8:06 am

Chet stopped using the Gretsch in '79 or '80. And all of the Gretsch recordings were analog, so I don't think he ever "went direct" with the Gretsch. He would have given up too much in tone. Just my guess, though...
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Re: Chet Question about his Gretsch Recorded Direct

Postby craigdobbins » Sat Jun 04, 2011 8:54 am

Hi Gary and Bill-

My "answer" is *unfortunately* mostly supposition, with a little hearsay thrown in for good measure...

1. First, I asked Paul Yandell about this once, but he said that he didn't know, and didn't remember Chet recording his electric that way since he started working with him. (As you know, Chet did record his nylon strings direct, a lot. Struttin' (from Me and My Guitar) would be a great example of this sound. It'd be a safe bet that was his Estruch with the Prismatone- a wonderful sound.)

2. Jerry Reed did tell me that Chet sometimes recorded his (Jerry's) guitar with a mix of amp and direct line, but he didn't name any specific tracks. He said Chet really knew how to "get a sound."

3. I've always thought that Chet Atkins' Workshop sounded like a direct recording, very pristene. Pat Kirtley, who researched the CA in Hollywood LP quite a bit for Mister Guitar, told me that he felt that Chet must have recorded the original live In Hollywood sessions direct, to get the separation necessary for the orchestral tracks. When you listen to the re-recording, there is no noticeable "bleed" from the original guitar tracks.

4. Paul also told me that Ray Butts built Chet a little box, a sort of preamp/eq/booster, to give a sparkling sound to his recordings. This would have been late 50's/early 60's, so it may have been used on some direct recordings back then. (Wouldn't really make sense using it with his Standel...)

5. I've also thought that Harper Valley PTA sounded direct. It certainly has a unique sound, and to my ear does sound like an electric plugged straight into the board, very "in your face."

Well, I know this wasn't much of an answer, but I hope it helped a bit.

All the best,

Craig
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Re: Chet Question about his Gretsch Recorded Direct

Postby craigdobbins » Sat Jun 04, 2011 8:59 am

P.S. You don't have to be digital to record direct. It just means that your guitar is plugged straight into the board (or through a preamp), bypassing a guitar amp. The examples I quoted above are all analog. Except for the Solo Sessions tracks (which were recorded to DAT), I think Chet always recorded on analog machines, at least in his home studio.
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Re: Chet Question about his Gretsch Recorded Direct

Postby thenorm » Sat Jun 04, 2011 9:15 am

As most of you know, I have an extensive archive of Paul’s posts…105 pages worth. In it he only mentions Chet going direct once and that in a general way.

In a section on amps Paul wrote :

"...I used a Music Man RD-112, 50 watts. Chet used them too. It was the road amp we used the last 10 years or so. Chet thought the MM Rd-50 was the only amp he had found other than his Standel where his nylon electric sounded right. Sometimes he recorded direct other times he used the Standel

The old Standel didn't have a direct out on them. Chet just miked his. Chet recorded direct sometimes but when he did he used a direct box and I do the same. You get more presence going direct. Chet never recorded with those Music Man amps but he like them on the road..."

When he recorded his prototype CGP he probably went direct, at least when he used the split pickup so he could control which strings got the echo. As we know, Chet didn't use the CGP for "stereo" he used it for a sound other guitarists could not achieve at the time. As far as is known he never used a double amp setup to exploit the stereo effect live.

After the 59 came into his hands he probably used the miced Standel for most of his recording because he knew it was a winning combination. I suspect he may have recorded direct more with the Gibson CG to better control the tone because of the tremendous difference in tone between those and his old '59. The tonal difference between the 59 and the Gibsons was as stark as was the tonal difference between his D'Angelico and the Gretsch guitars.

• As a footnote on direct recording.... Paul said he didn't recall Jerry recording direct but I think Craig's observation is correct that Chet recorded Jerry direct when he thought it would help. Paul also said he (Paul) recorded direct on at least one of his CD's

• Craig's observations, particularly in reference to the In Hollywood are intelligent educated guesses and his ear is better than mine. I agree with him.

That's how it looks to me...
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Re: Chet Question about his Gretsch Recorded Direct

Postby albertgen » Sat Jun 04, 2011 11:10 am

Well I remember reading that Chet wound his own pickups and recorded direct with them. They were low impedance pickups. I think it was back in the 50's. He said he made a lot of albums with those pickups. Les Paul said the low impedance pickups record better. I think thats what got Chet interested in trying it. Al
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Re: Chet Question about his Gretsch Recorded Direct

Postby thenorm » Sat Jun 04, 2011 11:40 am

I know Chet could wind his own pickups (he had a winder) but I thought I'd read that he didn't much like the low impedance ones. I have a feeling once he got Ray Butts on board his pickup winder went onto the shelf for good. The Filter Tron and it's variations gave him what he wanted. The adjustable pole pieces give the guitarist a bit more control balancing out string volume.

Sometimes I think he was a little misleading just to keep his secrets to himself. I never knew he'd used a souped up bridge pickup on his 59 until Paul and Gretsch made the 6122-59

Interviews are funny things. We've seem the clip where he's talking to a guy and he emphatically says he requires a "low action because I'm lazy" but we know from photos and Paul's comments that he actually used a high bass action on most of his guitars for most of his life.


I never measured his action on his ’59 but it was quite high. I use what I consider a high action and his was higher than mine. action would be uncomfortable for most people. Chet always ran his bass side of his bridge up higher than his treble, he did that on all his guitars.
Over the years in interviews Chet would say that he favored a low action on his guitars. I don't know why Chet said that because when I started with him in 1975 he used high action and did on every guitar he played. Also, when he was younger, he had to have his action high to keep the strings from fretting out as hard as he played, He told me once he discovered early on that you got a better tone with a high action. The nylon string he played was really high so I just know what I saw. I worked on Chet's guitars many times through the years.
__ Paul Yandell
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Re: Chet Question about his Gretsch Recorded Direct

Postby Vidar Lund » Mon Jun 06, 2011 7:23 am

High action - low action. I guess what Chet considered low action would be quite high to most of us. He started on a Silvertone with super high action, quoting fram MMAG: "... the action was about a half-inch high, so it was hard to play." It helped strengthen his left hand, he says.
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Re: Chet Question about his Gretsch Recorded Direct

Postby thenorm » Mon Jun 06, 2011 9:33 am

Some of it was 'sales pitch' possibly. Guitar companies pushed the idea of their instruments could be set for low action and a large part of the guitaring buyers got to thinking that was The Way. Then, on the other hand it was part of what made him sound like he did and he could have been seen as protecting his trademark. High action was pretty common among his peers I think. You have to remember his generation started out at the birth of electric guitars and they started out using acoustic instruments. When Chet started on the road with Archie Campbell they would play little rural venues that often didn't have electricity let alone pa systems. You leaned to play firmly to get as much volume out of your instruments as you could to be heard. This required a high action and as time went on he saw no reason to drop it down.

Re: 'protecting his trademark sound"

When 'finger style guitar' came out some friends and myself wrote to Chet asking him how he got such a marvelous tone on that album.
His answer? "We equalized the echo a little."

Nothing about prototype humbucing pickups. Nothing about solid top guitars. Nothing about split pickups. And he had the only "Super Tron" double bar pickup for at least four years. They were never offered on single cut Gents and back in the day Gretsch would not sell them individually.

So I think things like high action, hot bridge pickups (on the 59) split pickups and all that were little things that he kept quiet about. We idolize Chet but like he said about his 'innovative recording'.... "We were just trying to keep our jobs."
Part of that was being a little secretive about your tools.

Thats' how it looks to me...
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Re: Chet Question about his Gretsch Recorded Direct

Postby GaryL » Tue Jun 07, 2011 8:10 pm

Thanks for comments on my question. Another reason to record direct would be to make it easier. I would think once Chet got it down he could just plug in his guitar and go without having to fool around with the amp and mike and so on. And his familiy would not have to hear electric guitar through an amp late at night or early morning. I'm sure the Gretsch CG will give a great sound direct with the right tools and experience Chet had. Anyway, no matter how he did it - it was awesome.
Thanks,
GaryL
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