An honest amp question...

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs' started by 667, Apr 24, 2015.

  1. 667

    667 Member

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    Ok, so, when I listen to clips of old tweed Fenders such as the 5e3, Bandmaster, and low power Twin, there's a lot of focus on the gorgeous natural overdriven tone of the vintage tweed circuit. (I just turned 40 and own a 1956 Deluxe, so I'm pretty familiar with this sound). My question is: Back in the late '50's/early '60's, did folks really dig the natural distortion of these amps, or was it something to be avoided, like, "Don't turn your amp up past 6, or it won't be clean and the Devil might hear" kinda thing?..I guess I'm most curious to hear from anyone who was a kid in the '50's who learned to play on these amps. Was the overdrive considered bad?...I mean, at least until, 1963-ish?....
     
  2. Peppy

    Peppy Member

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    Except for Link Wray, and a few others, clean was the scene.
     
  3. robyogi

    robyogi Silver Supporting Member

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    I think the whole point of the Fender amps that came after was to eliminate the overdrive that happened if you turned up too loud. So rockers turned up even louder.
     
  4. Rumble5

    Rumble5 Member

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    I think guitar amps were originally supposed to be played at living room levels because at that time they would be played alongside acoustic instruments such as upright basses and acoustic guitars, and drummers used small kits and just kept a light beat so they wouldn't overwhelm the acoustic instruments.

    At those levels even "3" on the volume on a 12-watt amp would be getting close to drowning out an upright bass. So the idea of turning the amp up to the point of distortion would have been unheard of. And distortion was absolutely foreign to listeners, who had no schema whatsoever for placing that kind of sound into the context of popular music. Most casual music listeners at the time probably would have thought the amp was about to blow up and would have run from the building if they had heard a Deluxe pumping out distortion like Neil Young regularly plays his.

    Now, why Fender or other makers even made volume pots that went more than 50% beyond the level they were supposed to be played at or that anyone found acceptable at the time is beyond me. But I'm certainly glad they did.

    Then came the Fender Precision Bass and the arms race was on.
     
  5. BigSB

    BigSB Member

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    There are times when you hear some of the country and western-swing guys plaing on amps that are JUST this side of overdrive, but they're playing with such a light touch... check out Ernest Tubb's band from the early 60s on YouTube. There's a duet...

    www.youtube.com/watch?v=pP9mDEri85o

    The electric has a sweet, fat sound, but he's playing like he's sitting next to a sleeping baby, technique-wise. That's because his amp was loud to keep up with the steel guitar.
     
  6. jape

    jape Member

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    I've often wondered about this. Did this whole overdrive / distortion thing get started due to a design flaw?
     
  7. Geetarpicker

    Geetarpicker Member

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    I always thought it was interesting that blues harp master Lil' Walter was pushing his amp into some mean overdrive even in the early 50s. Even though many harp players were recorded clean (but probably played live with low wattage tube amps that broke up intentionally or not) with Lil' Walter they must have realized his harp/mic/cranked amp all combined to get his unique sound. He had a very edgy nasty almost guitar like tone more than a decade before Clapton did with his Marshall/Les Paul combo.
     
  8. Hugh_s

    Hugh_s Member

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    Aye, the electric bass made it all happen in the end.
     
  9. Dave_C

    Dave_C Supporting Member

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    That's actually quite distorted for the era, especially the pedal steel, which sounded like it had light fuzz going!
     
  10. motokev

    motokev Member

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    I'm sure Leo Fender didn't want gain when he designed the tweed or thought anyone would use it. Solution after many complaints, build the blackface. I think Leo has to one of the greatest amp/guitar designers ever. The Fender strat, so beautiful just like a woman (some......). And the 5E3 tweed circuit, my oh my.....
     
  11. tochiro

    tochiro Member

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    In late 60s the consensus was that Fender amp natural distortion sounded bad and should be avoided, contrarily to Marshall amps for instance.
     
  12. FFTT

    FFTT Member

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    Up until right around 1964 ish, distortion was generally considered something to be avoided, especially in recording.

    That does not mean those amps didn't wail during a live show.

    Remember Rock & Roll supposedly gave young teens impure thoughts.

    They were afraid to show Elvis dancing.
     
  13. 667

    667 Member

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    Thanks, guys! You rock!:hiP
     
  14. kbgear

    kbgear Member

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    I've wondered this myself. But my guess is that pickups and microphones back then had much less output than what began to come out starting in the late 50s -- the amps had extra gain to make low output pickups, accordions, harp mics, etc. loud enough.

    Or maybe the general gain levels persisted even as speakers became more efficient, moving from field coils to alnico and on?

    Maybe a combo of the two? I dunno, but it's a fascinating question, at least to me. ;)
     

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