The Beatles: Something (Paul McCartney’s Isolated Bass)

For today’s isolated bass track, we’re treated to some great bass by Paul McCartney on the George Harrison tune, “Something”. The tune appeared on the Beatles’ Abbey Road, and was “the only song written by him to top the US charts while he was in the band,” according to the Wikipedia article on the song.

As with several of McCartney’s isolated tracks, there is some disagreement on the bass he’s playing. While most say it is his 1964 Hofner 500/1 bass, many others insist it is his Rickenbacker.

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  1. this may be the most melodic and beautiful bass track ever recorded, thought so ever since i heard it long before i started playing bass and shows that paul really dug james jamerson’s idea of bass being more than a few quarter notes.

  2. Having owned both of those (essentially) basses, I think it may the Hofner

  3. I have a ’82 4001 and a V62 re-issue. There is no way anyone who knows either of these basses would ever say that sounds like a RIC. You might question which Hofner this was, but by this time, the Cavern had already been “nicked”.

  4. It is truly amazing raw extraction of sound …Love it –

  5. Beautiful bass line … my ears vote for the Hofner.

  6. momo

    Höfner 100 % !! Amazing Bass Lines !!

  7. Stephen Ierardo

    This is definitely a Hofner !

  8. Anthony

    Beautiful i hear it’s the hofner, i use mine to record and i can hear the significant tone of the hofner.

    • Phil

      Paul always said he went to the Rick as the Hofners tended to go out of tune when you went above the 12th fret. I would suggest it is the rick with the black nylon rotosounds used for the Abbey Road LP. He is only using the neck pick up on the rick.

  9. Where is the other overdubbed bass track. Without it, we’re hearing only part of the bass line.

  10. rubberbeartoe

    he also recorded with a jazz bass

  11. Not only is the woody tone of the Hofner evident, you can hear the pitchiness all over this track, with some pulling and vibrato covering the instrument’s intonation issues. One of the photos shows a piece of foam under the strings of a Hofner (Get Back session era, looks like), which is keeping the sustain short. One of the hallmarks of McCartney’s playing has always been the was his musicality always rose above both technical and technique shortcomings. It’s a gorgeous and almost otherworldly part, and there’s no way the tone came from anything other than a Hofner. Funny, thing, before hearing the part isolated, I’d always thought it was a Rick.

    • LeeGee

      Totally agree with you!

    • Stringkiller

      1000% in agreement with you, man! The Ric was what the Fab-Geek in me always felt was being used primarily at the time that recorded Abbey Road, but this iso-track definitely clarifies that it’s a Höfner!

  12. Scott Robbins

    Great bass line, very lyrical, but the attack bugs me. Was he using a pick?

    • BEADG

      Incredibly, Paul reluctantly became the Beatles bassist when Sutcliffe left … coming from being one of the group’s guitarists. Therefore, he’s best known for primarily using a pick. Occasionally he plays finger-style but never uses slap/pop or muting techniques.

    • LeeGee

      Yes…

  13. From a Funk and Soul player….Very nice work Paul.

  14. Miguel Angel Noriega Calderon

    He is a real performer and innovating bassman since they began to play together!

  15. Steevo

    Paul’s playing here and also on Michelle, are my favourites to listen specifically for the bass part. A real composer of the bass.

  16. Hugh MacDiarmid

    Agree with others here. As a Hofner player, it’s definitely a Hofner.

  17. Sir Paul …. And there is a good reason we call him ” SIR” .Another example of his amazing ability to develop a bass line that brings evn more life to a good song ! Something in the way he GROOVES !!

  18. gregg

    That sounds like a Hofner not a Ric

  19. Dave

    I own a Hofner, a Rick 4001c64 and a Jazz and have been playing for 50 years. This sounds like the Rick with the foam mute on and only the neck pickup, flatwound strings played with a pick. At this time the bass was taken direct through the board, recorded at Olympic studios as an overdub with Glyn Johns as engineer.

    • brix

      The beauty of flat wound strings is that you can put them on any bass and get this kind of tone and attack, especially with a pick. I doubt anyone can say for sure which bass he played just by listening to the track, but I would think that the Ric being a more hifi bass would have more low end, especially if just the neck pu is used. Yeah the mute would squash some of it… but I dunno… This sounds more like the Hofner I played briefly a thousand years ago. Woody, flat, intonation issues… Ah well, doesn’t matter. Sir Paul could write a good line on a washtub bass.

  20. robert Vally

    Same sound as “and your bird”. It’s Hofner. For sure

  21. Steven Christal

    I’ve always loved Paul’s bouncy wandering melodic bass lines. Listen to Penny Lane or Silly Love Songs and you’ll notice a lot more going on than just pedaling an Open E.

    • Bill C

      Interesting to me is that at 1;43 he plays a low D, below the normally tuned low E string, so at least that string was de-tuned. There were no 5 string basses around back then.

      • I thought I could hear him actually tune the machine down to that D as he played the note, and then tune it back up.

  22. D. Leonard

    Hofner, the acoustic compression effect of how beautifully light the bass is…

  23. LeeGee

    Yep, I own both basses too…it’s the Hofner

  24. LeeGee

    Ironically George didn’t like that Paul played the busy bass part on his song, and asked bass players who played with him live to scale back.

  25. Peter

    It’s the Hofner. Note how it’s out of tune on the lower frets. Paul probably tuned it to the 5th or 7th fret. Tuning was notoriously troublesome on 60s Hofners.

  26. Definitely not a Ric

  27. That’s the sound of a Hofner played with a pick on nylon strings!

    • Nylon perhaps, or flat wounds. But, with how out of tune the notes bend on the low notes, you could be right about the nylon. that or he’s playing super hard, which it kinda sounds like.

  28. That is the Hofner. I would literally put everything I own on it. I’ve owned both, and still own the Rick. It’s the Hofner.

  29. Shawn Fox

    No doubt it’s the Hofner. I’m going with the flat wound with a pick. I love the discrete vibrato, he used that a lot, hence.. me too!

  30. Joey Heshion

    No man. Those are plucked flat wounds. That’s the Hofner. You can tell by the decay of the notes.

  31. Brian Robinson

    so glad to have heard that , class !

  32. Paul’s a genius and the reason I play : )

  33. In my opinion …Paul is playing his Hofner on this bad boy. If you listen closely you can hear the strings give a semi – buzz on his deeper notes Rather Raw …just like a Hofner.

  34. Again….it’s the Hofner in my opinion….it sounds like mine.

  35. Its the Hofner bass for sure on “Something”. I recently purchased Pyramid Bass strings for my 68 Hofner. Big deal right? Who cares? You r gonna care especially Anyone who wants there Bass to sound even close to that track…

  36. That’s surely the Hofner. McCartney played the most melodic bass lines.

  37. zoowilly

    It has to be the Hofner. with a pick the Ricky would have had much more treble attack.

  38. Would love to hear this with a modern, nice and open bass-sound. Sorry. I still don’t dig this Hofner-like closed sound, although the parts he’s playing are fabulous!@!!

  39. My money is McCartney played his Rickenbacker 4001 on this track. Listen closely. This track has the same tone as Silly Love Songs and Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.

  40. Who gives a …. to which guitar? Beautiful bass line and overall most amazing romantic song.

  41. Mojo Filter

    my vote goes to Hofner with flatwounds.

  42. stefano

    Gentlemen, I would not want to disappoint you, but in order:

    Come together – hofner
    Something – Rickenbacker 4001
    Maxwell’s Silver – Fender VI (six-string bass) played by George)
    Oh! Darling – Fender Jazz (or maype hofner with nylon strings..I can’t say that for sure) played by Paul
    Octopus’s Garden – Rick 4001
    I want you (she’s so heavy) – hofner with nylon strings
    Here comes the sun – rick 4001
    Because – maybe a Rick 4001 playde with fingers
    You never give me your money – Rick 4001
    Sun king – fender jazz (maybe)
    Mean mr Mustard – paul play a (fender jazz?) fuzz bass
    Polythene pam/she came in through.. – Rick 4001
    Golden slumbers/carry that weight – rick 4001
    The End – Rick 4001

    • stefano

      errata corrige:
      Golden slumbers/carry that weight – fender bass (maybe jazz) played by George Harrison

  43. Scott Brookman

    sounds nothing like a Rick to me!

  44. Ron

    Hofner…

  45. Alan

    video blocked on copyright grounds

  46. Mindseye79

    I firmly believe it’s the Hofner. One of the most distinctive sounding instruments in the world.