Video: How to Get The Byrds' Trademark 12-String Chime

Photo of Byrds Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images.

There's nothing quite like the ring of an electric 12-string guitar to bring one's mind to the folk-rock heyday. As pioneers of the form, The Byrds did more than anyone this side of George Harrison to popularize the sound.

But if you've ever tried to emulate the distinct tones heard on songs like "Mr. Tambourine Man," "Bells of Rhymney," or "Turn! Turn! Turn!," you know it can be difficult to pin down. So how exactly did they do it?

In our video above, you'll learn the high-end gear behind the trebly jangle: a Rickenbacker 360/12, an amp mic'd with a Neumann U 47, and a pair of Teletronix LA-2A compressors. Since few of us will have such tools on hand, we show how to recreate the sound, with a trusty 12-string and two compressor pedals or plugins.

Specifically, we used a Keeley Compressor Mini along with an MXR Dyna Comp for our pedals, and then two instances of Waves CLA-2A for our plugins. Of course, there are many other compressors available, so it's worth experimenting.

Want to learn more secrets of recording history? Check out our previous episodes of What's That Sound? on the overdriven acoustic of The Rolling Stones' "Street Fighting Man" and the densely layered backing vocals of The Cars. Or read about these tricks and more studio magic here.

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