The Gear of The Beatles' "Let It Be"

Photo by Express / Stringer, Getty Images.

When The Beatles reconvened in early 1969 to make a new record, the concept was both clear and vague. What was clear is they wanted to "get back" to their roots—making music together, as a live band, with no overdubs. What was vague was how'd they document and present the work.

Recording engineer Glyn Johns and filmmaker Michael Lindsay-Hogg, who had both recently worked on The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus, were to capture the entire process of rehearsal and recording sessions. The songs would be revealed in full to the public in a TV concert, filmed at some to-be-decided exotic location.

With plans still in the works, the rehearsals began on a soundstage at Twickenham Film Studios. Those sessions turned fraught, the TV idea was scrapped, and the band moved to their newly constructed Apple Studio instead.

Though the film crew and "warts and all" documentary approach remained, the eventual album and film—which changed titles from Get Back to Let It Be—turned out to be greatly edited down and polished.

Director Peter Jackson's The Beatles: Get Back—an eight-hour, three-part documentary that begins streaming on Disney+ November 25—restores the original footage, presenting the making of Let It Be in all its rollicking glory. This includes those fraught rehearsals at Twickenham, the salvaged sessions at Apple, and the full Rooftop Concert performance.

For musicians and gearheads, Get Back is a feast for the senses, displaying the band's late-period gear like it's never been seen before. We've compiled this guide as a kind of companion and easy reference.

What gear did The Beatles use to make Let It Be? Find it all below.

The official trailer for The Beatles: Get Back

Let It Be Guitars

Paul McCartney's go-to bass for the proceedings was his '63 Hofner 500/1 Bass. It can be seen throughout the recording sporting a "Bassman" sticker, which had originally been affixed to his Fender Bassman speaker cabinet (more on that later).

McCartney's Rickenbacker 4001S and his original '61 Hofner can be seen sparingly in the film, with the '61 Hofner being stolen soon after. As for McCartney's acoustic guitar parts, he used his trusty Martin D-28.

George Harrison was spoiled with incredible guitars at the time, switching between his '57 Gibson "Lucy" Les Paul (a gift from Eric Clapton that had been converted from a Goldtop) and his iconic, custom-built Rosewood Telecaster prototype (a gift from Fender). He also had his Gibson J-200 acoustic on hand, which John Lennon used throughout the sessions too. Harrison soon gave that to Bob Dylan.

For the majority of his guitar work, Lennon used his finish-stripped Epiphone Casino. His similarly stripped Martin D-28 was on hand but rarely used, while he played a Hofner Hawaiian Standard lap steel for a few select parts.

Because the band wanted to record without overdubs, that meant someone besides McCartney had to play bass any time Paul played the piano. While John and George also had a Fender Jazz Bass nearby, they most often played the six-string Fender VI through McCartney's Bassman amp.

Let It Be Amps

As mentioned above, McCartney's amp for the sessions was a '68 Fender Bassman head and 2x15 cabinet. These cabinets from Fender at the time were tall, 40" total vertically, with the speakers stacked on top of one another.

Lennon and Harrison's main amps were matching '68 Silverface Fender Twin Reverbs. Additionally, Harrison had a 147RV rotating Leslie speaker—another gift from Clapton—that he used extensively on the record.

The Beatles: Get Back - A Sneak Peek from Peter Jackson

Let It Be Drums

Especially during the Twickenham sessions—when Ringo Starr's station was set up on a high riser, backlit by the soundstage's rainbow-colored lights—his drum kit was the star of the show. It was a '67 Ludwig Hollywood kit that had been new for the White Album.

A five-piece set, it included a 14x22" kick, 16x16" floor tom, as well as an 8x12" and a 9x13" tom. However, Starr preferred his '63 Jazz Festival 5.5x14" snare, opting to use it instead of the Hollywood's.

Let It Be Keys

The most exciting addition to the standard Beatles lineup was not any one keyboard but a certain keyboard player, with Billy Preston joining the group at Apple Studio and becoming, unofficially, a "fifth Beatle" for the proceedings. Preston made great use of a Fender Rhodes Suitcase 73 electric piano, which had been freshly delivered to the band, express from California.

Other keys in the room included a Hammond with Leslie, a Lowrey DSO Heritage Deluxe organ, an unmarked upright piano, and the Blüthner grand piano heard on tracks like "The Long and Winding Road."

Recording Equipment

Let It Be fans new and old often want to know: What are the mics The Beatles used for the Rooftop Concert? The slender vocal mics that Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison are singing into are AKG C30As. Based around the brand's C28 capsule, these mics included long attachments that kept the body of the mic far away from the head, making them ideal for filming. The mics were used throughout the sessions, not just on the rooftop finale.

Other AKG mics can be seen throughout the recording process—D19s for vocals, D25s suspended on boom arms, a D20 on the kick drum—while Neumann U 47s, KM 56s, and plenty of U 67s capture vocals, drum overheads, and more.

At Apple Studio, following a disastrous attempt at a custom console, The Beatles borrowed a pair of REDD consoles from Abbey Road, including the REDD.37 used on earlier recordings and later owned by Lenny Kravitz. Behind the console, you can also see a few Fairchild limiters.

For playback and vocal monitoring on, first, the Twickenham soundstage and, later, the Apple Studio live room, the band employed brand-new Vox and Fender Solid State PA systems.

If you're watching the new documentary and spy gear we've missed, let us know.


Sources for this article include: Andy Babiuk's Beatles Gear, Glyn Johns' Sound Man, and The Beatles Recording Reference Manual: Volume 5.

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