The Beatles: Get Back | What We Learnt About Music Production And Musicianship

It’s been almost a year since The Beatles: Get Back documentary was released. It features hours of previously unreleased videos and audio of the band’s rehearsals and recording sessions. The 8-hour documentary is a huge celebration for any Beatles fan. But it doesn’t stop there. Any musician, producer and sound engineer can learn and relate to the events pictured in the movie. They address writer’s block, building up a song, setting up a recording session, producing an album, discussing band plans during rehearsals, the excitement of a gig.  In many ways Get Back brings us ever closer to The Beatles. It allows us a peek at their relationships, insecurities, creative process and most of all, their love for making music.  

The miniseries | A story of new perspectives

Directed and produced by Peter Jackson, Get Back covers the making of the Beatles’ 1970 album Let It Be in three episodes. The docuseries takes place in January 1969. It showcases the band’s creative process as they attempted to write 14 new songs in preparation for their first live concert in over two years. Although lots has been written and told about this period of the Beatles’ history, the work made by Peter Jackson and his team brings a whole new perspective to the events that happened in those recording sessions. We do see familiar footage from the 1970 documentary Let it Be, but the feeling after watching this new movie is completely different. Being able to watch the Fab Four working, laughing, writing and connecting through music leaves a more positive impression on the audience. Even the title is a positive statement. By bringing back the original working title of the session, Get Back, the movie invites us to revisit this chapter in the Beatles’ history and experience it with fresh eyes and ears. 

The movie doesn’t hide the discussions and tense moments that unfold between the band members. In fact,  we see how their interests and directions are starting to part ways from each other at this point. With the new material included in the documentary, we see their tribulations and feel the love and respect they had for each other. We understand how making music together made all the tension and discrepancies disappear. By the end of the film, there is a feeling of joy, love and camaraderie. This helps to re-frame the last year the band spent together.

Historical Value | The Beatles: Get Back

For everyone interested in music production and sound engineering this documentary is an endless resource of information. It breaks down the techniques and setups used for recording in that decade. 

Any gear lover can spend the 3 episodes just looking at all the vintage equipment used to capture the performances and conversations of John, Paul, George and Ringo. Microphones like the Neumann U67, the AKG C30 or the AKG D19 (one of the most commonly used Beatle mics) can be spotted throughout the performances. Whether they’re at Twickenham, Apple studios or the rooftop concert. We also see the famous 4-track Studer J37 tape machine used during their rehearsals in the soundstage or two of the classic REDD consoles, borrowed from Abbey Road (formerly EMI) Studios, to set up the studio at Saville Row. If you look closely you would even be able to spot a couple of Fairchild 660 and RS124 compressors being used in the control room for the recording process.

Not only that, but we can also see studio etiquette put into practice by legendary producer and recording engineer Glyn Johns and Sir George Martin, trying to make sure the sessions run smoothly and always keeping in mind the vision and needs of the talent (even if it keeps changing from day to day). 

Capturing The Magic

One of the great messages we take from watching the movie is that it’s all about capturing the performance. The great musicianship of the Beatles is incredibly powerful.  Any number of the recordings from those sessions is worth an album. It’s all about having great musicians playing together and connecting through music. No need for overdubs or having everyone isolated in their booths. Glyn Johns and George Martin used the equipment available to capture the live performance and energy in the room. And when it happened it was really magical. If you listen to the 1969 Glyn Johns mixes from those sessions in Let it Be (Super Deluxe), although perhaps not as polished as the final release, they could very well have become the live album the Beatles originally envisioned.

Whether you are an engineer, producer, Beatle maniac or just a music lover, we can’t recommend this documentary enough. We just feel connected with it. Get Back, in many ways, reflects what our Music Production and Sound Engineering curriculum is all about. We learn from the long history of sound recording and technical knowledge surrounding Abbey Road. The importance of balancing technical with interpersonal skills prepares our students for their future in the music industry. Head over to the Get Back IMDB page for detailed information on the miniseries, the award nominations and wins, the cast, the production and much more. And why not watch this short video interview with Peter Jackson as he talks about making The Beatles: Get Back. Eager to learn more about our Advanced Diploma in Music Production and Sound Engineering? Head to our course page and contact us for more information.