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Old 10-10-2019, 06:42 PM
Hatchie is offline
Join Date: Jan 2019
Location: Boston
Posts: 87

Did Vinnie Bell take his "bweep bweep" with him?

Vinnie Bell died on October 3, and it took a while for Wikipedia to notice. He was 87 and a very prolific studio guitarist who played on about a zillion records and movie/TV soundtracks from the early 60s until - well, as far as I know he never retired. He was known as a tinkerer and developed gimmicky things like the electric sitar (that's him on Green Tambourine by the Lemon Pipers, and who could forget them?), and various proto wah-wah effects. Probably took some credit for stuff he didn't invent, but merely popularized, but come on - he was a dedicated experimenter and had a knack for supplying little touches, like the "chick" sound on Dionne Warwick's Walk On By that absolutely, positively made that record.

But if there's one guitar effect that's most positively a Vinnie Bell trademark, it's the "watery" sound - sort of a "bweep bweep" thing played as an accent on numerous records, and if you hear that sound on a recording, that's Vinnie playing it. (Here are a couple of cherished examples - the instrumental hit Midnight Cowboy, and a bit from the soundtrack of Barbarella.)

As legend has it, he was so protective of his secret method of producing this odd noise, he insisted on recording in closed rooms with no one - no producers, no engineers - watching. Now I don't know if that's strictly true, but I do know that a lot of gearheads have tied themselves in knots trying to figure out the exact nature of Vinnie's secret sauce. I did a bit of searching and found a forum discussion that's amusing to read, where people throw out a lot of unlikely guesses - sampling? Not really done in those days, and in any case, sampling what?

Now he's gone, and unless he handed the formula down to some hypothetical Vinnie Jr., we may never hear its like again. More's the pity, though people now would just shrug and say "uh, it's a synthesizer" and move on.

Last edited by Hatchie; 10-10-2019 at 06:45 PM.
Old 10-11-2019, 10:35 AM
gaffa is offline
Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: Chicago, IL
Posts: 11,279
It sounds like he's actually plucking the spring inside of a reverb unit.
Old 10-11-2019, 12:57 PM
Hatchie is offline
Join Date: Jan 2019
Location: Boston
Posts: 87
I'm sure there's string plucking and a reverb unit involved, but if it were that simple, it would have been done by others.

My theory: he eats a bar of soap, and pops the bubbles when they emerge.


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