Billy Sheehan

Discussion in 'Bassists [BG]' started by Flatwound, Jan 28, 2001.

  1. Flatwound

    Flatwound Supporting Member

    Sep 9, 2000
    San Diego
    This guy absolutely slays me, especially his stuff with Niacin. It took me a while to warm up to him, partly because I don't like Talas or Mr. Big very much. His playing with David Lee Roth was pretty cool, though. I would have thought his grinding, in-your-face tone wouldn't work in a jazzy setting, but, boy, was I wrong! I know Niacin isn't exactly hardcore jazz or straight ahead (mostly), but more pop/jazz sometimes leaning pretty hard toward rock, but he plays a pretty mean walking line on "Pay Dirt".

    Maybe what I like so much about Niacin is that Billy seems to like playing with other musicians more than cranking out solo albums.

    Also, has anyone noticed that his sound is often Rickenbacker-like, only more so? In other words, his tone reminds me of Close to the Edge and Relayer - era Chris Squire. Billy's tone is a little deeper, but I find the similarities from such totally different instruments interesting.

    And on "Chicken Dog," is he playing double bass, or what?
  2. gweimer


    Apr 6, 2000
    Columbus, OH
    I took my son to a Billy Sheehan clinic a while back. He's amazing. The funny thing is that when you watch him up close, he DOESN'T DO ANYTHING as far as hand or finger movement. Every move is short, smooth and relaxed. The fact that he has all eight fingers precision timed created this immense sound. He's a nice guy, too. He even replied to my son's Email later.
    lancimouspitt likes this.
  3. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    I have HIGH BIAS by Niacin; personally, IMHO, that's a perfect example of how NOT to record an electric bass. I thought Sheehan's tone was both thin & weak...I liked what he was sayin' better on EAT 'EM & SMILE.
    Which Niacin disc do you have?
  4. camerondye


    Nov 7, 2000
    I would agree, Billy Sheehan's tone and style is not a very practical one...IMO. But it seems to work very well for him. The guy is always doin' something. And, he is also a super super nice guy. I have met him twice and he comes off as very down to earth and what you see is what you get. very cool
  5. Flatwound

    Flatwound Supporting Member

    Sep 9, 2000
    San Diego
    I agree that Billy's signature tone wouldn't be very practical for most of us. But I think he's found environments where it works fine. As far as the stuff on High Bias, well, it sounds like Billy to me. I don't find his sound thin at all. To me, he often sounds like a fatter version of a Rickenbacker.

    gweimer- My love affair (so to speak) with Billy has only been fairly recent, so I haven't had a chance to see him live. Niacin played recently at the NAMM show, and I would have driven the three hours or so to see him, but it was only for NAMM attendees.
  6. I like the sound he used on Dave Lee Roth's "Skyscraper"- a harsh P-bass sort of sound, but it didn't really fit with that material- the smoother tone on "Eat 'em and smile" fitted better.
  7. ytsebri


    Sep 1, 2000
    Well, that's probably because Matt Bissonette played bass on the album, not Billy. Billy only sang a coupla songs on it.
  8. If memory serves, Sheehan did play all the bass on the ALBUM, but then quit before the tour. Matt Bissonette played bass, but Billy's vocals were still used via backing tapes on the tour.

    And, no, I'm not the same Steve Holroyd who served as second engineer on the Skyscraper album. ;)
  9. yeah, reading from the liner notes on "Skyscraper", Billy Sheehan was credited with bass on all the tracks on the original album (except keyboard bass on "Stand Up").
    Willie Weeks played on "California Girls" and "Just A Gigolo", which were included with the reissue version.

    "Billy's vocals were used via backing tapes" - makes you wonder why DLR didn't just get backing singers to do that and avoid the timing complications of using tapes.....maybe he used all the budget up on the stage set.:D
  10. kcm


    Jun 17, 2000
    Woking, Surrey.
    Saw Billy at a demo for his new pre-amp in Exeter, Devon.
    Totally blew our socks off and stayed around for ages to talk and sign stuff. A real nice guy, can't believe he was there in the West Country playing to about 80 people with as much enthusiasm as he would in front of 8000.
  11. How did the preamp sound?
  12. Turlu

    Turlu Supporting Member

    Sep 11, 2000
    Ottawa, Ontario CANADA
    Billy Sheehan is something else.

    I just learned "Yankee Rose" from David Lee Roth Band and the Bass parts are not too bad but there is just one small part he does that I just can't figure out the exact way to recreate it. I am sure everybody knows what part I mean, I think it's at the first part of the second verse.
    Listen to it, it's great !!!
  13. if you mean the bass fill at the "something's in the air" bit, it sounds like fast three (or more) finger picking using the open G string and the C and D notes.
    the book "Billy Sheehan, Super Rock Bassist" (I think it's translated from Japanese:)) has tabs for most of the songs on Eat Em And Smile (it doesn't have that fill in Yankee Rose tabbed out though). it's got a lot of useful tips in it, but it's got a few mistakes in it too eg. "use of tremolo arm" in NV43345, when he was actually just bending the neck.

    [Edited by The Mock Turtle Regulator on 02-01-2001 at 06:04 PM]
  14. kcm


    Jun 17, 2000
    Woking, Surrey.
    The preamp sounded good if distortion is your thing. It meant he didnt have to have two separate rigs one clean, one dirty. He could set up his basic clean sound and gradually blend in the distortion without losing any bottom end, a trait commonly found with distortion pedals used on bass. Still the basic trademark Billy sound, not how I would play or sound, but I just love watching and listening to him.
  15. Just curious about the preamp. That grinding type sound is what I go for. I think the perfect tone is somewhere between Billy Sheehan, Doug Pinnick of King's X, and Geddy Lee's tone on Moving Pictures and Signals. I have some Pearce preamps which give you that drive, but they pale in comparison to my V-4B when its power tubes are pushed hard. Speaking of tubes, I would have liked to hear Billy when he used his multiple SVT rig.
  16. ytsebri


    Sep 1, 2000
    My bad! I knew he left right around that time, and it's been quite awhile since I've done Billy research! :) Please forgive my mistake.
    Humbly :D
  17. Mr_O'B


    Feb 22, 2015
    I marvel at his ability to play at super human speed, but his tone leaves a lot to be desired!

    I've often wondered: is it the Yamaha bass, the way that he strikes the strings or the combination of the two that produce such a horrible tone.

    I respect him for finding his niche in the rock world. There's only one Billy Sheehan!
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2015
  18. tfer


    Jan 1, 2014
    Billy's tone is a result of trying to cover for multiple missing instruments in a power trio, usually a rhythm guitar.

    As a solo tone, I'd rather there was less midrange and grind, but in a band context, it works very well. If you listen to Shyboy, from Eat 'Em and Smile, you hear how effective it actually is.
  19. almost human

    almost human

    Sep 30, 2010
    I wonder if using that preamp makes the stereo output on his Yamaha bass unnecessary?
  20. Bass Growler

    Bass Growler

    Jul 10, 2015
    Nope, the 2nd pickup is used for the low end through a 2nd amp and cabinet.
    That mentioned preamp was probably the Ampeg svp-bsp, which he never used. He kept using the Pearces.
    Now he's using the EBS Billy Sheehan drive, again with 2 parallel signal paths: clean highs and distorted highs, the
    lows still use their own amp, these days Hartkes. Back in 2001 Ampeg. ;)
    tfer and almost human like this.