Geezer Butler's tone on the album "Paranoid"

Discussion in 'Bassists [BG]' started by decadence, Dec 22, 2000.

  1. kohntarkosz

    kohntarkosz Inactive

    Oct 29, 2013
    Edinburgh - Scotland
    From what I recall from an interview I read, Geezer used worn out roundwounds not flatwounds. He didn't like the fact that his tech was putting fresh roundwounds on his bass every night.

    I think a big part of the 'Geezer' tone is the heavy right hand technique. Hitting the fretboard hard up over the last few frets, it is almost like he briefly performs hammer-ons, with each note being briefly preluded with a high 'wub' note. I've not slowed down a recording to check how often this happens, but that weird pillowy attack suggests this is the case.
  2. pfox14


    Dec 22, 2013
    I'll just say that the single most important thing in copying Geezer's sound is the right playing up on the end of the fingerboard. Heavy hard plucking so the strings slap against the frets and produces a more muted bass tone.
  3. DarkBard69


    Sep 8, 2016
    Can anyone tell me which bass Geezer's playing in this pic? I can't find one that shows full frontal headstock or logo, but it has the bird inlays, 2 humbuckers, 2x2 tuners. I don't think it's his Lakland, Yamaha, Vigier or Birch, clearly not a Fender, Ricky, Rich, or Armstrong. I had a mag pic of him playing it from the early '80s, dying to find one like it. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller..?

  4. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Yamaha, Ampeg, Line 6, EMG
    I was thinking Vigier, but it could be a Spector.
  5. DarkBard69


    Sep 8, 2016
    It's not like any Vigier or Spector that I've seen. The body is real slim like a Spector, with the dual humbuckers, but the cutaways look much more like his Yamaha BB. I'm guessing it's a one-off custom job, 'cause I can't find another artist playing one -- surprising, it's a sweet-looking piece. I want one! But if it's this hard to track down, I'm prob'ly outta luck...
  6. The key is not only to boost the mids, but also to play super hard around the 19th fret, where the strings are super loose.
  7. socialleper

    socialleper Bringer of doom and top shelf beer Supporting Member

    May 31, 2009
    Canyon Country, CA
    P bass, warmer strings, play almost right on the neck. Almost like you are tapping the last fret. That's pretty much it.
    Oh, and grow a mustache. His tone isn't in his hands, its in his 'stache.
    Axstar, AndyLES and A. D. Fairhurst like this.
  8. No, play directly on the neck. The micro-second fret taps help with the tone.
  9. socialleper

    socialleper Bringer of doom and top shelf beer Supporting Member

    May 31, 2009
    Canyon Country, CA
    Well, I did say "almost."
    Geezer's somewhat reckless technique was definitely integral to his sound on the first 6 records. He played a little further back into the 80s and 90s, but still really batted away at his strings in a way that would drive most instructors up a wall. These days his playing is more relaxed, but far from light finger playing close to the bridge that a lot of session guys seem to prefer. His tone has always been a odd combination of deadening his tone with flats or coated strings, turning the tone down, and just beating the $#!+ of his bass.
    What's interesting is that despite having played at least half a dozen different brands over the years, he still has the same general tone, probably because of his technique. That and his use of minor pentatonic scales for fills. We should just rename that the Geezer mode.
    A. D. Fairhurst likes this.
  10. He did play an Aria a few times during the early 80's. I think I still have the pic.
  11. image.jpeg
    It wouldn't be this one obviously but the shape does fit your description. Maybe he had more than one.

    Edit-nah. Doesn't look alike at all.
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2016
    A.K. likes this.
  12. Ok. Closest I can get is he did have a few JayDee basses from that era with the same fret markers but completely different bodies.
  13. JDGA fan

    JDGA fan

    Oct 9, 2003
    My guess is Jaydee as well. I think those are devil, not bird inlays.
    Gluvhand likes this.
  14. I agree. It looks a lot like the devil they're using on their backdrop currently.
  15. JDGA fan

    JDGA fan

    Oct 9, 2003
    I think its a variation of this bass.

    Attached Files:

    Gluvhand likes this.
  16. Yep, the Geezer sound comes from him plucking over the end of the neck, and really digging into the strings. He did also have a wrecked speaker at one point. I heard that Ozzy wasn't too impressed with his tone at first and was quoted as saying "What the f*** is that?" A fender precision was his main bass at first as far as I know!
  17. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Yamaha, Ampeg, Line 6, EMG
    I'm pretty sure that Ozzy didn't like the tone of a Hofner bass he had borrowed, not the Fender, and said that in reference to the Hofner. Could be wrong, but that's how I remember it.

    Also, the wrecked speaker was on the first album only. By the time of Paranoid, Geezer had two Laney 100w heads and two 412's.
  18. I think you are Probably be right about. the speaker issue.
    Gotta feeling I saw geezer referring to his technique being the cause of Ozzy's displeasure in film somewhere though.
    JimmyM likes this.
  19. Long forgot those great memories of seeing them at the Jacksonville (FL) Coliseum, many a time and back in the day.

    Really liked the interview post 36. The thread has the staying power of the band.

    Think I’ll pick it up again and give a couple of the old standards a try.

    BC ;)
  20. Axstar

    Axstar Inactive

    Jul 8, 2016
    I'm not sure I buy the whole 'blown speaker' angle that is always brought up concerning Paranoid. If Geezer's cab had a mix of working and blown speakers, then any engineer would be putting a mic on an intact driver, not the fuzzy farty one. From bitter personal experience, blown speakers don't provide a pleasingly consistent overdriven tone; they sound fairly dreadful and are pretty unpredictable and inconsistent in terms of performance. Would they mic a speaker that sounded like a dog fart, buzzed away on certain notes but completely failed to reproduce others and fizzled out into silence half way through a take?
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