How to get Phil Lesh's Alembic tone on a budget

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by Rusty the Scoob, Jul 4, 2008.

  1. I'm building a 5-string and want to duplicate Phil's Alembic tone from the mid 70's. What pickups would you use, other than Alembics?
  2. atldeadhead


    Jun 17, 2002
    I am also a Phil nut and mesmorized by all things Grateful Dead. I've looked in the Blair Jackson book "Grateful Dead Gear" and indeed Big Brown was equipped with Alembics. Not much other info as far as details on those pickups.

    You probably already know this since your a student of Mr. Lesh but flat wounds and a pick will take you a long way to mimicing that Phil 70's sound. I currently use a Q5 with slick wounds (rounds that have been ground smooth on the outside) but play finger style primarily. Sometimes I'll use a finger nail to simulate the picked sound. Anyway, I think I get a nice approximation of his tone. Check out some live recordings with the band I'm playing with to hear ( There is a nice version of Lovelight for your listening enjoyment.

    Tell me more about the 5 string your building if'n ya don't mind. I would love to know more.
  3. edwinhurwitz

    edwinhurwitz Supporting Member

    May 13, 2003
    Boulder, CO
    Endorsing Artist: DR Strings, SMS
    I would also use a neck through or at least a set neck. But, Thomastik flats and a good stiff pick (they just discontinued the Adamas Graphite, which is a shame as it works perfectly for this) are pretty essential for the tone.

    An Alembic F2B helps and play through some 15s and 12s (I use a McCauley 15 and a JBL K120 both in the EV TL606 style cabinet).

    Other than that, it's all in the fingers.

  4. Thanks, guys! Flats are one of the big motivations - I don't really want to put them on the Sadowsky, so I'm building a custom. It'll have a Warmoth bolt-on neck due to my lack of instrument-building skill. The body will be very much Alembic-styled, Mahogany core with Coco Bolo top and back and other accent woods.

    I do use Dunlop 2.0mm picks. I wish I could find the graphite picks, you're the first one who knows the brand and I've searched a lot!

    Changing my amp isn't in the budget right now, unfortunately... the Redhead will have to do, plus I'll borrow an Eden 15" to get it a little deeper and smoother.

    A mockup of the bass I'm building is attached... my main question is what pickups to choose?

    Attached Files:

  5. its more of an early 70s late 60s tone, but i'm currently playing a lakland hollowbody with darkstars strung up with ken smith slickrounds. i've been playing through an SWR Interstellar Overdrive and an Ampeg 4x12. it was never my intention to go after the Phil sound, but when i strum that big D chord it roars like Morning Dew and then it's hard not to jump right into that song...
    scars likes this.
  6. Holy crap, that must sound amazing! I'm almost but not quite willing to build a 4-banger - if I went back to 4 strings I'd one one of everything.

    Part of my motivation behind building this bass is father/son bonding. I don't see him very much since I've lived in Boston for 10 years. He's going to build the body, using a template that I create.