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Phil Lesh 4 vs Phil Lesh 6

Discussion in 'Bassists [BG]' started by Stingus, Apr 12, 2004.

  1. I tried a couple different searches on this and nothing I was looking for came up...

    I've been listening to "Live Dead" a lot lately, and I realised that I really prefer Phil's sound on the 4 string much more than the 6. He is barely audible (at least to me) on things like "touch of grey" and later period stuff, compared to "live dead", which is just majestic. For people who are often dismissed as hippies, the Dead (especially on Dark Star) played music just as progressive as Yes and King Crimson...

    Anyone else notice?
  2. Baofu


    Mar 8, 2003
    When I saw Lesh with RatDog, he played an upright exclusively (bowed most, if not all, of it).

    Not much of a dead fan myself, my Dad's a huge dead-head though. Maybe I need to check out Dark Star.
  3. Passinwind

    Passinwind I know nothing. Supporting Member Commercial User

    Dec 3, 2003
    Columbia River Gorge, WA.
    Owner/Designer &Toaster Tech Passinwind Electronics
    Anyone else notice?

    I'm with you 100%. I saw many shows pre-'76, then lost interest in the Dead, although I still occasionally went to later shows. Ironically, Phil's love of Ornette Coleman and other outside jazz was a big influence on my own musical taste.

    As far as old Phil versus the later period, I'll take the "Seastones" era, when he had the quad system, and the classic Wall Of Sound period a little earlier, as my favorite tones of any of his rigs I've heard. Once he got away from the Starfire/Alembic fours, he kind of lost me tonewise.
  4. Perfect-Tommy


    Mar 28, 2004
    Oh thank God I'm not alone. I agree 110%. When I started listening to the 80's and post "Touch of Grey", they started getting really synth heavy (which isn't bad unless... YOU'RE THE GRATEFUL DEAD!) to my ear. The move to 6 string only weakens the low end of their sound and pushes it further from their old organic sound.

    Lesh is a really good bassist in my mind, but I think that there are some bass players that just don't need more then 4 strings. There are some amazing players that use 5+ and get great sound, but there are also some that use it like a crutch and don't sound good. Like a guitarist with 20 million pedals all with the sole purpose of covering up a weakness in his playing. Sometimes having more options doesn't work.

    And yes, check out Darkstar. It's really some of the best instrumental psy-rock you'll ever hear
  5. D.A.R.K.

    D.A.R.K. Supporting Member

    Aug 20, 2003
    i think that was rob wasserman, not phil lesh....

    i believe phil lesh is quite underrated, and i also really appreciate his earlier, more agressive tones.
    he also played a huge part in helping to experiment with and develop the electric bass guitar by working closely with companies such as alembic. not to mention that beautifully crazy wall of sound. i would suggest to any audio geek to read up on that one.
  6. Exactly.

    Live Dead is an unbelievable album. I love the bass work in Eleven.
    tattooSAM likes this.
  7. The Lurker

    The Lurker

    Aug 16, 2002
    I notice the sonic difference more than the other stuff.... he still seems to play pretty much the same way. As far as 4 vs 6, though, it seems to me he tends to stay in one place on the neck more and play across the strings rather than along them. I could be wrong, :meh: though.
  8. zillo


    Jun 5, 2003
    I was thumbing through the Taper's Compendium and a picture of Phil playing a psychedelic, swirly painted Gibson EB 3 jumped out at me. (At least that's what it looks like...I don't know my model numbers very well).

    Surprising; I never knew he used one of those. From pictures in the book, it looked like he was paying that from late '69 to early-mid 71. That was a pretty good era for the Dead and Mr. Lesh :D

    Lots of big pounding bass on live tapes recorded then. Go Phil :bassist: !!!
  9. Planet Boulder

    Planet Boulder Hey, this is a private residence...man

    Nov 10, 2001
    6,482 feet above sea level
    I once had impure thoughts. Oh, and I pluck my ear hair.
    I'm a longtime Deadhead and I'll have to agree, at least somewhat, with the contention that his "older" tone was more appealing than that of his more recent years.

    Also, over the past 20 years, Phil has kind of gotten away from his old "groove" technique and has become more inclined to play shorter notes with more space. In the right context, that obviously works well, but in his case, I think his style almost comes across as sounding more "pokey" and less fluid. To each his own with respect to preference and I know that Mike Gordon has actually worked in recent years to emulate Phil's style more, but it just doesn't appeal to me.
  10. boogiebass


    Aug 16, 2000
    Nope, can't say I agree at all regarding his 4 vs. 6 sound. While I enjoy all of Phil's work over the years, I think his work on 6 string has more clarity and is far more sonically impressive than anything done on a 4. I've never heard a better bottom end than what Phil did at The Dead show in Irvine, CA last September. And the previous year with Phil & Friends in San Diego, he dropped some bombs that were just massive.

    Digital recording, in general, tends to make some of the later recordings sound less bass-heavy. His tone was definitely great on the stuff that ended up on "Live Dead." My favorite Phil 4 tone was on the Europe 72 recordings, however.

    As to Phil's playing, I find that he uses the 6 very creatively, selectively and judiciously going into the extended upper and lower ranges to great dramatic effect. I remember his quote about why he plays a 6 string: "More notes."

    I recommend you seek out some early nineties shows or check out what Phil is doing these days before you decide you don't care for his 6 string playing/tone. I think you may be surprised. I agree with your last sentence, of course. In fact, The Dead have always had more in common with a good jazz group than a rock band given the progressive and extensive use of improvisation as a basis for much of their music.
  11. iriegnome

    iriegnome Bassstar style Supporting Member

    Nov 23, 2001
    Kenosha, WI 53140
    My band does alot of Dead stuff. The old Phil with the Alembec 4 was much more fluid and rythem based than the Q6 he has been playing more recently. If you listen to something like Dick's Pick's 13 you really get a feel for the short punchy notes with lots of space inbetween, but at times when the really throw down Phil steps up and is rollin just the same as he used to. It seems to me that he has changed his playing style over the last 3,000 or so shows to make things different. I can hear it in 1993 as well as in Live Without a Net. I really think that it depends upon what night you catch them or what recording you have as to how punchy or fluid Phil sounds.
  12. 6-stringer

    6-stringer Guest

    Feb 5, 2000
    I dig what phil has done in the later years. I like the crystaline ambient feel of the dead post 1980. I love the earlier stuff too, but the later sound of the dead is just more pleasing to my ears. I tend to get into the tone of the modulus/eden rig he's using of late as well.
  13. MMiller28


    Apr 27, 2003
    i think phil's best tone was with his custom alembic of the late 70's. i also really dig his current sound with the q6.

    in terms of his playing, i think i like him on 4 better because back then he had to go up the neck to get the low notes, and got a great crunchy (does that make sense to anyone else?) tone from the first 5 or so frets on the E string (as heard in The Other One intro). Nowadays he plays more in the middle-upper part of the neck and just goes down to the B string for the lower notes, and loses that aspect of his sound that i love.
  14. Since I started this thread, I read an interview with Phil where he spoke about the Dead getting away from the freer stuff around '72/American Beauty period, which he sounded a little regretful over.

    Also, I like a quote in his Bass Player interview where he said that his style grew out of "trying to put some polytonality" into rock music.
  15. I believe Lesh played that EB3 on Workingman's Dead and American Beauty, both of which featured a REALLY aggressive sound. Check out the bass entrance on Friend of the Devil, truly unconventional tone then and now I'd give anything to emulate! That Gabson was supposedly heavily modified, wish I knew how.. And yes,Dark Star is the Dead's single absolute masterpiece but I think he had the Guild Starfire then.. So if anyone knows how to get that bonky wooden sound, let me know!!!
  16. What you say! :eyebrow:

    One is so dissimilar from the next. Personally I don't like the on3 from Live Dead very much (in comparison to others). :bag:

    I like the tone of the Mudulus, but it's a little gritty for my taste.
  17. RAM


    May 10, 2000
    Chicago, IL
    I've moved in and out of my Dead phases so much, it's hard to keep track of what I'm listening to at the time. But, one live disc I absolutely LOVE is "Ladies and Gentleman..." from 1971. The tone is crystal clear, warm, and fluid sounding!
  18. Lesh with the 4 is equivalent to John Elway after his injury, Just plain AWESOME!

    Dark Star is the song that defines the 60s.
  19. Muzique Fann

    Muzique Fann Howzit brah

    Dec 8, 2003
    Kauai, HI
    I don't know if it was his Alembic or what - but this tone from 77-79 is just amazing (some of the bands best playing too). I've heard some fretless work on some older stuff - anybody know what bass that was?

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