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Phil Lesh on Blues for Allah?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by bigblondeafro87, Aug 24, 2007.

  1. Hey can anyone help me out and tell me what bass, strings(flatwounds or roundwounds), general eq (maybe flat with a little more high mids and a little less lows?), amp (probably tube with large speakers) Phil Lesh used on Blues for Allah?

    Really the only thing I know about his setup is that he played a modulus at some point in time and a guild starfire hollowbody with darkstars at another point in time but he played all basses with a pick.

    I like how he gets such a 'crunchy' tone that cuts through very well, yet doesn't sound too intrusive or overagressive due to low mids, and I'm trying to emulate that a little bit if anyone can help me out.
  2. acleex38


    Jul 28, 2006
    From Philzone.com

    "In '73 he received his first Alembic 4 string bass that was also quite an instrument, it was also quad and is seen in the Grateful Dead movie. It interfaced quite well with the Wall of Sound. This bass was followed by a Doug Irwin and then a G&L as well as Flirtations with an old Fender Jazz. Finally, in the early 80s he got his first Modulus 6 string."

    Based on when Blues for Allah was recorded (mid '75), my guess is it was probably an Alembic. But any of these options is a possibility.
  3. acleex38


    Jul 28, 2006
    ...although, there are pictures in the liner notes for the CD (which may be in no way indicative of what he played in-studio) of him playing the Guild.
  4. RLS


    Aug 2, 2007
    Dallas, TX
    Also keep in mind that when I saw them in the mid/late 70s and early 80s he had a couple of large racks full of equipment.
  5. His early Guild bass was anything but standard. It or the Alembic is most likely what he was using in the "Blues for Allah" period, the album being released in 1975. The Guild was heavily modified by Ron Wickersham and had low impedance pick-ups as well as about a dozen knobs for the tone controls. This was the predecessor of the Alembic basses that were later made by Wickersham and partners.

    On his old web site, Lesh has photos of a Ken Smith as well as his Modulus basses. I saw them in 2001(?) and I think he used both on that tour.

    One of the closest live sounds I've heard to Phil's sound is produced by the bass that Cosmic Charlie's bassist uses. That one was built by the bassist and is a custom 6 string. It looked fairly straight forward electronically, was a really nice looking bass too. He told me that to sound like Lesh, you need a very responsive neck position pick-up (turn the bridge pick-up off entirely), and then you hollow out the mids a bit favoring the treble and bottom end and play with a pick. In the amp section, either big speakers or subwoofers are desirable. A three way speaker arrangement is going to get closer than a bank of tens. Lesh played very full chords and these will get muddy if you don't have really strong low end support.

    I play with a psychedelic (Grateful Dead) tribute band called DROP. I use a 5 string fretless Ritter Roya, split the pickups straight down the middle on double coil passive setting, play with my fingers, and use a 2x12 Ampeg cab that has a built in tweeter. Tonally, it is similar to Lesh, but definitely more my sound than his. I do transcribe some of his lines when it is important. Lesh's style is more about his quirky rhythm and melodic and harmonic sensibility than about his equipment, IMO. Over the years he has used a lot of different gear, basses with from 4 to 6 strings and still has a signature sound that must be coming out of his head more than his gear.
  6. ggunn


    Aug 30, 2006
    Austin, TX
    I'm jealous! That sounds like tons o' fun! You guys gotta website?

    I'm also respectful. Phil's not an easy guy to cover!
  7. Thanks a bunch guys, particularly SilverSorcerer. Does anyone know whether he uses roundwounds or flatwounds? For some reason I'm having a hard time discerning what they are. I'm thinking that the tone for the neck pickup must be around 7 or 8 o'clock as well if my ears aren't deceiving me.
  8. hubwolf


    Jun 28, 2007
    Kansas City
    I don't know what he uses now. When Alembic was in its infancy there are references to Pyramid flats for Phil and Jack Casady's basses. I recall an interview around the mid-70's where D'Addario half-rounds were mentioned. Anyone know what he uses nowadays?
  9. I heard he was using Ken SMith Slick wounds

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