Some Geddy Lee info about his Wal bass and Jazz/Fusion/Funk styles

Discussion in 'Bassists [BG]' started by the_hook, Jun 5, 2013.


  1. the_hook

    the_hook

    Apr 9, 2008
    Toronto
    I've picked up some various pieces of information from reading articles from Rush's past, specifically on Geddy and his basses and his styles of playing. I'll also add some of my thoughts on what was going on at certain periods.

    When and why did Geddy switch to a Wal bass?

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Geddy's Gear

    Welcome, Wal
    Au Revoir, Rickenbacker
    Stick Around, Steinberger
    Geddy Lee recording without his trusty Steinberger? Or his Rickenbacker 4001? That's like Ian Hunter without his shades, or Prince minus purple.

    Rush's bassist fully expected to cut Power Windows with the Steinberger he'd played exclusively since the end of the 1984-85 world tour, at which point the 4001 was put into storage after a decade. Lee did, however, bring along to England some pre-CBS Fender jazz and Precision models as backups, and when it came time to record his parts, plugged in all of his instruments, "just to note what they all sounded like, for reference."

    Producer Peter Collins handed him a Wal bass, of which Lee was only fleetingly familiar but was eager to try. "It sounded very good," he says, "and I found I could play very quickly and easily on it. It had definition, which is great for me because I've always been a busy player; I've always played too much.

    "Which I like," Lee qualifies, laughing. "But sometimes my sound would get lost. With the Wal, and with these light-gauge Rotosound Superwound Funkmaster strings, the detail up high was excellent and really sat well with the drums, so I used it for the first time.

    "Before every track, we went through the same process, and by the time we were about halfway done with the album, I just said, '**** it. I'm going to use this.'"

    Lee's model is a long-scale with two pickups, and he has a five-string on order from the small British company. He expects to take both the Wal and the Steinberger on tour, with pretty much the same amplification as last year: Nady VHF 700 wireless system, two BGW 750C power amps, Furman PQ-3 parametric equalizers, two Ampeg 2-I5" cabinets and two Thiel 2-15"s. In the studio, as good as the Wal sounded direct, Lee elected to record it both DL and through a Yamaha G100-212 guitar amp, adding further punch to the sound, which he effected with only a Roland CE-2 chorus "so that I could overdrive the amp a little bit and get some dirt in there."

    Fans of complex, dominant bass lines will delight over such tracks as "The Big Money" and "Grand Designs," on which Lee executes nimble runs and negotiates turn-on-a-dime accents. One such fan is Neil Peart, who says that when it's time to record his rhythm-section partner, "I'm usually hanging over the engineers shoulder, going, 'Come on, come on, turn up the bass!"

    "Yeah, Neil's the one I ask whether or not the bass is too loud," says Lee. "Even when it's screaming loud and smashing your face, nine times out of ten I still end up getting to turn it up.

    "Which," he laughs, "may be why I value Neil's opinion so much."

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Now, to add to this, I've read numerous times that Geddy was a big fan of Bill Bruford (as is Neil Peart) and Jeff Berlin, both of which are monster Jazz/Fusion players.

    Geddy listened heavily to Jazz/Fusion works around 1977-78, and this marks a big shift in his playing from the cool Ric Prog Rock bass parts up to Hemispheres, and then a different style, more heavy Jazz oriented in Permanent Waves and Moving Pictures. He has stated he loves Jazz/Fusion, but he will always put a heavy rock bent on that style when he plays it.

    I think he hit on a bass playing style that a lot of us became very aware of was different but very cool. His choice of notes and work with Neil on drums is oustanding on many songs. Alex has said sometimes he thinks they're both telepathic as they'll come up with these killer bass/drum lines and sync up perfectly.

    Into the 80's his style became even Jazzier and Funkier. This is when his Wal had more Mid-presence and his playing style got even faster which was made possible with the Wal's low action and less tensioned lighter gauge strings.

    He also had a 5 string Wal and then a Red Wal made which was actually bigger and heavier, and he preferred the 'deeper' tone of this Wal bass over the black one.

    Why did he switch back to the Jazz and Rotosound strings? He stated he missed the bottom end tone of the Jazz. So back he went to a Fender Jazz with Rotosound stainless strings.

    I suspect it was also because Grunge was getting more airplay and the distorted guitars and thumping bass were present, and Lee wanted to get back to that heavy rock sound they had in the 1970's.

    I've learned also that all his Jazz basses get their necks replaced with a different radius so he can have lower action.
     
  2. SirMjac28

    SirMjac28 Patiently Waiting For The Next British Invasion

    Aug 25, 2010
    The Great Midwest
    Very cool thanks for sharing that.
     
  3. the_hook

    the_hook

    Apr 9, 2008
    Toronto
    From Hold Your Fire:

    "When I started using the Wal, I used it almost exclusively on the last record [Power Windows] because the recording engineer I was working with found that he could get a great sound with it very easily.

    When it came to playing live shows, I wasn't sure which bass I was going to use. I started playing the Wal, and our concert sound engineer said the same thing, that there's something in the midrange sound of that bass that makes it easy for him to get it to sit in the mix. Plus, the width of the neck is a little greater, and somehow, I was playing a little quicker on it.

    I fully intended to use the Steinberger during the show, but what's happened is that I've just gotten so comfortable using the Wal, and I've got so much on my mind during the show as far as keyboards go, that I can't be bothered to change. It's also quite a change from the big Wal neck to the slimline neck of the Steinberger, so right now I'm using the Steinberger as a backup, but not because it's the lesser of the two."

    Lee also owns a five-string Wal which he played on the track "Lock and Key" [Hold Your Fire]. "It's a very difficult bass to play," he says, "and it's not something I plan on using a lot because it's really heavy and cumbersome, although it enabled me to get quite a different sound on that track, and get a different perspective on the bass."

    "I loved the sound of the Rick for years and years," Geddy recalls, "but I think I got a little bored with it, and that's why I started using the Steinberger. The sound of the Steinberger really impressed me, and at the time I was starting to use more keyboards, and the Rick was very awkward onstage. I just grew away from it, into a slightly more complex, warmer sound. Now, with the Wal, I've got a combination; the twang of the Rick, but with a warmer, almost funkier lower midrange and bottom end."

    Every two gigs, Skip replaces the Wal's Funkmasters and the Steinberger's La Bella Hard Rockin' Steels with custom-gauged sets measuring .030, .050, .070 and .090, high to low. "New strings are Finger-Eased, heavy duty, with a towel, so that they don't squeak."

    _____________________

    Does anyone know what he means by "finger eased with a towel?"

    Funny that I've been considering going to 40-100 gauge strings, and I was wondering what Geddy was using on the Wal oin those 80's albums. But I suspect it's also partially responsible for the more mid-range tone of the Wal. Had he run 45-105 Rotosounds like on his Ric/Jazz we'd be hearing a thicker and heavier Wal tone on those records. It's too bad he didn't try it on a least one song then.
    _____________________

    And about their shift from Prog concept albums to a more Rock Fusion one:

    "Few bands have mirrored rock's stylistic changes over the last two decades as effectively as Rush. From the early seventies heavy metal albums Fly By Night and Caress of Steel, the band developed a Pink Floyd like space music for the science fiction concert albums 2112, A Farewell To Kings and Hemispheres.

    Rush dramatically altered its style on the 1980 album Permanent Waves. All the arrangements were tightened up as the record moved away from the concept approach in favor of shorter, thematically unrelated songs with clever melodic hooks. Suddenly Rush was commercial - "Spirit of the Radio" was a hit single and is now one of the most recognizable anthems in the live show.

    Then, with Moving Pictures, Rush began playing with more complex arrangements as the individual players adjusted to the sophisticated musical climate of post fusion rock, where ideas that would have been classified as jazz in the past are now routinely assimilated into rock arrangements. Rush sounds like nothing so much as a fusion group on Grace Under Pressure, Power Windows, and now Hold Your Fire.

    "I don't know," Lee said. "I guess it's closer to fusion than anything else that's around. We just don't seem to fit into any category anymore."
     
    GTHintz likes this.
  4. rupture

    rupture

    Jan 27, 2012
    yea finger ease is that string spray, slicks up the strings good. wow i did not know he used strings that light
     
  5. Epitaph04

    Epitaph04 Always overcompensating Supporting Member

    Jul 5, 2010
    SoCal
    I guess the lighter strings make it easier to get the attack he likes to get on his instruments.
     
  6. Johno Dunn

    Johno Dunn Supporting Member

    Mar 22, 2007
    Carpinteria, Ca.
    I bought an LS-2 right after Power Windows came out, thinking that was what I was hearing. Kinda bummed after I found out differently! I did love the Berger though.
    I used Rotosound Funkmasters on my Berger, and loved them. The lighter gauge was hella-easy to play on!
    When I moved from the Berger to a Kubicki, the .30-.90's just didn't work. Snapped the G within minutes of putting them on. Had to go back to .45-.105's and have been there ever since.

    J!
     
  7. DigitalMan

    DigitalMan Bring Back Edit/Delete Supporting Member

    Nov 30, 2011
    Bay Area, CA
    Geddy' been back to the 40-105 sets (and the Jazz) since Counterparts. Note the A is 80, not 85.
     
  8. Bass42

    Bass42

    Nov 6, 2012
    Miami/US
    Endorsing : Elixir Strings, Digitech , Eden Amplification
    Great Thread ! I'm a WAL bass user and Lee's fan. I did know until this thread that he used 030 090 Strings that time, are you shure ? I have some sets but I think it's very very light ! For me the WAL Rush's era sound was the best ! Great bass lines on Power Windows, Hold you Fire, Presto and Roll the Bones ! I used on my black G. LEE MKI bass 040/090 strings, on my 86 MKI Paduak 045 /100.

    tk4a8437.jpg
    tk4a8271.jpg
     
    JeffJ2112, nixdad, BigDanT and 2 others like this.
  9. dStar

    dStar

    Mar 1, 2012
    They sure sound like extra light gauge strings. Especially on Roll the Bones,
     
  10. john_g

    john_g Supporting Member

    Sep 14, 2007
    Pennsylvania
    I, sir, hate you!

    :bawl:

    Want Wal so bad!!!
     
    JeffJ2112 likes this.
  11. DigitalMan

    DigitalMan Bring Back Edit/Delete Supporting Member

    Nov 30, 2011
    Bay Area, CA
    Roll the Bones was definitely from the Wal era and with light strings. Counterparts came later and was the start of the playing anything as long as it is a Jazz bass era.
     
  12. the_hook

    the_hook

    Apr 9, 2008
    Toronto
    If I had a Wal like that I know I would be one seriously happy bass player. Great pictures.

    As for Geddy's Wal tone during those albums; I believe the light gauge strings were part of a bigger picture. I think the producers on those albums (and Geddy) were in that Jazz/Fusion mindset, where a lot of those types of players had more midrange sounding, articulate basses and rigs (and some on fretless) that did a lot of soloing.

    I believe Geddy's bass rigs reflected that tonality as well. I've been listening to Power Windows and Hold Your Fire this week, and his bass has almost no bottom end, it's right in the midrange where you can hear it clearly and with all the notes he's playing it sounds more like a deeper toned guitar.

    I would have loved to hear Geddy keep the Wal further but go with heavier gauge strings and a rig that would bring out more beef and bottom end, instead of just switching back to the Fender Jazz.
     
    JeffJ2112 and nixdad like this.
  13. john_g

    john_g Supporting Member

    Sep 14, 2007
    Pennsylvania
    On roll the bones he used a mkii i believe, the red one, and it had deeper tone than his mki. I used to use funkmaster strings back in the day but they are too light for me now.
     
    JeffJ2112 likes this.
  14. Ben Rose

    Ben Rose Supporting Member

    Jan 12, 2004
    Oakland
    I played a various brands of 30-90 strings for years becaused I loved the tone of his black Wal. Even had a black Wal myself for a few years. Sure do miss that bass.
     
  15. Bass42

    Bass42

    Nov 6, 2012
    Miami/US
    Endorsing : Elixir Strings, Digitech , Eden Amplification
    Yeah, please Geddy come back to Wals !

    About the strings, I was sure about light string gauges for the Wal era due the "Twang" bass sound for these albums, but 030/ 090 set is a very new thing for me ! That time Rush was full of Synth basses and Synth tones with a lot of lows, maybe these things could make a very good foundation to him to use that kind of "a lot of mids" bass tone with minimum bottom end.
     
  16. Johno Dunn

    Johno Dunn Supporting Member

    Mar 22, 2007
    Carpinteria, Ca.
    If I'm not mistaken, he was a big part of their (Rotosounds) ad campaign for these strings. I loved them on my Berger. I was on the road during the PW HYF era, doing Top40. Didn't slap at the time, but sure could fake it with these skinnies on!

    J!
     
  17. winterburn69

    winterburn69

    Jan 27, 2008
    Saskatchewan
    I had no idea Geddy used La Bella's on his Steinberger. Neat. I guess you learn something new everyday.

    Koalas don't drink liquids, they get most of their moisture from eucalyptus leaves. They're also not bears, they're marsupials. Now maybe you learned something too.
     
  18. fingerandpick

    fingerandpick

    Jun 12, 2013
    Florida
    If you listen closely Geddy gets some awesome tone in this recording, almost like a popping sound at each note.... How? This is probably in the wrong place sorry I'm new and can't figure out how to make a new post. http://youtu.be/egIVlRxxqC4
     
  19. GTHintz

    GTHintz

    Jan 9, 2018
    California
    Hey man, old post but just wanted to give you a heads up. Ged can get that sharp pop kind of sound when he either strikes the string real hard with his finger or digs his nail underneath and plucks that way. It sounds like a pick but a bit more attack. Also, using funkmaster or swing bass strings it gives you a lot of capability to make an aggressive tone. Bright and articulate.
     
    byoung93888 likes this.
  20. GTHintz

    GTHintz

    Jan 9, 2018
    California
    Im a Roto user so I thought I'd mention my experience.
     
    byoung93888 likes this.
  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

     
    Jun 18, 2021

Share This Page