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Steve Swallow's basses?

Discussion in 'Bassists [BG]' started by RiseOfTheWooten, Feb 13, 2006.

  1. Hi all,

    I just got around to purchasing John Scofield's CD "enroute [live]" with his trio a couple of weeks ago, with Steve Swallow on elec bass and Bill Stewart on drums. Love the CD!

    My bass teacher and I were talking about Steve Swallow's sound/tone on this CD and she mentioned that he might be playing a hollow-body elec bass. We both don't know what's in his gear setup though.

    Does anyone know?
  2. Woodchuck


    Apr 21, 2000
    Atlanta (Grant Park!)
    Gallien Krueger for the last 12 years!
    Last I heard, he was a playing a Citron semi.
  3. DaveBeny


    Mar 22, 2000
    London, UK
    His current bass is a custom Citron AE5: tuned EADGC, 36" scale, narrow string spacing (the neck is P-bass width), piezos-only. He uses La Bella strings, Dunlop copper plectrums, an old Walter Woods head and whatever cabs are provided.


    When he first switched to EB, he used a Gibson EB-2 with custom pickups and electronics before switching to a Fender Precision for a few years in the late '70s. In the '80s, he used a pair of custom basses by Froc Fillipetti (one tuned E-G, the other A-C). He moved on to use his famous Parker Fly prototype for much of the '90s before getting together with Harvey Citron.

  4. j-raj

    j-raj Bassist: Educator/Soloist/Performer Supporting Member

    Jan 14, 2003
    Indianapolis, IN
    I also remember him with a Parker Fly as well...
  5. Thanks for the info. I just did a google search, them's nice basses! Interesting choice of tunings though. Does anyone here have one of those Citrons? I'm assuming the hollow body is predominantly for tone and not volume?

    I love that sound he's got in the 'enroute' CD, couldn't quite work it out but it makes sense now that we have confirmation that it's probably a hollow body.
  6. DaveBeny


    Mar 22, 2000
    London, UK
    Just remembered that Steve is actually pictured holding the Citron in the liner notes of 'En Route':

    He's on his third or fourth Citron AE5. His first also had a magnetic pickup which was later abandoned. With each version, the acoustic cavity inside the body has got larger. I think the AE5 can be called a true hollowbody since it doesn't have a centre toneblock. The body is fairly shallow though - perhaps only 3" or so.
  7. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    Dig the pickguard on his Citron...Steve uses copper picks which scar the top of the bass easily (see photos of the Froc and Parker).

    I met Froc around 1981, anyone in the CT area know if he's still building basses?
  8. DaveBeny


    Mar 22, 2000
    London, UK
    I've seen Steve live and don't know how he manages to put so much wear on instruments, as his picking technique is very clean, with good economy of motion.
  9. Lorenzini


    Dec 31, 2004
    Los Angeles
    Cool thread.
    I would like to get his sound but don't want to do it by playing with a pick!
  10. He uses a pick?? I have to go home and have another listen...
  11. corinpills


    Nov 19, 2000
    Boston, MA
    I am sad to report that the Gibson EB2 pictured in the top picture was purchased by me in the mid 90s when I was doing a lot of riding around in a van, jumping around and crashing into guitar players who were doing the same. Said instrument met an untimely demise one night when I tossed it high in the air, got a light in my eye and completely missed it as it went past my outstretched arm and hit the ground- shearing the headstock clean off, smashing the top of the body and spilling some of the custom electronics across the front row. I solemnly polished the remains and put them in my bass case. Bits of teh bass hang in several Boston area repair shops as a reminder of my stupidity.

    It was a great sounding bass and it took me a long time to find another instrument that I had such a personal connection with. I would have liked another 60s Gibson, but couldn't afford one. All of Steve's modifications devalued the bass and I actually bought it for $500 originally.
  12. Last I knew he was still associated with Furlanetto over at F-bass. I met Froc a bunch of times as well. I was taking lessons over at Integrity in Wethersfield and they usually had a few of his instruments on the wall. I was admiring a guitar and this guy was asking me what I liked and ... it was Froc. One of my friends has a Froc guitar and it is sublime. It will also peel the paint off the walls. Great stuff and he was a real pioneer in custom axes.

    Another weird one is a bass player in CT who has a Froc "custom" based on a Musicmaster bass body, single Bart pu with single volume control, and the Fender neck has a retrofitted fretless board. The neck is like a baseball bat, but it sounds fantastic.

    And yeah, that copper pick thing is kinda freaky but Swallow gets a huge tone from it. When I use a pick I use the thickest Dunlop I can find and choke way up on it. I'd guess that Swallow uses a similar technique where you get the attack from the pick and the roundness from the finger/thumb in the grip.

    Totally a guess on that, but I think that it is accurate.
  13. AndreasH


    Apr 8, 2005
    Like a year ago, I hated Swallow's sound. But now i think it's really beautiful! Alot of things can happen in a year :)
    roswell1965 and Wstrindade like this.
  14. Lorenzini


    Dec 31, 2004
    Los Angeles
    I'm thinking of getting a Godin A5, stringing it E-C and learning to play with a pick.

    Am I crazy?
  15. tkozal


    Feb 16, 2006
    New York City
    I went through a huge Swallow phase, and tried the pick, but to do the chordal things he does, triple and quadruple stops in bass talk, I needed to use my fingers. Ended up developing a weird banjo bass technique, but I can hit triples all through Carla's "Sing Me Softly of the Blues".

    I used a 5-string E-C tuned carvin, all koa with 5 piece koa-maple neck, got a very swallow like sound, even with my fingers.
  16. RHFusillo

    RHFusillo Supporting Member

    Mar 20, 2000
    Phoenix, AZ
    I dig the pic above, of the early Scofield trio with my boy, Nussbaum, on drums.

    Of all the basses Swallow has recorded with, my favorite tone is on the Home record. I think that was that Fender parts bass, with Bartolini (Hi-A, maybe) pickups. I saw him play with Gary Burton around the time Easy as Pie was released, he was using that bass. (Longshore Country Club in Westport, speaking of CT.)
    abaguer likes this.
  17. Lorenzini


    Dec 31, 2004
    Los Angeles
    The early pictures of him make him look like a Russian comrade, or Cuban revolutionary.

    Wicked beard
  18. DaveBeny


    Mar 22, 2000
    London, UK
    Here's Steve sporting his late '60s look:

  19. Lorenzini


    Dec 31, 2004
    Los Angeles
    Swingin in style
  20. Does anyone have more pictures of Steve Swallow's F-Bass or know anything about it? Is it a medium or short scale bass?

    Maybe I'm imagining this but did he play that Parker for a while with the top horn broken off. Someone told me that Swallow's Fly Bass protoype didn't have the outer shell that Ken Parker typically uses.
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