Copping a signature tone: cloning gear versus emulating tone

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Copping a signature tone: cloning gear versus emulating tone

Postby Jon S. » Fri Apr 08, 2011 9:06 am

The more experienced I get over time, the less I feel it's important to clone any musician's (including Jerry) entire array of gear to cop his tone. Rather, I'm primarily concerned with assembling the correct type and compliment of gear - and critically importantly, working on my right-hand technique (greatly underrated in most gear discussions) - to emulate the other guy's tone. Sometimes this can mean using some or most of the same exact gear as the other musician; other times, it means dialing in equivalent tone with other gear. To me, trying to sound just like anyone else, even with the exact same gear as him, is chasing after wind, anyway, if your attack and technique is different. Just an observation. Others may differ (if yes, chime in). This being said, the one piece of gear I would not want to do without any more is my SMS Classic Preamp. I simply haven't encountered anything better than it at what it does (at least in its weight class!).
"For me, I think the only danger is being too much in love with guitar playing. The music is the most important thing, and the guitar is only the instrument." Jerry Garcia
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Re: Copping a signature tone: cloning gear versus emulating

Postby jdsmodulus » Fri Apr 08, 2011 9:18 am

I agree with you for sure...I have had replica rigs of both Bob and Jer from the whole span of eras. It does matter how you play but for us it also matters what gear you use. I too am on the SMS and I agree that it does the job. Learning how to play like JG is a lifelong lesson for me. I have not heard Anyone copy him exactly. It cannot be done. But with good playing and quality gear from the guitar to the speakers you can get the tone.
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Re: Copping a signature tone: cloning gear versus emulating

Postby JonnyBoy » Fri Apr 08, 2011 11:57 am

yes hands 90-95% and gear 10-5%. A Jerry rig sounds so much better than any combo at the guitar store, with exception of a vintage fender. There is something the mac really adds that makes the tone complete too above and beyond everything else. It just has different tone and dynamics than your usual guitar amp. But it will not make you sound like jerry at all... It only does that when you work the guitar properly, ie growl and tone.
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Re: Copping a signature tone: cloning gear versus emulating

Postby Rusty the Scoob » Sat Apr 09, 2011 4:58 pm

For me, I can try to play Phil-style on just about any bass, but with some basses I'm fighting the instrument to get what I want, and with other basses the bass itself lends a hand in making my style and phrasing sound like Phil's style and phrasing.
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Re: Copping a signature tone: cloning gear versus emulating

Postby Jon S. » Sun Apr 10, 2011 5:46 am

Rusty the Scoob wrote:For me, I can try to play Phil-style on just about any bass, but with some basses I'm fighting the instrument to get what I want, and with other basses the bass itself lends a hand in making my style and phrasing sound like Phil's style and phrasing.

Exactly what I mean! The real choice is "some basses" versus "other basses," not "an exact copy of Phil's bass" versus "guess I'm outa luck."

The reason I posted my OP is not to suggest it's not cool - and fun, most of the time - to chase after our inspirations' gear. Lord knows I've done it, too. But rather to emphasize (for the benefit of the 90% of us who will never get there for a myriad of reasons including needing to pay the rent and fund college plans (or diapers or whatnot :-) ) that, in the end, it's just a dream - type of caps in our preamps are not the difference or even truly critical. Practicing more, now, that's critical. :oops:

Just some Sunday thoughts. :D
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Re: Copping a signature tone: cloning gear versus emulating

Postby jester536 » Sun Apr 10, 2011 8:02 am

I guess my quest from the beginning has not been to sound exactly like Jerry. I think I was at least smart enough to realize that just wasn't possible. It's his sound that brings the most joy to me when listening to music so it's what I strive for while playing. I think the best I'll get is to have people feel that my playing is somewhat reminiscent of Garcia's. As for technique over gear...I agree completely...touch, timing, rhythm are all so important...and on the fly can be very elusive...it's the unending quest...but I like being able to go on that quest with gear that will sound good when my playing gets better.
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Re: Copping a signature tone: cloning gear versus emulating

Postby tcsned » Sun Apr 10, 2011 12:40 pm

My take is that the Dead was more prolific and scientific about getting a good live sound than most bands. Thus, they came up with a lot of really cool advances that are helpful in any live music situation (i.e. the OBEL, buffers, foot pads for cutting mics on and off, Fender amp mods, etc). I'm all for stealing those ideas and would use them playing Dead music or any other type. I've got an SMS preamp as the closest thing to something the Dead guys used. I'm getting my guitar with Waldo's buffer and an OBEL in the next couple of weeks. I've never been able to get into DiMarzio pickups or solid state power amps, my effects other than my Haz Mutron are not the same ones Jerry used. I do currently play a Warmoth WGD cause I really dig the shape but other than shape it's not really very Jerry either.

I do play their tunes and I guess in my mutated, slack-ass way, kind of play like Jerry. I like to think I have other influences - I dunno. If anything, my desire to avoid note-for-note playing and love of melody centered, group conversation playing helps me to play Jerry's stuff.

I love all the replica gear though and would have no compunction about using it. Buying a Tiger or Wolf with a 3 and 4 year-old is not really possible for now. I would personally feel less self conscious playing a Tiger in a non-Dead band since I don't think I even come close to measuring up to it's originator or some of the folks on this board who do a better job at playing Jerry's stuff, and are better technically than me.

We are all lucky to be able to stand on the heads of greatness and not have to reinvent the wheel that they did so well. Leverage what makes sense to you, leave the rest (one man gathers what another man spills). Though, nothing does more for getting the sound you want more than your hands on the guitar/bass/keys/drums IMHO.
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Re: Copping a signature tone: cloning gear versus emulating

Postby strumminsix » Sun Apr 10, 2011 1:06 pm

Quick thought... Bob sounded like Bob on all 25+ guitars we heard him say from 76 til late 80s where he went for a change.
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Re: Copping a signature tone: cloning gear versus emulating

Postby Rusty the Scoob » Sun Apr 10, 2011 4:13 pm

strumminsix wrote:Quick thought... Bob sounded like Bob on all 25+ guitars we heard him say from 76 til late 80s where he went for a change.


The highest 1/3 or so of the frequencies on one guitar sound a lot like the highest 1/3 or so of the frequencies on another guitar. :lol:
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Re: Copping a signature tone: cloning gear versus emulating

Postby tcsned » Sun Apr 10, 2011 4:26 pm

strumminsix wrote:Quick thought... Bob sounded like Bob on all 25+ guitars we heard him say from 76 til late 80s where he went for a change.

Do you think it was mostly a gear thing or did he change his approach?
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Re: Copping a signature tone: cloning gear versus emulating

Postby JonnyBoy » Sun Apr 10, 2011 8:41 pm

So to truly be a Bobby clone you must have a huge case of "G.A.S." and keep the rig adjusting for different equipment, guitars and approaches. In conclusion, You must have GAS to cop weirs tone through gear.... :lol: At least Jerry stuck with what he knew, it is not new gear and all you need, is a bachelor degree in electrical engineering to understand all the mods... :smile:
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Re: Copping a signature tone: cloning gear versus emulating

Postby strumminsix » Mon Apr 11, 2011 5:25 am

tcsned wrote:
strumminsix wrote:Quick thought... Bob sounded like Bob on all 25+ guitars we heard him say from 76 til late 80s where he went for a change.

Do you think it was mostly a gear thing or did he change his approach?

approach. He eq'd his amps differently to cut into the mix. I still wonder why he never went back to a more normal tone post Brent.
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