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Grateful Dead Music Forum

A place to talk about the music of the Grateful Dead 

 #121139  by Mosfed
 Sat Nov 17, 2012 9:34 pm
Anyone know of a good luthier that makes Phil Lesh basses - the one I specifically like is the 4 string Alembic (I think semi hollow) with all the knobs that is in the dead movie and the 1973-4 period. I don't need all the electronics though....

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 #121142  by playingdead
 Sun Nov 18, 2012 6:41 am
That's a Guild Starfire ... you might find an old one.

If not, here's your man:

http://www.drakecustombass.com

Check out the Wilma.

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Here's one that was for sale at Mass Street Music.

http://www.massstreetmusic.com/store/sh ... ollow-Bass
 #121159  by Sparechaynge
 Sun Nov 18, 2012 11:55 am
Mosfed, those are two different basses. The one in your picture is a Guild Starfire, "The Godfather" aka Big Brown, that was used 71(?)-73/4. The instrument in the GD movie is the Orange Osage, which was made by Alembic. If you don't need/want the onboard electronics, then a 32" scale Alembic with a small standard body and koa top will be sort of close to the one in the movie. Otherwise a 30" mahogany semi-hollowbody with Alembic electronics. Phil used flatwound strings on these basses, and that is a big part of the sound. I like Pyramid Gold flats, lots of folks don't, so experiment a lot in this area.

Bear in mind that a lot of Phil's rig was dedicated to electronic manipulation of the sound, so also consider something similar to an Alembic SF-2.
 #121160  by Rusty the Scoob
 Sun Nov 18, 2012 11:56 am
For 60s/70's GD I play a DeArmond Starfire - it was Guild's budget brand, built around 1990 in Korea back when Fender owned Guild. (Maybe they still do?) It's a killer bass, I've had dozens of soundmen and Scott Murawski rave about it's tone. It's pretty far from factory stock though. :lol: They're not super easy to find anymore, but if you hang around Guild forums I bet one will come your way. Fits right into an Epiphone Jack Casady case - another bass that might do well for you, I've seen Kevin from DSO use one, and Phil himself.

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 #121166  by Mosfed
 Sun Nov 18, 2012 6:16 pm
I just resaw the movie and there is a whole bit with Phil and a tech going through what I thought was the bass I listed above. Maybe I am wrong.

I was clear that it was a guild but I had no idea how extensive the mods were to it other than the really funky electronics.

Thanks for the responses
 #121168  by Rusty the Scoob
 Sun Nov 18, 2012 6:57 pm
Mosfed wrote:I just resaw the movie and there is a whole bit with Phil and a tech going through what I thought was the bass I listed above. Maybe I am wrong.

I was clear that it was a guild but I had no idea how extensive the mods were to it other than the really funky electronics.

Thanks for the responses
Yeah, the bass in the GDM is not the Godfather aka modded Guild. he switched back and forth between the two from about 72 to 79. Sound is quite similar.
 #121172  by zambiland
 Sun Nov 18, 2012 9:59 pm
Mosfed wrote:I just resaw the movie and there is a whole bit with Phil and a tech going through what I thought was the bass I listed above. Maybe I am wrong.

I was clear that it was a guild but I had no idea how extensive the mods were to it other than the really funky electronics.

Thanks for the responses
Well, we've already determined that the bass in the movie was not a Starfire, but the Starfire mods that happened were:

Stage 1: extra magnets in the Hagstrom Bisonic pickups and a buffer attached to each pickup. Door cut in the back to access the electronics.
Stage 2:
a) Electronics: complete gut of the instrument and Alembic pickups and electronics installed. Similar to the Superfilter (SF2) and also had the quad pickup, although it wasn't used all that much.
b) Physical changes: New bridge, tailpiece, nut, all made out of brass. Lower front of the body cut completely off and a new plate carved from maple installed. Extensive shielding. Headstock removed and a new one installed with stronger angle to increase breakpoint of strings over nut. Top half stuffed with foam to suppress feedback.
Stage 3:
Mostly physical with the installation of an ebony fingerboard and more typical Alembic inlays.

What makes the difference on all of this? The hardware is a big one. I have similar hardware on my Starfire and it made the whole bass resonate with each note. The electronics are also a big deal. The pickups are very different from the Hagstrom or subsequent Dark Stars. The filter setup is also key to getting a handle on the different types of attack that are possible. The ACG preamp is a good alternative, but the Alembic electronics are a whole other level. Even more important are the flatwounds, a good pick and the right hand technique and chordal concepts of a jazz player.


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 #121217  by BassPlayerLB
 Mon Nov 19, 2012 4:09 pm
I just bought a Gretsch electromatic short scale. I added some foam inserts into the f-holes (not pictured here) to cut back on feedback. I've also put a steal your face sticker on it like Phil had on Big Brown. It still needs some more mods eventually (new pick-ups and preamp) but it sounds great as is and it's a great start for a Phil tone. I like it a lot better than any of the Epiphone JC models. I've been using it in my gigs when playing 71'-78' GD style sets and I have gotten a lot of great comments on its sound!

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 #121231  by Mosfed
 Tue Nov 20, 2012 4:19 am
There is a D'Armond Guild bass on ebay UK for around $700. What do you guys think? I have no idea how much these generally go for.
 #121329  by moonliner
 Fri Nov 23, 2012 9:09 pm
I'm in the process of recreating that instrument (phil's early 70's alembic/starfire). Alembic is helping out... won't be cheap, but I don't want to scrimp on my dream bass!
 #121333  by Rusty the Scoob
 Sat Nov 24, 2012 5:40 am
moonliner wrote:I'm in the process of recreating that instrument (phil's early 70's alembic/starfire). Alembic is helping out... won't be cheap, but I don't want to scrimp on my dream bass!
Nice! Send some pics when you can! I'd love to do that, similar to Edwin's above.
 #121644  by spacebassed
 Sat Dec 01, 2012 4:15 pm
Mosfed, I have a DeArmond Starfire that I'm considering selling - It's even got passive filters! Feel free to PM me, I'd love to see it go to another Phil fan.