Grateful Dead Music Forum

A place to talk about the music of the Grateful Dead 

 #80875  by javalina
 Sun May 30, 2010 2:10 pm
What is the basic bass rig for somebody starting out to get some kind of a Phil-like tone? Not going to be able to spend a fortune; just wondering what kinds of things I would keep in mind looking at used amps?
 #80882  by Grateful Dad
 Sun May 30, 2010 5:17 pm
I played plenty of bass rigs and the current one I use is a Mesa Boogie 400+ power head and a Mesa Boogie 4x10 Powerhouse cabinet combined with an 18" SWR subwoofer. The 4x10 provides plenty of low end bass on it's own and is really clean and punchy in the high and midrange. If Mesa is too expensive try other 4x10 cabinets. 4x10's are easier to transport than the 2x15's or the 8x10's and are suprisingly responsive to low end. Just as important (or more important) as my rig is my volume setting on the bass, I play with the volume control on 9 out of 10 and fingerpick heavy gauge strings strongly to get maximum gain from the bass. This gives the sound a slightly overdriven quality. For slower tunes I push the bass control knob on the bass almost all the way and cut the mid and high range controls back to get a more acoustic bass sound. In summary the Mesa equipment is LOUD and provides lots of headroom for the Phil sound.
My philosophy on bass sound is that it should be thick and warm all over the stage but not overly loud. The audience wants bass, it makes them move....that's the coolest thing about playing bass.

G. Dad
 #80907  by JonnyBoy
 Sun May 30, 2010 8:30 pm
Rusty the Scoob wrote:In my experience, bass amp tone is far less important than having enough watts and clean, tight unbroken speakers to put out a good clean, punchy sound.

+1 then dynamics and style follow to create the Phil zone :cool: Good luck bro, and never piss into the wind.
 #80913  by ugly rumor
 Sun May 30, 2010 9:40 pm
SarnoMusicSolutions wrote:Use a pick... They're cheap.

This really is a lot of it. Phil has always been a tone hound, but his tone is more from his playing technique than from his gear, although he uses good gear. But he has used (at the expense of alerting everyone to ebay's offerings) everything from massive 2X18/3X15 set-ups to his current 8X10 or 16X10 Eden rigs. I really like his sound using the Meyer Sound 650-R2 2X18 set-up and 2X10s with the Phil & Friends shows. I currently use a single 15 inch Meyer in a Fender cabinet ( you know my secret!). Meyer speakers require a powerful amp, but are very clean and worth it. But back to your question, I got great tone from my Bag End speakers, Yorkville when I ran them, even my old Labseries L-2 with two 15s. Phil uses or used D'Addario half-rounds, and a medium or heavy pick. A good bass amp is uncolored, good speakers run flat (Meyer, Bag End), and the tone will come from the guitar and the technique. Eden colors their speakers, so I'm a little surprised that Phil uses them, but maybe there is a reason?

Grateful Dad has the right approach. Lots of headroom for what you play, and you can EQ the guitar for tone. Personally, I reach for a tone that I like rather than trying to copy Phil. There are times (early 80's, Fender period) that I hate his tone. I try to incorporate thought patterns influenced heavily by Phil rather than trying to be him, and my influences are different, having played blues for so long (many of you in New England may know Ernie Williams, for whom I played).

If you want to play bass and want a good cheap rig, I highly recommend two single 15 inch Bag End cabinets, available on ebay for about $300 each, and if you can find a Gibson GB-440 amp head, they are usually about $400-500 and very good amps and pre-amps, designed by Russ Allee (David Eden) and Steve Rabe (SWR). Mesa also makes great stuff. If you want my old Labseries, I'll let it go cheap. It's in Virginia, near Roanoke, and I'll be there June 8th - 12th, but you have to let me know before I leave Colorado on the 8th. It's the best amp of its time (late 70's, early 80's) in my opinion. But in my opinion, you can do better with modern equipment. It depends on your level of commitment.

Let us know what gear you get! It is, after all, a very personal quest for tone.
 #80920  by Rusty the Scoob
 Mon May 31, 2010 5:43 am
The D'Addario half-rounds definitely do help. Regular flats are an ok substitute, too. The pick is KEY. I'm normally a fingerstyle player but you just can't get the right attack. I like 2.0mm Dunlops or the Adamas Graphite picks that Jerry used - they're very similar. I can't stand using a pick that bends.
 #80932  by tigerstrat
 Mon May 31, 2010 10:45 am
Rusty the Scoob wrote:The pick is KEY. I'm normally a fingerstyle player but you just can't get the right attack. I like 2.0mm Dunlops or the Adamas Graphite picks that Jerry used - they're very similar. I can't stand using a pick that bends.
 #80981  by javalina
 Tue Jun 01, 2010 6:00 am
Thanks for all the replies! I have a good little practice amp and won't be needing anything bigger till fall, when I relocate to Brattleboro Vt (and then only if I find some people to play with). I figure modular will be the way to go, first a good speaker. I can use the extra out on the little amp, which might almost get me to coffeehouse volume. Then a power amp of some kind (I have a tube preamp). Then a pile more speakers.

I am playing with a pick for the first time and loving it. Always played with fingers before, but blues really is a different approach. Best of all, my bass came with flat wound strings, and I never changed them. I wasn't even thinking about playing Dead when I bought it, but now I see it as a SIGN.
 #82970  by seanc
 Wed Jul 07, 2010 9:48 am
Here is my take on it.. FWIW..

I have carted all manner of gear all over the place to gigs. At one point, I was shlepping around a rack rig with pre amps, @ 2k watts of power, 2*18" and misc smaller speakers and what not.
In the end. It really doesn't make one bit of difference when the sound man comes around and throws a direct box on you. My fight back to this was to at least unplug the DI from my bass and plug it into the back of my preamp, so I had just a little bit more control. hey, at least I got a bit of tubey-ness from the pre to warm up the sound.

But, you can not compete with guitars drums and everybody else. So, you need to make really good friends with the sound man at whatever gig your playing at.
 #82975  by tcsned
 Wed Jul 07, 2010 10:49 am
Our bassist uses a little Genz Benz amp - it's incredibly light and sounds great - I think he uses two 1x10" cabs or just one depending on the gig. It works great for the upright too. I'd agree with Rusty and the others that the amp isn't as important on bass as the guitar - the pick is key.
 #82988  by seanc
 Wed Jul 07, 2010 3:52 pm
Pick good... Sound man that "gets it" a ton better.
If you want the walls to shake and people teeth to chatter when you hit the lows, the only way that is going to happen is with the sound man opening up the lows on the pa to let the thunder out.