Geddy Lee: Tone And Technique. Version 2

After reading comments and learning more about Geddy's sound and style, I decided to revisit this lesson and update and correct it with better tabs and more accurate and descriptive information. Enjoy!

2
After reading comments and learning more about Geddy's sound and style, I decided to revisit this lesson and update and correct it with better tabs and more accurate and descriptive information. Enjoy! --- No one can sound or play exactly like Geddy Lee. Every player has their own sound and style. This guide is simply to show you (to the best of my ability) how Geddy does what he does so that you can learn, study, and adapt part of his style to your own, if you so wish. ------The Geddy Lee tone------ ---Geddy's rig (as of Snakes and Arrows): ---Basses Fender Geddy Lee Jazz 1978 Rickenbacker 4001 (Not used in the last few tours) Fender Jaco Pastorius Tribute fretless (Used for Malignant Narcissism.)(He has another fretted, used only as a backup. ) 1996 Fender Custom Shop Jazz (Red, used for alternate tunings on songs like 2112) ---Strings Rotosound Swing Bass 66 Stainless Steel round-wound ---Amps/Pre-amps Avalon U5 Tube Direct Boxes Tech 21 SansAmp R.P.M. Bass preamps (Rackmount) Palmer PDI 05 Speaker Simulators Trace Elliot Quatra-VR power amps Sampson UR-5D Wireless Geddy splits his signal and has one side come out low and distorted, while the other side (the more prominent) has very little bass and has a (very) slight distortion with a lot of punch. *On the last several tours, Geddy has not used any personal cabnets, but he has instead used preamps that run straight into the house speakers (PA). **On the 2010 "Time Machine Tour", Geddy used 2 Orange AD200 bass heads with 2 OBC410 4x10 bass cabinets. Now I would imagine that most of you don't have money to go spend on all of that gear, so here is what you can do in the meantime. Begin with your amp. Make sure you have a lot of treble and only a little bass. If you have a midrange, set it to around 5-7. Next adjust the bass itself. You want a lot of punch and growl, so you need to rely heavily on the bridge pickup. Boost that to almost full, and turn your neck pickups down, to around a 3 or 4. Putting your volume knob on full will help add to the grit of the tone. If your still not getting enough punch from the bass itself, try adjusting the pickups themselves. Loosen the screws on the bridge pickup to raise it, making it more sensitive, then tighten the screws on the neck pickup to make it less sensitive. Geddy's tone has a distinctive distorted sound. You can achieve this through whatever means seems best to you. I personally use a Tech 21 SansAmp Bass Driver DI which is a pedal form of what Geddy uses on his own rig. *The settings I give for the bass itself can only be done with a jazz style bass. If you have a precision bass, the you'll want to turn your tone knob up to get out of the low end, but be careful because too high can make the sound too punchy and obnoxious. You can also raise the pickup under the G and D strings up higher than the pickup under your A and E strings. Set your volume to max (or close to it) in this case as well. **On a jazz, if you still aren't getting enough punch from your bass, try raising your bridge pickup by loosening the screws, or lowering your neck pickup but tightening those screws. ------The Geddy Lee technique------ ---Flamenco/Flick A major part of Geddy's technique that allows him to play with such punch in his tone, his what I call his "flick" technique. How Geddy does this is he uses his middle finger as a "pic". To understand the motion, make a loose fist, the simply open your hand, and finish with your fingers fully extended. Now, when using this technique on the bass, use your middle finger as your main striking finger. This will take practice to get the angle and motion right, but it will eventually become very natural. Note that Geddy alternates between floating his hand and keeping his thumb mounted on the pickups or strings. If he is playing a long series on the same note or chord, he will most likely keep his thumb on the low E string or on the pickup. There is a riff at the beginning of "Caravan"(off the Clockwork Angels album) the can be played without this technique, but is very good to practice this on.
G|----------------------------------|
D|----------------------------------|
A|------7777-6666-555---------------|
E|-0-0-----------------7-7-6-6-5----|
In this riff towards the end of "Caravan", Geddy plays a chord at such a speed, that it would be almost impossible to play without this technique (excluding the use of a pic)
G|-12-12-12-12-|
D|-14-14-14-14-|
A|-------------|
E|-------------| x15
One more to practice this on, is from the pre-chorus of "Far Cry" on the Snakes & arrows album (tab by BassGX)
G|-777777777777777772222222222222222-------------------------|
D|----------------------------------2222222222222224444--7---|
A|-----------------------------------------------------55-5--|
E|-----------------------------------------------------------|

G|-777775h777775h7-5-2222222222222222-----------------------------------|
D|----------------------------------------------------------------------|
A|------------------------------------2-22-0-222-5-2-5-2-22-0-222-5-2-5-|
E|----------------------------------------------------------------------|

G|-777777777777777772222222222222222-------------------------|
D|----------------------------------22222222222222444455557--|
A|-----------------------------------------------------------|
E|-----------------------------------------------------------|
---"Diddles" A major part of Geddy's style is his frequent use of what I call "diddles". Now, a diddle is generally spoken about with drums, but for lack of a better term, that's what I will refer to this as here. When playing a run, Geddy will play one note twice at twice the speed of the other notes in the run. So for example, if the run consists of primarily 8th notes, he will play one tone twice with 16th notes. A good example of this is the first bass run in "Subdivisions" off the Signals album:
G|-------4-------------------|
D|--77-5---7-5-44------------|
A|----------------7-5-4-5----|
E|---------------------------|
Another way major Geddy uses double stops, is when playing using pedal tones. An good example would be this quick riff from "Show Don't Tell" off the Presto album.
G|--9-----9------7-----5-----7-5----|
D|----0-0---0-0----0-0---0-0--------|
A|----------------------------------|
E|----------------------------------|
Learning this riff will help with other Geddy riffs. To play it, use your first finger to play the first note, then play through to the open D string, following with your second finger to play the second open D note. With the left hand fingerings added, it would be like this.
    1 1 2 1 1 2 1 1 2 1 1 2 1 2
G|--9-----9-----7-----5-----7-5----|
D|----0-0---0-0---0-0---0-0--------|
A|---------------------------------|
E|---------------------------------|
A more advanced example of this is the opening riff of "Malignant Narcissism" off the Snakes & Arrows album.
   1 2 1 1 2 2 1 1 2 1 1 2 2 1  1 2 1 1 2 2 1   1 2 1 2 1  1
G|-----------------------------------------------------------|
D|-----7---5---7-----7---5---7------7---5---7--/8-8-8-7-5----|
A|-0-0---0---0---0-0---0---0----0-0---0---0----------------0-|
E|-----------------------------------------------------------|
---Double Stops Geddy uses double stops to play some pretty impressive lines. A double stop is when two notes are played at the same time, like a chord (But not a chord, because officially, a "chord" consists of three notes.)They have become less common in Geddy's writing in recent years, but they are still a key part of his playing. There are two ways to approach the double stops found in Rush songs, and I will give examples for both, but keep in mind that you can do whichever you personally prefer. Example 1 is from the song "Turn The Page" (Unknown Tabber). The best way to approach this is by using your first and middle finger to play the double stops on the G and D strings, while using your thumb to play the 14 on the A. It can be tricky at first, but should begin to feel natural after practice. If you have trouble figuring out how to place your left hand, put your first finger across G, D, and A strings on the 14th fret.
    e  e  e  e  e  e  e  e  e  e  e  e  
+---16-------14----16----16----14-16----+
|6:-16-------14----16----16----14-16----|
|4:----14-14----14----14----14-------14-|
+---------------------------------------+
Example 2 comes from a song off of the Test for Echo album "Driven" (Tabbed by Steve Gorenberg and Sean Jones). This is a rather tricky passage, but it can be done with lots of practice. The notes on the G and A strings can be played easily in the same manner as the first example using the first and middle fingers, but then playing the notes on the D strings is a challenge because it requires moving the first and middle fingers very quickly to keep up, and if you manage that, it's easy to play very sloppy. The easiest thing to do is to use the flamenco technique described earlier and use the left hand to control the muting of the strings. This will take LOTS of practice, but once again, this implementation of flamenco is vital to mastering Geddy's technique.
           s s s s s s s s s s s s s s s s      s s s s s s s s 
G---||-----5-----7-----5-----7-----5---5---|----5-----7-----8-----
D---||*-4:---0-0---0-0---0-0---0-0---0---0-|-7:---0-0---0-0---0---
A---||*-4:-3-----5-----3-----5-----3---3---|-8:-3-----5-----6-----
D---||-------0-0---0-0---0-0---0-0---0---0-|------0-0---0-0---0---

    s s s s s s   
G---8---8---7---|
D-----0---0---0-|
A---6---6---5---|
D-----0---0---0-|
*All tabs by me except: ---"Far Cry", tabbed and submitted by BassGX. ---"Turn the Page"; unknown tabber; Submitted by Unregistered. ---"Driven", Tabbed by Steve Gorenberg and Sean Jones; Submitted by Unregistered. **Thanks to Mr.Cuddles for catching my error in version 1.

36 comments sorted by best / new / date

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    Jasonbts
    HeinzRocks wrote: Well, you keep it higher to "exercise" your hand?
    You can do that yes. Exercise was my original intention when I set up the bass with a higher action, but it gradually just became natural to play on, now lower actions are annoying for me because I don't feel the resistance. I do feel my hand working more on a higher action, and I know that the higher tension gives my hand a workout when I play for a while, but I've gotten used to that. Now I just prefer a higher action for the feel.
    AeolianWolf
    i don't think you understand what a double stop is. a double stop is not a theory term, it is a technique term -- it is when two different strings are fretted simultaneously. two notes sounding together could be considered either a dyad or an interval. other than that, good lesson. maybe you could have included a little more about the technique aspects, though.
    Jasonbts
    Geddy uses passive pickups. A lot of his early tone came from his basses. In the 70's an early to mid 80's, he used a Rickenbacker. From.... Power Windows to Presto I believe Geddy used a Wal bass (his best tone in my opinion). Those had a definite punch to them. It was after the Wal times that Geddy added his flemenco techique, and he used Fender basses. So his early tone came from standard bass technique and the basses he used. Everything since Counterparts has been heavily influenced by his use of flemenco (He's only used Fender from Counterparts on).
    HeinzRocks
    I like the "farty" jazz bass tone from moving pictures, and the tone from Farewell and Hemispheres
    basser 007
    thank you. i need to know what the tone on his bass is thgho.I have two p basses. i know not a jazz bass im geting one tho.i also have a 5 string ibanez. but i need the tone on the bass.thank you this is a relly good tone so far
    Jasonbts
    Pretty much roll both knobs all the way up. High volume and lots of treble. Take a little off the tone knob though to maintain some of the bassiness, then adjust your amp and any effects you use to add more treble to the mix. Focus on having high treble to cut through the mix and make the bass heard but enough bass to maintain the "ballsiness" of the bass.
    HeinzRocks
    Weird. I have a Tobias Toby Deluxe IV, and my bridge pickup sounds like shit, I get a better result only using the neck pickup. Please help me. Oh yeah, and this is my future me~ The other me was my 2011 self...so weird to read old comments
    Jasonbts
    Version 3 is indeed on it's way! Sorry for the late response! Geddy's early tone up until Moving Pictures was in his Rickenbacker bass. I honestly suggest just watching Geddy play. I know I've picked up a lot of his sound by observing him. His style has naturally found it's way into my own. Remember, tone is not just what you use, but how you use it!
    HeinzRocks
    So, how can i get the moving pictures jazz tone? (Sorry, If i'm asking too many questions, forgot)
    Jasonbts
    HeinzRocks wrote: And the strings, i need to make them stay low or high? ( I'm sorry about my english, i'm talking about the distance of the strings and the fingerboard/neck)
    That is totally up to you. The height won't affect tone and never effects my plucking hand, only my fretting hand. I prefer the strings to be higher because it makes me put more strength into my fretting hand, making me play more aggressively overall, but having a smaller height decreases resistance and allows for more fluid movement. I honestly don't know how high Geddy keeps his strings. I know John Myung of Dream Theater keeps them lower in the studio for ease, then raises them live so he has to work a little harder. It's all preference. Also, your english is great! Just for future reference, the height of the the strings is commonly referred too as the bass' "action".
    Jasonbts
    Only if you feel you're not getting the right tone from the bDI. You'll notice from the settings I listed that my SansAmp does not have mids either. If you feel like that would help, then go for it. Be sure not to do too much to the base tone. The two main elements in Geddy's tone are boosting the treble, and that gritty drive in his sound. The way to get that is with simple settings and with technique. Too much and you'll move away from the simplicity of Geddy's tone.
    Jasonbts
    HeinzRocks wrote: A Behringer Bdi21 can be used like the Sansamp?
    It certainly can. Any DI box should, however, I recomend the Tech 21 Sansamp here because not only is it the brand that Geddy uses, it's one I own and trust, so I feel comfortable recommending it here. I have no experience with the Bdi21, so I cannot tell you personally how well it will replicate the desired tone, but yes, you can use the Bdi21 in place of the SansAmp.
    Jasonbts
    I was planing on revising\editing\adding to make a version 3. I will keep that in mind an make sure to include that. Thanks for the feedback.
    sirbard
    Can you tell us what setting you have on your sans amp pre-amp, amps, cable layout, etc. Thanks.
    Jasonbts
    AeolianWolf wrote: i don't think you understand what a double stop is. a double stop is not a theory term, it is a technique term -- it is when two different strings are fretted simultaneously. two notes sounding together could be considered either a dyad or an interval. other than that, good lesson. maybe you could have included a little more about the technique aspects, though.
    "A double stop is when two notes are played at the same time". That quote is straight from the lesson. Also, when you look at the examples, you'll see exactly what you just described.
    mikeegx
    Two notes played simultaneously ≠ Two strings fretted simultaneously
    Jasonbts
    HeinzRocks wrote: ? I have a PJ bass, how can I configure to get the tone?
    You can follow the same instructions I gave above. The bridge pickup on a PJ bass is the same as on a regular Jazz bass, so there is not much difference there. Feel free to add the precision pickup to the mix, as that may add a little bit more fullness to the sound. I personally rely on my DI pedal for that, but it's best to experiment with your equipment to find what works best (it also gives you a better feel for how all your equipment works as one unit, so you can mimic many different sounds)
    Jasonbts
    sirbard wrote: Can you tell us what setting you have on your sans amp pre-amp, amps, cable layout, etc. Thanks.
    I run straight into the SansAmp with these settings: Drive: 10 o'clock Bass: 11:o'clock Treble: 2 o'clock Presence: 2 o'clock Blend: noon Level: 10 o'clock (I've just recently purchased a compression pedal that I've placed between the SansAmp and my amp because those settings on the Sansamp can make a lot of noise, but I haven't messed with it enough to give you exact settings.) That runs to the amp (Fender Rumble 15) with the settings: Bass: 10 o'clock Mid: 11 o'clock Treble: 5 o'clock
    HeinzRocks
    Jasonbts wrote: sirbard wrote: Can you tell us what setting you have on your sans amp pre-amp, amps, cable layout, etc. Thanks. I run straight into the SansAmp with these settings: Drive: 10 o'clock Bass: 11:o'clock Treble: 2 o'clock Presence: 2 o'clock Blend: noon Level: 10 o'clock (I've just recently purchased a compression pedal that I've placed between the SansAmp and my amp because those settings on the Sansamp can make a lot of noise, but I haven't messed with it enough to give you exact settings.) That runs to the amp (Fender Rumble 15) with the settings: Bass: 10 o'clock Mid: 11 o'clock Treble: 5 o'clock
    you need to put more treble, no?
    Jasonbts
    I've never needed more than that on with my bridge pickup all the way up. Somehow Geddy has his almost all the way up and still keeps it under control. I used to have a picture of his amp settings from the last tour.... I can't find it, but when I do I'll give you a link so you can see how he has it.
    HeinzRocks
    This PJ bass isn't a good bass.I'm gonna buy a SX Jazz bass and put new pickups Then, I will put flatwounds in the pj, to play paul mccartney and etc.. I will buy a bdi 21 behringer, too.And I'm growin' my fingernails
    Jasonbts
    HeinzRocks wrote: thanks, i can't get geddy's tone using a lot of volume in the bridge pickup, so I configure the precision too
    If you have the money, you might try investing in new pickups. Your bridge pickup should give you a more treble sound, but like I said, a lot of Geddy's tone come from his style. He pounds the crap out of that thing. Best way to pick up his style is to watch him play. I know that over the last few years that I've been watching and learning from him, a lot of that aggression has naturally found it's way into my own style. Try the settings I suggested and play really aggressively.
    Jasonbts
    The magic of Geddy's rig is the simplicity. He has a relatively small rig that is mic'd backstage, so don't think you need a lot of gear to replicate his sound. Most of his tone come from his aggressive playing.
    HeinzRocks
    Jasonbts wrote: HeinzRocks wrote: ? I have a PJ bass, how can I configure to get the tone? You can follow the same instructions I gave above. The bridge pickup on a PJ bass is the same as on a regular Jazz bass, so there is not much difference there. Feel free to add the precision pickup to the mix, as that may add a little bit more fullness to the sound. I personally rely on my DI pedal for that, but it's best to experiment with your equipment to find what works best (it also gives you a better feel for how all your equipment works as one unit, so you can mimic many different sounds)
    thanks, i can't get geddy's tone using a lot of volume in the bridge pickup, so I configure the precision too
    HeinzRocks
    And the strings, i need to make them stay low or high? ( I'm sorry about my english, i'm talking about the distance of the strings and the fingerboard/neck)