Rush bassist Geddy Lee played a Rickenbacker for quite some time… and then all of a sudden moved on to different basses, eventually landing on his own signature Fender Jazz bass. So what happened? According to Lee himself in an interview with Guitar World, it all started when he noticed that he couldn’t quite get a good low end out of the thing.


“Let me say that I do love the sound of the Rickenbacker, but I will qualify that by saying that I love the sound that Chris Squire got out of it – and that’s the sound that made me want to buy one. When we signed our first record deal in 1974, I got my share of our small advance and the first thing I did was buy a Rickenbacker. I think I paid about $400 for it. Much to my dismay, when I plugged it in, it didn’t sound like Chris Squire!”

“I found that all through the years I used the Ricky: it had a great trebly sound, but I had a hard time getting the right amount of bottom end unless I used the Rick-O-Sound feature, which enabled you to send each pickup to a different source. I used to send the bass pickup to a bass amp and the treble pickup to an amp that was set up for that twangy sound. It took quite a lot of work to get it to sound like a classic Ricky. It wasn’t easy to get the sound I wanted!”

Lee said he eventually moved on to the Fender Jazz in the late ’70s, slowly weening himself off the old reliable Rickenbacker.

“The Ricky worked well in the early days for the kind of tone that I wanted, but in the late ’70s I picked up a used Jazz in a pawn shop and started working it into our sound almost immediately. On Moving Pictures for example, half the songs are played on a Ricky and the other half are on a Jazz. I wanted to get a bit more punch in the bottom end. You can get that out of a Ricky, there’s no question about it, but it’s a lot of fiddling, as I said earlier. What I liked about the Jazz was that it was really easy to get a great tone in the studio.”

Speaking of Geddy Lee, he’s got a brand new docu-series called Geddy Lee Asks: Are Bass Players Human Too? coming up on December 5. The series features Krist Novoselic of Nirvana, Melissa Auf der Maur of Hole, Robert Trujillo of Metallica, and Les Claypool of Primus – check out a trailer below!

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