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Rush/Lifeson tones (HYF, ASoH, Presto, RtB) with modern equipment?

crazymauler

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
244
I love Rush and Lifeson, and I'm quite fond of his tones from those albums mentioned. I realize many don't like this era, and there are other threads on Lifeson's tones before and after these albums, but I really love those albums and his tones and parts he created for them.

I know pretty well he used active single coil guitars (Signature with Evans pups), GK rack amps or the 250ML, and his effects chain is pretty well known.

But I'm wondering how I might go about achieving those tones with more modern and readily available gear? Not so much the effects pedals (though I'm open to recommendations) but the guitar and amp. Are there any tools or tricks to getting those guitar and amp tones without finding/buying active single coils mounted on a guitar or those old/rare/expensive GK rack units?

Perhaps the answer is "No, you must have active single coils into a 2290 and 1210 into a GK 2000CPL..."? But if anyone has ideas or has stumbled on something like this I'd love to know!
 

pbenn2112

Member
Messages
1,158
I love Rush and Lifeson, and I'm quite fond of his tones from those albums mentioned. I realize many don't like this era, and there are other threads on Lifeson's tones before and after these albums, but I really love those albums and his tones and parts he created for them.

I know pretty well he used active single coil guitars (Signature with Evans pups), GK rack amps or the 250ML, and his effects chain is pretty well known.

But I'm wondering how I might go about achieving those tones with more modern and readily available gear? Not so much the effects pedals (though I'm open to recommendations) but the guitar and amp. Are there any tools or tricks to getting those guitar and amp tones without finding/buying active single coils mounted on a guitar or those old/rare/expensive GK rack units?

Perhaps the answer is "No, you must have active single coils into a 2290 and 1210 into a GK 2000CPL..."? But if anyone has ideas or has stumbled on something like this I'd love to know!
I love those tones too! There was a thread here about the very same thing a long time ago. But yeah, I think it may come down to needing that particular amp with a guitar with active single coil pickups.
 

Benz2112

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
4,936
I think a Jc120 would probably get you most of the way there, especially with how good the on board chorus, a digital delay, and single coils (if you put in higher output, brighter pickups, all the better). For the distorted sounds, maybe some kind of fet boost and a rat would probably get you a lot of those sounds, he wasn't using "transparent" anything on those nasty distorted lines. You can make it infinitely complex, but that's a start. A modeler can get you a lot of this sound in one box.
 

crazymauler

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
244
@Benz2112 Yeah that's a good idea on the Jazz Chorus, that might be a good choice for those bright "fast" transient clean tones, and the chorus would be a bonus. IIRC Alex used that amp here and there, but not exactly sure what songs/albums?
Do any of the newer solid state amps (Quilter?) do something similar to the Jazz Chorus in terms of the clean tone (not necessarily the stereo or chorus aspect)?
I'm afraid I don't quite have the finances, patience, and programming fortitude to dive into modelers, though they probably do have some good solutions for this. I bought an HX Stomp once, it had some okay amp/cab sounds but didn't blow my hair back. After it froze a couple times (had to recycle the power to recover it) I returned it that same afternoon.
So I prefer real/actual amps, though I am a BIG fan of the Suhr Reactive Load IR. Somehow that doesn't sound/feel digital or modeled at all to me. So maybe some kind of Jazz Chorus head type thing into the Suhr RLIR (with an impulse of the JC120 if that exists?) would work?
 

Benz2112

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
4,936
@Benz2112 Yeah that's a good idea on the Jazz Chorus, that might be a good choice for those bright "fast" transient clean tones, and the chorus would be a bonus. IIRC Alex used that amp here and there, but not exactly sure what songs/albums?
Do any of the newer solid state amps (Quilter?) do something similar to the Jazz Chorus in terms of the clean tone (not necessarily the stereo or chorus aspect)?
I'm afraid I don't quite have the finances, patience, and programming fortitude to dive into modelers, though they probably do have some good solutions for this. I bought an HX Stomp once, it had some okay amp/cab sounds but didn't blow my hair back. After it froze a couple times (had to recycle the power to recover it) I returned it that same afternoon.
So I prefer real/actual amps, though I am a BIG fan of the Suhr Reactive Load IR. Somehow that doesn't sound/feel digital or modeled at all to me. So maybe some kind of Jazz Chorus head type thing into the Suhr RLIR (with an impulse of the JC120 if that exists?) would work?
What about one of those old Dean Markley amps, he used those alongside the GK's. You could get one of those pretty cheap, lots of headroom for that style.
 

8len8

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
13,271
I love Rush and Lifeson, and I'm quite fond of his tones from those albums mentioned. I realize many don't like this era, and there are other threads on Lifeson's tones before and after these albums, but I really love those albums and his tones and parts he created for them.

I know pretty well he used active single coil guitars (Signature with Evans pups), GK rack amps or the 250ML, and his effects chain is pretty well known.

But I'm wondering how I might go about achieving those tones with more modern and readily available gear? Not so much the effects pedals (though I'm open to recommendations) but the guitar and amp. Are there any tools or tricks to getting those guitar and amp tones without finding/buying active single coils mounted on a guitar or those old/rare/expensive GK rack units?

Perhaps the answer is "No, you must have active single coils into a 2290 and 1210 into a GK 2000CPL..."? But if anyone has ideas or has stumbled on something like this I'd love to know!
Do a search in the Effect forum. There are threads about it there.
 

Mooselake

Member
Messages
1,048
I think in the beginning of that era he was using Signature Guitars with active sc pickups, and those gave a tone that stands a little apart from his more iconic ones. IIRC he also paired them with SS amps. That is my least favorite period in his tonal journey (note "least favorite" ~= "dislike" or "bad") so I've never really investigated it. I just know trying to play something like Time Stand Still I'm not ever going to nail that tone with any of the instruments/gear I own.

By Roll the Bones he might have switched to primarily PRS guitars, some tele, not sure about amps, but I think he had a Dean Markley in the mix that he didn't retire until Test for Echo. To me Roll the Bones marked a big shift in his tone back to a more natural-sounding rock guitar. I remember that album being so refreshing and it got me re-interested in their newer music again. Still one of my favorites that I listen to end-to-end occasionally. Some of the deeper cuts have what I would describe as fairly straight-forward rock rhythm guitar with his usual harmonic creativity and rhythmic quirks. Whenever I listen to it I say "I should sit down and learn those," but invariably some new shiny thing distracts me before I act on the thought.
 

crazymauler

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
244
Anyone have any tips/tricks/pedals for making passive single coils sound/behave like active?
 

crazymauler

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
244
Anyone know of any preamps (or pedals) that would sound similar to some of the 80's GK units? (2000CPL, 2100SEL, 250ML)
 

RockDebris

Member
Messages
3,423
I love Rush and Lifeson, and I'm quite fond of his tones from those albums mentioned. I realize many don't like this era, and there are other threads on Lifeson's tones before and after these albums, but I really love those albums and his tones and parts he created for them.

I know pretty well he used active single coil guitars (Signature with Evans pups), GK rack amps or the 250ML, and his effects chain is pretty well known.

But I'm wondering how I might go about achieving those tones with more modern and readily available gear? Not so much the effects pedals (though I'm open to recommendations) but the guitar and amp. Are there any tools or tricks to getting those guitar and amp tones without finding/buying active single coils mounted on a guitar or those old/rare/expensive GK rack units?

Perhaps the answer is "No, you must have active single coils into a 2290 and 1210 into a GK 2000CPL..."? But if anyone has ideas or has stumbled on something like this I'd love to know!
One of the things that really opens the door to that era of Lifeson tone is the use of 2 chorus effects. The 2 chorus effects, even set subtly, do this comb filtering thing that imparts a kind of metallic sound which I always interpreted as being single coils and/or GK amps ... but in fact I've been able to get a good facsimile of that sound with just about anything once the 2 choruses are engaged. (so I started to question my own assumption that the sound was really particular to GK or not)

This video demonstrates the 2 chorus effect (watch to the end to hear what the tone is like without the effects). Though it is 1 album before the era you cite, it still caries through HYF and Presto.


This in no way was an attempt to recreate an Alex Lifeson rig, it was my own everyday rig using different techniques than my own. I have no real idea if the B2 preamp in any way fits alongside the expectation of a GK amp.
 
Last edited:

Tmidiman

Member
Messages
3,870
Make sure to get an electric guitar with a piezo pickup under the bridge. That’s the key to getting the clean jangliness mixed in with the dirt. You’ll need to run that to another amp as your clean tone.
 

crazymauler

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
244
One of the things that really opens the door to that era of Lifeson tone is the use of 2 chorus effects. The 2 chorus effects, even set subtly, do this comb filtering thing that imparts a kind of metallic sound which I always interpreted as being single coils and/or GK amps ... but in fact I've been able to get a good facsimile of that sound with just about anything once the 2 choruses are engaged. (so I started to question my own assumption that the sound was really particular to GK or not)

This video demonstrates the 2 chorus effect (watch to the end to hear what the tone is like without the effects). Though it is 1 album before the era you cite, it still caries through HYF and Presto.


This in no way was an attempt to recreate an Alex Lifeson rig, it was my own everyday rig using different techniques than my own. I have no real idea if the B2 preamp in any way fits alongside the expectation of a GK amp.
@RockDebris wow this is really cool and really well done! You may be on to something with the stacked chorus idea being a key to those tones (rather than just the GK preamps). And maybe just running things a bit brighter since I don't have active single coils with an ebony fretboard.
May I ask:
• what pickups were in that Strat?
• DECO: what settings did you use to get a chorus sound?
• is that B2 pedal adding gain/OD/distortion? or coloring the tone in some way?
 

RockDebris

Member
Messages
3,423
@RockDebris wow this is really cool and really well done! You may be on to something with the stacked chorus idea being a key to those tones (rather than just the GK preamps). And maybe just running things a bit brighter since I don't have active single coils with an ebony fretboard.
May I ask:
• what pickups were in that Strat?
• DECO: what settings did you use to get a chorus sound?
• is that B2 pedal adding gain/OD/distortion? or coloring the tone in some way?
So the pickups that I used are not active, but they are noiseless. These were a set of Kinman Woodstock pickups, which actually aren't as bright as many signal coils and they have a hotter output.

I didn't mark the DECO settings, but it wasn't a heavy chorus sound on its own. Something just before the delays become audible, a bit of wobble (around 11:00 on the wobble knob I imagine). The Mobius was probably more aggressive sounding chorus of the two, and I can get the settings for that if you want. The subtle chorus from the DECO is what touches off what I think is a comb filtering effect for that metallic edge.

The B2 pedal is the preamp sound itself, and it is distorted. The amp was only being used for it's power and speaker, the preamp there was bypassed. There are no other ODs except for a slight boost from the DECO for added sustain.
 

RockDebris

Member
Messages
3,423
@RockDebris wow this is really cool and really well done! You may be on to something with the stacked chorus idea being a key to those tones (rather than just the GK preamps).
One of the things that made me feel like I was on the right track with this thinking was, not only that kind of metallic tone it added, but also how pinch harmonics sound. Without the choruses, I can play a pinched harmonic on that setup and it sounds like you would expect a good pinched harmonic to sound. High pitched, obviously, but full and "steady" (for lack of a better word). Any pinch harmonic I play with those choruses on, to me, sound exactly like what I hear from Alex at that time. It's kind of hollow ... the body of the note is "unstable". You can't make it jump out like a big hair metal squeal.

To put it another way, I learned to play Alex solos long before I made the leap to using 2 choruses. I always thought the pinched harmonics he got on a recording were flukes ... you know, you catch the string a certain way and you get a kind of flubbed harmonic which might sound cool, but you can never reproduce on command. I would play the harmonic and it would sound more like a Satch harmonic and that's just the way it was. When I dialed in the 2 choruses, every pinched and open harmonic sounded like Alex and I could no longer make a harmonic sound like Zack Wilde or whatever.
 
Last edited:

crazymauler

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
244
One of the things that made me feel like I was on the right track with this thinking was, not only that kind of metallic tone it added, but also how pinch harmonics sound. Without the choruses, I can play a pinched harmonic on that setup and it sounds like you would expect a good pinched harmonic to sound. High pitched, obviously, but full and "steady" (for lack of a better word). Any pinch harmonic I play with those choruses on, to me, sound exactly like what I hear from Alex at that time. It's kind of hollow ... the body of the note is "unstable". You can't make it jump out like a big hair metal squeal.

To put it another way, I learned to play Alex solos long before I made the leap to using 2 choruses. I always thought the pinched harmonics he got on a recording were flukes ... you know, you catch the string a certain way and you get a kind of flubbed harmonic which might sound cool, but you can never reproduce on command. I would play the harmonic and it would sound more like a Satch harmonic and that's just the way it was. When I dialed in the 2 choruses, every pinched and open harmonic sounded like Alex and I could no longer make a harmonic sound like Zack Wilde or whatever.
This is really great stuff! I'm going to experiment with the two chorus concept, and also play with the idea of a preamp pedal into the power section of the amp, that's a great tip as well.
Thanks for the encouragement and ideas!
 

urQuill

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
2,606
Ok ... for the obviously much older Caress of Steel to Moving Pictures fans ... and maybe Permanent Waves curious ... what the heck does “HYF” and “ASoH” stand for? I’ve heard some of the other two, but I’m drawing a total blank on these.

I think it’s more fun to ask than search. Because, old, ok? Tobacco sunburst LP old. ES-355 and Hiwatt old. That’s old.
 

InkblotNebula

Member
Messages
1,019
Ok ... for the obviously much older Caress of Steel to Moving Pictures fans ... and maybe Permanent Waves curious ... what the heck does “HYF” and “ASoH” stand for? I’ve heard some of the other two, but I’m drawing a total blank on these.

I think it’s more fun to ask than search. Because, old, ok? Tobacco sunburst LP old. ES-355 and Hiwatt old. That’s old.
Hold Your Fire and A Show of Hands. The latter was a live album.
 

urQuill

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
2,606
Hold Your Fire and A Show of Hands. The latter was a live album.
Thank you! My first Rush album - an actual LP - was All the World's a Stage. My favourite guitar sounds for a long, long time were on that album. Played it until you could almost see through the grooves. I still have it somewhere, next to all the others from the first through to PW, including Hemispheres (in red vinyl). I wonder how many fans' interests changed after PW. I don't think I bought or listened all the way through another Rush album after that. Saw them several times in concert, just never listened to them with the same innocent intensity.
 

Loquendo89

Member
Messages
35
Sorry if I’m late to the party but this is my favorite era also. I know those crazy cleans are partially because it’s di’d and eq’d. In HYF, he mostly used a Telecaster (with passive pickups) that is di’d and eq’d. I can get close to the string buzz sound of hyf and presto with my tele, compression, chorus, delay and reverb (eq’d in my daw.)


I’ve heard a GKML250, and it nails The presto distortion sound....

lifeson used a humbucking signature I believe in presto....(not the white or black one) not sure if that’s true or not.

holdsworth did this di/eq trick in the sixteen men of tain....my ears have been perking up to roxette On the radio lately and it’s pretty close....
 




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