#152026  by Arafel
 Fri May 06, 2016 6:36 am
I've been thinking about this a lot lately. We sometimes talk about favorite years for jams, setlists, etc., but does anyone think about favorite tone years, especially for Jerry and Bobby and what sounds they get from the guitars? I guess I go there because I play guitar. To me, my favorite year as far as guitar tone is 72, and second favorite is 77. In terms of eras, I'd say first is 72-74, second is 76-78, and third is 69-71.

I sometimes pop in the Bobby forum and people talk about his guitar tone, and the interesting thing for me there is that as the years went by, I hated Bobby's guitar tone more and more. I also liked Jerry's less the more he added MIDI and the Boss effects. The 90s especially, I HATE Bobby's guitar tone. It's got this ugly synthetic overtone to it that's just blah. And I think Jerry's tone lost a bit of edge as he got older.

What do you think of Dead guitar tones over the years?
 #152029  by tcsned
 Fri May 06, 2016 10:20 am
It's hard to pick just one. He got great tone from pretty much every guitar/rig he used from 69 on IMHO. I am partial to the '78 tone. It was edgy and rockin'
 #152032  by Searing75
 Fri May 06, 2016 3:55 pm
Late '77 early 78. Comes first, then 83-'84. This can change with whims.
 #152038  by hippieguy1954
 Sat May 07, 2016 2:52 am
DaveAlembic wrote:I love all of The tones from '66-'95
+1 Me too :smile:
 #152039  by Ebearius
 Sat May 07, 2016 5:36 am
I loved all of Jerry's "sound" from all the years. However, his "tone" got progressively thinner and less organic over the final few years of the band.
 #152040  by kurt eye
 Sat May 07, 2016 5:46 am
I like Jerry's tone throughout the years. To me his playing is more a factor than his tone in terms of defining my favorite eras.

As for Bobby, by far my favorite tone is when he played the Gibson. I loved the fat jazzy chords you can hear him play through out the 71-72 era (eg the backing rhythm at the intro of a '72 Jack Straw) To be honest, after that era it was hard to hear Bobby in the mix other than when he played slide parts or the opening to China Cat for example. I'm sure he was able to get great tone out of Cowboy, unfortunately, I don't think you hear it all that much. I noticed this when I saw DSO a while back. I couldn't hear a thing Eaton played on the Ibanez until I got close to the stage and could hear him through the monitor speaker. His rhythm chops were incredible, but you could only hear it if you were close to the stage. When Bobby started playing the Modulus it seemed to me his playing was very staccato and lacking in tone.
 #152041  by ccw3432
 Sat May 07, 2016 8:25 am
It changes through the years and my current mood. The same goes for my favorite GD tunes. There's just so many good ones. Lately I've really been liking that '80-'81 Tiger / Super Distortion crunch for Jerry tone. But '73 is another favorite...and '77 and '78, I like the late 60's balls to the wall tones too. And the late 80's early 90's clarity... It's awesome that we have all this great music accessible to us.
 #152048  by pablomago
 Sat May 07, 2016 3:32 pm
I'm with you on '72-'77, but that's also my favorite era of the band. I like '69-'71 too. They were changing things up almost nightly back then. Part of the fun of going to a show for me back then was seeing what guitar they'd play. I saw Jerry go from an SG, Three different Strats, the Potatocaster Rick Turner built, a Les Paul 'burst, a Les Paul Special with P-90's. Bobby used various Gibson's (ES-335, Les Paul Custom, SG) and I saw him with a fat body double cutaway Guild. Phil used a Gibson EB-3 (?) a Guild both stock and later modified into the Godfather, an Alembic in '74... And I'm probably forgetting something.

I used to see Jerry and Merl Saunders a lot and that was almost always the Alligator Strat and that's still my favorite Jerry-tone. I liked the Travis Bean TB-500 with three pickups, too. He used that when Keith and Donna were in the JGB. Wolf was hit and miss for me. I liked it more once he put the humbuckers in it.

The MIDI stuff had some weird high harmonics that never sounded quite right to me. At least they were taking chances and experimenting. My last show was '92 in Denver. I'm almost afraid to listen to a recording of that night, because it sounded so good in the arena in my memory and I don't want to screw that up.

I'm seeing Dead & Co. this summer. I'll be interested in hearing what the guitars sound like now.
 #152078  by healthy_scratch
 Mon May 09, 2016 10:39 am
I like many others, love that heavenly tone from Jerry's Strat, especially as captured exhaustively throughout the Spring and late Summer 1972. That Strat playing off what I believe was mostly Bobby's Gibson semi hollow bodies during this period was absolute Dead aural gold. We are very fortunate this period has been comprehensively captured in dynamic thick high quality sound, talk about right place right time for multi-track recording an entire tour.

I am not sure if Jer used the same Strat and rig setup throughout the entire April - August 1972 period, I feel he may have been changing Strats and/or amps and to be honest am too lazy to look it up. Anyhow, to these ears, his tone sounds a bit different once we hit August 1972. Nonetheless, I really am fond of the tone he conjures throughout the magical Berkley Community Theater and Veneta, Oregon shows in mid to late August 1972. Wow that to me is the height of impeccable clean Garcia Strat tone.

Don't get me wrong I love me fall-winter 1972 tour as well but I hear differences in tone after Veneta but perhaps that is due to the recordings not being as well captured in Fall of 1972. The Strat on the Sunshine Daydream release weaves, parries and blends so phenomenally well with Weir's inspired Gibson rhythm. Billy is just raging throughout this period and I think on the whole I prefer one drummer Dead. So when you add to how crisply they managed to capture the drums in this period, you have the recipe for what with great difficulty has to be my favorite sonic period for the Dead if I am forced to choose.

Then again 1974 mirrors this period in 1972 with many great quality recordings captured and tone, tone, tone. I am particularly fond of the sound from March 1974 - October 1974. I notice a sonic difference in February 1974. Obviously there is nothing at all wrong with February 1974. Musically, it is absolutely bullet proof and I have played these shows loud and proud for over 25 years continuing on a regular basis to do so. Aurally it is a different beast from what emerges after the Sound Test done at the Cow Palace in March 1974.

The batshit crazy music going forward into spring and summer and concluding at Winterland in October is without question among their finest efforts. A sublime period again for mixes coupled with tone and demonstrating a confident band at their height of their powers in terms of inventive playing and bolstered by the fat, in your face sound coming from the Wall of Sound. I have to point out that when the Wall was fully up and charged and running well, Phil never sounded so amazingly thick and rich. I think this has to be my favorite era for Phil tone with the peak coming in Winterland in October 1974. Thankfully 1974 left us with so many pristine recordings, ripe with creamy bottom end so that subsequent generations will be able to shake up housing units of their own and those of their neighbors with great and utter confidence.

1977 is another fine tone year but a departure from what came before. One of the most pleasurable and perhaps less appreciated sides of the Dead is the shape shifting they did in terms of tone. Again licorice, as some people do not like their guitarists switching up tones so radically. For me this is to the Dead's credit and has been one of their most endearing qualities and why my ear gravitates towards so many repeat listenings.

Anyhow 1977 from San Bernardino through to Winterland in June is pure magic - Travis Bean coupled with Ibanez it just defines the Terrapin era. What an amazing change in tone for a band in just 5 years when you compare the differences between May 72 to May 77!!! Things change up again after Englishtown in early September 1977. Fall 1977 is a delightful, yet different tone period thanks in large part to the return of the Wolf for Fall tour 1977. i have to say what makes 1977 so extra special is the dichotomy of overall sound between Spring Tour vs Fall & Winter Tour. Two very different yet enjoyable beasts in terms of tone with Spring being pristine and so pure whereas fall is rougher and growls and howls more with the re-emergence of Wolfie. This also carries well into 1978, as others have rightly pointed out this period as well is rich with great amped up shows where an energetic band clearly is driving that train delivering some of their most powerful explosives moments.

As far as the Tiger goes I have recently fallen large and hard for Jerry's Tiger tone in 1983. The TIger is in all its glory especially on that May - June Garcia Band tour which has to be amongst Jerry's best in terms of playing. It is straight up manic and the tone is incredible as well. Unfortunately recordings are not nearly as pristine in this period and board captures are not what they were in the golden 72 - 77 era.

Weir continues to sound good on the Ibanez in 1982 - 83 but once he moves on to the Casio (the black Strat-like guitar he plays on the NYE 1983 run videos), he loses me somewhat and his tone falls flat for me going forward. It works and all I guess in context but I do not enjoy it as the butter-cutting rhythm playing from the red and sunburst Gibsons and later various Ibanezes. Hell I cannot fault him for mixing it up and exploring more and varied palettes into the 80s. It is just overall Weir's tone appeals less to me during this era as the Moduluses are also hit and and miss for me. That said, I did particularly enjoy Weir's tone on the pink guitar used extensively on Spring tour 1989 a period seldom mentioned as it is overshadowed by the stellar shows delivered from June 1989 to Brent's untimely and tragic passing in summer 1990. The 2 Pittsburgh shows from SPring 89 are fine examples of cool Weir tone from this period. As well check out the Ann Arbor shows as well in particular the fine Let It Grow from set I 4-5-89 and Scarlet -> Fire and Playing -> Built To Last from set II 4-6-89 to hear what I mean.

Coming back to the Tiger, I would be remiss to point out that the bouncy organic tone of Jerry in 1987 is blissful Tiger as well. Examples of this almost acoustic feel coming from Tiger are heard throughout the year. Here are 4 shows that have garnered a lot of listening for this tone from this period by me - 03-31-87, 09-18-87, 09-19-87 and 12-31-87 - all four available in fantastic sound. Obviously health had to do with it as well, but I love the exuberance and renewed energy that clearly comes through in Garcia's Tiger tone in 1987. Sure while some of the playing may be pedestrian in terms of exploration and jams you cannot deny there is something positively jumping in the tone he coaxed out of the Tiger during this era.

Not at all a MIDI guy. While again I embraced the adventurism of it at the time, in the end I like my guitars to sound like guitars, my flutes to sound like flutes and my horns to sound like horns in general. So when looking for recordings to listen to I tend to reach much more for pre-MIDI Dead more often than not. That said, flat out I was not at all a fan of Jerry's tone post summer 1993. To me it sounds very weak, thin, lifeless and there is an overall processed timber that I cannot wrap my ears around. This goes beyond the obvious of how discomforting it can be when hearing those particularly painful miserable nights when his playing would unfortunately largely mimic his choice of tone at the end. Any time I have listened to post summer 1993 (believe me I have tried), I have always had qualms with Jerry's thin latter day tone, especially coming out of that Lightning Bolt guitar, I have not heard one show where that has me convinced tone wise.

Anyhow, there you have my long winded $0.02 on tone across the years.

Last edited by healthy_scratch on Tue May 10, 2016 1:46 am, edited 6 times in total.
 #152277  by tonesofpgh
 Thu May 26, 2016 8:50 am
You guys are right on


All years are great tho, still the same boys creating the magic ;)
 #152284  by aiq
 Thu May 26, 2016 3:29 pm
my original connection was Live/Dead. My live shows with Jerry were 71 - 75. Maybe 74, a bit fuzzy.

So I am a bit biased toward those times. I have been able to appreciate some of the later stuff here and there.

Agree that Weir tone got more synthy sounding as time went on, Today it seems his guitar has disappeared and we only hear the effts. Didn't love Jerry's MIDI. If you want a trumpet sound hire a trumpet player?

Also, the slide playing....if you can't say something nice...

I am listening to the 78 box now, into the fourth one now.