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TB500 Reasonable Facsimile?

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07 Mar 2009
Posts: 2
PostPosted: 03/07/2009 at 10:21 AM    Post subject: TB500 Reasonable Facsimile? link

I'm a first-time poster, long-time lurker, but the recent thread on TB500 scale length got me thinking...

If you had three TB500 pickups and wanted to mount them on a stock (or modified stock) guitar that would do a reasonably good impression of the physics/acoustics of Jerry Garcia's TB500, what would you choose?

I have three reproduction TB500 pickups wound to original specs, but I can't afford a Kramer to put them in. I was thinking some kind of Strat, maybe with an ash body and maple neck, but now I know the scale length is wrong. I'm only concerned with sound; don't care what it looks like.

Any suggestions????


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04 Feb 2004
Posts: 309
PostPosted: 03/07/2009 at 4:26 PM    Post subject: RE:TB500 Reasonable Facsimile? link

Hi Marlow. Welcome to the board.

If your going for the "Jerry Tone" it's going to take a lot more than just pickups to achieve. First and foremost are the fingers. Watch some video footage and check out how much vibrato Garcia creates with his left hand. IMHO that is the single most important factor in achieving "Jerry Tone".

Starting with the guitar - Garcia played solid, heavy guitars from '72 on. His Bean was no exception. A strat body doesn't approach the physical mass of his Beans or his subsequent instruments (Tiger, Wolf, Rosebud, etc.). There are great sites where you can read about all of these guitars if you're curious. My honest advice would be to save your $$ for as long as it takes and get Kevin at EGC or Greg Bailey or Matt Bastin to build you a heavy aluminum neck guitar to put those PUs in. I have an EGC 500 that rocks. If that really isn't an option, look for the heaviest, solidest guitar body you can find - like an old SG.

To complicate matters, Garcia had an elaborate set of electronics on his Bean 500 including an effects loop run from the guitar (yes two plugs) and the famous "unigain buffer" designed by John Cutler (I think). You can buy these things too is you're going whole hog.

Then of course you have the amp and effects to consider. Too much to cover on this subject and there are folks a lot more expert than me who can guide you. Garcia used a Mutron III envelope filter to get some of his most distinct sounds in '77 (Estimated Prophet, Fire on the Mountain). You can spend a lot of time and money hunting those babies down.

Or you could practice your left hand vibrato and achieve the "Jerry Tone" with a decent Strat and a Fender Twin Reverb. Garcia played a strat on the Europe '72 tour and many enjoy that as their favorite Garcia sound.

I'll shut up now. Sorry if is this is old news to you. Best of luck "searching for the sound".


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07 Mar 2009
Posts: 2
PostPosted: 03/07/2009 at 8:05 PM    Post subject: RE:TB500 Reasonable Facsimile? link

Hi Peter,

Thanks for your response. You're absolutely right about the Jerry sound being mostly in the left hand (and brain, and soul ...). But in the absence of natural talent, there's always the endless quest for gear. I have a quasi-Alligator Strat already and a home-brew Tiger/Wolf amalgamation project in the works, and a 2 x 12 cab built to the specs at Dozin -- but spring '77 is my favourite sound tone-wise. I wasn't there (first show in '84), but it rocks.

The mass of the Bean is a definite factor. Never having played one, my guess was that the heart of the 500 sound was the rigidity of the neck and its physical connection to the pickups. My thinking was that I could approximate this with some wood combinations that emphasize treble: like a maple neck with an ebony board on an ash body, or some kind of hard maple through-neck. Never having played one it's hard to tell if a 500 has a lot of resonance, overtones, etc., or whether it more hits the fundamental with all that mass. I'd think that resonance could be simulated with ash, and mass with mahogany or something similar.

I wondered whether, since real Beans are so rare and so very expensive, other people might have tried what I'm attempting. Of course it's entirely possible that nothing else sounds like a Bean.



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23 Sep 2002
Posts: 51
PostPosted: 03/22/2009 at 8:59 AM    Post subject: RE:TB500 Reasonable Facsimile? link

Wasn't Jerry's 500 the earlier style, where the bodies were thick as Standards??? So ..thick body, triple single coils. Even if you had a later 500, it would be hard to match...... and I agree about the hands.


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