Geddy Lee has anchored the Canadian power trio Rush for over 30 years and 18 studio albums. His basswork is very influential in the rock field – players as different as Steve Harris (Iron Maiden), John Myung (Dream Theater) and Les Claypool (Primus) have all cited him as a primary influence.
Learning some of Geddy’s lines will help develop the technique and more importantly the musicianship of any aspiring bass player.
(PS Geddy Lee’s also got a great sense of humour – check out his “amp stack” on the R30 DVD!)
5 Essential Geddy Lee tracks
1) YYZ – this is a tune I’m got on my goals list to master later this year. If you can get this down at the tune’s tempo and play it nearly flawlessly you can pat yourself on the back, your bass playing’s going places!
2) Free Will – this tune is straightforward (although there’s lots of different time signatures to contend with) until the break. The bassline underneath the guitar solo comes out of left field – it’s almost like it comes out of another tune! – and the 28 bars here form a great study on their own.
3) 2112 – This has got to be my favourite Rush piece of all time – playing it through on the bass is a good lesson in memory and endurance. There’s some good material to be mined in the rockier sections of the tune too for further development.
4) La Villa Strangiato. I remember when Hemisphere’s was released to general critical acclaim, at the time La Villa Strangiato was considered a bit of an oddball tune though. It’s a firm fan favourite now and you should check it out – the chops on display from all 3 members of Rush are jaw dropping.
5) Malignant Narcissm – From the Snakes and Arrows CD, this short instrumental tune features a typical Lee bassline, very cool, very snaky!
5 Essential CDs featuring Geddy Lee
1) All the World’s A Stage
As I’ve said before this is – IMO – the best live Rock band album ever. Period. It’s got everything from the epic majesty of 2112 to some of Rush’s rawer, rockier material like Bastille Day and Anthem (LOVE the crazy intro in 7:8 – genius!). Whilst not displaying some of the virtuosity evident in later recordings there’s still some cracking bass work to get your head and your fingers around – all played with great energy.
2) Moving Pictures
This was the last Rush album I seriously listened to before my listening veered in different directions – but it’s always been a classic. It’s worth the price just for YYZ – a tune I’m planning to tackle later in the year! – but it’s got other highlights too, Tom Sawyer, Red Barchetta and Vital Signs are all worth a listen.
Rush tried to move on from the bluesy, Zeppelin rock feel of their first two albums and go epic with the Album before 2112 (Caress of Steel) – but they struck gold with 2112. As well as the near 20 minute long title track the album also featured Something for Nothing (a personal fave) and Passage to Bangkok.
Hemispheres was the album where Rush started dabbling with synthesizers – but they still managed to come up with great tracks. I like EVERY track on this album (the only Rush album that i still listen to in its entirety!), from the magnificent title track right through to Circumstances. And of course the album also features La Villa Strangiato. ‘Nuff said?
5) My Favorite Headache
I’m still coming to grips with Rush’s post Moving Pictures output, and trying to work out which I like best and whether it truly stacks up to the earlier stuff, or whether I like the earlier stuff because I was there and saw Rush back in the day before they became an arena band. But Geddy’s solo album is worth checking out, mainly for the interest in hearing him play WITHOUT Neil Peart – there’s a complete transcription of his work on this album available too which makes it a double bonus! (see below).
Transcriptions of Geddy Lee’s Basslines
There’s 2 books available that feature Geddy’s basslines.
The first – another must have for all bass players – is called Classic Rush – Bass Anthology Series. The book features transcriptions (with tab) for songs such as La Villa Strangiato, Limelight, The Trees, Spirit of Radio, Free Will, YYZ and more. Some of the songs are easy to play – some of them are complete finger twisters! If you give the tunes in this book some serious study your bass playing will improve. That’s a cast iron given. (For me the only downside to this book is that some of the tunes that I want to play are missing, eg Hemispheres, Anthem, the entire version of 2112, etc etc – I’ve had to transcribe some of these for a band I’m trying to put together and in the future I should hopefully compile them into an ebook and offer them for sale on this website! Watch this space!)
The second book available is full bass and guitar transcription for Geddy Lee’s solo album – My Favorite Headache. Although I still prefer the sound of early Rush (see above) if you’re a fan of Geddy you should own both the solo album and this book. Studying the tunes will give you another window into his thought processes.