Alex Lifeson Tone Questions

  • Hi, everyone. :) I've missed you all. So, it looks like Pudge is coming out of retirement for a one-time gig. And, I am in need of the Kemper Community's collective genius.

    A friend of mine is organizing a Neil Peart tribute show, with all funds going to charity for cancer research, and I've been asked to lend my guitar-slinging services for the evening. Though my declining health has forced me to turn down several requests to come out of retirement in the past, I cannot think of a more worthy cause to break that tradition than an evening to honor and pay tribute to one of my childhood heroes.

    Naturally, I want to do the music justice, so I would like to do my absolute best to capture some of Big Al's more elusive tones. Specifically, we'll be focusing on Rush-era 1978 to 1992, so his tones from Hemispheres through Presto are what I am after. Here's where I could use some assistance.

    :?: For Hemispheres through Moving Pictures, I am leaning towards Hi-Watt and early Marshall amps. Thoughts on effects to use?

    :?: I always struggle with getting Big Al's shimmery tones from Presto. I know he used GK solid state gear for a while, but those tones are so elusive. no matter what I try. Ideas?

    :?: Does anyone know of any good profiles that already exist?

    Any advice that any of you have would be helpful at this point. Thanks everyone!

  • Not sure I have much to add, but you’ll want a good flanger preset.

    A lot of his tones used a flanger, and/or phase shifter.

    Not a ton of distortion in most of his sounds from that era. Most medium crunch Marshall or HiWatt sounds might work. And if you can’t find a GK rig, try a Roland Jazz Chorus maybe?

    Good Luck, it sounds like a great gig.

  • For Presto he was using Carvins and Roland amps. Likely a JC120. The GK stuff was really only used for Grace Under Pressure through Hold Your Fire. Even then a JCM 800 showed up. The Twin or Club & Country were also there.

    Generally, Marshall ‘ish dirt, Fender ‘ish cleans

    Hemospheres is HiWattts and a Twin. Permanent Waves and Moving Pictures were HiWatts, Twin (or Marshall Club & Country - their swing at a Twin.)

    CE-1 chorus

    EHX Electric Mistress



    Rush and Lifeson are of the main reasons I play.

    “Without music, life would be a mistake.” - Friedrich Nietzsche

  • I always struggle to figure out the really shimmering cleans he gets too. Obviously uses delay and the 2290 in particular but does anyone have any specific delay settings that a muppet like me could try out.

    I believe a good portion of that shimmer isn't so much in the delay. It's in his subtle use of chorus on those tones. I've found the micro pitch quite satisfying.

    Also - he recorded a lot of his stuff doubled with a Nashville tuned guitar. Basically the octave strings from a 12 string on a 6. There's a LOT of your shimmer.

    “Without music, life would be a mistake.” - Friedrich Nietzsche