Rush: “YYZ” – Geddy Lee’s Isolated Bass (Isolated Bass Week)

Rush’s “YYZ” is one of the greatest bass lines of all time. Recorded in late 1980 and released on Moving Pictures, this tune has been a favorite among bassists for years, and one Rush consistently performs in concert.

And now, the isolated bass of Geddy Lee… You can clearly hear where the lines where punched in, especially during Geddy’s three solo spots.

There have been some debates on this track… a few saying it isn’t Geddy, while others insisting Geddy played his Rickenbacker, while the consensus is that he recorded it with his Fender Jazz.

By the way, where were these isolated bass tracks when I was a kid struggling to transcribe from vinyl?!

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  1. just awesome! One of the best bassists!

  2. Oh tha’ts Geddy alright! And it sounds like he is playing his Fender Jazz…but really Geddy sounds the same what ever he uses–kinda like Eddy Van Halen in that regard. Awesome track!

    • Well said, Gary.

    • No, that sounds really like a rick!

    • @ Christophe – It very well could be. Maybe someone out there who knows for sure can let us know by posting.

    • Oh, and thanks Corey!

    • Christophe Orlando Larmoyer it really doesnt matter. both the rick and fender are a little overated. you can find a better bass for 2k. im pretty sure the only reason why getty uses them is because thats just what he is used to. old school you know.

    • Binocular Bard–Geddy ( not getty) could play a $100 Tiesco bass and still sound like Geddy. It’s who you are, not what brand you play that contributes to making a bass sound good. If you have the talent, everything else is gravy. Put a dude like Geddy on a good bass and you are going to have something good no matter what.

    • I have played $4000 basses, and have owned an Alembic. I still find myself coming back to the old Fenders. Geddy can buy any bass he wants–he is rich–but he prefers the old Fenders, and there is something to be said for that, so don’t just write it off as simply old school conditioning.

    • Gary Lee Minyard didnt mean any offence. i said old school with the upmost respect and admiration for experienced musicians. and your right, geddy (not getty, sorry, had a derp moment) just has his own style. thats what i was trying to get across. i just think a $600 ibanez is a better investment than a $1000 fender. my own preference. i own a 1984 ibanez x-series destroyer bass that is just as good as any standard p-bass.

      • Alex

        I would take Fender over Ibanez any day of the week.

        • Truth. Fenders are as great as any bass guitars ever. They are probably used on far more classic records than any other basses. That being said, the other night I was watching a very cool band play a gig and the bassists tone was phenomenal. When I went in close to see what he was using, it was a Squier Mexican P-bass with a Behringer half stack. Not considered
          Pro gear in any way. A total of maybe $800 worth of gear. I’ve been playing bass professionally for 30 years so I’ve seen/ heard a lot of tones and this guys’ tone killed! Pro as hell. So player mattrs far more than gear. For real

          • MikeyOnBass

            Through the years I’ve owned an American, Mexican, & Indonesian made Fender Jazz basses… and IMHO the Indo sounded just as good… So, I totally agree with your comment. Kind of frustrated me though, cause the Squier was WAY cheaper.

    • Binocular Bard–I understand. I tend to take anything said against Fenders personally. They stand the test of time, which is why you can find one made in the fifties and it will still play and sound as awesome as the day it was made….if you have $$$$ that is–to buy one!

    • QTOwens

      Agreed!

      • Meh……Y’know there’s a thing with Fenders….I’ve been playing for about twenty years and think a Fender P or J get the greatest bass sound in a studio hands down, but for performing and general use I’ve come very close to buying a Fender several times but ended up taking home something different. I’m playing an Ibanez fretless at the moment and it sounds awesome. There are some advances in guitar design that nowadays puts some instruments above a Fender in the same price range, and those Ibanez’s are sounding prettyyyyyyy good. OK Fenders look cooler. Will get a J one day….maybe…anyway, yeah, Geddy rocks!

        • MikeyOnBass

          Totally agree man. There are so many basses out there just as good. I’m using Lakland now. (& I’ve used Spector, Fender, Yamaha, Kramer, Squire, & Line6 through the years) ; but I believe if your engineer is any good (& you’re paying the dude) he ‘should’ be able to get you good tone from ANY bass. With active electronics I’d usually turn all boosts to flat & volume @ around 75% & have walked away with good tone. Everybody was happy!!!

  3. Totally a Rickenbacker! The track doesn’t have that huge bottom end of a Jazz Bass.

  4. Brilliant! My vote is for a jazz……

  5. OH MY FUCKING FINGERS! ITS ALLWAYS THE SAME AGUANTE GEDDY.

  6. Not Geddy playin’ this! Ha ha! Lots of deaf people out there…

    • I’m with yeh. Timing is way off – he’s ahead in spots – it’s definitely a great tone clone but it ain’t Ged.

    • I have to agree with you guys too. I’ve listened to this album till the needle went through the vinyl (back then) and though it is well played it’s not the real thing.

    • Yes it is… the original tracks were supplied by the band to use in video games like Rockstar and Guitar Hero. The original tracks have also been licensed to Jammit. See for yourself http://jammit.com/store/bass

    • Chris Addison maybe you’re right, but this track right here on this vid ain’t Ged. I’d bank on it.

    • Arbon Reimer – Yes… it is. It’s the same exact track used on the recording and was given to Jammit and the game makers by the band themselves. Why would the band give them a fake track? Here is the original drum track: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-8ubtRAEB9Q – Here is the original guitar track: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Es7x345wF9Y … I have taken all three tracks and mixed them down using Reaper… and it is YYZ all the way. I mean no disrespect, but I seriously wouldn’t bet anyone on it because you’ll lose.

    • By the way… Check out that guy’s other YouTube videos… he has other individual tracks available to listen to, including the YYZ bass track.

      • It’s Geddy, defo. Remember, this was before people stuck shit in Pro Tools and made everything metronomically in time. Those timing errors you hear on the recording? That’s human.

  7. Played this at my wedding with my favorite players. If for no other reason than I had yet to find another occasion at which I could talk them into it.

  8. Hmmmm….I’ve heard similar recordings, is this from Geddy’s in-ear monitor feed? Or from the front-of-house main mix? The timing of his solo licks seems ahead of the beat, with the effects, so I’m not sure if this is a whole recording or has some overdubs. As far as tone and instrument, this is post-preamp and effects ( if any) and sounds like it could be either Rick or Fender, IMHO…

  9. This is the exact bass track off the album, which definitely is Geddy, and that without doubt is the Rick bass.

    • I saw Rush in concert back in the 80’s and it was crazy how Geddy would be playing awesome bass riffs while also playing foot pedals.

  10. If this is taken from Moving Pictures it’s most likely his Rickenbacker (certainly in the intro). He used his Jazz on Tom Sawyer and on Vital Signs. In the parts where the bass is doubled one layer could be his Jazz, the other, his Ric.

  11. Certainly sounds like a Rick to me, especially when you compare it to the Chris Squire isolated you posted earlier this week.

  12. I’ve seen Geddy play this song from the third row. There’s no reason it wouldn’t be him. It makes sense that they punched in the solos, and it sounds like the ‘choruses’ and the ‘verses’ were if not different takes, definitely the mix was purposely changed to differentiate the sections. I’d think it’s likely that most if not all was done on the Rick, with the mix accounting for the difference in tone.

    • And having seen them 14 times, I can say that every time he’s played this it’s been a little bit different. That would also likely account for why the solos were punched in.

  13. Not sure what the controversy is since it’s a fact that it is absolutely 100% him… the band has licenced the original tracks for use in video games that require the use of individual tracks like Rockstar and Guitar Hero. Computer savvy people have figured out how to get into the file structure and extract the tracks. There are now hundreds of original tracks out there to listen to on YouTube. There are also apps like “Jammit” (http://jammit.com/) that have licensed the use of original tracks to help teach people how to play the songs… you can download the original tracks for a ton of RUSH tunes from Jammit as well.

  14. TSOR – Jazz.
    Freewill – 4001.
    Jacob’s Ladder – 4001.
    Entre Nous – Jazz.
    Different Strings – 4001.
    Natural Science – 4001.

    Same with Moving Pictures.
    Tom Sawyer – Jazz.
    Red Barchetta – 4001.
    YYZ – Jazz.
    Limelight – Jazz.
    The Camera Eye – 4001.
    Witch Hunt – Jazz.
    Vital Signs – Jazz.

    Even Signals had the switch up.
    Subdivisions – 4001.
    Analog Kid – 4001.
    Chemistry – 4001.
    Digital Man – Jazz.
    The Weapon – Jazz.
    New World Man – Jazz.
    Losing It – 4002.
    Countdown – 4001.

  15. Sounds Ric-ish to me, I own both a Fender JB & Ric 4001, this sounds like a Ric to me, with a chorus or flanger. Awesome track regardless if he’s playing a POS whatever.

  16. Probably a jazz. You can get this sound with just the bridge pickup. He has a slappy technique playing closer to the neck where the strings grind against the frets more.

  17. 4:18 to 4:21 sounds like multiple bass tracks playing at once and clashing with each other. Sounds like several takes. Thoughts?

  18. Nice Blakely! No toca la guitarra de bajo babee.

  19. Ledgendary bass ( Rickenbacker and Fender Jazz bass) for a ledgendary bassist, sound good tome. Anyway Rush is like maple syrup in Québec the taste stick since your chilldhood.

  20. The main line is the Jazz, and the solo’s are the Rick.

  21. it is all in the hands of the man with the Bass.

  22. I know this is going to cause a BIG stink but I’m disappointed in this; it sounds terribly sloppy to me. Goes back a couple of weeks to the discussion about using a pick or your fingers. I’m thinking a pick would have sounded way better because properly used a pick is much crisper and cleaner sounding. Just sayin’…

    • You’re right….BIG STINK!!! :o) Give Geddy a shout. Perhaps he needs some training…. LOL You know I love your playing Tim… Just sayin’… See you in July!! ~HW~

  23. I know this is going to cause a BIG stink but I’m disappointed in this; it sounds terribly sloppy to me. Goes back a couple of weeks to the discussion about using a pick or your fingers. I’m thinking a pick would have sounded way better because properly used a pick is much crisper and cleaner sounding. Just sayin’…

    • You’re right….BIG STINK!!! :o) Give Geddy a shout. Perhaps he needs some training…. LOL You know I love your playing Tim… Just sayin’… See you in July!! ~HW~

    • @[100000112435330:2048:Donna Walsh Harley Walker] Well I don’t know about the lessons and I truly appreciate the comment…it means a lot coming from you. The one thing I’ve always said about Geddy is that he goes from point A to point B and throws as many notes as he can in between. Sorry but I really think that Dave Hope and Ray Schulman are much better bassists. Hopefully we can get you to sit in on the drums while you’re here!

      • Jake

        I couldn’t disagree with you more. Your bass playing must be robotic. Funny how when Rush fans heard the original, nobody complained about timing, because they heard Neil’s kick. It’s true he packs a lot of notes in, and that one fast run has two basses playing way off. So why did they use it? It sounded good in the full mix. The bassists you mention are great indeed.

        Give them a Geddy bass line and they’ll play it correctly, but it won’t sound right for the song. Just like when Randy Jackson played bass on one Journey album. Arguably he is “better”, but totally missed that hard plucked finger style Ross Valory had, most noticeably on the “Escape” album. Listen to the title track, NOBODY could make that bass line sound like Ross did.

        The folks you mention and Randy are house painters who won’t spill a drop. Geddy and Ross are Picasso and Dali in comparison. Just like the drummer on that album was a metronome who could play along with a sequencer well (the whole reason why Steve Perry fired Steve Smith and Ross Valory, they wouldn’t “comply” and quantize their playing). You might point that out.

        But he lacked the kind of groove and big pocket Steve (and Ansley Dunbar) had. He was a lifeless, forgettable drummer who along with Randy made a bland vanilla rhythm section on an otherwise good album. I’ve heard so many play “Free Will” correctly, even better timing than Geddy, but they just didn’t get it right. It’s the stuff before and after the beat that’s his magic.

        Your “this guy is better” stuff. You think you have the talent to judge one of the best rock bassists ever. You’re not saying his playing is worse than usual, you’re saying in general he’s not that great. As a keyboardist, I may not always be crazy about every note Herbie Hancock plays. But I’d be pathetic to point that out about easily one of the best keyboardists alive today.

        There are hundreds of forgettable musicians playing perfectly what they call Jazz (“Smooth Jazz” Fuzak). The biggest insult to Fusion ever, because they had perfected the life out of it. In time you’ll mature enough to learn music is about a vibe, it’s not a talent contest. Geddy could play it perfect if he wanted, that’s not the goal. If I have to explain this, you’ve got a ways to go.

    • There is always going to be “better” players… Human element!! That goes without saying… But lets be honest here,, Geddy is one of the best bass players out there!! That’s like me picking apart Neil. Yeah,, right…. LOL :o) Just sayin’….

    • come on Tim you know some finger pickers can get good tone with there didgets. LOL :)

    • I know YOU can; I need to get out more to listen to you for sure!

    • Tim Clemons you are a tool! Anytime you solo a track it sounds rough, I doubt you know that or you would not display how ignorant you are. The part sounds fine by itself and on the the record. Don’t you have better things to do in verjenny like have sex with roadkill or maybe yer sister while eatin a vienna sausage samich. Who are you” Loser” to be dissing other peoples playing? How many records have you sold Timmy? Just Sayin DO NOT QUIT YOUR DAY JOB!!!

    • Al Hawkins, thank you so much for taking time from your busy schedule to respond to my post. You are obviously a nice, polite, well educated individual and I’m very grateful. You have made so many insightful comments that I don’t know where to begin. Let me say that I had NO idea that a solo track was supposed to sound rough. The last bass solo I recorded for an album came out so crisp, clear, and clean that something must have been wrong. I mean you are so knowledgeable and I obviously don’t know enough to have recorded my solo like that it must have been the engineer. Believe me, I’m going to have a long serious talk with him so that he doesn’t do that to anybody else. I apologize before hand but I felt you should know that the slang for Virginia is more properly spelled Virginny, I know you live in Oslo so you really had no way of knowing that. I would like to thank you for your experience in having sex with road kill; most southerners joke about eating it for dinner. May I ask what variety of road kill you use for sex? Since my sister has passed away I was wondering if you could suggest which other relative you use in her place. While I have never had any desire to eat Vienna Sausage I will surely take your advice and make a sandwich of them if I ever get a “hankerin'” for them. Do you eat yours plain or do you put something on them like maybe mustard? And I hope you’ll be relieved to know that I have NO plans for quitting my day job; I’m not a professional musician like you I only play for fun otherwise I would probably take things too seriously. Finally, could you give me some information on your recordings? I would really like to go to my local record store and pick several up. Thank you again for your kind words.

    • Hey Tim,
      I’ve used a Pick playing Bass Guitar for about 34 years!
      Hate saying this! “You’re a Friggin’ Idiot”! “Just Sayin’!”!
      You can’t hear shit! Cuz, if you could, you’d hear that Awesome Tone Geddy’s driving out of that Killer Finger Style Technique!
      You also insult The Rickenbacker Baas, guy like you deserves an Ibanez!

    • Personally I think the “sloppy” play is by design. I play with a pick and my fingers depending on what kind of sound I am trying to get. I think to get the feel of the song it was meant to be played with a slpyy slappy kind of finger style.

    • Ray Shulman is great!

  24. It is geddy, hearing is a physical process, listening is a mental process. People that think this is not geddy have no ears. And as for Tim Clemonns comment, who is he? what a jerk, all bass tracks sounds rough when soloed , how many records have you sold TIM?

  25. You guys are losers if you don’t think it’s Geddy. Studio work does NOT sound the same as live work, so just because it doesn’t sound like it does live doesn’t mean it’s not him. This is definitely Geddy.

  26. No doubt it’s Geddy. God knows I have listened to this song enough. I am surprised at the differences in the dynamics the punch ins, but you would never know it in the finished product. And he was still the reason I started playing bass.

  27. lol if not Geddy, then who?

  28. Jazz bass all the way. No way you can get that kind of growl from a Rick!

  29. My god.. 4:18-4:20, loll… wow.

    • Jake

      Wow, lets hear you play one measure of that correctly. When I first heard it up there, it does sound off. Then I remember how it didn’t sound off in the original, because he’s following the huge tom roll Neil does. If he played it with “perfect timing” he would have been off. Go listen to the original, and suddenly you’ll see that run, like every solo note, and general bass line that he played on that song is actually perfect, perfect for what Neil is doing, not perfect timing if played back in isolation (which no single element of a song was ever meant to be done with).

  30. This is easily the hardest bassline in rock. Everyone who voted for “Hysteria” has obviously never heard this!

  31. It’s jazz bass with some effects – just listen last album! The anarchist track for example! Similar sound.

  32. Wow! That is just so killer. This will make learning it properly that much easier. Not that it is an easy song to play! I’ll have to say that I’m hearing a Jazz Bass, not the Rick on this track. I’ll bet $1,000,000 that it is Geddy Lee playing! =)

  33. totally has that jazz growl…no rickendicker sounds like that.

  34. It kind of sounds like his Ric, because he is a fingerstyle player, but it could be the Jazz. He has a flanger on through most of the song. I can see why they punched in his solos. He was either using a different bass and/or effects to make them pop. Still amazing. He and JPJ are my two biggest bass idols.

  35. If Isolated bass week….how about isolated bass on Show Don’t Tell! Dust

  36. what does “punched in” mean?

    • Val

      “Punched In” is a term used to describe when a clip of a recording is inserted into a pre-existing take.
      Geddy (or whatever other musician) sits there waiting to record the solo and at the right time, the engineer engages the RECORD which then “punches in” the solo just played.
      Another way is to physically add the solo into the recording. This was serious editing. You actually record these solos separately, then they are clipped, then physically added to the song.

      It’s easier to push record at the right time and insert (“punch in”) the solos vs. cutting/inserting tape.

  37. I distinctly remember reading an interview with Geddy where he talked about doing this song on the Jazz. I have forgotten where the interview appeared, but I remember being surprised he was using a Jazz.

  38. I own both a “76 Ric 4001 and the Fender Geddy Lee Signature Jazz. This is definitely the Jazz. Love my Ric but you can’t get that growling tone out of it.

  39. I say it’s the Rickenbacker, but there is obviously a difference of opinion here!

  40. No controversy here. That is Geddy Lee, playing ferociously while invoking a signature Rickenbacher sound.

  41. Jerry

    Didn’t he use a Steinberger around this time too?

  42. John

    Why would anyone NOT think Geddy played it? I can easily see the debate about which bass was used but now whom played it.

  43. This is just the pinnacle of rock bass playing. If I could have just a teaspoon of his talent I’d be happy.

  44. Ed Ardzinski

    Having owned a J bass and still an owner of a Rick 4001, that is clearly a J bass to my ears.

  45. Damian Uribe

    Definitely the bark of a rick with overdrive and flanger with fingers digging in deep! The bassline of a generation of bass players!

  46. Geddy is amazing. Thank you for this isolation. While I personally can’t tell if it’s a Rick or a Fender, I can with all certainty say it is DEFINITELY Geddy playing. Does ANYTHING really matter after that?

    • Mike Matthews

      I think that it’s Geddy, and that makes it pretty awesome in my book. Jazz or Rick… Almost sounds like a Ricky through the core, and the Jazz for the overdubs… not sure though. Love these isolated tracks man.

  47. Happy Birthday, Geddy! Moving Pictures is one of my all time favorite records ever. I still play it weekly to this day. Saw Rush live in Atlanta a few years back and it blew my mind. They played so tight it sounded just like a polished record.

  48. Great bass playing by any means. I really enjoyed this isolated track which allowed me to appreciate Geddy’s musicianship on a different level, but to be honest, Geddy’s bass sounds like many different tones of a fart, whatever brand of bass he may be playing. You can be a great musician, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into having an ear for a great tone, as this track, in my humble opinion, illustrates.

  49. Todd Cervantes

    I have a Bass Guitar magazine from Guitar World from like 2005-6ish? There is an interview with Geddy in it and he talks about his #1 (the ’72 Jazz). One of the things he mentions, is that he believes there is something wrong with the pickups in it. He says that his #1 has a lot more treble than the normal American made Jazz. When he let Fender do the measurements for the 1st version of his Signature Bass, he wouldn’t let them take apart the pickups because he didn’t want them messing up the tone. So when you get a Geddy Sig bass, it is as close as you’ll get to the real #1, but it will never be exact. Actually, now that I think of it, he said he thinks the pole pieces in the pickups were put in wrong, (something like that). He could have very well used the Jazz on this track. He also says on the Fender video that you can find on YouTube where he talks about his American Made Signature bass, (the video is about 7 minutes long), that he was amazed at how his Jazz sounded like his Ric, but he could control the bottom end better. I have an American Deluxe Jazz with the same Rotosounds that Ged uses on it, and I can’t get my Jazz to have so much treble. I know he uses a lot of the neck pickup on his. Hey ….. it could be the Jazz once you consider everything about his #1.

  50. I think it’s a Rich!

  51. SG

    I dont know who’s playing it, but no way in hell it’s the track from the album. The riff is not correct in a couple places, and timing is NOT solid. Riff on the album is dead on. This riff is sloppy in several places.

  52. Davin Nelson

    This DOES sound like Geddy to me and it DOES sound like the Jazz 100%!!! Even the solo spots sound like the Jazz to me, although it’s admittedly hard to tell because they EQ’d the hell out of them to make them pop.
    I’ve been a Rush fan and bassist since the day this came out.
    The only confirmation that I’ve ever read as to which bass he used on this album, Jazz or Rick, he said Tom Sawyer was the Jazz and Red Barchetta was the Rick. The rest is a listener’s speculation.
    To my ears it sounds like
    Tom Sawyer- Jazz
    Red Barchetta- Rick
    YYZ- Jazz
    Limelight- definitely Rick
    The Camera Eye- definately Jazz
    Witch Hunt- Rick
    Vital Signs- Jazz
    For those who think it sounds sloppy…remember you always set your tone IN CONTEXT of how it sounds with all instuments in the mix.
    Geddy does play finger style and extremely hard, sometimes to the point of pulling a note out of tune. That’s a huge part of the growling, distorted tone he gets.
    Also, I think he recorded direct and overdrove the console input for distortion.
    He was also known for reamping that direct signal and sending it through at least one 15″ speaker to get some air movement in the top end and then blended the two.
    He may have used his live rig which at the time included a API 550 studio preamp/EQ. If he recorded purely direct, the board used at the time was a SSL E series.
    I think that “magic” distorted tone may have been heavily reliant on that SSL console. Because he used the same bass rig from Hemispheres right thru to Roll the Bones with few changes except basses and wireless systems verses corded. I have never heard him capture that distortion sound quite the same on any live recording or concert I have attended. I thought the early attempts using the Sansamp between the Test For Echo tour and Rush in Rio recording sounded like horrible overkill. Much of the sound was the strings and finger attack. The rest was the board and the outboard stuff used on the recording.
    Thanks for indulging me and my 2000 cents!