Bob Weir Guitar Tone Guide (Including Grateful Dead Amp Settings)

Author: Santiago Motto | Updated: | This post may contain affiliate links.

Bob Weir and The Grateful Dead changed the history of music forever. Indeed, armed with otherworldly compositions, classic tones, and one-of-a-kind tones, the Dead revolutionized music and continues to make history to this day.

With a new lineup featuring musicians the size of John Mayer playing Dead songs, the band is about to go into a residency at Las Vegas Sphere later this year.

If you’re like me and have been chasing Bob’s weird chord voicings, amazing tones, and great lyrics for some time, you’ll find a lot of useful advice in this piece. I’m about to show you how to nail that Bob Weir tone without breaking the bank.

Bob Weir’s (Most Iconic) Guitars

I’m going to divide this section into four three, each to address a type of guitar that has been played by Bob during the Grateful Dead days and in his solo career. I’ll end this section with his new D’Angelico models.

This is an attempt to condense decades of tone chasing in just a handful of instruments, so these are, in my opinion, his most iconic axes.

Gibson ES-335

The early days of the Grateful Dead saw Bob Weir playing a cherry red Gibson ES-335. If you pay attention to those early records, the snap and the growl from being a semi-hollow guitar made of maple with a mahogany neck surely shine through. Moreover, he used to play it a lot with the in-between pickup combination. This means one coil from each pickup.

This not only gave the Dead a look that was closer to the quintessential rock and roll acts of the time (think Chuck Berry, for example) but also a sound that could put them in the “rock act” category.

For reproducing the tones of those early records, the best bet is a Gibson ES-335. If you can’t afford one, the Epiphone version is the next best thing.

Solidbody, Dual-Humbucker Ibanez Guitars

Bob Weir was an Ibanez-endorsed artist. Indeed, he had more than one guitar made to his specifications. To begin with, his 1976 Ibanez Professional. An ash guitar with singing midrange and generous high-end. Moreover, with a bound ebony fretboard, and a maple neck, this guitar offers enough midrange to cut the fabric of reality and then some.

Although there are countless pictures with that guitar, his signature model came right after; the “Cowboy Fancy”. It was also an ash guitar with a neck made of maple and walnut and an ebony fingerboard. This guitar was heavily ornamented with Ibanez “Tree of Life” inlays (like a Jem), and some beautiful engraving on the body.

It featured a complicated set of controls, two humbuckers and a single-coil pickup, coil tap switches, and an active circuit with great equalization possibilities.

In my opinion, the best guitar to recreate those tones is a PRS SE Swamp Ash Special.

D’angelico Guitars

Bob’s current signature guitar comes from a collaboration with D’Angelico.

To begin with, it’s a basswood body with a 3-piece maple and walnut neck, and a pau ferro fingerboard. Materials-wise, I can say it is a relatively inexpensive guitar to build. Yet, electronics are the star of the show (after the looks, of course). In Bob’s words, this guitar “Has more variety of tones than any guitar I can think of.”

For starters, the dual P-90 pickups are splittable so you can get that beautiful grind and bite while remaining noiseless. Between these Seymour Duncan pickups, you can find a Lollar single-coil pickup that, in Bob’s words, is “brighter than a thousand suns.” Indeed, it features scooped mids, and super-clear high-end to get that glassy tone Bob is known for.

But that’s not all, you can also blend in any of the pickups at any time giving you a larger-than-life tone palette to play with. You can get the Deluxe Bob Weir Bedford or the more affordable Premier Bedford Electric.

Bob Weir Effects Pedals

Trying to make a summary of the tons of effects pedals Bob has used throughout his life is mission impossible. So, let me make a summary of the most important ones seen at his feet in the later years.

  • Whammy – The Digitech Whammy is a pitch shifter with an expression pedal. Bob plays the DT
  • Flint – The Strymon FLINT is one of my favorite pedals because it can Fenderize any amp adding sweet reverb and tremolo.

  • Eventide H9 – For handling all kinds of effects including delay and much more, the Eventide H9 is one of the most complex and small multi-effects processors in the market today. Bob utilizes two on his pedalboard.
  • Envelope Phaser – The Pigtronix Envelope Phaser is a funk machine. Indeed, it’s a pedal that mixes the best qualities of the phaser effect with an envelope filter (AKA auto-wah) to create an instant funky tone that’s recognizable from a mile away.

  • Overdrive – The overdrive of choice for Bob is the Earth Drive, a pedal that works as a clean boost that adds some transparent oomph to your sound. It’s a boutique, difficult-to-obtain pedal but the Xotic RC Booster can do the job too.

Bob Weir Amplifiers

Bob went through many amplifier brands and models throughout his career. We can say that the band was a pioneer in what we now know as “the wall of sound”. They were fueled by the Hi-Fi brand McIntosh (no, they don’t make computers!).

I can also recall the Twin Reverb days in which he plugged into that blasting huge 2×12 amp by Fender deafening the first few rows.

After Fender came the Mesa Boogie and he can be seen in numerous pictures rocking entire stadiums playing through a pair of Transatlantic TA-30 2×12 combo amps.

Lately, Bob has been working with a not-so-big amplifier brand called Fat Jimmy Amps. They designed Bob’s latest rig with the Grateful Dead legend. These amps feature EL84 tubes and are plugged into a pair of 4×8” speaker cabinets. Together, they form a stereo system for Bob’s textures and otherworldly effects. You can learn more about them here.

I would say that, to nail Bob’s tone, what you need is a loud, clean amp. For that, my suggestion is to go for a Mesa California Tweed, a Fender Deluxe Reverb, or a Vox AC-30. You should set them in such a way that your headroom is generous, and you can get only mild overdrive with the guitar’s volume at 10 but you can also roll it off to have a great, loud clean tone.

How to Dial in Bob Weir’s Tone?

To get Bob’s tone, you need to have punchiness and percussiveness but without the grit associated with a pushed tube amp. Also, to obtain that sound, you need to cut off most of the mids from the equation because that scooped-out sound works wonders in not adding any mud to the signal.

Remember, Bob played with some of the best guitarists ever to hang a guitar and several other instruments that lived off the midrange. So, scoop that up and make room for others.

Bob Weir Amp Settings

  • Volume – 7
  • Gain – 4
  • Treble – 9
  • Middle – 3
  • Bass – 8
  • Presence – 7

The Bottom End

Dialing Bob’s tone is not something hard to do but its intricacies make it unique. For example, you need to push the volume and remove the mids so the guitar’s personality will shine.

Try the settings above and each of the guitars we talked about will add its own element to the mix. Plus, Bob’s guitars can make a plethora of sounds for you to have fun for days and days.

Happy (Weir-d) playing!

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About Santiago Motto

Santiago is a guitar player with over 25 years of experience. A self-confessed guitar nerd, he currently tours with his band 'San Juan'. Called 'Sandel' by his friends, he has a pop palate for melodies, ballads, and world music. San especially has an immense love for telecasters and all-mahogany Martins.

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