Free Bass Transcriptions

Free Bass Transcriptions

Here come the dots

Author: tommy

Groove of The Week #33: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – ‘Downtown’

Simplicity is Complicated – Historical Perspective in The Age of Information – New Stuff Sometimes, the simplest ideas are the best. The bass line that underpins Macklemore’s non-threatening mainstream hip…

Simplicity is Complicated – Historical Perspective in The Age of Information – New Stuff

Sometimes, the simplest ideas are the best.


The bass line that underpins Macklemore’s non-threatening mainstream hip hop hit ‘Downtown’ is essentially nothing more than a trip around the minor pentatonic scale, but definitely gets the head nodding.

The trick with this groove (and with everything else that you play) is to pay attention to articulation. Listen to the song before you try to take the notes off the screen – hear the variety of note lengths in the line and the different levels of palm muting employed:

Broadening Your Aural Palette

How much does this white Englishman know about hip hop? Unsurprisingly, next to nothing; fortunately we live in an age where almost every piece of music ever recorded can be in your ears in under 30 seconds. Through some swift browsing of Wikipedia, and discogs you can arm yourself with a passing acquaintance of the albums that define a genre and access the music instantly through YouTube or any number of streaming services.  

At the start of the year The Beatles put their entire back catalogue on Spotify – I was raised on a strict diet of The Eagles and Dire Straits, so my knowledge of The Fab Four’s work was somewhat limited. Starting at ‘With the Beatles’, I restricted myself to listening to only one album per week during my weekday commute. Within 3 months my knowledge of Liverpool’s most famous export had become much more comprehensive by making use of the ‘dead’ time during my day. 

Here’s the truth of the matter: no amount of sight reading proficiency will equip you with an innate understanding of exactly how to perform authentically in a genre. Written music is a ‘best attempt’ at trying to capture sounds so that others can recreate them, and can never truly capture all the minutiae of a musical performance. Active listening over a sustained time period will help to provide you with greater insight into any type of music that you might wish to delve into, and if you choose to learn the music by ear then it’ll find its way into your musical memory much more easily (and remain there for longer) compared to music that you learn ‘by eye’.

It might seem strange for someone that runs a website devoted to transcriptions to write a post devoted to the limitations of notation, but this has been my experience throughout my own ongoing musical development; I learn music more deeply by ear than off the page. The transcription archive is designed to help out those who don’t have the time (and/or the inclination) to work things out by ear.

New(ish) Transcriptions!

Speaking of which, regular visitors to the archive will notice that things have been tweaked. I spent the last fortnight revising, editing and reformatting over 100 transcriptions. There were many glaring errors (I can only apologise for the state of my aural ability circa 2009…) which have hopefully now been corrected, and all the charts are now in a more ‘reader friendly’ layout.

Some transcriptions have been removed because I wasn’t happy with them – these are more ‘long term’ projects which will be uploaded in due course. If something that you wanted to learn is missing then sit tight and don’t panic, it’ll be back soon.


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Groove of The Week #32: Narada Michael Waldon – ‘I Shoulda Loved Ya’

One Man, Two Careers – Pick Technique – Play it Like You Hear it This one definitely gets filed under ‘guilty pleasures’. Groove Of The Week #32: Narada Michael Walden…

One Man, Two Careers – Pick Technique – Play it Like You Hear it

This one definitely gets filed under ‘guilty pleasures’.

I originally knew Narada Michael Walden for his work behind the kit rather than his vocal efforts (his credits as a drummer include Mahavishnu Orchestra, Allan Holdsworth and Jaco’s ‘Come On, Come Over’) but here he is having a crack at a solo career.

Other examples of prominent musicians that have had parallel careers on two different instruments include Dave Grohl, John Paul Jones, Phil Collins, Gary Husband and Marcus Miller.

What? You mean you don’t remember that time when Marcus Miller was a singer?

There’s a reason why this record is always in the bargain bins…

On the subject of singing drummers, have you heard Abe Laboriel Jr sing? Not too shabby.


Back to the point, if there ever was one. Learning a second (or third) instrument can seriously expand your musical horizons – get familiar with the piano is an excellent way to ‘see’ harmony laid out in front of you in a way that bass (and guitar) don’t provide.

The bass on ‘I Shoulda Loved Ya’ comes courtesy of T.M. Stevens wielding a pick to great effect:

GOTW I Shoulda Loved Ya

The key to this style of picking is to maintain a constant up and down motion with the picking hand to create the steady stream of semiquavers. Think of your picking hand like a pendulum, always swinging back and forth – once you get the hang of this ‘perpetual motion’ you can simply choose the subdivisions that you want to pick out.

Other masters of this style include Bobby Vega, Anthony Jackson and the late, great, Bernard Edwards; check out his part during the prechorus of Diana Ross’ ‘I’m Coming Out’, which features his signature ‘chucking’ technique (using fingernails to emulate the sound of a plectrum).

Fingers? Pick? Thumb? Tapping? Which Should I Work On?

Bassists have many options when it comes to striking the strings, which is something of a mixed blessing – how do you decide which one(s) to focus on?

Your decision is made by the answers to these questions:


  • How do I want to sound?


  • Do I like the sound of the technique?


  • How often am I realistically going to use this technique?


  • What techniques are musically appropriate to the repertoire that I perform?


Your musical output should always inform your input; you are what you practise. When I was a teenager and didn’t have any idea of the skill set needed to become an effective freelancer I spent (wasted) a lot of time in front of my Stu Hamm and Victor Wooten VHS tapes honing my slap and tap skills because that’s what I thought skilled bass playing sounded like.

How many times in the last decade have I used my flamenco slap licks or 8-finger tapping on a gig? I’ll let you make an educated guess.

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Groove of The Week #31: Patrice Rushen – ‘Forget Me Nots’

‘Functional’ slap bass – You’ll Never Be Ready – (No More) Longing To Be Loose ‘Ready’ Freddie Washington is certainly no slouch when it comes to the bass. He’s recorded…

‘Functional’ slap bass – You’ll Never Be Ready – (No More) Longing To Be Loose

‘Ready’ Freddie Washington is certainly no slouch when it comes to the bass. He’s recorded with artists such as… toured with the notoriously demanding Steely Dan, and when it was time for him to contribute to the Standing In The Shadows Of Motown project he nailed Jamerson’s syncopated chromatic wizardry on The Supreme’s ‘I’m Gonna Make You Love Me’ first take with no preparation. ‘Ready’ indeed.


His most famous contribution to the canon of classic bass grooves is his slapped sub-hook on Patrice Rushen’s ‘Forget Me Nots’:

Here’s what it looks like on paper (or, pixels):
GOTW Forget Me Nots

As with the last edition of Groove Of The Week (Pleasure’s ‘Glide’), the key to this (and many other slap lines) is developing a consistently strong thumb sound on the D string. How to go about this? I found the imaginatively titled ‘Slap It‘ had some useful exercises for refining thumb technique (very boring, but good for focusing on the fundamentals). As an aside, I vehemently disagree with the author’s preference for ‘thumb down’ slapping as it makes absolutely no sense from a biomechanical point of view and puts your fingers, hand and wrist in a terrible position for popping the strings.


And yes, I know that Flea gets away with it. And Fieldy. And lots of people on YouTube. Good luck to them. 

‘Forget Me Nots’ and the other thumb-based grooves in this series represent what I’d term ‘functional’ slap bass and give you an idea of the amount of slap capability that is required to survive as a working bass player – unless you’re part of a Level 42 tribute act.

Ready For Anything?


More on being ‘ready’. Or, more accurately, not being ready). I recently found myself recording some fairly demanding music (well, I found it fairly demanding) as part of a PhD project to analyse the communication between musicians in an improvisational setting. A future best-seller, I’m sure. Here’s how it looked:


This entailed being filmed performing a variety of fusion tunes (including selections by Wayne Krantz and Oz Noy) without a great deal of rehearsal. As with every piece of work that I take on, I tried to do my homework as best I could, devoting whatever spare time that I had to working on the material.


When it came to the session, I had a number of musical ideas that I’d worked into my playing and wanted to commit to tape (or Pro Tools, at least).


I played approximately 10% of what I wanted to. Why? Because you can’t expect to cram in new vocabulary and have it magically ‘pop out’ on demand in a performance situation. It takes a significant amount of time for new ideas to become fully internalised and appear outside of the practice room without sounding forced.


Knowledge and the application of that knowledge are worlds apart.


In summary, no amount of short-term prep work will ever make you (or I) ready for the gig. The goalposts are always moving, and when you feel like you’ve ‘got it down’ then something new will appear that happens to be out of your reach.


I once studied with someone who’d spent some time with Herbie Hancock. My favourite nugget of second-hand wisdom from Mr. H is this:


“You never get good.”




Wayne’s World

On a lighter note, the aforementioned Wayne Krantz recently made the guitar and bass scores from Long To Be Loose, one of my favourite albums, available for free download. You can also find the superb Greenwich Mean album (featuring Tim Lefebvre and Will Lee on bass duties) for free on the same site.


I was relieved to find that the transcriptions that I had made for the session were almost entirely accurate, but the thing that surprised me most was just how much of the music was composed rather than improvised considering how spontaneous the record sounds.


You can see what Lincoln Goines was up against here


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Groove of The Week #30: Pleasure – ‘Glide’

Playing Catchup – Can’t Slap, Won’t Slap – Trade Show Fatigue   Checking the Instagram post date of this video tells me that I’m a woeful 9 months behind on…

Playing Catchup – Can’t Slap, Won’t Slap – Trade Show Fatigue


Checking the Instagram post date of this video tells me that I’m a woeful 9 months behind on this series. Whoops. The original intention was for Groove Of The Week was to be wrapped up at the end of 2015, but it’s already been 18 months.

To paraphrase John Lennon, life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.

This time we’re dealing with Nate Philips’ wonderful slap part on Pleasure’s pop-fusion hit ‘Glide’. For me this is old-school slap at its finest, in terms of both tone and technique. The alternation between the sparse, syncopated tenths and the slapped fills allows the bass part to maintain a level of interest for both player and listener without becoming too busy:



As far as performance goes, I prefer to use the my thumb and middle finger to pluck the tenths (yes, there’s one ninth in there to avoid resorting to spelling B as Cb). When it comes to the slap, only the G string notes are popped, everything else is slapped with the thumb.

Here are the dots:

GOTW - Glide

In my opinion, the secret to a good, consistent slap sound is largely dependent on getting a strong tone from slapping the D string – many bassists tend to divide the bass in half and never use their thumbs past the A string, when the ‘secret’ to executing many lines evenly comes from using the thumb across a broader range of the bass.

This is near the top end of my slap technique threshold, and it have no shame in admitting that. I grew up in the pre-YouTube era on a strict diet of Hot Licks VHS tapes and spent (wasted) countless hours trying to turn myself into this guy:



How much of  it have I used on gigs? Very little. Certainly none of the flamenco slap.

Or the tapping. Don’t even get me started on tapping.

But I do still have a certain ‘residual’ level of thumb technique that allows me to survive any slap bass encounters unscathed without having to sacrifice vital practice time on a style of playing that I have grown to detest.

In fact, my contempt for slap bass has got to the point where I try to never slap on a gig unless it’s unavoidable. In fact, the only such situation is if I’m playing a function and someone calls Luther Vandross’ ‘Never Too Much’- the line just doesn’t sit well when played fingerstyle.

The overwhelming popularity of slap amongst bass players is the number one reason why I avoid any sort of trade show or bass conventions of any kind. Every time I attempt to try a piece of gear I’m aurally assaulted by a gentleman* who wants everyone in the room to hear how fast he can play Level 42’s back catalogue. When multiple offences occur simultaneously it’s much like an explosion in a typewriter factory. Lots of technique, very little music.

*The offenders are almost always male, often sporting double denim and a mullet.

Room full of basses? Heaven. Room full of bass players? Purgatory.

Here endeth the sermon.

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