A Sting In The Tale

Sting’s fourth solo album, 1993’s Ten Summoner’s Tales, is something of an anomaly – a rather highbrow (some might use the word pretentious) adult-orientated pop record that sold millions of copies and won 3 Grammy awards in spite of being full of odd time signatures, jazz harmony and quirky lyrics.

‘It’s Probably Me’, a brooding, atmospheric ballad, is a prime example of Sting’s ability to crowbar extended harmonies and chord qualities normally reserved for the Dark Arts of Jazz into the context of a 5-minute pop song. The very first chord of the tune strikes our ears as being out of the ordinary – a mysterious sounding E minor major 7 chord that is derived from the melodic minor scale, a sound not usually associated with contemporary pop music.

The challenge in transcribing this song was not the complexity of the bassline, but rather accurately picking it out within the mix – spent a lot of time in Logic using EQ plugins to isolate and boost certain bass frequencies whilst cutting others to remove the interference from guitar, keyboards and vocals. As with all of the transcriptions on the site, this represents my best attempt to convey what I heard in notation.

Sting – ‘It’s Probably Me’ Bass Transcription pdf

The harmony also presented an interesting challenge, as many of the chords get treated to additional extensions in different sections of the song- during the intro and link sections, I hear an F# in the keyboard part, which gives us E minor major 9 and E minor 6/9 chords, but it’s not present in the verse sections (or at least, I don’t hear it there). The most problematic chord to identify and name is the substition that occurs during the outro chorus section (bars 79 to 86), where the normal chorus turnaround progression is altered – instead of the Em7 chord that we’ve previously encountered in bar 77, we’re confronted with a chord that has a Bb in the bass but also contains E, G# and C. I’ve opted for slash chord notation for the sake of simplicity (I feel like this is how a keyboard player might approach it…).