Free Bass Transcriptions

Free Bass Transcriptions

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Category: Groove of the Week

Groove Of The Week #54: Snarky Puppy – ‘Quarter Master’

The bass groove that serves as the introduction to ‘Quarter Master’ grabbed my attention the first time I heard it way back in 2012 and it’s been on my transcription…

The bass groove that serves as the introduction to ‘Quarter Master’ grabbed my attention the first time I heard it way back in 2012 and it’s been on my transcription to-do list ever since; the uptempo, New Orleans-flavoured track serves as the final cut on the band’s groundUP album that followed up on the online buzz generated by Tell Your Friends (2010) and began to propel the group into the mainstream. Well, as mainstream as fusion can be…

We’re beginning in classic funk one-chord vamp territory, with the entire opening bassline outlining a Dm7 chord. As with almost every groove in this series, the bass part is built on a ‘question and answer’ format of two contrasting phrases. In this case, one descends and the other ascends, with variations being added on each repetition:

Before we get too bogged down in the nuts and bolts of the notes that Michael League plays, let’s deal with the most important aspect of this groove: the feel. We’re in swung 16th-note territory, which can be hard to detect given the bright tempo of 124bpm; it’s important to practise the line at a slow tempo and make sure that the feeling of the swung 16th-note subdivision is firmly embedded in your playing before bringing the speed up.

The opening phrase of the line is standard bass vocabulary, and fits neatly within the well-trodden minor pentatonic box pattern that we’re all too familiar with, while the ascending ‘answer’ phrase includes the addition of the flat 5 to give the line a blues scale flavour (notation conventions regarding enharmonics mean that I’ve written the pitch as G# rather than the ‘true’ flat 5, Ab).

The second iteration of the groove provides us with a Paul Jackson-esque lick that requires some precise fretting hand control – fitting this lick in cleanly and then returning to the main groove without rushing or dragging may take some practice.

From bar 7 onwards, we’re given a new take on the opening theme, beginning on the 11th of the chord (G) and giving us an unexpected melodic contour.

The Long And The Short Of It

One important – yet subtle – detail that’s visible in the transcription from bars 7-14 is the variation of note lengths on each repetition of the bassline. In particular, the G# is alternately played short and long – this tiny detail has been planned in advance (or so it seems) as the guitar also doubles this phrasing at points in the line.

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Groove Of The Week #53: Q-Tip – ‘WeFight/WeLove’

Raphael Saadiq might not be a household name in the bass community, but the bass has been at the heart of the singer and multi-instrumentalist’s diverse career from the very…

Raphael Saadiq might not be a household name in the bass community, but the bass has been at the heart of the singer and multi-instrumentalist’s diverse career from the very beginning. At the age of 18, Saadiq successfully auditioned to play bass in Sheila E’s backing band and subsequently spent two years touring with Prince; not a bad way to learn about all things groove-related.

In addition to his solo career, Raphael Saadiq has notched up an impressive resumé of production and co-writing credits with a host of big-name R&B and pop artists including D’Angelo, Whitney Houston, The Bee Gees, Erykah Badu and even Marcus Miller. His eight-bar bass contribution to Q-Tip’s ‘WeFight/WeLove’ is the subject of this week’s groove exploration:

Q-Tip WeFight/WeLove Bass Raphael Saadiq

This groove exemplifies our number one job description as bass players: being able to play the same thing over and over for four minutes while keeping everything – volume, note length, articulation, attack – consistent and making it feel good. Simple, right? I beg to differ.

Playing even a relatively straightforward line such as this with machine-like consistency and precision requires a great amount of concentration, attention to detail and, well… practice.

The ‘WeFight/WeLove’ groove is also a great opportunity to work on your pick playing, which is an unusual element to find in a hip hop bassline. Although it’s hard to say for certain, it sounds to me like the bass on the recording uses a plectrum; listen to the breakdown section of the track starting around 3:22 and notice the attack of the notes.

If you’re averse to playing with a pick because of genre-based snobbery, then I strongly urge you to spend some time with Anthony Jackson (learn ‘For The Love Of Money’ here), Bobby Vega (learn ‘I Get High On You’ here) or Steve Swallow (his melodic work on ‘Sea Journey’ and ‘Midwestern Night’s Dream’ from the Gary Burton Quintet album Passengers are good starting points).

Some readers might feel like this groove is strangely familiar – the line seems to be heavily influenced by The Jacksons’ ‘This Place Hotel’. The bass part on the recording was played by none other than Nathan Watts:

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Groove Of The Week #52: Jamiroquai – ‘Manifest Destiny’

Stuart’s Second Helping We’ve already heard from Jamiroquai twice in this series (GOTW #8: ‘Whatever It Is, I Just Can’t Stop’ and GOTW #22: ‘Runaway’) and – as much as…

Stuart’s Second Helping

We’ve already heard from Jamiroquai twice in this series (GOTW #8: ‘Whatever It Is, I Just Can’t Stop’ and GOTW #22: ‘Runaway’) and – as much as I want this series to be as wide-ranging as possible – it’s fair to say that some bands have a disproportionate amount of ‘what was that?’ bass moments in their back catalogue. So, here we are with another piece of Stuart Zender’s bass legacy, taken from the band’s second album The Return of the Space Cowboy (1994).

‘Manifest Destiny’ might seem an odd choice for a Groove Of The Week post; it’s not really a groove in the traditional sense of the word, and there are plenty of other Jamiroquai tracks worth a look (‘Don’t Give Hate a Chance’, anyone?), but Stuart Zender’s bassline showcases a rare opportunity for us to present a melody in the upper register of the fretboard without venturing into bass solo territory – we’re still playing a set part and supporting the song.

The video lesson below walks through the melody and harmony of ‘Manifest Destiny’ bar-by-bar:

For those of us that spend 99% of our time below the seventh fret, where most day-to-day bass playing happens, being given a melodic spotlight moment can be daunting; the bass can feel very different in the higher register, and I find that the fretting hand has to be extra vigilant in order to sculpt every single note with the desired effect. ‘Manifest Destiny’ is also an excellent study in fretting hand articulation – the way that the notes are played holds equal importance as the notes themselves. Careful listening will help you to discern the subtle ways that Stuart Zender uses varied note lengths, slides, hammer-ons and vibrato to make the line really sing out.

The harmony of ‘Manifest Destiny’ is also a level above most pop songs; this is to be expected the clear influence of 1970s jazz-funk artists including Roy Ayers, Stevie Wonder, Lonnie Liston Smith and The Headhunters that shine through in Jamiroquai’s music. The main harmonic accompaniment to the bass melody comes from the piano, which keeps an almost consistent voicing in the right hand while the changing bass notes provide movement:

Approximated piano voicings for ‘Manifest Destiny’

The third chord voicing is worth a mention – the piano plays a chord which is essentially Bm7/E, which creates an Em11 tonality when taken into context with the G natural in the bass part at this point.

Diminishing Returns

The A# diminished 7 chord works in this context because it’s really functioning as a substitution for F#7, the dominant chord in the key of B minor. Thinking about the chord tones of A# diminished 7 in the context of F#7 gives us the major 3rd (A#), perfect 5th (C#), minor 7th (E) and flat 9th (G natural), implying an F#7b9 sound. Using this diminished substitution provides more the chord progression with more tension (and therefore more interest) than using a straightforward dominant 7th chord.

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Groove Of The Week #51: Ghost Note – ‘Swagism’

Ghost Note’s self-titled sophomore release was possibly the high point of 2018 for hipster musician-types; two members of Snarky Puppy and MonoNeon on the same record? It’s everything that the…

Ghost Note’s self-titled sophomore release was possibly the high point of 2018 for hipster musician-types; two members of Snarky Puppy and MonoNeon on the same record? It’s everything that the fusion world had been dreaming of.

For all of the band’s cutting-edge credentials, the album has a distinctly ‘retro’ feel; the cover art seems to channel Herbie Hancock’s 1970s output, with the music drawing heavily from the jazz-funk canon while adding influences from hip hop, Gospel, Latin, psychedelic and straight-ahead jazz. Regardless of the influences being showcased, there’s always one element at the forefront of the music: groove.

The album’s first instrumental track ‘Swagism’ is the perfect example of this musical melting pot; a balance between a simmering funk vamp and fiery, bebop-tinged unison lines.

‘Swagism’ Main Groove

The main bass groove is a straightforward four-bar pattern that outlines G#m (thinking of it this way rather than Ab saves us some enharmonic misery later on…). Notice the use of the tried-and-tested ‘question and answer’ compositional technique, seen here with two alternate endings:

As you might expect, articulation is integral to getting the bass line to, well, groove; it’s not just the notes themselves, it’s how you play them. My recommended tactic is to listen to the recording repeatedly in order to internalise where the accented notes are in the line and which notes are played using hammer-ons, as this has a huge impact on how the part sits with the other instruments.

THAT Unison Lick

The real reason for including ‘Swagism’ in this series is the monster unison lick that acts as musical ‘punctuation’ between the solos. Lines like this are an excellent resource for building your technique in a musical way; if you’ve spent any amount of time listening to (or even attempting to play) bebop heads and solos, then the language of this lick will feel familiar to you. Although on first listen you might feel like it’s just a barrage of random notes, analysing the line in the context of a familiar jazz chord progression allows us to see that it’s really just a series of chord tones, scale tones and chromatic approach notes, albeit played at high speed.

Here’s the notation for the line, along with my preferred fingering:

swagism unison lick

Cracking The Code

It’s important to break down lines like this into their most basic building blocks in order to help us understand them from a theoretical standpoint and to aid actually playing the damn things. Zooming out and seeing the ‘bigger picture’ shows us that we’re really just outlining three chords; not so bad after all, is it?

swagism chords

The harmony that I’ve used for this analysis is one of several possible interpretations, as there’s not much in the way of chordal support to give us context – there are other ways of breaking down the line and this may well not be how the composers think about it.

We start out by descending a B major 7 arpeggio; the rhythm is typical of figures played by jazz musicians from Charlie Parker onwards – this is something that I’ve also come across when transcribing solos from great improvisers like Bill Evans, Joe Henderson, Paul Desmond and Oscar Peterson. Using plucking-hand raking will make it much easier to get this opening phrase up to tempo. Chord tones are highlighted in blue, while scale tones are red:

From there, we move into outlining the next chord, G#m, via a series of approach notes:

Once we’ve ascended the G#m arpeggio, we’re able to resolve into the C#7 chord by using some chromatic approaches:

There is – of course – more than one way to play the line, and it’s worth experimenting in order to find the one that works best for you. Below is an alternative that keeps everything in one position on the fretboard:

This is the approach that I’d use if I were playing the entire saxophone lick; the last phrase is a good workout for your legato technique, as it will take some control to keep all of the notes at an equal volume:

Got A Favourite Groove?

If you know a groove that you feel deserves wider attention from the bass community then why not leave a comment below to tell everyone about it? Your suggestion might even make it into a future Groove Of The Week post!

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When to say ‘NO’ to gigs (Gigonomics 101)

The Agony of Choice In spite of advances in modern technology, it’s still not possible to be in two places at the same time. As a freelance musician — or…

The Agony of Choice

In spite of advances in modern technology, it’s still not possible to be in two places at the same time. As a freelance musician — or freelance anything, come to think of it —you have to constantly decide which gigs and projects to accept and which to decline. Sometimes, it can be difficult to make the right decision and it’s not always obvious which choice is the right one.

This is where a helpful tool called ‘The Gig Triangle’ comes in; this appeared in a column in Bass Player Magazine some years ago (I’ve searched for the original article, but to no avail) and has stuck with me ever since. It’s also proved to hold true on every gig I’ve ever been on.

What is the ‘Gig Triangle’?

Every gig or project on offer contains a balance of three areas; music, people, and money. Let’s take a closer look at each side:

1. The Music

This is a pretty basic thing, but is the music bearable? I’m not talking about whether or not you like the music that you have to play, because part of being a professional is being able to make it seem like everything you have to play is your favourite music in the whole world. Everyone also has notions of musical credibility until it’s time to pay their rent.

The real question is: can you do the gig without feeling like your soul is being eroded with every note that you play, or wishing for some apocalyptic event that would mean that the gig would be brought to a swift end? In a decade of freelance work, I’ve had this happen three times and it has never been worth it.

2. The People

Who’s on the gig? Are they going to be a pleasure to work with, or are you going to have to share a 4-hour journey to the gig with that creepy keyboard player who lacks any sense of personal hygiene?

So little of the time on a gig is spent actually playing that this is a serious issue and often has nothing to do with the musical skills of the people involved. The gig is not the music – a vast proportion of your time is spent travelling, loading in gear, setting up, and then hanging around waiting to play. You don’t want to spend all that non-playing time surrounded by people who drive you crazy, so if we assume that there’s a basic level of musicianship and everyone in the band can play then the main concern is what will the hang be like?

3. The Money

Obviously, this is why you’re doing the gig, because you need to earn a living and doing gigs sure beats working in Starbucks. But this side of the triangle is not always about how large or small the gig fee is; your time is a valuable, non-renewable resource, so you have to factor in how much prep work the gig requires and how much time you have to block out of your day in order to actually do the gig.

The Golden Rule of Gigging

So we have music, money and people on the gig triangle, and the golden rule is that there have to be two sides of the triangle in place for a gig to be worth saying yes to, which leaves us with these three scenarios:

Option 1

Gigs where there isn’t not really much money, but you enjoy the music and the people are great; this is basically every original band project ever.

Option 2

Gigs where there’s a decent fee and there’s a good hang, but the music isn’t your ideal choice; this is essentially most covers bands, unless you happen to really love playing ‘Wonderwall’ or ‘Valerie’ every week for the rest of your life (and there’s nothing wrong with that at all!).

Option 3

Gigs where the people are not enjoyable to work with, but you enjoy the music and there’s a good fee – this is probably the rarest scenario.

In most cases, you won’t need to go into this level of analysis, but it can help avoid situations where you make spur of the moment choices that make you resent the gig that you end up on. There’s nothing worse for the audience, the band, or the music itself than having someone on stage who really has somewhere better to be.

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MXR M288 Bass Octave Deluxe

What is it? The MXR M288 Bass Octave Deluxe is a dual-voice analogue octave pedal and some neat additions that give bass players an expanded take on the tried-and-tested octave…

What is it?

The MXR M288 Bass Octave Deluxe is a dual-voice analogue octave pedal and some neat additions that give bass players an expanded take on the tried-and-tested octave pedal format.

What Does It Do?

The pedal can be used to generate an additional signal one octave below that of your bass; you can control the levels of both the dry and effected signal in order to achieve your desired tone.

Why Would I Want One?

An octave pedal running 50/50 wet/dry signal adds thickness to lines played in the higher register of the bass, which is really useful if you play in a three- or four-piece band and want to fill more space. A 100% wet octave down signal will give you access to synth-like bass sounds, adding that extra element of authenticity when playing the bass line to any tune that was originally recorded on a keyboard (think ‘Ain’t Nobody’ or ‘Superstition’ or even bloody ‘Moves Like Jagger’).


Standard 1/4″ jack cable input and output


Again, totally standard: 9V DC power supply or 9V battery accessed by removing the pedal’s rear plate.


The Bass Octave Deluxe has three main control knobs:

  • GROWL is the first of two independent, blendable sub-octave channels; MXR describes the voicing of the GROWL channel as a ‘throaty, mid-range sub-octave’
  • GIRTH is the second sub-octave voice designed to provide a ‘deep and smooth’ octave tone

The GROWL and GIRTH voices are completely separate from one another and can be individually soloed or blended together to create a variety of tonal options.

  • DRY controls the volume of your original bass signal

In addition to the three main controls, MXR has also added the very practical MID+ button, which gives users a boost of up to 14dB to their dry signal at either 400Hz or 850Hz; both the amount of boost and the frequency can be adjusted via an internal trim pot and slider underneath the pedal’s back panel.

Where Does It Go In My Chain?

Some octave pedals have difficulty tracking in certain parts of the fretboard or during faster passages of playing, so my preference is to put them near the start of the signal chain in order to get the best input signal possible. I also find that putting the octave before an envelope filter produces the best result when using both effects simultaneously.

How Much Does It Cost?

New: £139.00/$149.99

Used: £75-90/$85-100


  • Rugged Construction in a relatively small enclosure
  • Two blendable octave voices give a range of tones
  • MID+ boost gives the pedal added tonal flexibility
  • Blue LEDs are classy as hell


  • Some players might feel that the two octave channels are too similar in their voicings

What Are The Alternatives?

Nearly every major bass pedal manufacturer offers some sort of octave pedal, so there are lots of options: MXR also offers the M280 Vintage Bass Octave, which offers similar functionality to the legendary Boss OC-2 in a much smaller package; Boss offers the OC-3; Aguilar has the Octamizer; EHX has a variety of octaves in a range of sizes, with the Nano POG being one of the most popular.

For a round-up of five analogue octave pedals be sure to check out this comparison test: The Quest For The Brown Note – Can Anything Match The OC-2?

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