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Free Bass Transcriptions

Here come the dots

Category: Groove of the Week

DOD FX25 Envelope Filter

The DOD FX25 envelope filter pedal has become something of a cult classic – a simple, two-knob auto wah that gives bass players a variety of tones ranging from subtle…

The DOD FX25 envelope filter pedal has become something of a cult classic – a simple, two-knob auto wah that gives bass players a variety of tones ranging from subtle vowel sounds to a full-on funk ‘quack’. The straightforward user interface and low price point make the FX25 a good starting point for bassists looking to experiment with envelope filters. 

There are only two controls on the FX25:

  • Range controls the intensity of the filter effect
  • Sensitivity affects the point at which the effect becomes active (frequently labelled as ‘threshold’ on other envelope filters)

The sensitivity control allows the user to dial-in how subtle (or otherwise) they want the effect to be; as with all envelope filters, the FX25 responds to changes in your plucking hand dynamics and for this reason it’s wise to place it towards the front of your signal chain if you’re using multiple pedals. As all envelope filters and autowah effects react to changes in playing dynamics it’s important that any compression happens after the effect.

The FX25 was manufactured between 1982 and 1997, after which it was replaced by the FX25B; the main difference between the two is that the FX25B has an additional ‘blend’ knob.

The DOD FX25 is now sadly discontinued, but there are plenty floating about on eBay and other second hand gear sites. Here’s an overview of the pedal’s features and a demo of some of the sounds that it’s capable of producing, both on its own and in conjuction with other pedals including octave, fuzz, and distortion:

Part of the pedal’s popularity can be attributed to the fact that Flea used an FX25 during part of his ‘Adventures in Spontaneous Jamming and Techinques’ instructional video. It can be heard here during a jam with Red Hot Chili Peppers’ drummer Chad Smith:

 


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Electro Harmonix Bass Micro Synth

The Electro Harmonix Bass Micro Synth gives bass players who are looking to dive into the murky waters of synth bass sounds an opportunity to access a range of classic…

The Electro Harmonix Bass Micro Synth gives bass players who are looking to dive into the murky waters of synth bass sounds an opportunity to access a range of classic synth tones without having to go anywhere near a keyboard. Although far more limited in its scope than more recent synth pedals, like the Future Impact or the Source Audio C4, the intuitive control layout of the Bass Micro Synth means that bass players can start experimenting with sounds almost instantly without having to delve into complex sub-menus:

The Bass Micro Synth is controlled by numerous sliders that govern the following parameters:

  • Trigger affects the dynamic level at which the effect is triggered; this can be thought of as ‘sensitivity’ or ‘threshold’. The trigger only affects parameters in the filter sweep section of the pedal
  • Sub Octave controls the level of the 1-octave down signal
  • Guitar affects the dry signal volume of the bass
  • Octave controls the volume of the 1-octave up signal (the octave above signal is slightly distorted to provide a richer tone)
  • Square Wave affects the volume of the square wave distortion
  • Attack Delay increases or decreases the time taken for a note to reach full volume. Higher settings can remove the intial attack from notes, resulting in a ‘bowed’ sound
  • Resonance controls the intensity of the filter sweep
  • Start Frequency and Stop Frequency govern the frequencies at which the filter sweep starts and stops; different settings can result in ‘up’ or ‘down’ sweeps
  • Rate controls the speed at which the filter sweeps between the start and stop frequencies

If the range of controls on the bass microsynth seems daunting then don’t panic; EHX also publish a pdf of sample settings (link here: EHX Micro Synth Sample Templates PDF) that lets you get straight to the good stuff without hours of unnecessary knob-twiddling. I went through all their tone templates to see what the pedal is capable of:

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Groove Of The Week #50: Joshua Redman – ‘Greasy G’

GOTW HITS 50! It’s finally here. The last instalment of the Groove of The Week series – what should have taken a year has taken nearly 3, but better late…

GOTW HITS 50!

It’s finally here. The last instalment of the Groove of The Week series – what should have taken a year has taken nearly 3, but better late than never…

Back To The Start

This groove is actually what started everything; I remember getting hold of the Joshua Redman Elastic Band album Momentum (2005) when I was a student and immediately got hooked on the combination of jazz harmony and deep groove that ran through every track. Momentum features a number of guest musicians throughout the album, but because I’d, errr… ‘acquired’ it I didn’t have access to the cd liner notes to see who played on each track; I could hear that one of the bassists sounded like Flea, but there was one groove that totally floored me:

I’d never heard anyone play a groove with that feel before – this was some years after Pino’s laid back grooves on D’Angelo’s much-lauded, behind-the-beat masterpiece Voodoo (2000) and J Dilla’s brand of ‘drunk hip-hop’ was old news, but this was something else. I had to know who it was and how the hell they could sound like that.

And so began my 12-year (and counting) love affair with Me’shell Ndegeocello; she and Anthony Jackson have the rare ability to make me feel like every single note that they have ever played is absolutely perfect.

Here are the dots:

Incidentally, Me’shell uses a very similar groove on here tune ‘GOD.FEAR.MONEY’:

 

Catching the feel(s)

So, how do you get to sound like that? This was by far the most difficult Groove of The Week track for me to get the hang of; I’m not claiming to even be in the same ballpark, feel-wise, but here are my two cents:

Listen, listen, listen. Then listen some more – every aspect of the music needs to be in your bones.

Record yourself. Listen critically (analyse your waveforms, if necessary).

Are you rushing? Dragging? Dragging? Do you even know?

(Here would be a suitable place for a Whiplash reference, but I thought it one of the worst things ever – Rocky for jazz drummers.)

The point of this is that you can’t be objective about your playing while you’re playing, because too much of your brain’s ‘bandwidth’ is taken up with the act of playing. Recording yourself is a brutally effective mechanism for finding out how you actually sound, not how you think you sound. I have a hunch that this is the reason that session greats such as Steve Gadd, Anthony Jackson, Bernard Purdie and Nathan East sound so incredible – they have heard their playing on tape countless times, allowing them to develop a total understanding of how to internally direct their playing to achieve the desired external sound.

This is getting worryingly metaphysical, so let’s wrap it up here. May the groove be with you.

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Groove Of The Week #49: Damian Erskine – ‘Kaluanui’

Damian’s Drum-influenced Double-Stops Following on from last week’s double stop adventures with Hiatus Kaiyote, it’s time for another contemporary chordal groove. This edition of Groove of The Week comes courtesy…

Damian’s Drum-influenced Double-Stops

Following on from last week’s double stop adventures with Hiatus Kaiyote, it’s time for another contemporary chordal groove. This edition of Groove of The Week comes courtesy of modern bass master Damian Erskine (his uncle is the Peter Erskine) and provides one hell of a workout for both hands:

As with many of the grooves that underpin Damian’s debut album (2010’s ‘So To Speak’), the introduction to ‘Kaluanui’ showcases his incredible command of rhythmic ideas and dynamic contrast. In between each chordal flourish is a series of of ghost notes that act as an additional percussion instrument, giving the line a sense of perpetual motion and augmenting the groove without overcrowding the harmonic content.

 

Speaking of the harmonic content, the groove sits predominantly in F major, using double stop 10ths to imply Bb major, A minor, D minor and C major. On the third iteration of the line there’s a brief departure to a new tonality with the arrival of a D/F# chord.

As far as the left hand is concerned, I fret all the major 10ths with 2nd and 4th fingers, while minor 10ths are covered by 1st and 2nd fingers (or 1st, 2nd and 3rd fingers in the case of the D minor chord shape that appears in bars 4 and 16).

10ths are a great way of conveying chordal sounds in a ‘shorthand’ fashion and a useful addition to any bassist’s toolkit as they tend to ‘speak’ more clearly than more densely populated chords. Notice how some of the major chords feature a hammer-on from the 9th into the 10th, which is a great way to add melodic interest to an otherwise chordal line.

As far as the right hand goes, ‘Kaluanui’ is a great groove to use as a developmental tool for your palm muting skills – I’ve used the classical guitar system for naming the plucking fingers (p=thumb, i=index finger, m=middle finger). It might take a while for the p,m,i motion required to execute the ghost notes to feel comfortable, but once you’ve mastered it then it’s great way to add a percolating percussive element to your bass parts where appropriate; it’s no surprise to learn that Damian Erskine started out his musical career as a drummer, switching to bass once he was at the Berklee College of Music – lots of his grooves feel like they were composed from a ‘rhythm first’ perspective.

For a deeper insight into Damian’s highly evolved right hand technique, take a look at his book Right Hand Drive.

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Groove Of The Week #48: Hiatus Kaiyote – ‘By Fire’

After an extended hiatus (geddit?) the lumbering juggernaut that is Groove of The Week is back (for those who are sick of, fear not – it’ll be over soon). High…

After an extended hiatus (geddit?) the lumbering juggernaut that is Groove of The Week is back (for those who are sick of, fear not – it’ll be over soon).

High Time For Some Odd Time

So far, all of the featured grooves have been relatively conventional single note, 4/4 affairs. Time to change all that.

How about playing a 5/4 groove that uses chordal techniques interspersed with single note 16th lines at 128bpm? Enter Hiatus Kaiyote’s ‘By Fire’:

I first encountered this tune as a commissioned transcription for a client (before you ask, I no longer undertake bespoke transcription work, sorry). Writing out the whole tune was challenging, to say the least. Here’s how the main groove looks on paper:

Hiatus Kaiyote - By Fire

Hiatus Kaiyote’s bass player Paul Bender casually matches the keyboard’s lines note for note for the entire song, throwing in double stops to provide a more detailed representation of the harmony (the double stops in question start off as major 7ths, with the last two bars using major 10ths to provide variation).

In order to properly execute this line and let the root note of the double stop ring out while articulating the melody we’re going to have to adopt free strokes with the plucking hand – this is where the fingers pluck upwards and away from the bass, as opposed to our normal rest strokes where the plucking fingers play into the bass and come to rest on a lower string.

Free, or not to free? That is the question

Normally, I avoid free strokes because they result in what I’d term as homeopathic bass playing – since most of the energy is directed away from the bass it’s hard to achieve a solid tone and things end up sounding a bit weedy. However, in situations where double stops are required, it’s almost impossible to achieve the correct sound with rest strokes – your thumb is plucking the root note using a free stroke, so trying to make your fingers perform a rest stroke at the same time is somewhat brain-scrambling. Each stroke also requires a slightly different hand position, so changing between the two is physically demanding to coordinate at fast tempos.

So, how best to tackle this difficult line? The answer is the same as this often cited (and rather bizarre) question:

‘How do you eat an elephant?’

 

The answer? One mouthful at a time – isolate small sections of the line and practise slower than you think you need to until they become second nature and you’re not consciously thinking about the technique or the notes.

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Groove Of The Week #47: Chic – ‘Can’t Stand To Love You’

For many readers, the following scenario will ring true: in order to earn a living from being a musician you have to take on covers gigs and spend the majority…

For many readers, the following scenario will ring true: in order to earn a living from being a musician you have to take on covers gigs and spend the majority of your Friday and Saturday nights in pubs/bars/marquees/hotel function rooms persuading punters to stay on the dance floor.

Selecting the right repertoire to get revellers out of their seats is an art in itself, and it’s no surprise that there are certain tunes that seem to crop up on every set list. Many great artists have their extensive back catalogues reduced to a couple of numbers that are guaranteed to work; take Stevie Wonder for example – think about how many bands play ‘Superstition’ compared to how often ‘Part Time Lover’ or ‘Do I Do’ get an airing.

Regardless of which band I’m working with, there are some tunes that somehow manage to appear on the set list at almost every single gig:

Good times
Le freak
We are family 

But wait… don’t Chic (and Sister Sledge) have lots of other songs? It turns out that Bernard Edwards had some great grooves that don’t get churned out every weekend in wedding venues around the world. Here’s one of my personal favourites:

‘Can’t Stand To Love You’ is a masterclass in writing a busy, yet hook-laden bass line. The main chorus groove uses melodic sequencing, wide intervals and chromatic approach notes – a combination used frequently in bebop improvisation – within the context of a song designed to make people dance.

Whereas some artists have tried to inject aspects of jazz vocabulary into pop music and have ended up sounding too clever for their own good (I’m looking at you, Sting), Bernard & Co. managed to keep disco’s dance-friendly sensibility at the core of their music while adding a touch of harmonic invention.

 

A closer look at the phrase in bar in bar 2 reveals why the line works so well; each double chromatic approach lands on either a chord tone or an extension of the underlying Eb7 chord and is followed by a leap of a diatonic 6th. Once we’ve heard beats 1 and 2 our ears know exactly what should come next – there’s a sense of inevitability to the melodic line which is created by the symmetrical descending pattern.

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