Free Bass Transcriptions

Free Bass Transcriptions

Here come the dots

Category: Lessons

Bro, Do You Even Syncopate?

Get out more, get more out of it Confessions of a working bassist #37: I’m terrible at getting out to hear gigs. Maybe 3 times a year I’ll get my…

Get out more, get more out of it

Confessions of a working bassist #37: I’m terrible at getting out to hear gigs. Maybe 3 times a year I’ll get my act together, check listings, book tickets and go and enjoy being in the audience rather than on the stage.

This post comes from one such occasion this time last year, when I saw that Mark Giuliana was coming to town – I’d heard lots of buzz about him from other musicians and was vaguely aware of his Beat Music project (featuring bass hero Tim LeFebvre) but had never actually bothered to listen to much of his output.

One of the most memorable moments of the gig involved a tune with a lengthy bass and drum intro that consisted of nothing but horribly syncopated unison stabs and didn’t appear to feature any repeating figures. After some Spotify surfing the following morning, it turned out that the song in question was ‘One Month’ from 2015’s Family First album – I realised yesterday that it had been on my transcription ‘to-do’ list for almost an entire year, and my brain was repeatedly nagging me to sit down and decipher what was going on:

 

It’s 2 notes in 4/4 time – how hard could it be?! Try sight reading this at 130bpm:

It’s a roast-up, right? Now, if you want a real challenge, attempt to memorise it.

Dealing with flyshit

I still vividly remember my first lecture at music college – I was 19 years old and had come from a small town with very little in the way of a music scene, so I thought I was pretty good. As soon as this was put in front of me I quickly realised that I knew nothing:

Having grown up on a solid diet of internet TABs and Hot Licks videos, my reading ability was somewhat lacking. I was determined not to be beaten by the little black dots, and by the end of the year I was one of the best readers in the class. How did I do it?

From zero to (reading) hero

My lectures didn’t start until 11am, so I resolved to get up at 7.30 every day and do a couple of hour’s work on my weaknesses – there were (and still are) many – with a particular focus on reading. I worked on rhythm separately from pitch and slogged my way through this riveting tome:

 

If you can read this book, you can read (almost) anything. And, if you can read it then you can also hear rhythmic figures elsewhere and write them down quickly There’s an entire blog post on it here.

 

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Janek Gwizdala Masterclass 2007 Part 3: Gear, Tradition and Finding Your Voice

Here’s the third and final instalment of Janek Gwizdala’s bass clinic at ACM Guildford in 2007. For those who missed the first two episodes, you can find them here: –…

Here’s the third and final instalment of Janek Gwizdala’s bass clinic at ACM Guildford in 2007. For those who missed the first two episodes, you can find them here:

Part 1 focuses on transcription, including things he stole from George Benson and Allan Holdsworth
Part 2 deals with Janek’s early days playing the bass and how he developed his prodigious technique

Part 3 covers a range of topics, including:

Janek’s philosophy on equipment

Regular viewers of his ‘coffee with Janek’ blog might find it interesting to hear how his views on being a gear head have shifted over the last decade – this masterclass happened before he started hanging out with Juan Alderete and stockpiling Meatboxes and OC-2 pedals.

The value of understanding tradition

While talking about his time playing with the late Hiram Bullock, Janek reveals that he didn’t begin his journey with jazz and started on a solid diet of pop music before moving on to the likes of Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock.

One of the most important points that Janek makes on this topic is that it’s essential to have a comprehensive knowledge of your chosen musical genre(s) before you can forge your own musical path – if you don’t know what has come before you, then how can know when you’re being original?

(and yes, I was that guy who knew everything about Anthony Jackson. I’m pretty handy at a pub quiz…)

finding your ‘voice’ on your instrument

Closely linked to the idea of understanding your ‘place’ in musical history is the importance of not simply regurgitating things that have happened before – but how do you work out which direction you should go in? Janek discusses some of his own ‘self talk’ that he uses in musical decision making.

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Janek Gwizdala Masterclass 2007, Part 2: Early Days/Practice Methods

Here’s part 2 of Janek Gwizdala’s masterclass at ACM Guildford in March 2007 (in case you missed Part 1, you can find the video and the pdf transcription here). In…

Here’s part 2 of Janek Gwizdala’s masterclass at ACM Guildford in March 2007 (in case you missed Part 1, you can find the video and the pdf transcription here). In this video, Janek discusses how he came to playing the bass, his early mentorship with Laurence Cottle*, how he got his ferocious level of technique together and how he practices (or, at least, how he practiced circa 2007).

*If you’re not familiar with who Laurence Cottle is or just how insane his playing is then stop right now. Laurence is, for my money, the finest electric bass player in the UK today by a significant margin and, in my opinion, doesn’t get nearly enough recognition in the mainstream bass world. Check out this live album, his big band arrangements of classic Jaco tunes, and him casually keeping up with Jeff Berlin at a trade show.

Back on topic. It took a while to write out what Janek played in this section of the clinic, mainly because he has a habit of casually reeling off 16th notes at 150bpm; I’ve recently put on my Big Girl Pants and transcribe everything at tempo, rather than using slow-down software to ‘cheat’.

As noted in part 1, Janek favours a 5-string bass tuned E-C, so many of the examples are notated one or two octaves lower than played to save using hundreds of ledger lines or resorting to the dreaded treble clef.

All of the words and most of the notes can be seen here: Janek Gwizdala Clinic 2007 Part 2

What’s especially revealing in this clinic is that it shows ‘how the leopard got his spots’, so to speak. Janek’s skills have been forged through an incredible number of hours spent on just two things:

▪ Hanon exercises for technique
▪ Transcribing and learning solos from other instruments

In other words, using exercises derived from scales and arpeggios in different permutations to cover many musical possibilities and develop fluency on your instrument and then using that technical facility to help assimilate language taken from masters of improvisation.

Or, put it another way… Use music to get better at music.

Simple, right?

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Janek Gwizdala Masterclass 2007, Part 1: Transcription

I recently dug out my (now prehistoric) dictaphone that I used when I was a student at the Academy of Contemporary Music in Guildford between 2005 and 2008 and set…

I recently dug out my (now prehistoric) dictaphone that I used when I was a student at the Academy of Contemporary Music in Guildford between 2005 and 2008 and set about reviewing all of the lessons, concerts and masterclasses that I had bootlegged over the course of my degree.

One of the highlights was Janek Gwizdala’s clinic that I attended in March 2007. I’d actually met Janek the year before when I’d turned up to a sight reading lecture and found him as an unannounced guest lecturer for the class – I’d never heard of him before and was immediately inspired by both his playing and his outlook on music. So, when I heard that he was returning to give a more ‘officical’ masterclass the following year I made a point of attending with my trusty dictaphone at the ready.

Of course, it took me a decade to get round to doing anything with the recording, but better late than never…right?

The audio quality of the original file was absolutely vile, so I’ve done my best to clean it up and EQ it to provide some semblance of clarity. I’ve fully transcribed the speech (notice how almost everything he mentions is ‘super important’) and wrote down the playing excerpts that I thought might be most relevant – I don’t own a bass with a C string (I share Gary Willis’ opinion that they ‘sound like a cat, and not in a good way’) so I skipped much of the high-register chordal stuff. You can, however, steal all of his George Benson licks.

Part 1 of the clinic deals with Janek’s thoughts on transcription, including things that he ‘ripped off’ from great players including Pat Metheny, Allan Holdsworth and George Benson:

 

The pdf of the transcription can be found RIGHT HERE

 

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Late To The Party… Youtube Play Alongs and Lessons

As promised some years ago, I’m FINALLY getting round to going back through the transcription archive on the site and making corrections – thanks to those sharp-eared subscribers who’ve been…

As promised some years ago, I’m FINALLY getting round to going back through the transcription archive on the site and making corrections – thanks to those sharp-eared subscribers who’ve been kind enough to point out some glaring errors in some of my charts!

I’m also in the process of finishing off a backlog of half-finished transcriptions (my Sibelius folder has around 600 unfinished files in it, so be patient!) which will be posted over the coming months.

Last but not least I’ve finally hit the red button on my camera and started making Youtube videos – these will include lessons, play alongs of transcriptions and footage from gigs and studio work. If there’s anything specific that you’d like to see included in these videos then let me know by commenting on this post.

I’ll be adding play alongs of the 10 most popular transcriptions on the site to help clarify fingerings and position shifts. First up is Jerry Jemmott’s part on Aretha Franklin’s ‘I Say A Little Prayer’:

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Unorthodox Instructionals Part 5: The Worst Book For Bassists (and what to practise instead)

For the fifth and final installment of my ‘Unorthodox Instructionals’ series it’s time to deal with the number one thing that bass players seem to be bothered about. The Holy…

For the fifth and final installment of my ‘Unorthodox Instructionals’ series it’s time to deal with the number one thing that bass players seem to be bothered about.

The Holy Grail

Every bass magazine I read is full of it, every bass forum I visit has hundreds of threads debating what to do about it and every student that comes to see me wants more of it.

What am I talking about? Technique. Everyone seems preoccupied with how to have more control over their fingers, possess greater command of the instrument and coax more notes out of the bass with less effort.

Are You Wasting Your Time On Technique?

Now there’s nothing wrong with wanting more chops per se, it’s just that lots of us go about it in the wrong way. I’m talking about this sort of thing:

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I bought this book when I was 16 and spent hours working through it cover to cover. It seemed to be the magic bullet for fixing my technique – after all, it proudly states that it’s endorsed by a host of big name players and major music schools so it had to be good, right?

Wrong. But why?

Why Bass Fitness Is The Biggest Waste Of Time For Bassists

There are lots of reasons why this book is junk*, but here’s the most important one:

None of the 200 finger exercises makes any musical sense – I can’t find a single one that contains genuinely worthwhile content that anyone in their right mind would actually play on a gig. Most of them look like this:

IMG_1971

Gross.

So why did I waste my time working through 200 finger-twisting patterns that would never really result in any improvement to my playing? I didn’t know any better.

As a teenager in the pre-Youtube world, I was at the mercy of what I saw in bass magazines and Hot Licks VHS tapes. As I got older (and, hopefully, wiser), I discovered that the way to develop my technique was to find music that tested my technical limitations and play the hell out of it really slowly.

Here’s the reality of the situation: you are what you practise. So, if you want to get better at playing music then practise music, not maths. It sounds obvious but it’s amazing how many players (including my former self) get sucked into looking for answers in the wrong places.

So, the real question is: “What should I practise instead if I want to work on technique?”

How To Effectively Develop Your Technique

The answer is to practice real music. Find something that you love the sound of but can’t play up to tempo yet, slow it down and work out how it fits on your instrument (using a couple of different fingerings if possible).

Start by playing it slower than you think you need to, without a metronome. Spend no more than 10 minutes at a time working on it but come back to it every day – within a couple of weeks, it’ll be second nature.

Final Book Recommendations

In keeping with the rest of the series I should recommend an unusual instructional book that I’ve found beneficial for my technique, so here’s one. In fact, here are two:

IMG_1972

Piano exercises on bass? Back in 2005 when I was in my first year of my music degree I turned up to a morning sight reading lecture to find that we were having a guest lecture from a then relatively unknown bassist called Janek Gwizdala. Regardless of how you might feel about Janek or his approach to the instrument you can’t argue with his technique – I’d never seen anyone play the bass with such technical fluency. Being the curious type I quizzed him about what he’d worked on to develop his chops, and his response included the Hanon Virtuoso Pianist, which is a staple of classical piano pedagogy.

It’s essentially a series of exercises that involve sequencing the major scale in lots of different permutations, and since it’s written for pianists it contains a number of things that are technically awkward to play on a bass. Czerny is a similar idea, and I seem to remember reading in a Coltrane biography that he worked through it.

Good enough for Coltrane? Good enough for me.

With both of these titles the exercises are based on musical content, rather than permutations of finger patterns, so they definitely don’t fall into the ‘waste of time’ category. Occasionally I’ll dip into one (or both) if I feel that my fingers are being unusually disobedient.

Have I missed one of your favourite instructional books? Tell me about it!

So we’ve covered harmony, borrowing from upright bass, sight reading, ear training and technique – have I missed anything? let me know by commenting on this post.

*other reasons to avoid this book include (but are by no means limited to): heavy reliance on TAB, extensive use of 1 Finger Per Fret in the lower areas of the bass, the cover art.

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