Free Bass Transcriptions

Free Bass Transcriptions

Here come the dots

Category: Lessons

A Tribute to Dave Brubeck (and a rant about Marcus Miller)

As a little tribute to the late Dave Brubeck here’s a transcription of Paul Desmond’s sax solo on ‘Take Five’. Transcription here: Take Five solo (concert) This was actually my…

As a little tribute to the late Dave Brubeck here’s a transcription of Paul Desmond’s sax solo on ‘Take Five’.

Transcription here: Take Five solo (concert)

This was actually my first proper non-bass transcription, given to me as an assignment during a lesson with the great arranger/producer/guitarist/educator Richard Niles. If you haven’t heard of Richard then seek out his work – he not only possesses a terrifying amount of musical knowledge but also has a wonderful sense of humour.

Transcribing material that wasn’t originally played on your own instrument is a great way of expanding your musical horizons and often helps to generate fresh ideas for improvisation. When playing through this transcription, you might find that certain notes are outside of the range of your instrument and therefore certain phrases need to be octave transposed.

This process of arranging music played by non-bass instruments on a bass is valuable in a number of ways:

  • Phrases that are easily played on a saxophone (or piano/trumpet/guitar etc.) might not fit comfortably under your fingers on the bass. This helps to not only develop your technique but helps you stop reverting back to the same old licks when the time comes for you to solo.
  • While dissecting the solo, certain phrases might jump out at you. Use these to build new vocabulary for the bass. Work out a few different fingerings for the phrase and play it through all keys (you may want to alter the rhythmic content and retain the melody, or vice versa).
  • Examining improvisations from other instruments gives a unique insight into how different players approach improvising over chord changes. Using material that comes from a ‘non-bass’ perspective is hugely beneficial in developing your own personal voice on your instrument (a horribly clichéd phrase, but true nonetheless).

Why bother transcribing other instruments?

So, why not just focus on bass? I spent a lot of time during my teens learning licks and solos from Marcus Miller – I remember hearing listening to his M2 album and instantly being drawn towards his tone and phrasing. I wanted to sound exactly like him. During my first year at music college I got hold of a transcription of Marcus’ intro solo and slap line on David Sanborn’s ‘Run For Cover’:

I proceeded to spend my Christmas holiday that year shedding it like crazy. I loved playing it. Soon enough everything I played was beginning to sound like a budget version of Marcus. Classmates started to nickname me ‘mini-Marcus’. I’d listen back to recordings from gigs and cringe at what I’d played (important note: this never stops…). Having spent so long trying to get his ideas into my playing I’d lost sight of working on what I sounded like.

So I entered slap-bass rehab: I banned myself from listening to Marcus for a few years and tried to eliminate all traces of him from my playing. I went on a crusade to transcribe as many solos as I could with only one rule in mind: I couldn’t transcribe bass solos. Transcribing solos from other instruments helped to open my ears to all sorts of things I’d never thought of playing on a bass before, all of which suddenly seemed more interesting than chasing after another bassist’s sound.

This post is not meant as a slight towards Marcus Miller or anyone that wants to emulate any part of his playing (or that of any other bassist). For me the act of focusing all of my attention on one particular bassist had a detrimental effect on my musical development.

(Confession time: I listened to Marcus for the first time in years while writing this post and I loved it. He’s a monster. Still won’t be getting my thumb out on any gigs in the near future though…)

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Rhythmic Displacement: Meshuggah’s ‘Do Not Look Down’

I have a confession to make: Although I have a deep appreciation of all things musical there’s one genre that I always come back to… metal. Proper metal. Played by…

I have a confession to make: Although I have a deep appreciation of all things musical there’s one genre that I always come back to… metal. Proper metal. Played by angry men with pointy guitars and beards; I was raised on classic rock (Led Zep, Sabbath, Deep Purple etc) and from there I spent my teens exploring the heavier end of the musical spectrum – I went through thrash metal (early Metallica/Megadeth), briefly delved into death metal (Carcass, Opeth, Children of Bodom) and even a had dubious metalcore phase before finding a handful of bands that made the sort of noise that really appealed to me…

One of those bands is Meshuggah.

This track caught my attention because it clearly highlights one of the band’s trademark writing techniques; the interwebs are littered with people asking ‘What time signature is this Meshuggah tune in?’. Whilst the majority of Meshuggah’s compositions sound as if they’re in odd time signatures the vast majority are in 4/4 – it just seems that the guitars have a healthy disregard for bar lines…

 

Djently Does It

The intro of ‘Do Not Look Down’ comprises of a unison guitar/bass figure that lasts for 17 quavers (or their equivalent) before repeating. When played over a drum part that in 4/4 this creates a shifting rhythmic effect where the accent at the start of the figure emphasises a different point in the bar each time it repeats.

The accent first falls on beat 1, then the ‘and’ of 1, then beat 2 etc. After 7 cycles we’re back to starting on beat 1 again. This could also be written as alternating bars of 4/4 and 9/8, or in the horrendous meter of 17/8, but what we’re really hearing is the effect of two different time signatures being played at the same time (i.e. polymetric playing)

The main purpose of this post is to highlight the concept of using polymetric devices to add a new dimension to compositions. This idea could easily be adapted to create basslines that use odd groupings of quavers (e.g. 5, 7 or 9) to create rhythmic tension when played over a drum part in 4/4.

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Lick Recycling, Pt.2

Continuing the previously aired topic of lick recycling, here’s another borrowed lick that gets a workout from two great fretless players, Jaco Pastorius and Pino Palladino. The phrase in question…

Continuing the previously aired topic of lick recycling, here’s another borrowed lick that gets a workout from two great fretless players, Jaco Pastorius and Pino Palladino.

The phrase in question originates in Igor Stravinsky’s ‘The Rite of Spring’, composed in 1913. Listen to the opening line played by the bassoon:

Fast forward to 1977, and Jaco’s phenomenal solo on Weather Report’s ‘Havona’. Listen out for the third phrase of Jaco’s solo (at 2:51) and you’ll hear the Stravinsky lick:

Another Jaco recording from the same year shows him borrowing the same lick from Stravinsky again, this time on Joni Mitchell’s ‘Talk To Me’. The third phrase of Jaco’s intro melody should be recognisable by now…

The next link is slightly more tenuous as it’s not a direct note-for-note insertion of the ‘Rite of Spring’ melody, but whenever I hear Pino Palladino’s opening melody on Paul Young’s ‘Wherever I Lay My Hat (That’s My Home)’ I can’t help but be reminded of the Stravinsky/Jaco phrase:

Here’s the transcription of the phrase in question, first Jaco’s lick from ‘Talk to Me’ (the line has been written down an octave for ease of reading):

Pino’s part from ‘Wherever I Lay My Hat’ shows similarities in both note choice and phrasing:

In fact, Pino admits the Stravinsky quote in this interview. I love his reaction to hearing the tune on the radio for the first time:

All the examples mentioned feature the lick in the context of a major chord, where it outlines a major 7 sound. It could be applied in other areas – play the lick in C against an F major chord and you’re instantly implying a Lydian (major 7#11) tonality.

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Lick Recycling, Part 1

Just a brief one this time as things have been rather busy of late in preparation for heading off to Norway tomorrow for a week of gigs with Jamie Abbott….

Just a brief one this time as things have been rather busy of late in preparation for heading off to Norway tomorrow for a week of gigs with Jamie Abbott. This is what happened when we went out there last September; hopefully, this one will feature more of the same (if you’re allergic to bass solos, stop watching at 2:45):

The real point of this post is to bring up the concept of recycling. There’s nothing new under the sun, and all players have ‘borrowed’ ideas from other musicians at some point. Sometimes this manifested in subtle ways, such as tone, phrasing or use of certain articulation that reflects the influence of another player. On other occasions, licks are transplanted in a ‘copy and paste’ fashion, which is what we have in the following transcriptions.

The first transcription is Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons ‘December ’63 (Oh What a Night!)’. Check out the Ab major lick just before the D.S:

 

 

Now take a look at the last four bars of the bridge of Cee Lo Green’s ‘Forget You’, featuring bass courtesy of Pino Palladino:

Notice something about the lick over the D7 chord in the third bar?

It’s pretty much a note-for-note reproduction of the ‘December ’63’ lick. Rumbled!

That’ll do for now, the next instalment will feature more lick recycling courtesy of Pino, Jaco Pastorius and Igor Stravinsky…

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One from the vaults

It’s been a while since I’ve posted any fresh transcriptions, so here’s Nate Mendel’s line from Foo Fighters ‘Learn To Fly’. There’s Nothing Left To Lose was one of my…

It’s been a while since I’ve posted any fresh transcriptions, so here’s Nate Mendel’s line from Foo Fighters ‘Learn To Fly’.

There’s Nothing Left To Lose was one of my favourite albums as a teenager, and although I don’t really think of Nate as having a massive influence on my playing he definitely has some great lines. ‘Stacked Actors’ has some great playing on it:

Anyway, here’s the part for ‘Learn To Fly’. Nothing too complicated going on… enjoy!

Foo Fighters – ‘Learn To Fly’ Bass Transcription

 

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Leading a Double Life – First Steps in Upright Playing for an Electric Bassist

Firstly, a belated Happy New Year to one and all. My one and only resolution for 2011 is to keep this blog updated with fresh material – my annual stats…

Firstly, a belated Happy New Year to one and all. My one and only resolution for 2011 is to keep this blog updated with fresh material – my annual stats email from WordPress tells me I got something in the region of 14,000 views last year, which shows that I should really pull my finger out and reward visitors with something more than a bi-yearly update!

Double Trouble

Part of the reason for the lack of pre-Christmas posts was that in mid-November I got a call offering me a series of gigs with a pop/classical artist that required me to play both electric and upright bass… Now, although I’ve been dabbling with double bass ever since I left university I’d never really ‘taken the plunge’ and this seemed like the perfect excuse to begin studying the instrument seriously.

Initially, I thought the gig would be a roughly a 50/50 split between upright and electric, but once I got the charts it became clear that I’d be playing a lot of double bass, including some bowing which was completely new territory for me. I had roughly 3 weeks to get my playing in shape, so I locked myself away in a rehearsal studio. Here’s how my November looked:

As might be expected, it was a tough few weeks. Getting to grips with the bow (awful pun intended) was probably the biggest challenge, as my first attempts resulted in a sound I can only liken to a whale being abused… After a few days, I gradually began to get the hang of things and found that my sound improved a little every day.

Spending that amount of time and effort on such a fundamental aspect of the instrument was a hugely humbling experience; I’ve been playing electric bass for over a decade, so I tend to take the process of playing for granted, but on upright I found myself having to learn a completely new set of skills in order to make the most basic pieces sound passable.

Once I’d started to get over the initial issue of handling the instrument, I found myself totally absorbed by the double bass. Although it’s a much more physically intensive instrument than the electric bass the effort is worth it – the sound and feel of the instrument make it rewarding to play, especially for certain styles of music (playing walking lines on an electric bass now feels wrong).

On a practical note, the following things made moving into the world of doubling easier:

Resources for the novice doubler

-There are some excellent instructional videos around. I found Andrew Anderson’s series on bow technique massively helpful:


– In terms of method books, I sought advice from Franz Simandl (UK link | US link) and Rufus Reid (UK | US)
– When it came to the actual gigs, my trusty Radial Bassbone saved my life on a nightly basis by letting me maintain control over the switching, output levels and EQ of both instruments.

Here’s how the setup looked (due to snow-based travel complications the double bass and the speaker cabinet were both hired for some of the gigs):

I’d like to leave you with a final thought- every time I think my arco playing is improving, I listen to Edgar Meyer and remind myself of the mountain I still have to climb. Sometimes it’s good to remind yourself that you suck.

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