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Tag: Groove Of The Week

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 #40: Tower of Power – Maybe It’ll Rub Off

Francis ‘Rocco’ Prestia’s unshakeable semiquavers have been the foundation of Tower Of Power for almost 50 years (that’s an awful lot of notes…). Along with drummer David Garibaldi, Rocco has…

Francis ‘Rocco’ Prestia’s unshakeable semiquavers have been the foundation of Tower Of Power for almost 50 years (that’s an awful lot of notes…). Along with drummer David Garibaldi, Rocco has been a mainstay of funk’s most celebrated rhythm sections, providing the backbone to ToP’s signature grooves including ‘Soul Vaccination’, ‘What Is Hip?’, ‘Soul With A Capital ‘S” and ‘There’s Only So Much Oil In The Ground’.

I felt like it would be criminal to run a series of posts about groove without including at least one of Rocco’s lines, but I was determined not to go for the obvious choices. ‘Maybe It’ll Rub Off’ (from 1975’s Urban Renewal) revolves around an ear-catching unison riff which features plenty of Rocco’s famously tight 16th-note playing:

The bass line on ‘Maybe It’ll Rub Off’ requires a fair amount of technical control to execute with authority; semiquavers at 111bpm isn’t too horrific given that the ‘question and answer’ nature of the riff provides plenty of opportunities for your fingers to recover. On a nuts and bolts level, the notes fall into the classic minor pentatonic box pattern (albeit with a small position shift and some chromatic passing tones thrown in to add some colour). Getting from the extremely high register fill back to a low F in time requires some acrobatics unless your bass is blessed with a multitude of extra strings; if you’re the owner of a 4-string bass with 20 or 21 frets then you’ll have to skip this (or play the high notes using artificial harmonics, a la Gary Willis…). 

For those of you who are interested in finding out more about Rocco’s signature semiquaver style there’s a very informative (and relatively comical) instructional video by the man himself:

I seem to remember that the original VHS had a blooper reel included. Unfortunately, this seems to have been clipped from the YouTube upload. For shame.

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Groove Of The Week #37: Sly Stone – ‘I Get High On You’

What Were You Doing At 16? – The Humble Brag – Doing The Work   Cast your mind back to when you were 16. What were you doing? (musically, I…

What Were You Doing At 16? – The Humble Brag – Doing The Work

 

Cast your mind back to when you were 16. What were you doing? (musically, I mean…)

I was probably trying to learn Cliff Burton’s ‘Anaesthesia (Pulling Teeth)’ solo from some TABs that I’d found on Activebass.com (oh, how times change). 

I certainly wasn’t casually recording some unbearably funky picked bass with Sly Stone. But then again, I’m not Bobby Vega.

 

 

Here’s the transcription of teenage Bob’s groove on ‘I Get High On You’:

sly-stone-i-get-high-on-you

 

 

Sixteen years old. Just let that sink in.

(now is probably as good a time as any to do some practice, no?)

 

Doing It Properly (For Self-Preservation)

A couple of weeks ago I found myself depping with a function band who were playing at a charity event. I got an email in the week before the gig informing me that the guest of honour would be (Madness frontman) Graham ‘Suggs’ McPherson.

(non-UK readers: Madness were a popular ska band in the 1980s. Apparently, they hold the record for most time spent in the UK singles charts from 1980-86. Thanks, Wikipedia)

Three tracks to prepare, no rehearsal, no discussion with Mr Suggs about arrangements. I’ll confess now that I spent way more time on those 3 songs than I’ve ever done on learning a First Dance for a wedding gig – not because I’m a big fan of Madness or I was expecting Suggs to turn around and offer me a gig at the end of it, but because the music deserved my time and my respect. You get out what you put in, it seems.

Performing hit songs with the person that wrote them was definitely a nerve-wracking experience but also hugely rewarding.

Here’s how the gig looked:

Charts of the aforementioned Madness tunes will appear shortly.

And no, sunglasses indoors were not my choice. I’m not that unbearable. Yet.

 

Doing It Properly (For Self-Perfection)

Enough with the clanging already, back to reality.

Sometimes opportunities come up that are extremely time-consuming and have little or no financial reward but are deeply fulfilling on a musical level.

If you’ve spent enough time on this blog you’ll know I’m a massive Wayne Krantz fanboy, so it’ll come as no surprise that when I was offered the chance to work on a project involving his material I wanted to get it right.

Cue lots of saturated listening to the original recording and live bootlegs and lots of swearing trying to figure out what the hell Lincoln Goines was up to.

And lots of coffee.

I even wrote out the dots by hand to aid memorisation of the part. Here’s the first page of scribbling:

img_3636

 

A few days before the session Wayne actually released the score for this tune. Sure, it would’ve saved me lots of hours if I’d had his chart in the first place, but I would have missed out on the process.

Here’s how it turned out. Makes a change from playing Lionel Richie on a Saturday night, that’s for sure:

 

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Groove Of The Week #29: Michael Jackson – ‘Billie Jean’

Sounding Like a Synth, Part 2 The previous edition of Groove of the Week dealt with one of the many scenarios in which bass players might be called to emulate…

Sounding Like a Synth, Part 2

The previous edition of Groove of the Week dealt with one of the many scenarios in which bass players might be called to emulate a synth part. Here’s a dancefloor favourite from The King of Pop that was originally played on a Moog synth by Greg Phillingaines (Greg is also the man who played the monster bass part on Chaka Khan’s ‘Ain’t Nobody’):

 

GOTW - Billie Jean

The late, great Louis Johnson also played bass on Billie Jean. His part can be heard in the prechorus section, but it’s Greg’s groove that we’re concerned with replicating here.

Double Trouble: Dealing with 2 notes at once

Since the original synth part contains elements with 2 notes at once, a slightly different right hand approach is needed as traditional fingerstyle doesn’t quite cut it for double stops. Time to give your thumb a workout:

Using the thumb and fingers to pluck the strings is a highly versatile technique, but one that is seldom employed by many bassists. It will take some time to adjust to using your right hand in this way, but adopting this approach will make it far easier to incorporate double stops and other chordal ideas into your playing. Using palm muting with thumb and finger plucking further expands your tonal palette, offering articulation that isn’t possible using fingers alone.

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Groove Of The Week #25: Jocelyn Brown – ‘Somebody Else’s Guy’

The site has overgone a major (and long overdue) facelift over the past few weeks – thank you for being patient during the downtime. The goal is to roll out…

The site has overgone a major (and long overdue) facelift over the past few weeks – thank you for being patient during the downtime. The goal is to roll out lots of new content over the coming months including video lessons, instructional books and plenty of new bass transcriptions.

All of the original transcriptions and blog posts from the previous version of the site should still be intact – if you find that anything is missing, broken or just looks plain wrong then please shout at me.

I’m acutely aware that the Groove Of The Week series is woefully behind schedule, so let’s get back to it.

Groove Of The Week #25: Jocelyn Brown – ‘Somebody Else’s Guy’

A while ago we examined the groove on Bruno Mars’ ‘Treasure’, which featured frequent alternation between fingerstyle playing and popping. This ‘half-slap’ style of playing can be troublesome initially as it requires you to quickly change between two techniques that require your right hand to be at completely different angles.

Personally, I feel that it’s worth persevering with the ‘half-slap’ as it offers a (marginally) more subtle alternative to conventional slap bass playing and requires less EQ-twiddling to get it to work in a live environment.

GOTW - Somebody elses guy

In spite of lots of googling, I couldn’t find accurate credits for who actually played bass on the original. If anyone knows for sure then leave a comment below and I’ll do you a FREE TRANSCRIPTION of your choice*

 

 

 

*Within reason. No Rush, please (not because their stuff is difficult,  I just can’t STAND Geddy Lee). Ditto for Dream Theater.

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Groove Of The Week #24: Luther Vandross – ‘She’s a Super Lady’

You know that Luther Vandross song that has the great bassline by Marcus Miller on it? No, not that one. This one: ‘Never Too Much’ is one of the most…

You know that Luther Vandross song that has the great bassline by Marcus Miller on it?

No, not that one. This one:

‘Never Too Much’ is one of the most famous examples of bass deity Marcus Miller’s extensive session work, with heavily syncopated slap lines that jump out of the mix and demand our attention. But there’s another less famous Miller/Vandross collaboration that once again sees Marcus’ thumb in full flight, providing tight staccato slap grooves peppered with high register fills.

The verse groove of ‘She’s A Super Lady’ alternates between a sparse ascending figure (a contraction of the main chorus groove) and more active fills outlining E minor:

The flurry of notes half way through the verse is one of those fills that sounds harder than it actually is – pay close attention to the thumb/pop markings in the transcription and let your left hand do the bulk of the work. The real key to making fills like this work is having a strong thumb sound on the D string, which is a key component of Marcus’ sound and often overlooked.

A full transcription of ‘She’s A Super Lady’ can be downloaded HERE

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