Free Bass Transcriptions

Free Bass Transcriptions

Here come the dots

Tag: jamerson

How To Transcribe Bass Lines

As someone who runs a bass transcriptions site, you’d expect that figuring out bass lines by ear and notating them is something that comes naturally to me. It doesn’t. After…

As someone who runs a bass transcriptions site, you’d expect that figuring out bass lines by ear and notating them is something that comes naturally to me. It doesn’t. After over a decade of regularly transcribing everything from bass lines to vocal arrangements, the art of plucking sounds out of the air and turning them into notes on the page can still feel like an enormous challenge.

So, if I find transcription so hard, why do I keep going?

Transcription is a subject that’s very close to my heart and is something that I feel has produced the greatest improvements in my musicianship; having spent the first six years of my bass playing life using nothing but TAB, I found myself wanting to eventually become a professional musician but without any real aural or sight-reading ability; not a good place to start.

Regularly working out bass parts from recordings that I loved using my ears rather than reaching for the TAB helped me to get my hearing in shape without feeling like I was doing ear training exercises (something that we all know we should do, but love to avoid…) while writing everything down gave my sight-reading skills a much-needed boost.

Transcribing bass lines can be daunting when you’re first starting out. Being able to work out parts by ear from recordings and then write them down accurately can be a slow and painful process, but transcription is a skill that’s vital to becoming a successful working bass player; you can, of course, survive without the notation side of things, but if you can’t pick out a bass line by ear then you’re in deep trouble.

Luckily, there are some simple steps that you can follow to make transcribing anything easier. Through more than a decade of transcription trial and error (with a heavy emphasis on error) I’ve gradually figured out a workflow that makes the task as pain-free as possible.

Top Tips For Bass Transcription

Here’s half an hour of me breaking down my personal transcription method, explaining what I do, how I do it and why I do it. The video answers some of the most common questions that I get asked on a regular basis, including:

  • How will transcription improve my bass playing?
  • What’s the best way to train my ears?
  • Should I use software to slow things down?
  • What should I transcribe?
  • Which notation software is best for transcription?
  • What sort of headphones are best for transcription?

Links to everything that I mention in the video are below:

How Habits Happen: 7 Ways To Maintain New Behaviours

Functional Ear Trainer App: iOS Android

Hearing and Writing Music by Ron Gorow (UK | US)

Change The Way You Hear Music

Modern Reading in 4/4 Time by Louis Bellson (UK | US)

Franz Simandl’s New Method For Double Bass (UK | US)

Dotzauer Cello Etudes (UK | US)

Standing In The Shadows of Motown: The Life and Music of Legendary Bassist James Jamerson (UK | US)

Michael League Interview with Bass Lessons Melbourne (quote is at about 17:30 onwards)

The Complete Transcription Process by David Liebman

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Groove Of The Week #26: Jackie Wilson – ‘Higher and Higher’

This installment of Groove Of The Week features possibly the shortest, most repetitive and least varied bass groove to date – it’s also one of the most important. One bar….

This installment of Groove Of The Week features possibly the shortest, most repetitive and least varied bass groove to date – it’s also one of the most important.

One bar. Over and over. Minimal variations. No fills. No frills.

Boring, right?

Wrong.

Consistency is the number one trait that will get you hired time and time again (punctuality and above-average personal hygiene should also be high up in your ‘skill set’). What do I mean by consistency?

Playing a line in time at the same volume and with the same articulation for 4-5 minutes without ceasing (extend this to 25 minutes if you’re playing ‘Chameleon’ at a jam night).

Sometimes the simplest things are the hardest to do well. Put down your slap licks and your string crossing exercises and challenge yourself to play James Jamerson’s sublime D major groove without deviating in any way whatsoever from the original line.

Ok, there’s ONE variation in the video. Sue me.

Here are the dots. The sharp-eyed (and keen-eared) among you will recognise this as THE staple ‘Motown/soul major chord’ 1-5-6 lick heard on just about every soul tune ever; ‘Keep On Running’, ‘Respect’,’Love Really Hurts Without You’, ‘Faith’, ‘What’s Going On’ (octave displacement), ‘I Want You Back’ and ‘Rescue Me’ are just a few off the top of my head.

GOTW Higher and Higher

This is one of Jamerson’s most famous lines that doesn’t feature any of his much lauded chromaticism. In fact, it sounds like he’s on his best behaviour. If you don’t already, rush out this instant and get a copy of the ‘Standing In The Shadows Of Motown’ book which features note-for-note transcriptions of lots of JJ’s parts and interviews with lots of amazing players on how his playing influenced them.

As a geeky aside, ‘Higher and Higher’ was recorded in Chicago by Jamerson and the other Funk Brothers while they were moonlighting from Motown – they would often drive over from Detroit and do ‘undercover’ sessions to augment their pay from Berry Gordy’s label. Not bad for something knocked up on your day off. 

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