Free Bass Transcriptions

Free Bass Transcriptions

Here come the dots

Tag: sight reading

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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Unorthodox Instructionals, Part 3: Getting Even With Drummers

Louis Bellson’s ‘Modern Reading in 4/4 Time’ is a classic educational text for drummers. I was introduced to it by one of my tutors during my first term of music…

Louis Bellson’s ‘Modern Reading in 4/4 Time’ is a classic educational text for drummers. I was introduced to it by one of my tutors during my first term of music college as an accompaniment to the sight reading classes I was taking; prior to starting my music degree I’d grown up almost exclusively on TAB and had never seriously read notation on the bass – needless to say it was a rude awakening…

This book helped me to dramatically improve my reading skills in a short amount of time, and I still dip into it if I’ve been on a reading gig and felt rhythmically rusty.


How Will It Benefit My Playing?


BENEFIT #1: Your sight reading skills will be transformed. 


Less Sight Reading Stress

This might sound obvious, but rhythm is (in my opinion) the trickiest aspect of reading notation. Variations in pitch have relatively limited possibilities, especially as most bass lines operate within the range of an octave and we’re generally only playing one note at a time. In contrast, there is much greater scope for rhythmic variation, and bass players have to be comfortable with navigating a broad spectrum of note values. Take a look at these examples:

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Example 1 – Jamiroquai ‘Runaway’

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Example 2 – Me’shell Ndegeocello ‘Bittersweet’

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Example 3 – Everything Everything ‘Cough Cough’


Increasing your familiarity with each type of rhythmic possibility (e.g. syncopated quavers, triplets, dotted and tied notes, semiquavers) allows you to deal with complicated written phrases much more easily, as you instinctively know what each rhythmic ‘syllable’ sounds like. This knowledge allows you to ‘pre-hear’ a line that you’re reading before your fingers get to the notes.

BENEFIT #2: Mastering syncopation and subdivisions will improve your groove.


A Stronger Internal Clock

One of the ways that I help students to develop their sense of time is through internal clock exercises, which use changing subdivisions to help solidify each player’s rhythmic ability.

This is the first one:


Nearly everyone struggles with this, as it’s easy to fall into the trap of speeding up or slowing down when changing between subdivisions. In order to master this exercise, it’s vital to have a firm grasp on each individual subdivision before attempting to transition between them. Bellson’s book provides plenty of practice with each subdivision before combining them, covering every conceivable permutation of each rhythmic concept before introducing new material.

BENEFIT #3: Your ability to process complex rhythmic ideas will improve dramatically


A Broader Rhythmic Vocabulary

Once you’re confident with reading rhythmically complex ideas then these concepts will filter through into your ‘everyday’ bass playing, both in composition and improvisation. Becoming familiar with a range of rhythmic possibilities on paper also improves your ability to hear and reproduce those ideas when playing with other musicians.


BENEFIT #4: Improving your rhythm reading will make transcribing rhythms much easier. Your ability to write music is heavily dependent on your reading ability. 


More Accurate Transcriptions

The ability to hear a rhythmic phrase and visualise how it looks on paper is an essential part of the transcription process, and many bass parts have limited melodic content but are rhythmically complex. My basic training with Bellson allows me to quickly and accurately notate rhythmic information, which is a lifesaver when I have to transcribe a lot of tunes for a gig in a short amount of time.

Do you have a favourite instructional book? Tell me about it!

I’m always interested to hear about different methods that have helped people develop musically. If there’s a book that you love and feel deserves a wider audience then let me know by commenting on this post.

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