Free Bass Transcriptions

Free Bass Transcriptions

Here come the dots

Tag: Slap Bass

Groove Of The Week #45: Michael Jackson – ‘Get On The Floor’

Michael After Motown Michael Jackson’s 1979 masterpiece Off The Wall proved to be a pivotal point in the King of Pop’s remarkable career. Although it was 21-year old MJ’s 19th…

Michael After Motown

Michael Jackson’s 1979 masterpiece Off The Wall proved to be a pivotal point in the King of Pop’s remarkable career. Although it was 21-year old MJ’s 19th album and 5th record as a solo artist, the record was hugely significant in that it marked Michael’s departure from Motown records and the beginning of a working relationship with Quincy Jones which would last for over 30 years and result in some of the most iconic pop records ever produced.

What makes Off The Wall an absolutely essential album for bass players is Louis ‘Thunderthumbs’ Johnson commanding, propulsive sense of groove that anchors 9 of the 10 tracks (Bobby Watson of Rufus provided bass for ‘Rock With You’, every other track is LJ). Louis’ funk sensibilities and instinct for crafting grooving, hummable bass lines mean that all of the uptempo tracks on the album are filled to the brim with bass hooks; ‘Get On The Floor’ is no exception.

We’ve already heard from Louis Johnson in the Groove Of The Week series, examining his fingerstyle funk groove on Michael McDonald’s ‘I Keep Forgettin’ (Every Time You’re Near)’, but it wouldn’t be fair to let his contributions to the world of slap bass go unrecognised. ‘Get On The Floor’ showcases Louis’ consummate thumb work, opening with a rapid-fire line that requires a high level of right hand control to execute cleanly at tempo:

 

The key to nailing this groove is getting a consistent slap tone on the D string, which can take some time and effort – the normal convention is to allocate the thumb to the E and A strings and pop everything on the D and G strings, but Louis Johnson and other slap champions including Marcus Miller rely heavily on the thumb to articulate notes on every string and produce lines that would be unplayable with popped notes. Here’s how the intro groove – which also serves as the chorus part – looks in notation:

While writing out the dots for the main groove I got carried away and ended up writing the whole tune out, note for note; the entire tune is a masterclass in how to play plenty of notes without taking anything away from the vocal and the verse line will present a challenge to even the most hardened slap veterans out there.

Michael Jackson – ‘Get On The Floor’ full bass transcription

More of LJ and MJ on the way soon – this album lives in my glovebox and is always the right thing to listen to when driving to or from a gig.

No Comments on Groove Of The Week #45: Michael Jackson – ‘Get On The Floor’

Groove of The Week #31: Patrice Rushen – ‘Forget Me Nots’

‘Functional’ slap bass – You’ll Never Be Ready – (No More) Longing To Be Loose ‘Ready’ Freddie Washington is certainly no slouch when it comes to the bass. He’s recorded…

‘Functional’ slap bass – You’ll Never Be Ready – (No More) Longing To Be Loose

‘Ready’ Freddie Washington is certainly no slouch when it comes to the bass. He’s recorded with artists such as… toured with the notoriously demanding Steely Dan, and when it was time for him to contribute to the Standing In The Shadows Of Motown project he nailed Jamerson’s syncopated chromatic wizardry on The Supreme’s ‘I’m Gonna Make You Love Me’ first take with no preparation. ‘Ready’ indeed.

 

His most famous contribution to the canon of classic bass grooves is his slapped sub-hook on Patrice Rushen’s ‘Forget Me Nots’:

Here’s what it looks like on paper (or, pixels):
GOTW Forget Me Nots

As with the last edition of Groove Of The Week (Pleasure’s ‘Glide’), the key to this (and many other slap lines) is developing a consistently strong thumb sound on the D string. How to go about this? I found the imaginatively titled ‘Slap It‘ had some useful exercises for refining thumb technique (very boring, but good for focusing on the fundamentals). As an aside, I vehemently disagree with the author’s preference for ‘thumb down’ slapping as it makes absolutely no sense from a biomechanical point of view and puts your fingers, hand and wrist in a terrible position for popping the strings.

 

And yes, I know that Flea gets away with it. And Fieldy. And lots of people on YouTube. Good luck to them. 

‘Forget Me Nots’ and the other thumb-based grooves in this series represent what I’d term ‘functional’ slap bass and give you an idea of the amount of slap capability that is required to survive as a working bass player – unless you’re part of a Level 42 tribute act.

 
Ready For Anything?

 

More on being ‘ready’. Or, more accurately, not being ready). I recently found myself recording some fairly demanding music (well, I found it fairly demanding) as part of a PhD project to analyse the communication between musicians in an improvisational setting. A future best-seller, I’m sure. Here’s how it looked:

 

This entailed being filmed performing a variety of fusion tunes (including selections by Wayne Krantz and Oz Noy) without a great deal of rehearsal. As with every piece of work that I take on, I tried to do my homework as best I could, devoting whatever spare time that I had to working on the material.

 

When it came to the session, I had a number of musical ideas that I’d worked into my playing and wanted to commit to tape (or Pro Tools, at least).

 

I played approximately 10% of what I wanted to. Why? Because you can’t expect to cram in new vocabulary and have it magically ‘pop out’ on demand in a performance situation. It takes a significant amount of time for new ideas to become fully internalised and appear outside of the practice room without sounding forced.

 

Knowledge and the application of that knowledge are worlds apart.

 

In summary, no amount of short-term prep work will ever make you (or I) ready for the gig. The goalposts are always moving, and when you feel like you’ve ‘got it down’ then something new will appear that happens to be out of your reach.

 

I once studied with someone who’d spent some time with Herbie Hancock. My favourite nugget of second-hand wisdom from Mr. H is this:

 

“You never get good.”

 

Quite.

 

Wayne’s World

On a lighter note, the aforementioned Wayne Krantz recently made the guitar and bass scores from Long To Be Loose, one of my favourite albums, available for free download. You can also find the superb Greenwich Mean album (featuring Tim Lefebvre and Will Lee on bass duties) for free on the same site.

 

I was relieved to find that the transcriptions that I had made for the session were almost entirely accurate, but the thing that surprised me most was just how much of the music was composed rather than improvised considering how spontaneous the record sounds.

 

You can see what Lincoln Goines was up against here

 

No Comments on Groove of The Week #31: Patrice Rushen – ‘Forget Me Nots’

Groove of The Week #30: Pleasure – ‘Glide’

Playing Catchup – Can’t Slap, Won’t Slap – Trade Show Fatigue   Checking the Instagram post date of this video tells me that I’m a woeful 9 months behind on…

Playing Catchup – Can’t Slap, Won’t Slap – Trade Show Fatigue

 

Checking the Instagram post date of this video tells me that I’m a woeful 9 months behind on this series. Whoops. The original intention was for Groove Of The Week was to be wrapped up at the end of 2015, but it’s already been 18 months.

To paraphrase John Lennon, life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.

This time we’re dealing with Nate Philips’ wonderful slap part on Pleasure’s pop-fusion hit ‘Glide’. For me this is old-school slap at its finest, in terms of both tone and technique. The alternation between the sparse, syncopated tenths and the slapped fills allows the bass part to maintain a level of interest for both player and listener without becoming too busy:

 

 

As far as performance goes, I prefer to use the my thumb and middle finger to pluck the tenths (yes, there’s one ninth in there to avoid resorting to spelling B as Cb). When it comes to the slap, only the G string notes are popped, everything else is slapped with the thumb.

Here are the dots:

GOTW - Glide

In my opinion, the secret to a good, consistent slap sound is largely dependent on getting a strong tone from slapping the D string – many bassists tend to divide the bass in half and never use their thumbs past the A string, when the ‘secret’ to executing many lines evenly comes from using the thumb across a broader range of the bass.

This is near the top end of my slap technique threshold, and it have no shame in admitting that. I grew up in the pre-YouTube era on a strict diet of Hot Licks VHS tapes and spent (wasted) countless hours trying to turn myself into this guy:

s-l1000

 

How much of  it have I used on gigs? Very little. Certainly none of the flamenco slap.

Or the tapping. Don’t even get me started on tapping.

But I do still have a certain ‘residual’ level of thumb technique that allows me to survive any slap bass encounters unscathed without having to sacrifice vital practice time on a style of playing that I have grown to detest.

In fact, my contempt for slap bass has got to the point where I try to never slap on a gig unless it’s unavoidable. In fact, the only such situation is if I’m playing a function and someone calls Luther Vandross’ ‘Never Too Much’- the line just doesn’t sit well when played fingerstyle.

The overwhelming popularity of slap amongst bass players is the number one reason why I avoid any sort of trade show or bass conventions of any kind. Every time I attempt to try a piece of gear I’m aurally assaulted by a gentleman* who wants everyone in the room to hear how fast he can play Level 42’s back catalogue. When multiple offences occur simultaneously it’s much like an explosion in a typewriter factory. Lots of technique, very little music.

*The offenders are almost always male, often sporting double denim and a mullet.

Room full of basses? Heaven. Room full of bass players? Purgatory.

Here endeth the sermon.

1 Comment on Groove of The Week #30: Pleasure – ‘Glide’

Groove Of The Week #18: Bruno Mars, backwards octaves and the ‘half-slap’ groove

On first listening, the main groove on ‘Treasure’ sounds as if it’s slapped throughout, but closer inspection reveals that it falls into the less common category of what I’d term…

On first listening, the main groove on ‘Treasure’ sounds as if it’s slapped throughout, but closer inspection reveals that it falls into the less common category of what I’d term ‘half-slap’, where the lower notes are played fingerstyle and any octaves are popped:

Bruno Mars - Treasure copy

The constant transition between fingerstyle and slap techniques can feel awkward at first, as the angle of the wrist needs to change in order to cleanly execute either technique. As with anything new, start slowly and let the technique come to you through practice rather than trying to force the tempo up before you’re ready.

Another great example of ‘half-slap’ is the main groove from Jocelyn Brown’s ‘Somebody Else’s Guy’, which requires similar alternation between fingerstyle and slap playing:

Thinking Outside The Box

It’s hard to see on the video, but the sharp-eyed amongst you will have noticed that I play the first octave ‘backwards’, starting on the little finger and reaching across all 4 strings to reach the high Ab with the index finger. While this isn’t an everyday occurrence, certain lines sit better with this approach, as it reduces the amount of left hand position shifting and makes the part easier to execute at tempo (for me, at least).

All bass players are guilty of falling into pattern-based thinking from time to time, relying on familiar shapes rather than concentrating on the actual notes being played. When we’re required to play an octave, our muscle memory defaults to the standard ‘box’ pattern that works 90% of the time – in this instance it’s worth thinking ‘outside the box’ in order to achieve the best result for the music, not just the bass player.

1 Comment on Groove Of The Week #18: Bruno Mars, backwards octaves and the ‘half-slap’ groove

Type on the field below and hit Enter/Return to search