Bruno Mars has made one hell of a career from banking on the fact that his target demographic is way too young to have heard of The Gap Band, Zapp & Roger (tunes like ‘More Bounce To The Ounce’ and ‘Dance Floor’ might seem familiar), The Crown Heights Affair, Slave, Cameo or The Time. It’s easy to say that ripping off 80s synth-funk elements and repackaging them for the Melodyne generation isn’t a legitimate art form but if it gets people going back to the source, then I’m all for it.

Bruno Mars – ’24K Magic’ bass transcription PDF

With ’24K Magic’, Bruno Mars gives us a proper synth bass hook to get our teeth into. Given that it’s a modern pop production, the instrumentation is fairly minimal, with the bass line providing most of the harmonic interest. The main hook, which provides the foundation for the verse and chorus sections, sits firmly in F minor and employs the classic ‘question and answer’ composition technique to balance repetition with variation:


The synth bass on the recording has a thick tone with plenty of square wave to it and makes liberal use of slides, slurs and vibrato throughout the part. Regular readers will be aware that I will (ab)use any opportunity to use an octave pedal, and this is no exception – although you can play it on a 5-string (or a detuned 4-string), my preference is to use an octave pedal and play everything an octave above what’s notated in the transcription.

Some aspects of the track’s production made this one difficult to transcribe: I still can’t make up my mind about the prechorus section, as it’s very hard to separate out the attack on the synth bass from the kick drum, which occupies a lot of space on the track. I’ve also made one deliberate mistake in this section: the two 16th notes at the end of bars 30 and 54 are notated an octave lower than played on the track to make life easier.