Bass Transcription: The Mars Volta – ‘The Widow’

After making his mark on the 1980s shred scene by keeping up with guitar virtuoso Paul Gilbert in Racer X, John Alderete underwent something of a drastic career change, resurfacing as Juan Alderete de la Peña and making a name for himself as a fretless-wielding effects pedal guru (his collection reportedly stands at somewhere between 400 and 500 pedals).

Juan began handling bass duties for The Mars Volta following their successful 2003 debut De-Loused in the Comatorium (which happens to feature Flea on bass) and made his first recorded appearance with the band on 2004’s Frances the Mute. ‘The Widow’, a brooding, 3/4 ballad that presents the band in possibly their most commercially accessible form was the album’s lead single.

The Mars Volta – ‘The Widow’ bass transcription pdf

The bass playing on ‘The Widow’ shows Juan Alderete in a supportive, root-focused role, but he still manages to incorporate some melodic flourishes without stealing the limelight. Technically speaking, there’s nothing too daunting here, but those double stops should test your intonation skills if you’re taking the fretless route.

The Widow’s Notational Nuances

As those readers who play fretless will already know, the absence of frets affords a greater range of expression when it comes to fretting hand articulation. I’ve done my best to convey the subtleties of Juan’s approach in as much notational detail as possible, particularly when it comes to slides and other expressive techniques. The following examples have two very different sonic results:

Conventional Slide

This is a common articulation; two plucked notes connected by sliding with the fretting hand.

Legato Slide

In this case, only the first note is plucked. Listen to the track while following the transcription and pay close attention to the phrasing in bars 16-20, 42, and 50. These are all good examples of how Juan blends both types of slide to bring variety to the line.