‘Ain’t It Fun’ was Paramore’s fourth final single from the band’s fourth album (2013’s Paramore) that showcased their musical diversity and also landed them their best Billboard chart performance. Produced by Justin Meldal-Johnson, best known as Beck’s bassist and musical director, the song also features some prominent and intricate bass playing from Jeremy Davis.
Although they started out as a guitar-led rock band aimed squarely at the teen market, Paramore have grown into something altogether different with each successive album. ‘Ain’t It Fun’ has a strong soul/R’n’B influence evident in the swing 16th-note feel and the inclusion of a six-piece Gospel choir.
You’ll notice immediately that the transcription is littered with low C#s, which fall outside the range of a standard-tuned 4-string bass. On the recording, it sounds like a detuned 4-string rather than a 5-string; if you listen closely to the track you’ll hear how seamless the transition between notes is, which suggests an open C# string. It should be noted that I’m not usually a fan of detuning, as it makes reading standard notation that much more difficult; I’d rather dig out the 5-string and dust off that B string.
‘Ain’t It Fun’ Performance Notes
Verse: The main groove here is built primarily on staccato eight notes playing the root of each chord; having some separation between the notes helps to give the line more ‘bounce’ and a sense of urgency compared to regular eighths. Getting the staccato notes consistent will require some precise movements from the fretting hand; experiment with both fretted and open As here to see which sounds and feels better to you.
Prechorus: The most stiking feature of this section are the fills at bars 16 and 20. These both use notes from the C# minor pentatonic scale (or, if you prefer, the E major pentatonic) and feature some neat articulation (slides, hammer-ons, and pull-offs) that gives the fills some extra interest.
Breakdown: Bass takes centre stage here, alternating between driving, staccato eighth notes and melodic fills. The tremolo symbol at bar 80 is the best way I could find to convey that Jeremy is sliding down the string while plucking constant 16th-note triplets; the rhythm is far more important than the pitches here.
Final Chorus/Outro: The original chorus part is revisited and embellished as the song finishes, with more frequent fills – bars 108, 111, and 115 took me some time to get my fingers around as they’re not sequences that I would play if I had to improvise a fill; this might be good material to break you out of yor comfort zone!