New (Old) Stuff

I’ve recently been going over some of the older transcriptions in the archive to see if there’s anything that my ears missed when I first started writing things out in 2007. I’d hoped that in the last 8 years my transcription skills might have improved slightly, and I was strangely relieved to find plenty of mistakes to rectify…

1. ‘(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay’ – Otis Redding

On closer listening I realised that not all of Duck Dunn’s approach note lines during the verses are the same, and he likes to play around with the note lengths at the end of phrases.

I made a play along video for this but Warner Music Group won’t allow it to be viewed on YouTube due to copyright restictions. Oh well.

2. ‘I Keep Forgettin’ (Every Time You’re Near)’ – Michael McDonald

Sharp-eared subscriber Peter Weil got in touch to let me know that I’d missed some of the finer details of the (late) great Louis Johnson’s line. I found this one particularly tricky to accurately catch all of the subtle variations, so many thanks to Peter for pointing out the missing pieces!

YouTube Play Along:

3. ‘Runaway’ – Jamiroquai

Having recently covered this in ‘Groove Of The Week’ I thought it could do with a tidy-up. The main improvement has been notating more of Paul Turner’s fills during the second chorus.

‘Behind The Scenes’ In The Studio, Circa 2012

While sorting through my ancient transcriptions I found some footage shot by a producer from a studio session I did for Jamie Abbott back in 2012. The video shows us tracking an acoustic version of Jamie’s song ‘Light Love’ – my trusty P-bass was strung with nylon tapewounds at this point. All the harmonic stuff comes from too much time listening to Jaco on Joni Mitchell’s ‘Coyote’, apologies for the bass faces.

Some new (new) transcriptions are on the way, honest.

The Luther Vandross groove you SHOULD have been playing all these years: GOTW #24

You know that Luther Vandross song that has the great bassline by Marcus Miller on it?

No, not that one. This one:

‘Never Too Much’ is one of the most famous examples of bass deity Marcus Miller’s extensive session work, with heavily syncopated slap lines that jump out of the mix and demand our attention. But there’s another less famous Miller/Vandross collaboration that once again sees Marcus’ thumb in full flight, providing tight staccato slap grooves peppered with high register fills.

The verse groove of ‘She’s A Super Lady’ alternates between a sparse ascending figure (a contraction of the main chorus groove) and more active fills outlining E minor:

The flurry of notes half way through the verse is one of those fills that sounds harder than it actually is – pay close attention to the thumb/pop markings in the transcription and let your left hand do the bulk of the work. The real key to making fills like this work is having a strong thumb sound on the D string,which is a key component of Marcus’ sound and often overlooked.

A full transcription of ‘She’s A Super Lady’ can be downloaded HERE

Groove Of The Week #22 & #23: ‘Borrowing’ From The Best, Understanding Tradition and ‘Bass Player Maths’

It seems like there’s been a spate of cases in recent months concerning pop artists being accused of plagiarising existing songs:

The cliché goes that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but when does being influenced by an artist become ripping them off? And, more importantly, what does this have to do with this series of blog posts on bass grooves?

Take a listen to these two grooves – ‘Runaway’ by Jamiroquai and ‘Running Away’ by Roy Ayers:

Sound similar? I certainly think so. If the titles weren’t enough of a giveaway both lines sit at similar tempos and outline their first chord by using root – 10th – descending scale line:

Roy Ayers - Running Away copy

'Runaway' Main Groove

‘Runaway’ Main Groove

A full transcription of ‘Runaway’ is available here

So, it’s pretty clear that Paul Turner & co had been listening to a lot of 70s acid jazz, and this should come as no surprise to any of us. Just as nutritionists will tell us that you are what you eat, for musicians it’s a case of you are what you listen to (and what you practise).

If you’ve grown up listening to Herbie Hancock, Lonnie Liston Smith, Roy Ayers and other similar artists then it’s no wonder that the music that you write sounds a certain way – what continues to amaze me is that many of the people that I teach have little or no awareness of ‘tradition’ (understanding who inspired the players that inspire them) and don’t make the connection between what they put in (listening and practise) and what they get out (their playing).

I’ll hold up my hand and admit to being ignorant of many musical things and having wasted lots of time ‘barking up the wrong tree’ in the practice room, but I DO make a concerted effort to understand where the music that means the most to me has come from. This act of delving deeper into the history of the music I love helps to broaden my horizons and provides me with a context in which to view all of the players that inspire me.

What do I mean by all of this? Simply put, you can’t know for certain if you’re being original if you don’t know what came before you. Having a deep knowledge of bass playing ‘traditions’ can help you to identify which traits in your own playing are stolen from external sources and highlight any areas of originality.

Here’s some food for thought which also doubles as a good exercise for anyone who’s asked “How Do I Sound?” or “How Do I Want To Sound?”. Think of it as ‘Bass Player Maths’:

  • I find it hard to hear Me’Shell N’degeocello without simultaneously hearing Paul Jackson and Jaco Pastorius
  • Listen to Laurence Cottle, then some Pat Metheny (preferably with Michael Brecker). Now listen to Janek Gwizdala. See what I’m getting at?
  • Two seemingly opposite influences can produce great results: combine James Jamerson’s chromaticism with Jack Cassidy’s tone and you’re on the way to understanding how Anthony Jackson arrived at some of his concepts.

So go forth and rejoice in becoming a total geek about the music and the bassists that inspire you – I’m willing to bet that your own personal detective work gives you inspiration and insight into what has gone before you and what lies ahead for you.

Updated ‘Graceland’ Transcription + Play Along

Bakithi Kumalo’s propulsive part on Paul Simon’s ‘Graceland’ is one of the most popular transcriptions in the archive. I did the original transcription some years ago, and as I was recording the play along video I noticed a few areas that could be improved upon to help convey some of the nuances that are vitally important to making the groove sit correctly.

The improved transcription can be found here:


One of the main changes concerns the ghost notes that feature through out the verse sections – I feel that they work best using the open E string throughout, using horizontal position shifting when the harmony changes. The staccato markings (indicated by a dot above the note head) are achieved by left hand muting – again, this is a small detail that helps to give Bakithi’s line its signature ‘bounce’. The play along video shows how I’m using my fretting hand to regulate the note lengths throughout the track:

And yes, I’m aware that I really should have played a fretless on this. Regular readers might have already seen this post on my fretless history and my reasons for not owning one…

Late To The Party… Youtube Play Alongs and Lessons

As promised some years ago, I’m FINALLY getting round to going back through the transcription archive on the site and making corrections – thanks to those sharp-eared subscribers who’ve been kind enough to point out some glaring errors in some of my charts!

I’m also in the process of finishing off a backlog of half-finished transcriptions (my Sibelius folder has around 600 unfinished files in it, so be patient!) which will be posted over the coming months.

Last but not least I’ve finally hit the red button on my camera and started making Youtube videos – these will include lessons, play alongs of transcriptions and footage from gigs and studio work. If there’s anything specific that you’d like to see included in these videos then let me know by commenting on this post.

I’ll be adding play alongs of the 10 most popular transcriptions on the site to help clarify fingerings and position shifts. First up is Jerry Jemmott’s part on Aretha Franklin’s ‘I Say A Little Prayer’:

Groove Of The Week #21: Maxwell – ‘Ascension (Don’t Ever Wonder)’

This edition of Groove Of The Week focuses on the power of simplicity. The bassline that anchors Maxwell’s smooth soul ballad ‘Ascension (Don’t Ever Wonder)’ contains only 5 different pitches and is largely played on a single string, yet it still provides the song with a powerful hook.

Jonathan Maron has already been featured in the Groove Of The Week series, but his smooth groove on ‘Ascension’ stands in stark contrast to his busy 16th note line that propels Groove Collective’s ‘Everything Is Changing’:

GOTW Ascension Don t Ever Wonder copy

Playing the line on a single string rather than staying in one position keeps things sounding even, as we don’t encounter the tonal change that occurs when changing between strings. As always, pay close attention to the grace notes and staccato markings in the transcription as these will help to keep the line smooth and swinging.

Groove Of The Week #20: McFadden & Whitehead – ‘Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now’

Inspiration often strikes in the strangest of places. Earlier this year I had a rare Saturday night off from gigging and was at a friend’s wedding reception when I heard ‘Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now’ for the first time in years. Jimmy Williams’ slick groove has to be one of the smoothest basslines in the history of disco:

GOTW Ain t No Stoppin Us Now copy