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

New Transcription: Everything Everything – ‘Cough Cough’

‘Cough Cough’ is one of the only songs that I’ve heard on the radio over the past year that has really grabbed my attention – I transcribed this a few months ago but have only just got round to posting it.

There’s some great rhythm section interaction at the section that starts at 1:00 into the track, with some nice syncopation and some interesting harmony that you don’t often hear in mainstream pop/rock stuff.

Transcription here: Everything Everything – Cough Cough


Rhythmic Displacement: Meshuggah’s ‘Do Not Look Down’

I have a confession to make. Although I have a deep appreciation of all things musical there’s one genre that I always come back to… metal. Proper metal. Played by angry men with pointy guitars and beards. I was raised on classic rock (Led Zep, Sabbath, Deep Purple etc) and from there I spent my teens exploring the heavier end of the musical spectrum – I went through thrash metal (early Metallica/Megadeth), briefly delved into death metal (Carcass, Opeth, Children of Bodom) and even a had dubious metalcore phase before finding a handful of bands that made the sort of noise that really appealed to me…

One of those bands is Meshuggah.

This track caught my attention because it clearly highlights one of the band’s trademark writing techniques. Whilst the majority of Meshuggah’s compositions sound as if they’re in odd time signatures the vast majority are in 4/4 – it just seems that the guitars have a healthy disregard for bar lines…

The intro of ‘Do Not Look Down’ comprises of a unison guitar/bass figure that lasts for 17 quavers (or their equivalent) before repeating. When played over a drum part that in 4/4 this creates a shifting rhythmic effect where the accent at the start of the figure emphasises a different point in the bar each time it repeats.

The accent first falls on beat 1, then the ‘and’ of 1, then beat 2 etc. After 7 cycles we’re back to starting on beat 1 again. This could also be written as alternating bars of 4/4 and 9/8, but what we hear is the effect of two different time signatures being played at the same time (i.e. polymetric playing)

The main purpose of this post is to highlight the concept of using polymetric devices to add a new dimension to compositions. This idea could easily be adapted to create basslines that use odd groupings of quavers (e.g. 5, 7 or 9) to create rhythmic tension when played over a drum part in 4/4.

Greetings & Grooves

So I’ve been using this blog for about 6 months as a means of hosting my bass transcriptions and some odd bits of info, but not really getting into the whole blogging thing. So, as the rest of cyberspace is Twittering away to each other I’m finally moving onto (hopefully) regular blogging – at this rate you can expect to hear my first podcast by about 2015…

The aim of this blog is to share musical insights, experiences and observations. Hopefully I’ll get at least one update a week in with a new transcription for people to feast their eyes, ears and fingers on.

This week’s transcription is of Me’Shell Ndegeocello’s ‘Shoot’n Up and Gett’n High’ from the album Plantation Lullabies. I’ve been a huge fan of Me’Shell’s playing (and writing, and producing…) ever since I heard her groove on Joshua Redman’s track Greasy G and have recently started making an effort to transcribe and absorb as much of her playing as possible.

Me'Shell Ndegeocello - Shoot'n and Gett'n High p1

Me'Shell Ndegeocello - Shoot'n and Gett'n High p1

Me'Shell Ndegeocello - Shoot'n and Gett'n High p2

Me'Shell Ndegeocello - Shoot'n and Gett'n High p2

The intro and chorus parts are played on a synth, but it’s possible to emulate the tone/phrasing on an electric bass with a little bit of experimentation. Other than that, it’s all technically straightforward – the magic comes from getting it to feel as good as Me’Shell does…

until next time,