Best Basslines to Transcribe and Analyze

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by ii7-V7, Dec 28, 2014.

  1. ii7-V7


    Aug 4, 2002
    Baltimore, MD
    I've come to accept that I haven't spent nearly enough time transcribing basslines. And, when I have done this I haven't really taken the time to analyze why the bass players made the choices that they made. However, my time is extremely limited. So, what (in your opinion) are going to be the most impactful basslines to transcribe and analyze? I'm looking for things that will teach me how to better approach a set of changes, create new basslines and new ideas. I'm mostly playing rock, blues, soul, and some funk.

    I find myself stuck either playing root, fifth, octave patterns or walking from chord to chord. I'd like to break out of that box, and pick up some new rythmic ideas. I'm hoping that this approach will help. Any input is appreciated.
  2. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    Duck Dunn and George Porter.
  3. You can't go wrong with Duck Dunn and George Porter. Transcribing the original recordings of songs you already play might be the most practical. If you're looking for something fun and challenging, I recommend either What Is Hip? or The Chicken. What Is Hip? is great for working on steady 16th notes. Playing it at full tempo takes lots of practice for most people. The Chicken is great because it's a relatively simple 16 bar blues pattern. What makes it interesting is Jaco's bass line including some great double stops. Also, drummers tend to love playing The Chicken.

    Transcribing forces you to consider each note in a way that you might miss if you weren't transcribing. For example, when Jaco goes to the IV7 chord in bars 5 and 6, he often plays a #4. I don't think I would have picked that out without transcribing it. I know lots of folks will say "Who cares?" and "Such minute dissection is silly." I can understand that. Personally, I like the challenge of such detailed listening. I learn something new practically every time I transcribe a song. Also, the process gets much easier with practice.
  4. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    For me the primary benefit of transcription has always been the increased rhythmic vocabulary I get.
    LeeNunn likes this.
  5. jallenbass

    jallenbass Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 17, 2005
    Bend, Oregon
    In my youth, learning to play Won't Get Fooled Again opened up my view of bass playing.
  6. jallenbass

    jallenbass Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 17, 2005
    Bend, Oregon
    IME it makes one a better listener which of course is essential to become an excellent musician.
    Jon Moody likes this.
  7. ii7-V7


    Aug 4, 2002
    Baltimore, MD
    I struggle with transcribing...even simple things. I'm ok at learning a bassline off of a recording (not great, but ok). But to write it out is super difficult for me. I can duplicate rhythms, even if they are fairly complicated. But I can't write them out.

    I've Just started working through Bellson's Modern Reading Texts hoping that this will help.
  8. Duplicating the rhythm is a great start. Try working on reading rhythms too. I agree with Mambo4 that transcribing increases rhythmic vocabulary.

    I'll give another plug for the software Transcribe!, not because it's the only software that helps analyze rhythms, but it's the one I use. Open an MP3 file with Transcribe and hit play. Listen for the one beat. Sometimes the two and four are even more obvious than the one. Then press the "m" key (for measure) on each one as you listen to the playback. Then go back and edit the measure markers to automatically divide each measure (usually four beats). The musical dynamics appear in the graphic ribbon. Fine tune the placement of the measure markers to align the beat markers with the graphic. Then highlight a beat (e.g., the equivalent of a quarter note) and loop just that beat. Is it a quarter note? Two eighth notes? Swing feel? Sixteenth notes? Triplets? Rests? Combination of the above? Zoom in so that you can both hear the rhythm and see it on the screen.

    Start with something easy. It gets easier with practice.
    Renaissance likes this.
  9. "Sympathy for the Devil" ,( The Rolling Stones ) One of my favourite bass lines and songs to play , transcribe it , I think that Keith Richards came up with the bass line for the song , not Bill Wyman their Bassist . ( I could be wrong ) its Kool anyways .
  10. If You Want Me To Stay - Sly Stone
    Just The Two Of Us - Bill Withers
    One Nation Under. A Groove - P Funk live @ Hollywood Bowl. Rodney Skeet Curtis bass.
    Georgia On My Mind - RayCharles or Maceo Parker Versions

    These have good changes and rhythms, but not too complex.

    I use Sibelius to write down snippets ( of transcriptions or original ideas) and use the instant playback to check the accuracy of my attempts at writing rhythms.

    Curious about the Transcribe software now...
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2015
  11. "I use Sibelius to write down snippets ( of transcriptions or original ideas) and use the instant playback to check the accuracy of my attempts at writing rhythms. Curious about the Transcribe software now..."

    And I'm curious about Sibelius for notation. I just write the notes down in pencil on blank music paper. I imagine that Sibelius looks much nicer than my pencil work. The playback feature on Sibelius sounds interesting too. My guess is that Sibelius would be really valuable if others were trying to read my notation.

    There are lots of posts here on TalkBass comparing various software programs for looping and slowing down. The three I see the most are Audacity, Amazing Slow Downer, and Transcribe. What I like about Transcribe is being able to create file that shows the layout of the entire song in terms of sections, measures, and beats. I like the way Transcribe fills in beats automatically based on the position of the measure marker and the beats per measure. Fine tuning the position of the measure marker automatically adjusts the positions of the beat markers. That and the graphics make analyzing rhythms easier. You have to insert the measure markers manually, but it's easy. Once you do, you can immediately and easily loop any section, measure, or beat. Transcribe can try to guess the notes and chords, but that's not always successful with complicated harmonic structures (e.g., jazz). I guess Transcribe takes a little more investment in understanding the software, but it's worth it to me.
  12. JamPlay


    Aug 9, 2012
    JamPlay Berklee
    Try thinking of bass lines as shapes. This will aid in you surveying how certain kinds of lines or shapes contribute to the music. Certain lines appeal to you more than others. Active surveying, either by ear training, transcribing, reading, will all influence you. You'll find that bass players have patterns that were their "go to" shapes. For instance, James Jameeson the Motown session player, reveared by just about everyone, often used chromatic approaches to the root. Sometimes the chromatic approach would descend into the root. Take a C 7 to F 7 change. Jamerson might play on 16th notes on beat 4 connecting the chords C (open) E G Gb to the root F of the F7... Then you play it at a jam. Next you play it on a song during a recording session. Now it becomes part of your lexicon.. So again, think of bass lines as shapes. It will help you codify your thoughts... and learn lots of hip ideas.
  13. Lownote38


    Aug 8, 2013
    Nashville, TN
    Write out the bass lines to songs you like, or find interesting. Then, go back and figure out the chords being played, and how the bass line you wrote out relates to them. That way, you'll know why the bass player played what he/she did.
  14. Get Guitar Pro. You can use it as tablature software but if you wanna practice writing stuff out you can just turn off the tab. It'll play back whatever you write so you'll know immediately if it's wrong. For tunes I'd recommend Rush songs. It's a little difficult but the bass is usually right out front so you don't have to do any "ear digging" to get what you're looking for. RHCP stuff is good for that too, plus it's all minor pentatonic (for the most part) so you won't have to do too much searching.
  15. Start by transcribing songs you already know. Like any skill, transcribing needs to be developed. Starting with material you aren't familiar with will make it hard on a "beginner". If you're like me, you'll also be amazed at how many little nuances you've been missing!

    I also use Transcribe! and MuseScore (free notation program). The first thing I do is mark the structure of the song. As LeeNunn wrote above, use Transcribe! to mark each section and measure, then edit to (automatically) mark each beat. Next identify each section (intro, verse, chorus, etc.). Then identify the chords (I use a keyboard) - this is where marking each section comes in handy since each verse and chorus are (probably) the same. By identifying the chord structure first you make it easier to pick out the individual notes later. By the time you've done all of this you've listened to the song pretty intently several times and probably already have a good idea of the bass line. Now I pull out the bass to play the part. This helps me get a feel for the individual notes and rhythm. Next write down what you're playing! Lastly, compare what you've written to what's on the recording and make edits as necessary. Since you now have the chords, song structure and bass line written out in front of you - analyze to your heart's content!

    A couple tips that help me:

    Learn to use Transcribe! (or whatever program you choose) and the tools it has to offer. Loop sections, slow down the tempo, EQ, raising the pitch, (an octave will really bring a bass line out), etc.

    Sometimes using the software to give a "visual" helps me with rhythmic patterns. I also use MuseScore to write out and test my rhythms.

    There are a lot of sites online that have transcriptions you can download. Download a few and "work" them yourself to see if you get the same thing or find mistakes (verify you're working the same recording!). I'm also working in the SITSOM book.

    Keep at it! The next one is always easier and I always learn something new.

    I think transcribing songs has probably done more to help my playing than anything else.
    LeeNunn likes this.
  16. +1
  17. Clef_de_fa

    Clef_de_fa Guest

    Dec 25, 2011
    Funny my problem is the opposite as I can right music and read it very well but I have a hard time Learning music from a CD if I don't have at least the chords but I did a few covers that just as I heard the song I knew what was played.

    Right now I'm working on this :

    And I managed to get most of the melody down and written, I may tackle the arpeggio