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ska questions

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by tigersauce, May 23, 2003.

  1. tigersauce


    May 23, 2003
    I am trying to put together a ska band but I have no real idea about what I should work on in order to get into the "ska groove". I've been playing bass for quit a few years, mostly in metal bands so ska is new to me. I mean I really dig the music and want to do something different. Thanks
  2. What kind of ska sound are you trying to get? The sounds of early ska bands like The Specials are fairly different than the "third wave" ska bands of today (ex. Voodoo Glow Skulls, Mustard Plug). Then there's punk-ska, which falls into the third wave category that most people seem to think of when they think of "ska." (ex. DaVEPe listed some punk-ska bands). You might want to try looking up more "pure ska" bands as well as listen to the punk-ska ones. Also listen to older "second wave" ska bands like The Specials and see what they do differently than today's bands. And don't forget the reggae. Ska has reggae roots.

    But generally ska tends to rely a lot on a dominant bass pulling off the main melodies while the guitars keep a mostly constant rhythm, quite similar to a lot of reggae. I'm being very general though. Your best bet to get a feel for the music is to just listen to a lot of it, as DaVEPe suggested.
  3. if you don't already have it, go out and buy Sublime's self-titled CD. then buy all of their other CDs.
    Eric Wilson has got the 'ska groove'
  4. Actually, Ska has it's origins in 1960s Jamaica, and predates Reggae. It is more accurate to say that Reggae has Ska roots, rather than vice versa.
    Ska takes from American Jazz and R&B, as well as calypso and native Jamaican "mento" musics.
    The most important Ska band of all time was/are the Skatalites. I suggest you check out a more recent recording by the Skatalites, Ball of Fire.
    The Specials were a brittish band who copied the Jamiacan style and took a more rock and roll approach. The might be considered the standard-bearers of the second wave of Ska.
    The essential ska groove consists of the drummer playing a two beat pattern, a walking bass line, and the guitar playing a syncopated rhythm: -ska-ska-ska-ska.
  5. tigersauce


    May 23, 2003
    thanks for all of your help everyone
  6. Thanks for the clarification, pepito, as really I have very little knowledge of ska. In fact I know nothing about the beginnings of ska, hence me saying the reggae roots. Interesting to know that reggae came later than ska. My familiarity is more in the second wave, and even then it's really small.

    Also your description of the sound is dead on. I couldn't really describe it that well, but that's essentially what I was trying to say.

    That's why I love these message boards. Access to knowledge from all over the world. :)
  7. Spoiled Grape

    Spoiled Grape I <3 Darkstar

    May 29, 2003
    Riverside, CA
    Eh, I play in a ska band, and I can probably offer you a little advice.

    Depending on your style (I'm assuming you are playing 3rd wave punk-ska and not 2-tone and trad ska) you will have a few of the same techniques.

    Alot of ska has to do with simple walking basslines (arpeggio based) and some more complex walking lines. The key is to hold the melody. Ska bass plays a key factor in the melody, outlining it, and often, being the melody.

    Listen to Rx Bandits... download some stuff from Kazaa, the bassist has a good ska feel, playing quick when called for, and laid back when not.
  8. JustSoYouKnow


    Aug 30, 2002
    while on the subject of ska, would you write the bassline first and then build everythin else on top of that?

    nice replies so far by the way :)

  9. Spoiled Grape

    Spoiled Grape I <3 Darkstar

    May 29, 2003
    Riverside, CA
    I build ska songs like I would build any other song.

    If the song is lyrically inspired, or inspired by our guitarist, or perhaps a cool beat by the drummer, than it goes their way, if its inspired by a bassline, than my way.

    However, usually it goes my way ;)
  10. corinpills


    Nov 19, 2000
    Boston, MA
    I would say that the key factor in you putting together a really good ska band is going to be the drummer. You're going to need to find someone who really feels that groove.

    As far as arrangements go, I think you'll find that a lot of the songs in 2-tone and Jamaican Ska are fairly traditional, soul influenced tunes. They are usually very well written simple tunes that have had their insides turned around by the rhythm section. I think, depending on what you want to do, you may be better served going back to the originators of the style. As much as I admire some of the modern practicioners like Rancid and Sublime, that's a modern reinterpretation of the original concept. I'm sure those guys would tell you to check out the real deal: Desmond Dekkar, Skatalites, the early Blue Beat singles that influenced the 2- Tone scene.

    Good luck, ska is great bass music, you'll have a lot of fun.
  11. Any of Dave Wakelings bands, General Public and English BEat provide great examples of SKA beats. He's great at turning Motown grooves into SKA tunes.
  12. Spoiled Grape

    Spoiled Grape I <3 Darkstar

    May 29, 2003
    Riverside, CA
    I was supposed to see General Public last night.

    But yea, anyone interested on ska should listen to what cornpill said.

    Skatalites, Desmond Dekker, Prince Buster, Maytals, or some modern traditional bands/skinhead-reggae bands like The Aggrolites, Irie Beats, The Upbeats, Go-Jimmy-Go, Debonaires, and Israelites. All good prime A choices.
  13. ERIC31


    Jul 1, 2002
    Maricopa, AZ
    If you are going to play 2-Tone era ska, you have to check out HORACE PANTER of THE SPECIALS. An incredible bassist. Get their first CD.:D
  14. what kind of ska music do you like?

    if you're asking what to learn to play ska in general, start with learning to play songs you like, i think that'd work. definitely learn to arpeggiate chords on bass and how to play walking basslines.

    if you're asking about what bands you should listen to in getting a better idea of what ska is and how to get the sound, i would suggest downloading stuff by the following diverse list of bands:

    the skatalites
    early bob marley and the wailers
    the specials
    the toasters
    rx bandits (saw them last tuesday!)
    some rancid stuff
    some leftover crack stuff (gay rude bois unite, nazi white trash, etc.)
    less than jake
    the pietasters
    catch 22 (they do some different stuff, i think)
    the spitvalves
    voodoo glow skulls
    bouncing souls

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