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Transcribing for a beginner

Discussion in 'Tablature and Notation [BG]' started by Tenvh, Nov 7, 2018.

  1. Tenvh


    Sep 8, 2018
    Hi. Been playing for about 4 months. Beginning to get the hang of the basics. However, I don't know where to look for fitting basslines to transcribe. Does anyone have tips for albums with relatively simple basses lines that I can lean on?
    Both very simple lines with focus on good time and basslines with a few more notes are welcome.
    The scale I've been working on the most, is the natural major scale, then the natural minor. I dont really know any other scales yet. Songs with chords from those scales, would be the best for my practice routine at the moment:)
    I have a pj type bass. So no obvious restrictions on tone or anything, even though that's the least of my worries with the technique I have now, hehe:)
    Thanks! It will definitely help! :)
  2. I started with "Happy Birthday." :)

    Because beginners are allowed infinite mistakes, I notated eighth, eighth rhythm (instead of dotted-eighth, sixteenth) on the first two syllables, "Hap - py."

    Whoops! No big deal. Not bad for a first try.

    Pick an incredibly easy song, aim for 50% accuracy, and then improve your skills a little bit each day.
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2018
  3. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    Pick a song you know well enough to hum the bass part to.
    Start with the first note. Then the second. Then keep going.
    Tenvh and Lobster11 like this.
  4. 50’s rock’n’roll is a perfect place to start.
    eg. Johnny B. Good.
    Great Balls of Fire
    Summertime Blues, etc.

    U2 has some pretty simple lines.
    Eg. Where the streets have no name.
    Angel of Harlem
    Before love came to town

    For a bit harder
    Who Knew - Pink
    Shut up and Dance - Walk the Moon

    How old are you and what music do you like?
    Tenvh and Lobster11 like this.
  5. Tenvh


    Sep 8, 2018
    I am 19.
    Right now, Very rhythmical funk with heavy bass focus is what I listen to. (Vulfpeck atm)
    I listen to all sorts of music. Metallica, Bill withers, Cory Henry, Marvin Gaye, vulfpeck, BB king, Eddie Vedder, 90s hip hop, just a bunch of different arists from different genres I guess.

    Thanks for the reply, Ill check them out :)
  6. Great songs.

    Two skills
    1. Transcribe dozens of easy tunes to develop speed of transcription.
    2. Transcribe a few hard tunes to stretch you ability to hear complexity.

    Both are needed: at the start it’s more biased to #1, later towards #2.

    You’ll feel more energised and motivated knocking over 3 easy tunes a day than grinding away at one hard tune across 3 months. The hard stuff eventually becomes easy stuff - be patient.
    Versatek6 and Tenvh like this.
  7. If you like Bill Withers, then one obvious choice is "Ain't no Sunshine." In the easy bassline category, I'm also kinda partial to "Dreams" by Fleetwood Mac. That one shows that you need to leave space for the snare, which is a very important consideration for bassist.
    LeeNunn, B-Lo and Tenvh like this.
  8. Tenvh


    Sep 8, 2018
    Taking notes. Thanks a lot!
  9. You have been playing bass for 4 months --- Transcribing by ear, there is an easier way. Let Google find the chord progression used in the song and then you play the root note of the chord shown by Google, to the beat the song is using.

    Mushroo in post # 2 used Happy Birthday as an example. Lets take a closer look at ole Happy Birthday.

    We leave the melody to the melody instruments and we play harmony. You play harmony by playing notes of the harmonizing chord - to the beat of the song. OK how? Well you first have to know what chord is harmonizing the active melody - at this point in the song. I let Google help me with this....

    Google will find the lyrics and chord progression if you ask it these key words; chords, happy birthday ---- HAPPY BIRTHDAY Chords - Traditional | E-Chords Lets make this dirt simple. Come in on the lyric word ..day with a D note. Do D notes (roots) to the beat till the song moves to the A chord on the lyric word Birth.... then D again at the lyric word You. Follow the fake chord sheet music and play roots of the active chord.

    Normally a lyric word syllable gets a beat. Hap-py gets two beats as would birth-day, however the words to and you get one beat each as they are one syllable words. This is not cast in stone, however, is a good rule of thumb to get you started.

    That's it. Let Google help you get started. Now? Call up some of the songs you would like to play using the search words; chords, name of the song.

    Armed with the chord progression and the lyric words, listen to someone singing the song, and see what you can do. Listen for the beat and pound out root notes. When that gets old we then can get into other things, like bringing in the other notes of the active chord, for example Root on the first beat and the 5th of that root on the third beat will let you lay down a pretty good ole bass line. First things first.
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2018
    Tenvh likes this.
  10. aprod


    Mar 11, 2008
    Do you read and write music all ready? The major scale is not referred to as natural.
    Tenvh likes this.
  11. aprod


    Mar 11, 2008
    If you follow this advice you will defeat the whole purpose of transcribing. You are trying to improve your ear. Don't take short cuts or use crutches. Put in the work and reap the benefits. Best of luck OP.
    TKenrick, LeeNunn, JimK and 7 others like this.
  12. Versatek6

    Versatek6 Fretless is like Trombone

    Oct 7, 2008
    Twin Cities, MN
    Added benefit is that you'll start hearing and learning the common chord progressions, which leads to quicker speed at which you can comprehend things.

    Don't overlook classic country/western songs as source material to transcribe.
    LeeNunn, Tenvh and Groove Doctor like this.
  13. kalanb


    Dec 17, 2012
    Congrats on tackling this. Best thing you can do for your playing. Vulfpeck is a challenge since it’s a nuanced playing style with some effects. The Meters is good stuff to transcribe: great lines and easy to hear in the mix.

    Also, get the Amazing Slow Downer. It will make transcribing so much easier. A hint Ed Friedland gave me is to shift everything up an octave if you’re having trouble picking out the bass line.
    LeeNunn, Tenvh and Groove Doctor like this.
  14. bfields


    Apr 9, 2015
    Ann Arbor, MI
    I think Mushroo was suggesting working out the melody. I agree with him, transcribing melodies that you know well (nursery rhymes, TV theme songs, whatever) is a great ear-training exercise. Also spend a few minutes a day trying to play that sort of thing by ear on your bass.

    Knowing how to follow a chord chart is good too, but that's a different skill from what Tenvh is asking about.
    LeeNunn and Tenvh like this.
  15. saabfender

    saabfender Inactive

    Jan 10, 2018
    Exactly. The first transcription you do should not be a bass line. It should be a simple tune you know. You’ll be sounding it out, like an unfamiliar word you see on the page.
    Tenvh likes this.
  16. Great advice. For me, my ear training really started to 'click' when I focused on transcribing songs I already knew by heart, as opposed to transcribing songs from recordings. Trying to transcribe from a recording presents additional challenges (constantly pressing start/stop/rewind, or the bass is buried in the mix, or maybe the recording is off-pitch, etc.) that are distracting from the actual mental exercise at hand.

    So yes, the melody to "Happy Birthday." You've sung it a thousand times. You know it by heart. So don't listen to a recording. Don't use your bass to check the notes. Just do the best you can, from memory. All you need is a pencil and paper. Your first transcription probably won't be perfect, but that's okay: these early stages are about the process, not the final outcome.

    A really great exercise, if you are listening to music in the car or at the gym: Make a mental list of details about each song. Anything that catches your ear is good, like: What is the time signature? Is it major or minor key? Are there distinctive rhythms? What is the instrumentation? How is the song structured (i.e. verse-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus)? Can you identify the chord progression? Are the singers singing high or low in their vocal range? Which parts of the song are quiet and which parts are loud? What are the lyrics about? What you will find over time is that you notice more and more details about every song you hear. An analogy is that I look at a painting and notice 1 thing ("It's a bowl of fruit.") while an art student might notice 10 details (type of paint, brush strokes, use of color, light and shadow, etc.) and a master artist might notice 100 tiny details nobody else can see.
    LeeNunn and Tenvh like this.
  17. There’s often errors in other people’s chord transcriptions from google. Best to learn simple 3 or 4 chord songs by ear for a strong foundation of applied theory and a ‘database’ of patterns/structures in your head.

    Learning melodies - I’d already played other instruments before coming to bass. It’s worth a try, see which approach you take to quickest.

    Marvin Gaye. He’s on your list of favourite artists
    Let’s Get It On & How Sweet It Is - Easy chord structures with tasteful ‘extras’ on bass. Good songs to learn.
  18. twinjet

    twinjet WASH YOUR HANDS Staff Member Supporting Member

    Sep 23, 2008
    Moved to Tablature & Notation.
  19. LeeNunn

    LeeNunn Supporting Member

    Oct 9, 2012
    Charlottesville, VA
    +1 to starting simple, and simple is relative. Happy Birthday is a great example. One of the most widely recognized songs in the English language (and probably many others), but not everyone sings the rhythm as it was composed (to Mushroom's point). As simple as it is, it's not in 4/4. Like many melodies, the first note isn't the root. When the names are sung, the rhythm adjusts as necessary. People adjust the key to suit their vocal range, but it's the intervals that are important. If you want to go mainstream, start on a D note. If you do, the key isn't C.

    Then there's the issue of checking your transcription. You can always post it here. This is a great forum for feedback. If you look on the internet, you'll find lots of variations. As Groove Doctor says, you can't always trust what you find on the internet.

    After you transcribe Happy Birthday and you want to try your hand at music you're interested in, try Bill Withers' Ain't No Sunshine. There's a transcription of the bass line in this forum (but don't look at it until you come up with your own transcription).

    I recommend starting with paper and pencil. You can download a pdf of blank music paper. Eventually, you might switch to notation software, but don't start with that. I agree that "loop and slow down" software makes the process easier, especially when you starting trying more difficult songs.
    JimK likes this.
  20. TKenrick


    Jun 13, 2008
    London, UK
    Firstly, it's great that you're starting to transcribe after such a short time playing - it took me nearly 10 years to start using my ears!

    Transcription is (I think) one of the best ways to develop your musicianship, because it works lots of different areas at the same time.

    At the risk of being that guy, I made a video a while back about how I approach transcription and things that have helped me develop my transcription skills:

    How I Transcribe

    In general, the most important things are:

    1. Start with simple stuff
    2. Only transcribe music that you love. Don't feel like you have to transcribe something because someone else says so, particularly if you're not into it.
    3. Take regular breaks - your ears get easily fatigued and can start to mis-hear things if they're tired.
    4. If you can't sing it, you're not hearing it.
    5. Your music reading ability = your music writing ability. You'll get much quicker at writing things down if you have a good grasp of how to read rhythms.
    tonym, LeeNunn and bfields like this.

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