Bassline Academy – Strobe: Sparkee’s Arrangement

This bassline is a challenge from a YouTube follower LuxGamer4ever. I’d never heard this track before but once I had the challenge was accepted!

Someone has posted on YouTube that they thought it was impossible for a bass player to actually play it, which has been shown to be wrong, and now I’d like to be able to say it’s also just about possible on tuba. There’s nowhere to breathe so gasping breaths in the slight gaps is the way forward.

You can download the transcribed music Strobe.

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Bassline Academy – For Once In My Life: James Jamerson/Stevie Wonder/Vulfpeck

This bassline is a special request from my friend Attilio. He sent me a link to Vulfpeck’s really cool cover/transcription/visualisation of the bassline from Stevie Wonder’s ‘For Once In My Life.’ My challenge was to play along and here’s the result.

I’ve written out Vulf’s version of James Jamerson’s playing, so this is transcription of a transcription! It’s not 100% accurate to the original (what transcription ever is) but is pretty close.

Speaking of the original, James Jamerson’s playing on the track is apparently revered by bassists as no one bar is like another, he just keeps improvising new material throughout the track and all the while keeping things laid back and in the pocket.

From a tuba point of view I found that playing this bassline in the same style as Vulfpeck (I’m presuming it’s Joe Dart) and Jamerson meant sustaining the notes more than I would do naturally in this type of music. I tend to bring longer notes off in a percussive way to add a bit of ‘slap’ and give me a chance to breathe when playing music like this. However, if you listen to the Vulfpeck track the bass is generally left quite sustained, with a few exceptions. I’ve tried my best to be faithful to this but I do need to breathe somewhere!

Get the PDF transcription of the bassline of For Once in my Life here.

Bassline Academy – What is Hip?, Rocco Prestia

This bassline played on tuba should really be called ‘What is Possible – on the tuba?’ On one level it’s effectively an exercise in tonguing endurance under the effects of oxygen deprivation (I had to practice a lot to build up stamina to overcome the build up of lactic acid in my tongue!). On another it’s a great workout in the funky department. I was inspired to try this one out after watching a Scott’s Bass Lessons Youtube video (check it out here).

I don’t think I’ll ever be using the main bass figure on a gig, there’s just too much repetition to ever make it sit well on the tuba! The necessity to take a breath at the beginning of the bar on the only tied semi quaver in the riff does disrupt the flow a little but it’s the only way to make it happen on tuba.

What this bassline highlights is how I go about playing this style of music. Speak to almost any tuba teacher and they will tell you that your sound starts with air – air support, air flow, diaphragm etc. Good ‘air’ equals a good sound, or at least the foundation for a good sound. I don’t dispute this, but for this style of music I’m actually using very little air, in fact as little air as possible so that I can keep playing these long baselines going without passing out. A lot of the sound I’m producing comes less from my diaphragm and more from my mouth as I use a percussive tongue articulation on the relentless semiquaver lines. This bassline is a proper tonguing workout.

For the full note for note transcription of Rocco’s bassline click here.

SDG

Bassline Academy – Maybe It’ll Rub Off, Rocco Prestia

This bassline transcription is a request from Dwayne Dixon. He’s a fellow church minister and low note player and sent me a message asking if I’d do a version of Maybe It’ll Rub Off by Tower of Power, so here it is Dwayne!.

The bassline is typically Rocco; punchy, percussive, funky and at times follows the unison riff in the rest of the band. The main A section riff uses a kind of bee bop blues scale (that’s what I shall call it, I don’t know if anyone else does!). The F, E, Eb are like the top of a bee bop scale (in F) with the following C, B, Bb, Ab part of the blues scale (in F) so to my mind that’s a bee bop blues scale or possibly a blues bee bop scale, depending on which way you look at it!

In the hammond organ solo section the bass guitar drops out and bass duties are picked up by Chester Thompson on bass pedals! This section is probably the most difficult to play on the tuba as there’s no where to breathe!

On the whole I found myself playing the bass part on this track with quite a lot of hard tongue attack to get the same sound and style as the bass and bari sax.

You can download the pdf transcription here – Maybe it’ll rub off

SDG

Bassline Academy – Thinking About Your Body, Bobby McFerrin

Here’s another Bobby McFerrin transcription taken from the Spontaneous Inventions album. It’s funny how you find music sometimes, I first heard this track (sort of) on a Cadbury’s chocolate advert! I’ve always loved it (and Cadbury’s chocolate – maybe marketing does work after all) so it’s been great to learn it and get inside the groove. With all of Bobby McFerrin’s solo stuff, there’s an amazing sense of feel and pulse which makes it sound like there’s more than just one person playing/singing it. As with Opportunity it works really well down the octave on the tuba, although the acrobatic leaps are a bit a of a challenge.

Get the PDF transcription here – Thinking about your body

SDG

Bassline Academy – Spider, Paul Jackson

This is a slightly obscure bassline to learn but there’s a story behind it!

Spider is a track from the Secrets album by Herbie Hancock. As with other albums of this era (Head Hunters is probably the most well known) Paul Jackson is Herbie’s bass player. If you don’t know any of Paul Jackson’s stuff then check him out, he’s Mr Funky!

I first heard this track on a live recording played by The Brasshoppers with the mighty Gideon Jukes on tuba. Gideon sounded amazing! It was a crazy tuba funk masterclass and I had no idea where to begin getting my head around the lines he was playing. Then, last year Gideon did a studio recording of the track with The Brasshoppers (check it out here), which was equally great. The problem was over the last couple of years I’ve found myself back in The Brasshopper tuba chair and they were keen to keep playing this tune. I bodged my way through it a few times but decided it’d be a good idea to learn the original which is the reason for this transcription. I’m still learning……

After the initial sustained bass notes in the introduction the majority of the tune is based on one riff/progression which has 3 main variations. The first variation uses some bass guitar harmonics which I play down the octave and gradually builds up with additional fills and improvised nuances. After a short breakdown the second variation also builds in complexity and intensity as it heads to a brief bridge section. After this the third variation stays relatively simple as it motors on to the outro. Jackson’s rhythmic placement and ghost notes are super cool throughout.

Download the complete bass transcription here. (The low C# in the last chord isn’t played by the bass but I’ve included it here because it’s fun to play!)

Bassline Academy – Opportunity, Bobby McFerrin

Bobby McFerrin has been a longstanding hero of mine. To see him live is spellbinding, he can captivate and engage an audience of thousands with just his solo voice. His album ‘Spontaneous Inventions’, from which this track is taken, was an early acquisition of mine and remains a perennial favourite.

Whilst this isn’t strictly a bassline, tuba players can learn a lot from the phrasing, articulation, breath control and groove of Bobby McFerrin. He has this ability to be able to sound like two instruments, improvising bass and melody, at the same time rather like a Bach cello suite. I’ve tried to replicate some of this in the transcription and recording!

‘Opportunity’ is predominantly based around an Eb blues scale which works really nicely for me being an Eb tuba player, however, the range of Mr McFerrin’s voice is considerably higher than I can play so I’ve transposed the whole transcription down an octave so that I act as his tuba octave pedal double.

Download the PDF transcription of Opportunity here.