Bassline Academy – Quarter Master Jam, Michael League

I found this video of Cory Henry and Michael League playing Quarter Master a while back (as well as a few others of them playing together at the same workshop – search Cory Henry and Michael League workshop in Rio on YouTube) and was utterly transfixed! It’s a wonderful example of the joy of two outstanding musicians simply making music. It has passion, groove, heart, soul, invention, spontaneity, interaction, energy, enthusiasm, the odd wobbly moment and plenty of bass face.

There was so much I liked about Michael League’s bass playing on this video I wanted to transcribe it and then try and reproduce it as accurately as possible (except the bass face, which is quite hard to do whilst playing tuba!) You learn so much by getting into the subtleties of the groove and phrasing playing along with someone else. And who better to play along with than Cory and Mike!

I’ve tried something new with this video by putting the sheet music transcription up along side the video so you can see exactly what is going on.
The tuba track is panned hard left and original audio is hard right. As the original audio sounds like a raw live mix straight off the desk, I’ve left my sound as the unaltered signal from my PZM mic with no EQ or effects.

Download a PDF of the bass transcription here.

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 – 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


Bassline Academy – Conscious Club, Joe Dart

This bassline comes from the band Vulfpeck and their amazing head nodding bass player Joe Dart. If you’ve not heard any Vulfpeck then check them out. They are tongue in cheek and seriously funky and, whilst all the band members are great musicians, Joe Dart is a stand out virtuoso.

Conscious Club (Instrumental) is there bare bones instrumental backing to the song by the same name. It works as a stand alone track and in the absence of ‘the tune’ it’s Joe Dart’s bassline that serves as a lot of the melodic interest. The song form is ABCBCACB but if we’re honest as bass players it’s the A section we’re most interested in. Fast, funky and fun to play. Joe sticks to the groove impeccably throughout but when he does choose to embellish the line it is always exciting and lightening quick!

Download the full transcription here – Conscious Club Transcription

Bassline Academy – On The Serious Side, Rocco Prestia

‘On The Serious Side’ is another tune from Tower of Power’s album ‘In The Slot’ (if you haven’t already, check out ‘Drop It In The Slot‘ as well!) featuring Rocco’s punchy sound. The whole tune revolves around the same relentless bass pattern almost all the way through, with a short B section interjecting in the middle of the song. The repeating bassline contains a trademark chromatic run up from the 3rd degree of the scale and just keeps going and going! This presents a bit of a stamina challenge on the tuba. I can just about keep my single tonguing going for the whole tune but found that double tonguing is not only easier and more efficient, but also seems to fit better with the way the TOP band play the groove. It’s like the double tongue sound matches the ‘wacka chicka’ type articulation that is going on throughout the tune.

Download the full transcription here: On the Serious Side bass transcription

Bassline Academy – Come on Come Over, Jaco Pastorius

Come on Come Over is the second track on Jaco Pastorius’ album called ‘Jaco Pastorius’! It’s a great album which takes you on a proper musical journey and is really well put together – if you haven’t heard it check it out, it’s been a firm favourite of mine for many years. Come on Come Over is one of the full on funky tracks with the horn section featuring amongst others the Brecker Brothers, David Sanborn and the great Howard Johnson (also of jazz tuba fame) on baritone sax.

This track is a great example of Jaco’s melodic bass craft. He’s never just keeping time or outlining the harmony but playing long arching melodic phrases that are spellbinding. In essence the piece has just 2 sections. The bass line in the A section, which sits on C minor with a couple of ascending chromatic semi runs, stays rock solid the same all the way through the track.

The B section steps up a tone to D major. The bassline loosely follows the example on the left with Jaco continually embellishing the phrase in his own characteristic way throughout the tune. The way he plays makes it sound like there’s nearly always continual semiquaver movement in the bass, but listen closely and there’s actually a fair bit of space in his lines (well, in the first two B sections at least, he does let his hair down a bit in the last one!). Jaco’s note placement is impeccable and it’s his interaction with everything else that’s going on in the band that gives the feel of perpetual motion.

Click here to download a full transcription of Jaco’s bassline in Come on Come Over.

This may not be the most obvious track to try on tuba but I love this tight funky kind of thing so here goes!

Bassline Academy – Lingus, Michael League

Lingus has got to be one of my favourite Snarky Puppy tunes. Cory Henry’s epic solo will surely go down in history as one the greats, and underpinning it all is Michael League’s bass, which I think is a great example of groovy restraint. Michael League and Snarky Puppy can, by his own admission bit quite ‘chopsy’, and there’s certainly a lot of fireworks going on in the soloing and drumming on this track. But if you listen to the bass it’s actually doing the simple things (well, relatively simple things) really well. There are a few times when he lets loose but on the whole, especially in the Cory Henry solo, he’s just thumping out the same underpinning grove pattern without making things too fancy – there’s enough fancy stuff going on in the keyboard and drum parts!


The opening Emin riff is wonderfully phat and dirty, and so fits very well on tuba!


It’s in this section that Mr. League takes the (rare in this piece) opportunity to put in a choice fill. For me this is one of the bass highlights of the track! The use of C#s and low G# make things momentarily brighter implying Emaj briefly, before returning straight back to Emin.

A nice touch of rhythm section detail is how the syncopated pattern (that delays the root of the chord to beat 2 in bar 5 of the B section) leaves the low root out altogether on the third time we hear it. It’s a great example of how less is more. By just leaving out one choice note it gives a really nice moment of space but at the same time it’s like we still hear the low root even though it’s not there!

 After an increase in the baseline intensity through the horn solos, Michael finally lets loose for 4 bars in the tutti that ends the first section of the tune before reigning it all back in to hold down the repeating bassline in the second half of the piece.

As a bit of a tuba challenge a decided to transcribe the whole bass part and give it a blow. I’ve tried to get the transcription as honest to what Michael is playing as possible. It’s tricky to tell exactly what octave he’s playing in sometimes as there are other instruments doubling the baseline at times but here’s my best attempt.

Click here to download a pdf of the full Lingus Bass transcription.