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 – 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.