September 16, 2004

Bass playing and the Art of Looking Cool II

Follow-up to Bass playing and the Art of Looking Cool (with 4 strings) from Hollyzone

Riff A                                
   Cmaj7
G-|- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -|
D-|- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -|
A-|-3-3-3-3 - - - - 3-3-3-3 - - - - - |
E-|- - - - - - 3-3- - - - - - - - 3-3-|   

Riff B
Dm7/9
G-| - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -|
D-| - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -|
A-|-5-5-5-5 - - - - 5-5-5-5 - - - - -|
E-|- - - - - - - 5-5 - - - - - - 5-5-|

Riff C                             
   Gmaj7
G-| - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - |
D-| - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - |
A-| - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - |
E-| - 3-3-3-3- 0-1 - 3-3-3-3 - 0-1 - - |   

  Riff D
 Ebmaj7
G-| - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - |
D-| - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - |
A-| -6-6-6-6 - - - - 6-6-6-6 - - - - -|
E-| - - - - - - 5-5 - - - - - - - 5-5-|

Now I know what some of you are thinking. And I know what the rest of you are thinking.

Some of you know what the above writing is about. The rest of you either want to know or would rather I went back to complaining about the trains the whole time (that may well happen so careful what you wish for).

What that random writing is is a bass guitar tab, music written for guitar users. Now, I can read music but I never read it on a conventional stave for guitar because this form, tabbing, is so much easier. Basically each line corresponds to a string on the guitar, usually lowest string at the bottom, although they are often labelled, and the number is the fret that's held down and played.

And that's it really, nice and obvious. Any tab website, like my personal favourite mxtabs.net, could tell you as such.

But they don't really tell you how to get started. They are a library but it's often about learning to use the library (as a history student this similie makes perfect sense to me) and that's what I found a bit tricky.

You are not going to be able to play the Red Hot Chili Peppers after only 5 minutes.

Start with the easy stuff that you know and like. It's much more rewarding to play along to songs that you enjoy listening to and playing along to. In my case I discovered that my favourite band, the Manic Street Preachers, are prone to quite simple basslines which can be easily played. As a result I was able to start playing quite easily.

The trick is to try something a bit different to what you already know and learn what you like to play. I can play Red Hot Chilli Peppers' songs, albeit after much practise, but I don't really like to (except Otherside and Californication) because I find them a little over the top and self indulgent. They're also so rigid, there's not much room to improvise as Flea fills all his basslines with little bits and pieces of his own. I like to be able to play something a little differently to what it is on record, it makes it more fun.

I like to play along to bands like Elastica, Interpol and Muse, all interesting basslines from bands I like. But, as any half decent music teacher will tell you (ad infinitum) practise practise practise. Annoy your housemates or buy headphones or play quietly in your room or do what I do and play in the kitchen when no one else is at home.

Or call me and I'll give you lessons for a wonderfully extortionate fee.

Thank you and goodnight.

(PS There is a prize of a cupcake to anyone who can identify the bassline at the top of this piece. Clue: It's in 6/8 time).


- 11 comments by 2 or more people Not publicly viewable

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  1. Ok, little question. I've ummed and erred for ages over trying to start learning to play the guitar…not sure what kind mind you. However, my question is, is it harder to learn if you are a cak-handed leftie like me, or does it make bugger all difference?

    16 Sep 2004, 20:47

  2. Well I was a cack handed righty so I went for the bass… It's not too hard to find a decent left handed guitar or bass at good guitar shops (there is at least one in Leamington and there must be loads in Coventry).

    Give it a go. Try and find a leftie player and borrow a guitar to have a go. I know this may not be the easiest thing for a leftie (sorry I'm a member of the evil rightist majority) but there should be someone out there, or maybe there's one in the Music Centre. Or you could try playing a right handed one. Personally I don't understand the set up of using your weaker hand to play the fretboard, when I started for paying guitar (ooo, decades ago) I had to be repeatedly corrected by older people (anyone over the age of 12) because I kept using my right hand on the fretboard.

    The greatest leftie of all time, Jimi Hendrix, learned to play guitar with a right handed guitar.

    Sorry if that's just so much unhelpful waffle.

    16 Sep 2004, 21:36

  3. Ok, thanks for the advice…who knows I might actually try one day.

    16 Sep 2004, 22:03

  4. John Dale

    > Clue: It's in 6/8 time

    Ooh, ooh, is it Whatever you Want by Status Quo? Or Rubber Bullets, 10cc? Or Don't Stop, Fleetwood Mac? Could it be Still Rock'n'Roll to me, Billy Joel?

    Disclaimer #1: I haven't actually read the tab, I'm just trying random songs that are in 6/8 time.

    Disclaimer #2: Most 6/8 songs are rubbish, it turns out.

    18 Sep 2004, 12:35

  5. Manic Street Preachers – A Design for Life. It's actually in 12/8 ;-)

    19 Sep 2004, 21:35

  6. Ok, I didn't actually expect anyone to get that even though I left a clue in the main text. Well done Max, to claim your cupcake just locate me and I will purcahse for you one of Costcutter's finest.

    (6/8, 12/8… I'm a bassist, I can't be expected to do the hard bits)

    19 Sep 2004, 22:08

  7. Mmm should be easy to find you, since you posted that pic of yourself… ;-)

    20 Sep 2004, 14:14

  8. Who are your favourite bassists? Mine are Chris Squire, Jack Bruce and John Paul Jones.

    07 Oct 2004, 17:45

  9. Ah, the classic 70s bassists. I love playing along to Sunshine of Your Love. But anyway my favourites, technique-wise (let's face it, Nicky Wire is not a great bassist), are Peter Hook (Joy Division/New Order), Carlos Dengler (Interpol), Colin Greenwood (Radiohead), Alex James (Blur) and Annie Holland (Elastica). Generally anyone influenced by Hook is pretty good.

    But my favourite thing about these bassists is that most people don't realise that the melodies to two of their best known songs, Song 2 and Love Will Tear Us Apart are played on the bass. Woo!

    07 Oct 2004, 23:39

  10. Would just to mention Rick Danko, by far my favourite bassist of all time, of The Band!! Also a great, great singer in the best band of all time =D!!

    22 Jun 2006, 14:39

  11. And while I'm at it, Dave Pegg of Fairport Convention, Jethro Tull, and countless folk–rock recording sessions – he uses a 5–string, a Fender used more commonly used in jazz.

    22 Jun 2006, 14:41


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