söndag 28 april 2013

Back from hiatus: My Generation

Hey there
I know I've been away for a long time, but now I'm back. I've loads of new (and old) transcriptions I want to share with the world.

Let's start off with a quickie. The Who's hit My Generation took the world off guard with it's 1965 release. Featuring a punk-before-punk attitude and aggressive, stuttering vocal performance it remains one of the most iconic songs of the decade. But what really caught everyone's attention was John Entwhistle's bass solo. Coming straight after the first chorus at 0:55, Entwhistle's chops, distorted sound and sheer balls just blew everyone away. The solo is performed in four bursts of two measures each, between which John plays the changes. I've decided to transcribe in a key signature with one flat, since the notes being played are clearly from the G-minor pentatonic scale (G-Bb-C-D-F).

From a technical standpoint the solo is fairly unimpressive by today's standard, but the attitude and conviction in every note makes it true classic never the less. Legend has it that Entwhistle had originally wanted to perform the solo on a Danelectro six string (baritone guitar tuned E-A-D-G-B-E) but that his right hand attck was so hard that he kept breaking the strings. Now the Danelectro was brand new instrument at the time and the local music store didn't carry replacement strings. So after going through three separate six string basses Entwhistle finally gave up and chose to play it on his regular four string (Fender Jazz Bass or Gibson Thunderbird).

The Who continues to perform My Generation live and have done so throughout their carreer, including a memorable, extended version from their 1972 Live At Leeds album. But in my book, they never surpassed this original recording.

torsdag 31 januari 2013

So What

Don't really know if anyone reads this, but I felt like breaking my silence with an update. Let's do some jazz. A quickie.

Just about every bassist out there knows Paul Chambers' iconic bass melody from the opening track off of Miles Davis' groundbreaking 1959 album Kind Of Blue.

Most of us have also found out that the real challenge begins after the melody. How do you walk over what is essentially one chord. Well here's how Chambers himself did it. I've transcribed for you the first chorus of walking.
Paul keeps things interesting by adding plenty of chromatic approach notes, a few swung eighth notes and a lot of his signature blues feel. My personal favorite part are the last eight bars, in which Chambers plays a high a F (the third/tenth of the scale) at the start of each measure, really grabbing your attention.

Although this is probably Paul's most famous performance he went on to play with many of the most important jazz artists at the time, including Wynton Kelly, Wes Montgomery, Lee Morgan, Cannonball Adderly and John Coltrane (who wrote the classic Mr P.C in his honour) as well as Miles' bass player from 1955 to 1962 and releasing ten albums as a leader or co-leader before passing away in tuberculosis at the age of 33 in 1969.
Check him out.
Thoughts or feedback? Drop me a line in the comments.
I do requests.

tisdag 18 december 2012

Bonus song: Eleanor Rigby

This one always grabs my ears while listening to Revolver. A true testament to the band's lust for experimentation at this point, none of the band play any of the instruments on the record. Instead a double string quartet was employed i.e each part is played simultaneously by two musicians. The bass instrument of the string quartet is of course the cello so that is what I have transcribed here. Due to the cello being tuned in fifths it has a much greater range than the bass. The highest note, an E, is situated at the 21st fret on the G-string so if you only have 20 be prepared to do some bending. As all of the song is played arco (with a bow) it's better suited for upright than electric but can with some practice sound good played on both. Getting the length of notes right is essential, because of the lack of drums the bass is rhythmic driving point of the song.
I've included two transcriptions; one transposed and one untransposed. Essentially, if you find the upper register one hard to read, you could just play the first one an octave higher than written.
The part is ably performed by Derek Simpson and Norman Jones.

Thoughts or feedback? Drop me a line in the comments.

måndag 17 december 2012

Don't Let Me Down

This amazing gem is perhaps best known for being one of the numbers of the famous rooftop concert in 1969, where it was played twice, but was also the B-side to the Get Back single. Recorded during the Let It Be sessions it was ultimately left off the album by producer Glyn Johns.
Lennon's lament of love to his wife-to-be Yoko Ono is soulful song in 4/4 with a few pickup measures in 5/4 giving the verses a very special pull.
McCartney delivers a bassline truly embodies the ideals of Let It Be;free, driving and sponteneous (and he sure sounds to have a good time).
Peppered with pentatonic 16th fills it's busy, fun and very much improvised (a stark contrast to the composed lines of Sgt Pepper and White Album).
Paul used his well worn Höfner (which hade been previously retired as he got his Rickenbacker in 1964) for much of the Let It Be and all of the rooftop concert. Due to its mucher lighter weight and shorter scale it made busy lines such as this much easier to play.

Thoughts or feedback? Drop me a line in the comments.

fredag 14 december 2012

Think for Yourself

Today let's look at George Harrison composition. By 1965's Rubber Soul Harrison had started coming into his own as a songwriter. His songs differed quite a lot from the Lennon/McCartney in that they often featured odd chord progressions and melodies. Think for Yourself, for instance, heavily features the Bb11 chord (Eb/Bb). A quite strange chord in the overall G-G7 tonality.
Anyway, on to the real point. The melody of the song became a bit difficult to pull for the, then, quite inexperienced lead singer Harrison so producer George Martin suggested a second bass line - a fuzz box laden lead bass line to guide him to the right notes.
Not only did it help him hit the right notes, it also helped this filler track really stand out and introduce a virtually unheard of bass sound to the world. There is also a standard bass line, similar to the basic but soulful playing on the album.
I've uploaded three different versions of this transcription; one with just the regular bass line, one with the fuzz bass and one with both so you can pick and mix.
The latter is probably your best bet if you want to play the song live, as the bass line is quite dull and the fuzz line is fun but a bit to sparse to work as a stand alone bass line.

Thoughts or feedback? Drop me a line in the comments,

onsdag 12 december 2012

Happiness Is A Warm Gun

This gem off of the white album is a strong contender for the most complex song ever performed by the fab four. As stated in my previous post, this song was an inspiration for the Let It Be-project due to the fact that it required everyone to be on the top of their game and not simply session men for the songwriter.
 Lennon's composition is almost schizophrenic in it's constant change of style and time signature. But it all sounds very natural; an effect of this being a very tight group who had played together about ten years at this point in time (a couple of them far longer). Everyone pulls together and the result is really amazing. McCartney is on fire and John delivers one of his most compelling vocals of the whole album. Give it a few good listens whilst reading along with the music to get a feel for the song before attempting to play along.
A few clarifications may be in order; 12/8 is of course shuffle, so 9/8 is basically 3/4 in shuffle time. I orginally wanted the 5/4 measures in letter F to be 10/8 but Finale doesn't recognize this as a valid time signature. Just listen and read along and you'll get it.

måndag 10 december 2012

Two Of Us

The Let It Be album is a very interesting listen, especially when you consider the circumstances in which it was conceived. Orginally, after the tumultuous recording of the the white album, McCartney's idea was to get the band on the road again. A certain spark had been lit in the sessions where they had really had to work together as group to acheive the best possible result. In particular the sessions for the very tricky Happiness is a Warm Gun. He was quickly vetoed by his band mates who were convinced it would never end well. Instead a new idea was hatched; an album recorded live with minimal or no overdubs, and the whole thing was to be filmed as well. To really show that the band could still play.

To say the least, the project failed. Instead of getting the group closer together it really mad light of how far they'd grown apart, with all conflicts coming up to the surface. Paul thought he needed to steer the band, whilst the others saw this as a need to take total control. Several clashes and fights made it clear that the mission had failed and the sessions were aborted.

But the band had still recorded a lot of songs during the sessions and some of them were really good. And the intimate sound of four guys playing together can be very compelling. And the musicianship is very impressive.

Two Of Us is a semi acoustic song featuring McCartney and Lennon both on acoustic guitar and Ringo on brushes. The very dextrous bass line is all courtesy of George Harrison, played on his Telecaster guitar. No matter which instrument it's played on it's undoubtedly the songs bass line and apart from the vocal leading melody instrumet as well.
In trying to replicate the line, pay great mind to Harrison's frequent use of slides. The main bass line during A should be played mostly horizontally, i.e don't stick in one position but instead move the hand along the same string. Two Of Us can be tricky to play, mostly because the line is more of a melody line than a bass line and therefore comes with different challenges. Try to relax and lean on the drums and guitars, in this song you rely on them more than they rely on you. Good luck. 
Thoughts or feedback? Drop me a line in the comments.