Bass Players – Rocco Prestia

Tower of Power have been a soul and funk institution for nigh on 40 years – and for the majority of that time the driving force on the bass has been Rocco Prestia. Whatever style of music you play, learning some of Rocco’s basslines will definitely push your chops and also give you plenty of ideas when working on lines of your own.

Although a lot of focus is (rightly!) placed on Rocco’s 16th note lines (and hence his right hand) he’s also a master at muting and has a highly unusual left hand style and a unique system of muting that is definitely worth checking out!

5 Essential Rocco Tracks

1) Credit – Tower of Power. This monster shuffle is from an album called Power. There’s a great demo of this line on Rocco’s Fingerstyle Funk video (available as a download for video iPod too!) – learn it slowly and then build up the tempo. It’s a great chops builder – and a great line!

2) Count on Me – Tower of Power. Also from the Power album – but unlike Credit this tune has been strangely ignored. This one’s got a searing staccato 16th note bass line in the chorus – at a tempo of 130 BPMs too! Another line to learn slowly and then build up.

3) What is Hip – Tower of Power. The Tower of Power anthem and another great chops builder for any fingerstyle player. (if you’re more a thumb and slap kind of a guy, check out Marcus Miller’s great version of this tune on his ‘Free’ album!)

4) Only So Much Oil In the Ground – Tower of Power. The lyrics to this tune are eerily prescient seeing as it was written in the early 70s. Another great tune, another great 16th note workout.

5) Page One – Tower of Power. This one’s from the band’s last studio CD.

Essential CDs featuring Rocco Prestia

1) Tower of Power – Monster on a Leash. This is my favourite Tower of Power CD – and always reminds me of a month gig in St Tropez in the early nineties! The album is chock full of great tunes – bass standouts include the instrumental Mr Toad’s Wild Ride, Funk The Dumb Stuff, A Little Knowledge and Attitude Dance.

2) Tower of Power – The Oakland Zone. This was the last TOP studio release – and features some great bass work on Pocketful of Soul, Give Me your Love and particularly Page One. If you know any drums who are into Dave Garibaldi see if you can persuade them to buy his book THE CODE OF FUNK as it has got drumless versions of all these tunes – the bass lines are really clear if you fancy transcribing them!

3) Tower of Power – What is Hip? The TOP Anthology. This two CD set has got the majority of the 70s TOP classics on it, from What is Hip and Soul Vaccination, to Squib Cakes , Only So Much Oil in the Ground, You’re Still a Young Man and You’ve got to Funkifize.

4) Tower of Power – Soul Vaccination Live. The intro to the storming version of Soul With A Capital S makes this CD a must buy on its own. Add Diggin’ On James Brown, What is Hip, Funkifize and eleven other TOP classics and you’ll hear for yourself why their live shows are a must!

5) Francis Rocco Prestia – Everybody On The Bus. This is Rocco’s only solo CD to date. It’s got some great tunes on it in the Oakland/Tower of Power style. The instrumental Space For Bass is my fave.

Transcriptions of Rocco’s Basslines

As with Pino (and with Bruce Thomas too!), there are surprisingly few published transcriptions of Rocco’s work – 4th Jan, 09 – this has just changed, see below!

The best place to start is Rocco’s FINGERSTYLE FUNK video – amazingly it has still not been re-issued on DVD (though you can download it to play on your computer or your video iPod which is kinda cool!). The Video comes with a booklet with complete or partial transcriptions of the 12 Tower of Power tunes Rocco uses in the video to discuss/explain his fingerstyle funk concept.

Rocco authored a book called SITTIN IN WITH ROCCO PRESTIA which is a great learning tool! There are 8 tunes in the book – 4 are Tower of Power classics (Credit, Only So Much Oil, What is Hip and Down to the Nightclub) and 4 are essentially ‘jam’ tunes. The songs are fully transcribed – in both standard notation and tab – and there’s a CD with full band versions and bass less versions on it, so you can jam with David Garabaldi and his TOP bandmates! (Very cool feature btw!)

4th JAN 09 – Just released, THE BEST OF TOWER OF POWER For Bass. Have got this on order, it features transcriptions to a host of Tower tunes including Credit, What is Hip, Don’t Change Horses, Soul Vaccination, Digging on James Brown and a whole lot more! Got myself a copy on order, will review it when I get it (and post a couple of YouTube playalongs too if I’m feeling sassy!).

Bass Player magazine have transcribed a few songs down the years – as with Pino when I get the chance to catalogue my back issues I’ll amend this page and list what transcriptions were published and in what issues.

Bass Player Transcription

February 2009’s Bass Player Magazine has a feature on Rocco and some transcriptions of Rocco’s parts from song of the tunes on ‘The Great American Soul Book’ by Tower of Power.

November 2008’s Bass Player magazine has a mini lesson on playing ‘You’re Still A Young Man.’ There’s also some great footage on BassPlayer TV.

May 2006’s Bass Player has a mini lesson on playing “Only So Much Oil In The Ground.”

If you’re feeling really bold (and can afford the $99 entrance fee!) there’s a double CD of Dave Garibaldi drum loops available form Big Fish Audio. I’ve got this pack, it’s great, some time this year (’09) I’ll do an article on how to use the loops for some cool practice!

If you want more info on Rocco, check out his website: