This is the fourth in this mini-series. If you’ve not yet the earlier parts, you can do so by clicking on the links below:
The key to the 4th piece of the bass line creation puzzle was given to my by my first business partner Jon who I mentioned in the second part of this series. Jon was the guy who recorded a jazz demo – playing walking bass lines on his keyboard – and got us four residencies at restaurants playing background jazz. At the time as I said I didn’t know how to play walking bass lines and had to do a 10 day/100 hour crash course to get up to speed.
You’ll probably remember that I took the concept of approach notes and chord tone placement from that learning?
Anyways, the next residency that we got was much better paying and was rock and pop based and required the band that we’d set up together and were trying to get more gigs for.
Every Thursday night we had to drive two hours from London to just south of Bristol…and back again after the gig.
But it was a regular gig that paid well and they were reasonably prompt in paying.
So that was good.
On one of those journeys we were listening to an early Tower Of Power CD and listening to one of Rocco’s early funk shuffle tracks. If memory serves, it was a tune called This Time It’s Real.
Now, this was the summer when the film “Four Weddings And A Funeral” was a massive hit, and several of the songs from the film were requested as first dances by clients of the band who were getting married.
The obvious one was Love Is All Around.
But we’d just had a request for the Elton John version of “Chapel Of Love.” In the film, this is the track used over the End Credits Photo Montage. Now as a track it’s a rocky kind of shuffle. And it’s based on a pretty basic chord progression.
Jon said: instead of playing it like a rock shuffle we should play it like a funk shuffle and you could use some of Rocco’s lines.
I said I liked the sound of the idea but didn’t know how to implement it. And I asked him if he could show me.
SIDEBAR: I hate stopping stories in the middle, but this is an important piece of learning. If you’re talking shop with a fellow musician, and they say something like:
That guy used a descending slash chord sequence to get that effect.
Or: He used a simple tritone to get that chromatic descent to the root.
Or whatever it is….if YOU don’t know what they’re talking about, don’t nod your head and pretend you do because you don’t want to be embarrassed. Instead stop them and ask them what they mean. Get them to show you on an instrument if you can.
Or give you examples from the real world that you can go out and buy and isolate the example and really work it out.
If you don’t know something, it’s not something to be ashamed about. It’s an opportunity to learn something new and add to your ‘domain knowledge’ of music and the bass.
Back to the story.
The next day I got Jon to show me exactly what he meant. He programmed a funky drum track in Cubase and quickly played in some block chords. Then we listened to the Rocco bass line again a couple of times. And he lifted some patterns – both melodic and rhythmic from the Rocco bass line – and then applied them to the chord changes of ‘Chapel Of Love.’
It sounded really cool.
Now a day or so later when I was learning the song in the original, rockier form for our upcoming wedding gig, it occurred to me that what he’d done was combine all three of the building blocks we’ve talked about in 12 bars of funky bass:
- He’d lifted some patterns and played them for the different song.So transposable riffs.
- He’d made the patterns fit by altering up the notes prior to the chord changes.So approach notes.
- The two songs were based on different chord progressions – so applying material that worked for one common chord progression to another.
This was the final piece of the puzzle I needed to tie everything together and really start to get a handle on creating bass lines and feeling confident about doing so.
If you want to read the final installment of this series – where I talk about how you can take these lessons and start learning to create your own basslines then use the Contact Form and send me an email letting me know where to send the next installment.