Saturday, July 24, 2010

Bassline for Stevie Wonder's "Sir Duke"

Hello! Again, a transcription with video. Here's the info I posted to YouTube:

Hi again. As usual, I'm taking advantage of my vacation time to create new material.

This time, I'm honoring a request that many friends have sent to me: The bassline for Stevie Wonder's "Sir Duke". I know the song from long ago, but never played it before. Very cool and fun line! I had a great time transcribing and learning it. I want to take a minute to talk about a couple decisions I made before recording:

1. The instrument: Basically, I wanted a passive bass for this and that's why I didn't use the Bongos or the Steinberger. My wish was to use the Peavey T-40 for this, but it needs a fret leveling in the high register (which is definitely needed here). So, the Rickenbacker was the chosen one because of that.

2. Detuning: There are some points in this line in which a low D# can be heard as a quick passing note. I don't see the point of detuning just the E string for playing a note that can barely be heard (again, a passing note), so I guess the bass that Nathan Watts used for this recording was tuned (low to high) D# - G# - C# - F#. Can't confirm that, but anyway I decided to follow my guess, so that's why you'll see that I'm playing the song in C major but it sounds in the original key of B major. Playing it that way, it becomes very evident (for the player) that the open A and D strings were also used to play quick passing notes. But a minor problem appeared, since the Rickenbacker 4003 has 20 frets: The unison line with the horn section reaches a high D#, which wouldn't be a problem if the bass were in standard tuning (that's precisely the highest note that can be found on a 20-fret fingerboard). But having it detuned, an extra fret is needed to get that note, so I had to bend the G string to sound a semitone above the pitch at the 20th fret. Nothing difficult, but anyway an example of why I'm not a fan of fingerboards with less than 24 frets (playing 4- and 5-string basses exclusively, as in my case).

At the end of the video, you'll see the bass-horns riff played at 75% and 50% of the actual speed. Hope this new release will help whoever wants to play this cool song but doesn't know where to start. Stay tuned to my blog for the transcription:

Thanks for watching! :=)

P.S.: Sorry for the constant light reflex on the bass' upper horn. Only noticed it after the video was done.

Maybe I should add that the tempo on that recording varies a lot, so I opted not to put any tempo marks in the transcription. Hope you find it useful. :=)

Sir Duke Bass Line)

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

More Latin (Salsa) stuff

Hi again. Here's my transcription of the bassline in the video below,and a copy/paste of the video description:

Hi again.

Several friends have asked me to play some Salsa tunes on YouTube. Since that's a style that I also enjoy a lot, I've decided to record my version of this cool bassline. "Escarcha" ("Frost") was released in 1987 on the "Héctor Lavoe Strikes Back" album. I was convinced that the bass player on this album was the great Salvador "Sal" Cuevas, but according to All Music Guide, Oskar Cartaya was the one in charge of bass duties. Also a terrific player.

It's not common to use a fretless bass guitar to record Salsa tunes. Actually, I don't know of a Salsa hit that features a fretless BG. But I've always liked the idea and that's why I decided to use my fretless Bongo for this recording. Of course, I'm not trying to mimic the tone on the original recording (which seems to be a Jazz Bass) but simply sharing my sonic idea of a bass guitar in a Salsa context. I don't play my fretted basses so close to the fingerboard, but I like to do it on the fretless, looking to emphasize the "mwah" factor. Roundwounds also help a lot, but I feel sort of paranoid about puting roundwounds on an uncoated fretless fingerboard. Anyway, I also like the darker tone of flats for this type of music. For sections in which I wanted more punch, I moved my plucking hand closer to the bridge.

Most slurred notes on this bassline are played with hammer-ons for sure, but I used slides instead, also trying to get the most of the distinctive qualities of the fretless bass. Playing an non-tempered (fretless) instrument over a tempered (fretted) one makes slight pitch differences even more noticeable, specially on the high register. I tried to do my best to sound the less out-of-tune possible. There's also a little rushing here and there (well, rushing is the reason why the song ends at a much faster tempo than the one at the beginning. But the recording doesn't follow me, so my mistakes are the most evident :=( ). The angle in which the camera captured the performance makes the fingerboard positions look farther from the headstock than one normally thinks they are (from the player's point of view).

Hope you find this new effort enjoyable and helpful. I know there are lots of bassists interested in learning to play Salsa and, although I still have lots of things to learn and this performance is far from "perfect", I think it may shed some lights. Anyway, remember that in most cases, playing Latin music isn't about technical difficulties or dazzling technique but playing with authority. Have fun! :=)

Escarcha (Bassline)

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Some Latin stuff you might find interesting

Hi again.

Here's my video and transcription of "La Candelosa", a great song from the Vallenato genre. For those of you who are unfamiliar, here's some info as I put it in the video description:

Hi again.

First off, here's the translation of the text at the beginning of the video: "La Candelosa" (That's hard to translate. It refers to a woman who's so hot that burns). "Musical piece written by Israel Romero and recorded by El Binomio De Oro in 1986. Bass cover by Alvabass, just to show an (improvable) demonstration of an extraordinary bassline recorded by Rangel Torres (R.I.P.). Audiovisual material created with no profit intention and without claiming any kind of intellectual property".

This is an example of a Colombian music genre called Vallenato. Originated in the Caribbean coast area, it's basically music for party created with the accordion as the most prominent instrument. A percussion instrument called caja vallenata ( is used exclusively in this kind of music. Further reading about Vallenato can be found at

The basslines are anything but pedestrian. Melodies and chords while supporting the rhythm section at the same time make this style a very challenging one for any bass player. Dedicated Vallenato players use their thumb along with index, middle and sometimes ring finger for plucking the strings (that's why I'm not a dedicated Vallenato player: I use I-M strictly, and only use my thumb for some chords). "La Candelosa" is an example of an uptempo Vallenato tune, but there are slow-paced ones as well. For those ones, an electric guitar is added for accompaniment, duets with accordion and (less common) solo parts. You'll hardly hear an electric guitar on songs like "La Candelosa". Also, there are two basses in some sections of this song (shown on split-screen). In my opinion (as I say in the video title), this is one of the best (if not THE best) Latin (tropical) basslines ever created.

The bass part for this song, as lots others from "El Binomio De Oro" during most of its existence with the original singer, Rafael Orozco (who was killed in 1992), was recorded with a Kramer Stagemaster Imperial bass ( ) which featured an aluminum neck. You can see it in live action, along with the late Rangel Torres at (Rangel Torres died on a plane crash in 1994)

La Candelosa

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Bassline for Rush's "Limelight"

Hey! It's been a while since my last post. Here's my transcription of the bassline that the awesome Geddy Lee recorded for this terrific song:

Limelight Bassline

Some people may think different about the meter shifts, but anyway I can guarantee that this transcription definitely works as written. Enjoy!