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)


  1. Amazing work in your blog! Thank you very much!
    I was trying open this score, but says thats it's private.

  2. Thank you for your comment! Regardless of being set as private, Scribd documents have a "print" option. Doesn't it work for you?

  3. Doesn't work for me either. Cannot even access the document on Scribd because owner has "marked private."

    Still, great job and I appreciate the work you put into this!

  4. Excellent job. This is a monumental bassline and your transcription and video are both excellent. Thank you very much for your passion and detail !!

  5. Nice job.
    the original recording is in B flat. Then they sped up the tape because they wanted it faster. If you think about it, when does a horn section ever play in B (never) and when do they play in B flat (all the time).
    The Ricky sounds great, wish I had one.
    The sheet music link is a dead end.

  6. Can not access it either,set to private