Welcome to this series on working out bass lines and riffs by ear. Throughout the series I will show you exactly how I work out bass parts, beginning with some rudiments, then moving on through the process of working out all bass parts – every single note! - to an entire well-known song.
It is advisable, even for advanced players, to re-visit the rudiments of transcription. If the basics are not in place, obstacles will appear greater than they really are.
Make sure you check into this website occasionally to continue your steps through these lessons. Use these lessons in conjunction with the Ear Training resources available on this website.
Transcription Techniques for Bass - Part 1
To transcribe literally means to write down. In music we use the term more loosely to describe the working out or “lifting” parts off recordings.
IMPORTANT ADVICE: If you are having trouble working out individual notes, make sure you stop the recording exactly on the note you are attempting to find. Immediately hum that note. Then look for it on your instrument.
If you are new to transcribing, or lacking in experience, play each neighboring fret until you find the note you are after (and preferably still humming). That way you are making sure you do not miss the note. This simple step works wonders for beginners. Most novices will jump all around the instrument, and usually end up never hitting the right note, often landing just next to it.
It does not matter a lot if you go up or down the fingerboard, because you will eventually find the note when playing every fret. Once you have found the correct note you can easily transfer it to the correct octave.
Be patient. Finding individual notes is usually easier and ultimately quicker than trying to work out entire passages - unless you are advanced.
This is also important for beginners: Ensure you remember the correct fret. Use the position markers on the fingerboard as a visual aid.
At first, don’t get caught up in intricacies such as ghost notes, hammer-ons, and other articulations. Go for target notes. You can fine-tune your transcription once you have the skeleton of the line.