Weekly Basslines #125: Line Clichés (Part 1)

A few weeks ago I received a major donation from a former student of mine considering a bassline that I should transcribe for her. Her band wanted to add this song to their repertoire and they were struggeling a bit with the arrangement and overall performance. So after I provided her with the transcription of the bassline I decided to take a deeper look into the harmonic structure of the tune.

The really wonderful tune "Midnight in Harlem" from the Tedeschi Trucks Band is featuring a so-called "line cliché" and here's my little lesson about this harmonic songwriting device.

Line Clichés

A “line cliché” is a melodic line, that moves stepwise against a single chord. There are four common types of “line clichés”: 

A) Minor chords with a line descending from the Root (perhaps the most frequently found)
B) Minor chords with a line starting at the fifth and moving up and then down again.
C) Major chords with a line descending from the Root.
D) Major chords with a line starting at the fifth and moving up and then down again.

The first example of type a shows a “line cliché” against a c minor chord, starting from the root C and descending chromatically to the A (which is the sixth).

The typical chord progression for this kind of line cliché is:

m - m(Maj7) - m7 - m6

Starting with a minor chord (m) the stepwise descending line leads to a minor chord with a major 7th (mMaj7), a minor chord with a minor 7th (m7) and ends on a minor chord with an added 6th (m6).

A very famous example for this progression is the beginning and the interludes of the Beatles song “Michelle”.

The line cliché is stepping down chromatically from the root: F-E-Eb-D.
Here the bass is not involved in the “line cliché” as Paul McCartney chose the option of playing a counter-part on bass:

Here’s another song with a “type a” line cliché:

In the course of the song there’s another type a “line cliché” with semi-chromatic movement as the line steps down a whole tone from root to minor 7th and then a half-tone to the sixth: A-G-F#-G.

Here's the complete bassline to "Into The Great Wide Open". 
Observe the different strategies bassist Howie Epstein is applying here to play with or against the line clichés of the guitar. 

  • During the Intro and the Em part of the verses he simply plays the root note E as a pedal tone
  • On the Am (bars 7+8; 16+17 and 38+39) he follows the line-cliché by playing A-G-F#-G.
    In the second part of the second verse however he plays a counter-part to the line: F#-G-A-C.
  • In the Interlude (Part D, bars 30-34) he plays 2 bars with the line-cliché (E-D#-D-C#) and 2 bars counterpart (E-F#-G-A).

Another semi-chromatic line cliché descending from the root can be found in the Beatles song “Dear Prudence”: D-C-B-Bb.

Here's a clip with the isolated bass and drums for closer study of the bassline:

Now let's move on to another type of line clichés:
Type B)
This line clichés moves chromatically up from the 5th of a minor chord to the sixth and then back down:

This one has been made really famous by John Barry’s “James Bond Theme”:

Next week we'll going to have a closer look at line cliche types c+d and of course I'll present the transcription of "Midnight in Harlem" by the Tedeschi Trucks Band.


Weekly Basslines #124: Goodnight tonight (Wings)

Wow, what a bassline and it's played by ..... Mr. Paul McCartney!

As a bassplayer he was always underrated,  but this songs basslines can surely prove that Macca is not only a great songwriter but also a  versatile bass player. This bassline was requested by Hans from Germany and is played on a fretless bass.

Written in 1978 this song was produced as a single to promote the release of Wing's "Back To The Egg" album and went to number 5 of the charts in the UK as well as in the United States. It's a rather unusual song for the Wings as it combines a disco-groove with flamenco guitars.

Taken from the book "Paul McCartney Solo Music Career 1970-2010 (John Cherry)":
"Disco and dance music were the rule of the day, so Paul, reluctantly, decided to release "Goodnight Tonight" recognizing that people would hear it as a dance song.
Becoming Wings' third best selling single, the pop song "had toes tapping, posessed an infectious chorus, and sounded great on the dance floor." 

But not only McCartney was to jump on the disco-train in theses days. It's certainly no coincidence that the Rolling Stones also released a disco-groove single in 1978. I'm talking about "Miss You" from the "Some Girls" album. It seems that the years 1978 & 1979 were the golden days of disco music and everybody had to be part of it. 

Thanks again to Hans for the donation and this wonderful request!


Weekly Basslines #123: Nasty Habits (Oingo Boingo)

"..and now for something completely different..." 

This Monthy Python quote seems to be the right words to describe the art & music of a group called "Oingo Boingo". Mark from Atlanta requested that and I have to admit that I wasn't very familiar with the music of this band. So here is what Wikipedia says about the band:

"Oingo Boingo /ˈɔɪŋɡ ˈbɔɪŋɡ/ was an American rock band. They are best known for their influence on other musicians, their soundtrack contributions, and their high energy Halloween concerts. The band was founded in 1972 as The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo, a performance art group. From 1976 it was led by songwriter/vocalist Danny Elfman, who has since achieved success as a composer for film and television.
The group's format changed twice. In 1979, it reshaped from a semi-theatrical music and comedy troupe into a ska-influenced New Wave octet and shortened their name to Oingo Boingo. Towards the end of the 1980s, the band began shifting to a more guitar-oriented alternative rock sound, and away from the use of horns and synthesizers. The band retired after a sold out farewell concert on Halloween 1995."

 The requested song is from the 1981 "Oingo Boingo" debut "Only A Lad":

The transcription of the bassline was quiete a challenge, because the bizarre kind of the music goes a long with unusual chord choices (diminished chords are favoured), lots of unresolved chromatics, changing meters and a rather unpredictable song structure with several different parts. But in the end it was a lot of fun!

Thanks to Mark for the donation and for widening my musical horizon a bit.......


Weekly Basslines #122: Burning Love (Elvis Presley)

This was requested by Dieter from Germany and as I started transcribing the song I found out that this bassline contains a very common bass-pattern, which has been used in a multitude of different songs from different eras and different styles.

I'm calling this pattern the 1-5-6-Pattern because it uses the root (1), the fifth (5) and a sixth (6) to a given chord. Here's an example for the C major chord:

The first time I came across this pattern was, when I transcribed the James Jamerson Bassline to "I can't help myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)" by the Four Tops from 1965.

In the same year Duck Dunn used this pattern for accompanying Otis Reddings song "I can't turn you loose":

When you compare these two basslines, you'll notice that only the order of the notes played was changed:

The next time I spotted the 1-5-6-Pattern was in the 1966 single "Substitute" by The Who.

The next example is from Elton John's big hit of the early seventies (1972) "Crocodile Rock":

Coming back to "Burning Love" by Elvis Presley, which was also recorded in 1972. 

More songs that I found to contain the 1-5-6-Pattern are:
Gloria Gaynor - Never Can Say Goodbye
Hues Corporation - Rock The Boat (which I transcribed last year)
Queen - A Kind Of Magic (submitted by Hoobayne via basschat.co.uk)
Booker T. & The M.G.'s - Time Is Tight (submitted by DaveFry via basschat.co.uk)
Billy Ocean - Love Really Hurts Without You (submitted by Chardbass via basschat.co.uk)
Rita Coolidge - Higher and Higher (submitted by Annoying Twit via basschat.co.uk)
(You can find the transcription to Rita Coolidge's rendition of "Higher and Higher" here!)
John Fred & His Playboy Band - Judy In Disguise (submitted by BassLine via ozzbassforum.com)

If you find more songs with the 1-5-6-Pattern please drop a note in the comments or send me an eMail to tom@four-strings.de so I can continue this list.

During the research to this post I stumbled across a lot of cover versions for "Burning Love":

The first recorded version of the song was done by Arthur Alexander (so in fact Elvis Presley also did a cover version):

For the Disney movie "Lilo & Stitch" this version was recorded

Here's a funny Metal-Version:

The website "Second Hand Songs" lists 53 cover versions of "Burning Love":

So thanks again to Dieter for the donation and this inspiring request!!


Weekly Basslines #121: Treasure (Bruno Mars)

Requested by Mike from Germany this one is a good addition to the "easy slap bass" repertoire.

Thanks to Mike for the donation!

More Bruno Mars: