Welcome to another installment of sheet music breakdowns. I’m revisiting Vulture, but this time, we’ll be looking at the bass guitar parts.
I’m still considering doing a breakdown of the guitar parts, which were written by my guitarist, David. But as mentioned in the drum post last week, the guitar parts for this song were written first.
When we started writing together in 2017, we would jam once a week–just the guitar and drums–for a couple months until some interesting guitar riffs were found. Once we found some riffs to work with, we adopted a new schedule of jamming one week, and then trying different drum beats for the riffs we wanted to keep the next week. We would alternate between jamming/improvising and writing/revising. Regrettably, we weren’t always recording our ideas before David strung together the riffs for Vulture and Crow in GuitarPro.
The GuitarPro files that David arranged were our first sketches of any of the songs, and these files exported very interesting MIDI files that resembled something out of a NES game. In chip-tune instruments, the songs were pretty complete, and sounded great as they were.
I didn’t really revise the bass parts for months until we had booked studio time to record demos. I had focused exclusively on the drum parts, thinking that David would play the bass parts he had programmed into GuitarPro. When he asked me to play the bass parts for our demo, that’s when I took a look at all of the bass parts for Vulture, Crow, Woodpecker, and Dove and decided to revise them to fit my style. I hadn’t been practicing the bass for a number of years, so I figured revising the bass parts would make it easier to learn and easier to play for the recordings.
I don’t recall making major changes to Vulture, but the original bass part was almost note-for-note identical to the guitar part, except without any chords. The first change I can recall is changing the tuning. The original parts were programmed for a 4-string bass tuned to match David’s Dropped B baritone guitar (B-F#-B-E). I’ve been playing a 5-string bass for many years (B-E-A-D-G), which is sometimes referred to as “extended range.” Bass guitars are typically tuned like the last 4 strings on a guitar (E-A-D-G) so I never needed to learn other tunings to hit notes below E. Luckily, GuitarPro made it simple to transpose the tuning from the programmed 4-string tuning to a standard 5-string tuning. After revising the tuning, I went through the tablature to make sure the transposing tool didn’t create any impossible moves, such as moving across too many frets between notes; many of the notes were transposed to the two higher strings on the bass and didn’t utilize open strings (zeros in the tablature). As a side note, we tuned 3 of our songs to A# tuning after recording our demos in standard tuning. We ended up with A#-F-A#-D#-G-C on the baritone and A#-D#-G#-C#-F# on the bass.
Maybe one day, I’d like to put together a blog post summarizing what I’ve learned about 5-string basses and their relatively recent invention.
There were originally lots of string bends, which I don’t usually go for. When we recorded the demos, I removed all of the bends. But, after spending more time practicing the bass parts, I added bends back into the intro and outro sections.
Similarly, the original bass parts were written to be strummed for each note, so I added Hammer Ons and Pull Offs to smooth out some of the triplet runs. I like Hammer Ons and Pull Offs because they can sound just like strumming or fret slides with enough force. It’s always useful to take note of different techniques that produce similar sounds.
Another change I made after recording was incorporating fret slides to highlight the character of the bass. I like to incorporate counterpoint when arranging band parts, so I wanted to incorporate some fretting techniques to help distinguish the bass from the already-low register of David’s baritone guitar. It is my opinion that fretting techniques such as Hammer Ons, Pull Offs, bends, and vibratos, among others, need to be executed differently on bass guitar than on guitar to produce the intended effects. I also think fret slides sound cool on bass, so when I was practicing bass with the band this last summer, I tried to add more fret slides where it felt appropriate.
The final revision to the bass part, also came after recording. The fast-picking run in bar 160 was originally played on just one string with a guitar pick/plectrum. Since the recording, I’ve been practicing to strum the bass parts with my fingers, but I struggled to hit the notes fast enough without a pick. I thought the problem was my strumming hand, but I misdiagnosed. After changing the fretting to go across two strings, I could easily strum the part fast enough with just my fingers. This way, instead of gliding my left hand down the fretboard, I could move my fingers across the strings.
Here’s a preview of the first page of the bass tabs. The sheets will be available on Sheet Music Plus sometime tonight, and when I can get the link, I’ll include it on this post and on my blog’s About page.
Until next time, cheers!