Both Questlove and D’Angelo cite J Dilla (born James Yancey) to be a visionary and an eye opener. He single-handedly invented the sloppy, slugging behind-the-beat feel that is now considered a staple typical for Neo-soul, Fusion and Hip Hop acts. Rumours say it happened by accident, when the samples were not aligned “correctly” to the beat grid but shifted ever so slightly. In a video, Questlove explains how he had to unlearn the rhythmic tightness and precision he acquired over the years in order to achieve the musical ideas of D’Angelo based on J Dilla’s beats.

Unfortunately, J Dilla died early in 2006 on a rare condition. Instead of giving in, he produced his final solo album The Diary lying in a hospital bed. Off of that album, Gangsta Boogie is a prime example for the aforementioned style, which this transcription cannot capture at all:

So in order to get the feel right, listen, listen and listen again. And don’t get lost in Snoop Dogg’s verses.

Yes, the bassline was very likely a synth which I tried to emulate with the Digitech Bass Synth Wah. It’s close but unfortunately not the real deal.

Avishai Cohen alongside Christian McBride is my favorite contemporary upright bassist. Unlike McBride, he has found a very particular sound and approach to music, mixing modern Jazz with middle eastern influences and playful rhythms. In the past, he was mainly known for having been the bass player for the Chick Corea band but since then made a huge impact with his own group and trio work.

Calm is a song from Cohen’s Continuo album featuring Sam Barsh playing keys (coincidently, he also appears on Anderson .Paak’s Malibu) and Mark Guiliana on drums. Compared to most other tracks, Calm has a relatively simple bassline and is driven mostly by arpeggios played by the piano. Grab the transcription and follow along:

José James, and this particular track, is one of those gems found in my weekly Spotify discovery list. Thanks Spotify! Anyway, José James is a Jazz singer but turned to a more RnB and Neo-Soul style with his Blue Note debut record No Beginning No End which contains this week’s track Trouble. To get an idea about the entire record and James’ past, I highly recommend you to check out the review Pursuing Many Paths to Find His Own in the New York Times.

I have no verification, but the bass on this track might come from the venerable Pino Palladino. In the vein of D’Angelo and J Dilla, it features a relaxing laid back rhythm during the main riff played by drums and bass and propels forward during verse and chorus incorporating nice eighth note anticipations. Unlike most RnB and Soul which tends to be harmonically simple, Trouble features an interesting almost Jazz-like chord progression over four different parts. Here is the main riff from the entire transcription:

Based on this transcription, I made an out-of-focus rendition with a badass Bruce Lee shirt:

P.S.: I forgot to mention last time but all the YouTube videos are served without tracking them you!

As announced previously, this is the first post that will be a major shift of content here on this blog. Music is and has been a big part of my life but, as you can see, never really reflected here. To change this, I will start a series of posts containing transcriptions of basslines I deem worth to learn, be it for historical or musical reasons.

This time, I want to start with my favorite’s musical discovery this: Anderson .Paak (born Brandon Paak Anderson) and his second album called Malibu. Even though it draws a lot from all those classic funky and electronic rhythms, his vocals are a refreshing change from typical RnB singers you can hear on the radio. Even though he’s on the scene for a while, he became most famous for collaborating with Dr. Dre on Compton.

Compared to the rest of the songs, Celebrate is a bit of a different beast on “Malibu”. Whereas most songs feature the laid back drum and bass grooves that – with the help of drummer Questlove and bassist Pino Palladino – made D’Angelo neo-soul style famous, Celebrate sounds like a reminiscence to soul and R&B songs from the 60s with a hint of Gospel.

Verse riff. Click for full transcription (PDF).

There is – together with drums and piano – a strong emphasis on the one of the beat and occasional eighth note syncopations. Even though these could be the ingredients for a funky beat, it is actually way more relaxed due to the slow tempo and the way the bass plays slightly behind the beat. So my tip to getting this one right: listen to the record!