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How do you do? A newbie plea to proficient bass players and listeners
31 August 2020
2.05pm
human fly
A Beginning
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Dear community,

 Just step into this Beatles forum, thanks for letting me in.

I am utterly fascinated by the Beatles music and maybe above all, by the remarkable bass lines that Paul McCartney inserted into them, a perfect counterpoint to melody, often in a discrete and far from “virtuosity”  way, buried below the most apparent setup of guitars and voices… just the way – I believe- the rhythmic section works best: at the base of it all, at a subliminal level. Many people may not actually hear the bass distinctly, but their feet begin to move and their hearts to beat faster, and their minds to fly higher… because of the bass spell. May I call that magic? I am one of these people: Sometimes I can barely hear Paul playing, but I can feel his playing.

 You fans probably know that the band, and in particular their prominent bass player, where disappointed with the sound mixing of the early singles. In some cases, you can hardly hear Paul playing. Paul got it personal, put his hands on the engineering controls and, from 1966 onwards, you can hear more and more of the bass playing at close range, not anymore buried and lost in the mix. We appreciate that a lot 🙂

We also know that Paul’s bass playing got more and more sophisticated and melodic (rocketing by Sgt Peppers times, and also in later gems like Something , Come together, and a thousand more songs) but from the very early times his playing was very remarkable (very moving¡¡) even if pentatonically simplistic in appearance.

Let´s focus into an early hit: Please Please Me . I always loved the song and its fascinating enchant. HOWEVER, I was only aware of that bass line when some generous musicians posted it in the internet. Never in my life could I have dissected it note by note. In fact, I cannot even hear it for the most part¡¡. Only when someone taught me how to play it on bass, I was aware –a posteriori- of the true majesty of the bass counterpoint in the ‘come on-come on’ chorus part. But to tell you the truth I just cannot tell apart the bass line from the noisy mix in the original release. In my naïve perception, this is very close to “magic”: you get close to beauty only to discover that there is even more beauty and brilliance buried below the first impression of beauty.

The question is, -please satisfy my long-life curiosity: How Do You Do It ? You bass players and great listeners, I respect you. How can you split up in such detail these early recordings where the bass line is deeply buried in the mix??  Are you figuring it out instead of hearing it? Maybe sorting it out from the harmonic frame and inventing a part of it? Did you write to McCartney a desperate letter like this one? Or am I dull, incapable of hearing some low frequencies that are natural to a healthy ear?

Any advice/opinion/feedback is much appreciated…thanks

Jules

p.s. As you probably noticed, English is not my mother tongue…thanks so much for your comprehension

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Beatlebug, ewe2
31 August 2020
8.21pm
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The Hole Got Fixed
A Dock at Southampton
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Welcome @human fly !

I agree, Paul’s basslines are absolutely fantasticpaul-mccartney-thumb_gif

Even before I started learning bass a few years ago, I was always able to hear the bass parts in those early recordings, so my first thought when I read your post was ‘how are you listening to the Beatles?’. It sounds to me like your speakers or headphones may not be producing the low rumble that Paul’s bass produces.  

It’s certainly not loud in the mix, but it’s definitely audible. Something that might help you for the early recordings would be to listen to just the left channel (much easier if you’re listening with headphones) as it should help the bass become a bit more clear.

If that doesn’t help, perhaps a hearing test could be necessary? It would be such a shame if you were not be able to hear Paul’s early basslinesa-hard-days-night-paul-10

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4 September 2020
1.59am
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cloudburst5150
Los Angeles, CA
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Let´s focus into an early hit: Please Please Me . I always loved the song and its fascinating enchant. HOWEVER, I was only aware of that bass line when some generous musicians posted it in the internet. Never in my life could I have dissected it note by note. In fact, I cannot even hear it for the most part¡¡. Only when someone taught me how to play it on bass, I was aware –a posteriori- of the true majesty of the bass counterpoint in the ‘come on-come on’ chorus part. But to tell you the truth I just cannot tell apart the bass line from the noisy mix in the original release. In my naïve perception, this is very close to “magic”: you get close to beauty only to discover that there is even more beauty and brilliance buried below the first impression of beauty.

  @human fly  you got it. I just wrapped recording at home all the parts of Please Please Me and that come on come on bass line stole the show for me. Just a neat little melody “counterpoint” as you say. Case to be made that you’d feel it more of you were in a room where they played it live?

7 September 2020
11.16am
human fly
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Thanks a lot for your replies.

Yep, maybe I have not been careful enough.. I confess I usually play music on cheap speakers 🙂

Cloudburst: yes, who could see them play live (and with some kind of filter for the girl’s screams..). Hey, what do you say about playing those conterpoints while you harmonize the vocal line?. Can you do that too? I fall on my knees and praise to you  if you say yes

all the best: Jules Nemo, aka humanfly

3 January 2023
7.29am
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Neely
Memphis, Tennessee
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I’ve always been able to pick out certain instruments parts, like if you ask me to sing the viola part of Rhapsody In Blue I could do it right now (I’ve never held a viola or looked at that piece of sheet music). I play bass for jazz band so this may translate awfully to the beatles…

Anyways, bass is part of the rhythm section along with drums, piano, baritone saxophone, bass clarinet, tuba, and like marimbas and those types of instruments. This rhythm section lies underneath the melody which what most people remember a song by. Vocals, flute, alto saxophone, clarinet, and trumpet are all instruments that more than likely get the melody at some point. Then there is the weird middle ground with instruments like trombone, tenor saxophone, french horn, and euphonium that very rarely ever get the melody and just play a harmony to the melody or bassline in question.

After knowing this you can easily pick out bass just by listening to the drums, since it is sort of the “leader” of the rhythm section.

When I practice at jazz band meetings and I occasionally get lost in the sheet music and then screw up rhythm and everything crashes and burns I follow the drummer and just play roots and fifths of whatever chord the rest of the band is playing, which is what Paul did in the early beatles records and it never fails me.

P.S. I’m still a music student so if anyone wants to come along and correct me i would greatly appreciate it! Also, after proofreading this I’ve realized how much of a band nerd I am….

23 May 2023
10.43am
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ewe2
Inside the beat
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Hello @human fly as a bass player and Beatles fan I wanted to help you, there are a couple of resources out there:

1. The entire Beatles canon has been transcribed into sheet music, all the arrangements have been transcribed for all the songs and the book has been available for some time, it is called Beatles The  Complete Scores. You can get all the basslines from that if you can read music or even tab. It’s even available as an electronic download on archive.org.

2. There are a number of isolators on the web, sites that take a piece of music and split it up, some are better than others. Of course this is legally dubious as you cannot be sure they are not taking copies that you are uploading. But it is a way to get to hear the isolated bassline. And there are also a number of songs on youtube that have already received this treatment and you can search for ‘isolated bass on x’ for a particular song.

Of course, getting to hear the bassline is only the start! Learning to actually play it often means slowing it down so you can figure out how to get good with it and improve your fingering of the line and improve your speed and articulation. Playing it and singing is another level of talent altogether. Paul is a very rare person who can play bass and sing without too much trouble, although I’m sure he practiced the skill very hard. It’s a LOT harder than it looks and I’m not very good at it myself and I’ve been playing and singing for 40 years. I can just about manage some of the easier Police songs, that’s all (but not Stings singing range I should add!).

Hope that helps! john-lennon-salute_gif

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I'm like Necko only I'm a bassist ukulele guitar synthesizer kazoo penguin and also everyone. Or is everyone me? Now I'm a confused bassist ukulele guitar synthesizer kazoo penguin everyone who is definitely not @Joe.  This has been true for 2016 & 2017 Sig-Badge.png but I may have to get more specific in the future.

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25 May 2023
2.55am
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Sea Belt
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If only YouTube bass coverers of Beatles songs would demonstrate clear fidelity to the original as this guy does with the bass line to the theme for the TV show “Matlock” (one of my favorite bass lines not just for the notes but also the tonality of the bass — which again, this guy nails):

Now today I find, you have changed your mind

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