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Listening To The Bass Note

The Transcribing Course

One of the most important skills you should check out when you start transcribing is the ability to listen to the bass note and close your ears off to the rest of the sounds. Before starting this you will need to be comfortable with Playing Power Chords (BC-172 • Power Chords 1 & BC-186 • Power Chords 2) and also TR-102 • Basic Chord Chart Writing. Please make sure you are happy with this before working on this lesson, or it just won't make sense.

If you can get the bass note you can usually use trial and error to work out if the chord is major or minor, but more on that later, lets get the bass note skill happening first... Working out songs that use power chords is the best way to develop this skill because power chords are neither major or minor, so all you have to listen for is the bass note.

As with all transcribing skills there are transcribing techniques that will help, but most of all it's practice. You will find that using the Transcribe program will make it a LOT easier to start and stop, slow down the track and repeat sections over and over. I wouldn't recommend it if it wasn't awesome. There is a free one called Audacity which I don't think is as good, but better than nothing

To work out real songs you are going to have to listen to them, so I am going to give you an iTunes link to each track, but you can of course buy the track from your favourite online store. Remember that copying mp3 files is taking money out of the artists hands, so give music a chance ;) support bands you like and pay for mp3.

OK, so how to make the most of this lesson.

Start by listening to the songs a few times, like at least five times back to back. Try and listen to the bass note of the power chord. Really try and train your ear to be listening to that one thing and let the words and riffs and any other stuff drift past your ear and don't listen to it. Train your ear to be selective about what it hears. This will only come from practice! So do it.

After listening have a go at working it out. Just do it. Don't look at the song tips, just have a go and see how you get on. You might find that you can do it without any tips, which would be awesome.

If you are still struggling then try reading Tip 1 which is gonna tell you the chords used but not the right order.

Tip 2 that will tell you even more about working out, additional advice or tips.

And if you really ain't getting it then try reading Really Stuck? But it's going to give you BIG hints, like the order of the chords so DON"t READ IT UNLESS YOU HAVE TO - it should get you back on the right track.

If you are new to transcribing then it's going to be a bit tricky - but you will get it and after just a little effort you will be well on your way to developing a fantastic and valuable skill :)

Click on the Click Here to see... and more text will appear by magic ;)


Blink and you'll miss All The Small Things

All The Small Things - Blink 182 @ iTunes

This track is a great one for people starting out transcribing power chords. If you feel up for it, just get in there and don't read the song tips! Listen closely to the chords and the rhythm and try to emulate that too.

Click here to see Tip 1: Chords used: C F and G Power Chords.

Click here to see Tip 2: There is a little single note muted riff in the middle, have a go at that too, it's easier than you might think!

Really Stuck? It starts of with C going to F then G. Verses go C, G, F and then back to G. The big chord that hangs is the C and the nah nah bit is C then to G then F.


Song 2

Song 2- Blue @ iTunes

Song 2 has a great easy power chord riff. It's lots of fun to play and great for getting you moving your power chord shape around quickly. And cos it repeats a lot it should get into your ear pretty quick!

Click here to see Tip 1: Chords used: C, Bb, Eb, Ab and F Power Chords

Click here to see Tip 2: You can play it with the chords on the 6th string, but on the record it is played with all the the root notes on the 5th string.

Really Stuck? The Chords are played in the same order pretty much all the way through, F, Eb, Ab, Bb and C. Three hits on the F and Eb and one strum each on the rest. Add distortion to make it bigger in the choruses.


Getting your first Teenage Kicks

Teenage Kicks - The Undertones @ iTunes

This classic pop rock song by the Undertones only has a few chords and they repeat a lot... so just get in there and have a go.

Click here to see Tip1: Chords used: B, G, D, C# and A Power Chords.

Click here to see Tip 2: The C# is just a passing chord between the D and the B.

Really Stuck? The verses are pretty easy for this one, it starts on the D and then plays the C# but only quickly on the way to the B. It stays there and then plays the C# quickly on the way back to D. Listen closely and you will hear it. When it goes to the Chorus it uses and A chord instead of C# as a bridging chord on the way to the G. The chorus is just G and A!

Extra's: If you want to have a go at the solo it uses the pentatonic scale, muck around and see if you can get figure it out.

Unplugged Polly sounds fat on acoustic

Polly - Nirvana @ iTunes

Nirvana were an awesome band, but many of their tunes are tricky because they have funny tunings and unconventional chords. There are many though that you should just try and transcribe, like this one. Be aware that even if it has a funny tuning you will be able to work it out, it just might not sound 'exactly' like the recording.
The rhythm should be pretty simple if you listen closely. It is the spirit you should try to capture.

Click here to see Tip 1: Chords used: Open E and G, D, C and Bb power chords.

Click here to see Tip 2: At the end of the riff there are single notes (not chords) played on 6 string.

Really Stuck? The verses are Open E, G, D and C and then a little riff that plays single notes (G, F#) down to the E. The Chorus goes D, C G and Bb.


Hate To Say I Told You So but it's gonna be easier than you think

Hate To Say I Told You So - The Hives @ iTunes

I love this band, they rocked. And this is a power chord riff song, kinda similar to Song 2 in that it has a riff using power chords. Not too hard to play and no excuse not to be playing it right away! Saying that, the song is simple, but it's not easy to play simple songs well ;)

Click here to see Tip 1: Chords used: D, C, F, Bb and G Power Chords.

Click here to see Tip 2: Another tip? check the first tip again ;) c'mon try harder!

Really Stuck? The basic riff is the main thing to get here. It consists of D, C F and Bb power chords, all with a 5th string root. Use all down picks, and focus on getting the rhythm good. The chorus goes to a G and then plays the riff again!

Extra's: The solo is a noise solo and requires effects pedals and technology! I wouldn't spend much time working out this unless you are a huge fan.


Find the monkey, learn the song...

Monkey Gone To Heaven - Pixies @ iTunes

Classic brilliant one, and one that you HAVE to listen to the bass line - but if you get it will hand you the whole tune. You can play a power chord off each bass note and you will have it. It's good fun to play on acoustic too, party classic!.

Click here to see Tip 1: Chords used: E F# D B

Click here to see Tip 2: Really listen to the bass part - some of the power chords are quiet but the bass is there the whole time.

Really Stuck? The little lead line riff involves an open thin E string and a note that moves around on the B string... have a go!


Nice boys don't play rock 'n' roll

Scarred For Life - Rose Tattoo @ iTunes

One of my all time fave bands ever. This is real rock 'n' roll :) This tune is a good one for learning to listen to the bass on beat 1, cos then the line moves around a bit. There is a slide guitar going on there too which can confuse the ears a little - but will help you develop them if you stick at it.

Click here to see Tip 1: Chords used: A, G , E, B, D

Click here to see Tip 2: Listen close to what the bass player plays on beat one and try not to let the other notes he plays put you off. In the quiet bit you already know the sequence ;) don't let the arrangement fool you!

Really Stuck? There is a little riff played on the open A power chord sometime put this chord down to make the riff A6sus4: TAB x 0 4 2 3 x.

Basket Case

Basket Case - Green Day @ iTunes

Getting a little tougher now. There are quite a few chords and it goes pretty quick and you will probably have to work up to playing along... but that shouldn't stop you from working it out! It is a rocking tune and uses many rock rhythm techniques like palm muting.

Click here to see Tip 1: Chords Used: Bb, Eb, Ab, C, G, D Power Chords.

Click here to see Tip 2: The chord C is played in two different positions in the song!

Really Stuck? The most important thing is that you start right. It starts on Eb power chord with a 5th string root. The basic sequence goes Eb, Bb, C, G, Ab, Eb, Bb. I'm not going to give you more than that! Just go for it, remember to stop the song at the chord you are working out (before the next chord comes to confuse you). The 3rd chord (C) is played down in the 3rd position, but later in the song you will need to play it at the 8th position. See, you have to know your 5th and 6th string root notes now!


Button down Jack White

The Hardest Button To Button - The White Stripes @ iTunes

They are power chords but just played one note at a time. Just go for it - you should be able to get this one!

Click here to see Tip 1: Chords Used: C, B, Bb, A, D

Click here to see Tip 2: Play strings 5 3 4 5 for the riff. The rest you should have no problem with. I can sometimes here an A sus4 chord in there too, but you can certainly play regular A powerchord (probably the open one) and it will rock.

Really Stuck? No more hint's I'm afraid. But you will have to listen a bit to make sure you get all the accents and stuff, the arrangement is not so simple.

You'll be Pretty Fly For A White Guy if you can work this one out...

Pretty Fly For A White Guy - The Offspring @ iTunes

This one is a tough tune - there are lots of power chords and they move pretty fast. If you can get this one down then you have your transcribing power chords skills going real good! :)

Click here to see Tip 1: At the start the B chord is played on the 5th string root, but after the next couple of chords it is played with a 6th string root. It's make sense when you get it!

Click here to see Tip 2: There are loads of semitone movements in this song which is what makes it so tricky.

Really Stuck? Then go do some other tunes and come back to this one later - this is your test to see if you are solid with working out your power chord songs!


Evil minds and blood destruction will help with this...

War Pigs - Black Sabbath @ iTunes

This one has a pretty long intro but you can leave that... or maybe have a go at that too - but it's not power chords. Bonus points for getting that. This a classic power chords number and one for your to do list! So got for it now without looking at the clues if you can!

Click here to see Tip 1: Chords Used: G, F#, F, D, E,

Click here to see Tip 2: Verse is using single notes note power chords, common for this type of riff. The high chord in the verses are all notes from the 12th fret, but which strings?

Really Stuck? Then listen harder!! The solo is full or delay so that's a pig to work out, so I'd be leaving that for now if you are just starting out. There is a lot to be learnt in this song if you just have a go at the bits that you think are too hard. Learning about playing notes on the 5th string and leaving the 6th string (thickest) open anyone? What about that bit at 5:40? sounds cool eh! Play an E7 chord - or start with E Power chord at 7th fret lift little finger off and barre with 1st finger... TAB: x 7 9 7 x x and off you go. move the shape down the neck. Listen. Have fun - this one's a cracker!


Want some more to try out?

There are SO many songs that use power chords... but there are a few bands that use them ALL the time - so try working out any songs by:

The Offspring
Blink 182
Black Sabbath

I'm going to add more user suggestions here - if you have one - then add it to the forum topic :)


BTW - Big thanks to Klas who made the Song Tip java script for me - thanks dude, appreciate it!



Lesson ID: TR-201