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Touching Bass (Part 11)

Concluding our series on bass styles, Simon Trask goes ethnic


As the cold dark days of winter draw in, Simon Trask turns to the warm, infectious groove of Zairean soukous music for the final instalment of his series on the bassline.

To round off the series, I've chosen to look at a form of music which gives the bassline a prominent role. Zairean soukous is the quintessential African pop music, an incorrigibly, irresistibly happy concoction of sparkling guitar lines, jaunty basslines and snappy dance beats which has long been popular throughout black Africa.

Soukous ('having a good time' music!) is characterised on the one hand by straightforward harmonies and chord progressions, and on the other by a complex, dynamic interplay of melodies and rhythms. Chord progressions are typically two bars long and consist of two or four chords; a soukous track consists of two or more recurring sections, each built around a different chord progression. Mirroring this structure, the bassline is typically based on repeating 2-bar riffs, with each section having its own riff to match the different chord progression. While soukous basslines fulfil the usual bass function of outlining and underpinning the chords, they also typically have strong melodic and rhythmic identities of their own. Incidentally, tempo for this month's examples should be 125bpm.

Ex1(a), Ex1(b), Ex1(c)


The three rhythmic motifs in Example 1 are the 'building blocks' of rhythm in soukous; the first two are commonly found in the snare part and the bass, while the third provides the constant kick drum rhythm and, on occasion, the rhythm for the bass part (see Example 6(b) - here, the bassline should be played in a clipped fashion). Examples 2-6 all provide characteristic soukous basslines, modelled in particular on the playing of Miguel Yamba, one of the top soukous bass players. Note how some of the examples stray into the bass guitar's upper register; this is characteristic of soukous bass playing, where the basslines are often more like 3rd guitar lines.

Ex2


Ex3


You can use the drum and percussion parts provided in Example 6 as accompaniment for all the other basslines. In Examples 4 and 5, the (a) and (b) examples are intended to be matched with the rhythms of Examples 6(a) and (b) respectively while 5(c) is also intended for use with 6(b)'s rhythm - but these are recommendations, rather than commands engraved in stone.

Ex4(a)


Ex4(b)


Ex5(a)


Ex5(b)


Ex5(c)


For Examples 6(a) and (b) I've also added the all-important lead and rhythm guitar parts. While rhythm players play mid-range, lead guitarists play as high as the fretboard lets them go! In fact, to avoid excessive use of leger lines, I've written the lead guitar parts without the 'octave lower' symbol which usually hangs off the treble clef for guitar scoring. While we're on the subject of writing for guitar, I've scored the rhythm guitar parts literally, with tie lines indicating where notes should be held; if you actually play these parts on a guitar, you should also use pull-offs for the E-D and F#-E 16ths.

Ex6(a)


Ex6(b)


Instrumental parts

Reading from top to bottom of Examples 6(a) and (b), the five staves are: lead guitar, rhythm guitar, bass guitar, percussion and drums.

Reading from top to bottom of the percussion stave for 6(a) and (b), the sounds you should use are: mute high conga, low conga and cabasa. Reading from top to bottom of the drums stave for 6(a): closed hi-hat, snare drum and kick drum; for 6(b): closed hi-hat, sidestick and kick drum.


GS Format/General MIDI compatibility

This month's musical examples were created using a Roland JV30 synth, which is a GS Format instrument. Consequently, if you own a GS instrument you can recreate them using the same sounds. Specifically, I used patch 27 (Jazz Guitar) for the lead and rhythm guitar parts, patch 34 (Fingered Bass) for the bass sound (with a modified filter cutoff setting of -39), and the Standard Kit for the drum and percussion parts. The percussion sounds from top to bottom of the stave are on note numbers 62, 64 and 69, while the drum sounds from top to bottom in 6(a) are on note numbers 42, 40 and 36, and in 6(b) on 42, 37 and 36.

The typical lead guitar sound in soukous is clean with a touch of delay; on a GS instrument, the Short Delay (one of the Chorus effects) will get you nearest to the required sound. Assign the lead and rhythm guitar parts to different GS Parts, receiving on different MIDI channels, so that you can enable the Chorus effect for the lead guitar but not the rhythm guitar.

Owners of General MIDI instruments can use the patch numbers and drum sounds indicated above, but of course these won't provide literally the same sounds.



Previous Article in this issue

The A-Z of Analogue

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Where MIDI meets Video...


Music Technology - Copyright: Music Maker Publications (UK), Future Publishing.

 

Music Technology - Dec 1993

Donated by: Chris Moore

Topic:

Instrument Tuition / Technique

Music Business


Series:

Touching Bass

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 (Viewing)


Feature by Simon Trask

Previous article in this issue:

> The A-Z of Analogue

Next article in this issue:

> Where MIDI meets Video...


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