Transcribing Hard-to-Hear Bass Lines
Q: Sometimes I have difficulty extracting the bass line from a song my band has decided to cover, especially for songs where the bass is deep in the mix. Can you recommend any applications or techniques for isolating the bass line or at least bringing it up to the surface?
A: While there is something to be said for developing your ears to the point that you can pick up lines and recognize intervals with ease – and at tempo – sometimes you just need to slow something down to really hear what’s going on.
Thanks to the wonders of the digital age, your options are plentiful. There are quite a few powerful “slow-downers” out there for most any computing platform (Android, iOS, Mac, Windows, etc…) Almost all of them have the added benefit of also allowing you to adjust the tuning of the track, which is very helpful when transcribing older recordings that are slightly out of tune or anything that’s been slowed down or sped up and is no longer exactly in tune.
Most of these apps also include a graphic EQ allowing you to adjust the EQ of the track to help bring out the bass. Also, most of them will allow you to export the file in the altered state so you can email it or simply throw it on your iPod or computer and shed without the program.
The simplest to use is likely The Amazing Slow Downer from Roni Music. This is a pretty bare bones application but it does it’s job well. You can loop sections, change the pitch, slow the track and change EQ. Check out my review of this app. Anytune gives you a ton of control over… well, everything. The Mac version is just hitting the app store so keep an eye out for this one. You can also read my review of this app for more.
Two other apps I enjoy are Capo and Transcribe.
Transcribe has an additional feature to allow you to also work with video files, not just audio. This may not be an obvious need but it is wonderful when you can grab a chunk of video and slow it down while watching the fingerings as well.
Transcribe is only available for Mac, Windows or Linux while all of the other apps mentioned are also available on iOS. Some are also available on Android.
Beyond that, I would suggest that you take it slow and work out lines, note by note. Pay attention to the shapes of lines and how they sound. This is a part of how you develop your ability to pick lines out of tunes quickly. You come to simply know what that line looks like on the fretboard.
Be patient and take your time. It will come!
Readers, what sort of apps or methods do you use to transcribe those tricky bass lines and recordings? Please share in the comments.