Bass Transcription: Ben Shepherd’s Bass Line on Soundgarden’s “Pretty Noose”
The unfortunate passing of Chris Cornell is a devastating loss for music. It is especially poignant for those of us that grew up listening to grunge music in the ’90s and 2000s.
“Pretty Noose”, the first track from Soundgarden’s Down On The Upside, is a personal favorite of mine. On this track, Ben Shepherd performs a bass line that consists almost entirely of “power chords”. Bassists in rock music are generally used to doubling the root of guitar chords 8vb but here Shepherd doubles both the root and 5th to add a layer of distorted low-end density. This technique was not-at-all uncommon for grunge bassists to employ during this era.
On first glance, the score might be a bit confusing. The bass here is tuned C G C G (guitars: C G C G C E) but the score is transposed up a whole step to make it easier for those who are accustomed to identifying notes on the fretboard in standard tuning. In short, consider the bass as being tuned D A D A while reading. My second suggestion is to only read the bottom note. All of the chord intervals are perfect 5ths, therefore you only have to be aware of the barre chord shape needed to play power chords on the upper and lower C – G strings, as well as the more traditional, 2nd fret, root – 5th shape, generally associated with standard tuning on the middle G – C strings. I have somewhat indicated which strings to play on with an “o” articulation above or below the notes, as seen in the 1st verse, to indicate an open string. My third suggestion is to not to adhere too closely to the notation. The isolated bass track is performed with some variation and random sloppiness. Don’t follow the rhythmic quantities too closely. It is also “alright” to occasionally hit adjacent open strings while playing. I hope you enjoy this tribute to a great musician gone too soon, Chris Cornell, and bassist Ben Shepherd.
Download the transcription and follow along with the video: