The Power of 2
It’s one of the most recognizable bass lines in music history, yet it contains only two simple notes, a 5 followed by two 1s (G-C-C).
In my school classroom sessions I’ll bring my bass and play a number of bass lines from some popular “old school” songs to see what the kids will recognize. Sure enough, this one is always known. Although they might not all know the name, these elementary and middle school kids can, almost instantly, identify this memorable bass line from the Motown hit My Girl, by the Temptations. I’ll play another “old school” 2-note groove that will also cause eyes to light up and hands to raise as one yells out “Ice Ice Baby!”. Recently, upon hearing that bass line, one fifth grader actually said, “that’s a Queen song”. That young man made this Queen fanatic’s day as some might not know that Vanilla Ice used the groove from Queen and David Bowies powerful song, Under Pressure. The point? Both of those brilliantly simple bass lines that have served to make these songs famous were created with TWO SIMPLE NOTES.
Think Beyond the Notes
Your assignment for the day, listen to these bass lines, without your bass. Put your ears and mind to work and think about what is great about these simple lines. How did James Jamerson and John Deacon approach these recording sessions? What kind of technique was being used (there are many valuable techniques that go unnoticed or unpracticed by many of us). How did they make those 2 notes so amazing? Can I replicate the sound or feel of those lines? Why or why not?
Next, start a drum loop or metronome and see if you can create you’re own 2-note groove, try it with 1 note. Doing this kind of listening and practicing regularly will help you to think past the notes and put you on your way to creating your own simple, cool, and maybe even memorable, groove!