There are so many benefits to transcribing basslines and solos: ear training, developing musical vocabulary, learning theory, improving improvisation - the list goes on! I spent many years transcribing jazz basslines from the great bassists, such as Paul Chambers, Ray Brown, and Ron Carter, and solos from legends such as Lester Young and Miles Davis. I still transcribe basslines for songs I'm learning, and I always recommend that my students start transcribing as soon as possible. However, learning to transcribe from recordings isn't easy. Often the bass is buried in the mix, notes can overlap with guitar and keyboard parts, and some lines are challenging for beginners and intermediate players to pick up. I have my students start by transcribing straightforward basslines I have recorded to a backing track, with the bass prominent in the mix. Students start by listening to the recording and then using a "fill-in-the-blanks" partial transcription where they just have to figure out and notate the missing measures. I have found that this approach works great and helps give students the confidence to transcribe directly from full recordings.
Want to try it out? Here is a recording of a blues-rock bassline in the key of A for you to transcribe:
Here is a partial transcription with blank measures for you to fill in. You can print this out, and then transcribe the blank measures from the recording. The measures that are already notated should help you fill in the blanks:
Or, if you want to do the whole transcription from scratch, here is a blank chart with just the chord changes:
Finally, here is the answer key! Do your best transcribing the line yourself before checking:
I hope that you find this approach to transcription rewarding and fun. If you want to hear more about how I use transcription in lessons, please contact me!