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thepurpleblob

How do you play reggae?

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It all started with a cover of I Shot the Sheriff... 

I can play the notes. I can even play them more or less in the right place. But it sounds rubbish. I just don't have the feel at all. 

Solutions appreciated. Yeh - I know it's a bit of a stupid question

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It’s not a stupid question at all,  because lots of the notes are played on the offbeat ,that’s what gives the Bassline a different feel  , you will also play pickup notes which are notes before the 1 if you are counting 1,2,3,4 .  A good tune to practice getting the timing  is    Stir it up , Bob Marley .   IMO Robbie Shakespeare is one of the best reggae bass players ever 😀. Also on YouTube   Alain m   has some great basslines 

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Forget the notes, just play 54-46 for as long as it takes for you to find the groove.

Doesn't matter if it takes minutes, days or weeks, just focus on feel.

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The feel comes from playing in front of or sometimes behind the beat. It makes the bass drum and snare stand out by not cluttering up the sound but also serves to give the music a swing or lilt. Don't be afraid to leave spaces either, especially under the 1st and 2nd beats of a bar and you can offset this with clusters of notes under beats 3 and 4. This is what I've found, although opinions may well vary.

Edited by Japhet
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Put down the bass, pick up a triangle. Then listen to Reggae, an ting.

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This is clearly a similar issue to my inability to play that "baggy" 90s stuff (e.g. Primal Scream). The basic problem is not taking enough drugs 😂

AND... I now know that song is called "54 46" 😉

Edited by thepurpleblob

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On ‎30‎/‎11‎/‎2018 at 16:43, thepurpleblob said:

I Shot the Sheriff...I can play the notes... But it sounds rubbish. I just don't have the feel at all...Solutions appreciated...

You need to go to Reggae School! Search "Devon Bradshaw" on YouTube.

I would make a playlist of Reggae songs to listen to. It's really about listening first. And there's lot's to be learned, so don't beat yourself up about it.

And there's a philosophy behind it that needs to be absorbed. In Classic Rock, the bass line is most often the harmonic skeleton of the entire song from start to finish. In Reggae, the bass player and drummer each have a "part" or function. The parts must lock-in. It's mostly an improv style, but records lead one to believe that there's a static bass line, when it's really the best parts of an improvisation  The bass player is playing "congas" more that a melodic ostinato bass line. You have to "bubble" and leave space; you're no longer the ostinato glue for the harmonic changes. The guitar "stabs" take care of the changes, but the vocals do the most of the harmony.. 

Personally, if I only had to play only one reggae song, and have to do all the work to incorporate that style into my playing I'd change out the band for another that wants to play music closer to my natural cultural inclinations or music that I was raised with. Who in the band is pushing this one song? But that's just me. I play Reggae on my own with records because I had lots of R&B in my childhood years, and I like the feel. I'm not forced into it by a band dictator.

Playing Reggae with other English lads in public just reeks of CA (Cultural Appropriation). Next they'll all be sporting dreadlocks along with their Doc Martins. Unless the audience is clamouring for more Reggae, what is their point? "Wheee, look at me!" "I'm English and I can play Reggae!" 

There's so many great local Reggae bands, who live and breathe Caribbean Culture, that it just looks like your band is trying to edge them out. I'd feel ridiculous doing it in public. I was once slammed with CA for playing upright in a Dixieland band. But I AM Dixieland in my heart, and it's origins are mixed. So I just laughed at him for being so jealous that he couldn't play his own musical heritage as well.

I have lots of time for Bob Marley, but I have no time for Eric Clapton. One sounds warm; the other sounds cold. I wouldn't play Reggae as a band unless I was actually born in the Caribbean. Anyone not actually born there is going out of their way, and is a fake, a foolish wannabee. 

But, you won't go wrong listening to the "Devon Bradshaw" videos. I'd just play Reggae at home.

 

Edited by StringNavigator

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I live in Scotland... we don't have cultural appropriation. We just play music we like. Sometimes it comes easily, sometimes there's some effort involved. Sometimes it's a disaster 😂

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I guess you have to be German to play Bach then.

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As well as 'smoking quantity' play along with the bass from the 2nd and 3rd Linton Kwesi Johnson albums, Forces of Victory and Bass Culture. When you are just listening the bass lines sound simple but when you try and play along it's quite difficult and you realise there is something quite fundamentally different going on to what you're used to playing. I am not a good enough theorist to analyse and decipher the differences but I've found that after a while of playing along with these tracks you somehow just switch into the groove and it becomes easy to follow. I've listened to a lot of reggae and dub over the last forty years and I think these two albums a perfect exemplars to get into that reggae mindset, simple but beautiful.

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2 hours ago, Frank Blank said:

As well as 'smoking quantity' play along with the bass from the 2nd and 3rd Linton Kwesi Johnson albums, Forces of Victory and Bass Culture. When you are just listening the bass lines sound simple but when you try and play along it's quite difficult and you realise there is something quite fundamentally different going on to what you're used to playing. I am not a good enough theorist to analyse and decipher the differences but I've found that after a while of playing along with these tracks you somehow just switch into the groove and it becomes easy to follow. I've listened to a lot of reggae and dub over the last forty years and I think these two albums a perfect exemplars to get into that reggae mindset, simple but beautiful.

Well said frank. Have a listen to Raging Fyah.  you may like them 👍

Edited by Reggaebass

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1 hour ago, Reggaebass said:

Well said frank. Have a listen to Raging Fyah.  you may like them 👍

I’m liking them! I should respond with a recommendation too, Samsara from Brighton, great reggae with a kind of subtle Klezmer overtone sometimes, why this band aren’t huge escapes me...

 

Edited by Frank Blank
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10 hours ago, stevie said:

I guess you have to be German to play Bach then.

No, but it helps...

However, Bach is an exponent of European music from its classical era. Even English people can play it. 

Going back to the OP's initial query; sometimes a small example is worth a thousand words in how not to play the Reggay. (Don't watch the entire tediously cringe-worthy clip.Italian spaghetti and Reggie band. How good can it get in the UK, eh...? )

OK, Me Lads...! Show 'em how much rhythm we can muster! Let's all go do a really cool Reggie number, now...!!

 

Edited by StringNavigator
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11 hours ago, thepurpleblob said:

I live in Scotland... we don't have cultural appropriation. We just play music we like.

That's because they have a culture of their own. And they like it! (Big fan of the pied-pipers, I am...!)

Related image

 

Edited by StringNavigator

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I play in a reggae band and I my experience when people start to play reggae on whatever instrument, the main reason it does not sound authentic is because they do not listen enough to what it ACTUALLY SOUNDS LIKE and what is being played. They have an idea in their head of what reggae sound like and play what they think it sounds like and that can be way off. (closer to calypso than reggae). That is not to say you need to be note perfect on a cover it is good to add your own take as long as you remember that in a lot of reggae the bass line is what makes the track work and if you move too far off it becomes a different song. Try not to get academic about it, the feel is what you are aiming to capture in the genre.

To the OP,  just listen carefully what is being played and what is not being played and how the rhythm sits. Remember the spaces are also a part of what is being played. Try to determine where the notes are being played on the bass as there are tonal and feel reasons why notes are played in a reggae bass line in a particular place on the neck. I would say that Sheriff is not the place to start if you are new to reggae bass playing. Try something really basic first to get the feel remember less is more. The busier reggae bass lines are great though easier to get lose the feel. (A great busy bass line is ‘now that we’ve found love’ by third world. Lots of good stuff going on there that can go unnoticed on first hearing)

I think these two tracks are a great place to start. 

Crazy Ballhead

 

Natural mystic. 

Let us know how you get on. 👍🏿

Edited by jazzyvee
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Another great one to really get the feel for a reggae bass line is this, from my early days just starting out  on bass in 1977  aged 14 😀

 

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Good luck with your endeavours. If anyone, of whatever colour, tries to tell you that you shouldn't be playing a particular type of music because of your ethnic background, then they are being racist, and should be ignored, however much they may try to conceal their racism behind such fatuous pc terms as "cultural appropriation". It's no different from someone telling a black person that they shouldn't be performing opera or playing in a string quartet. Music is music, and has always benefitted from cross-cultural fertilization, without which much of the music we enjoy, and which has enriched our lives, simply would not exist. Enjoy!

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Ha good to hear that view Earbrass, my ear tunes to all kinds of music and I'd like to think my playing benefits from that open mindedness to all genres. I have been constrained by that when I was playing guitar in a couple of major touring reggae bands because I was playing bluesy, sometimes rocky lines and funky rhythms which worked and were on some of the covers they did. On the cultural appropriation in the context that you put it I absolutely agree with you. There is another side to that which is completely different and not something I want to get into. 👍🤝

 

Edited by jazzyvee
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Bounce, and hit the notes on the bounce. And wind the tone knob back aaaaaaaaaaaall the way... :D

In self-pluggage as an example news, we done that: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HCiwFVon05k (warning. sweary!) and it was originally intended to sound like Motorhead (we were very very cross). Its 'donor song' for feel is Ghost Town by the Specials which our Canadian chum might be unaware of, and is an example of Two-tone*, pretty much the first UK multicultural youth culture (probably) - that was basically ska, reggae and punk all mixed together...

Equally reggae massively influenced the Clash, the Police and obvs UB40 so its really been part of protesty type music and alternative culture in the UK since Windrush!  And apparently the Queen Mother had a massive ska collection..! :D

*Black and white, geddit? :D

 

Edited by operative451
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I'm not at all surprised by the smell of smug superiority and self-entitled retaliation. After all, has not the entire world from America to  India to Africa suffered under barbaric Colonialism at the point of a gun? "Collecting" artifacts from other nations under the guise of Archeology to make money and stealing music and culture from other nations to make money is an old family tradition, innit...? Being insular can often make one myopic and preclude understanding, as they stumble blindly along the same sin trodden path of their ancestors.

Anyone in the world can play European music. That is not Cultural Appropriation in spite of fools who try to turn the argument. Because they never invaded, enslaved or appropriated Euro culture. But to witness a young well-fed Euro musician cavorting around a stage in dreadlocks with jerk chicken in one hand and a guitar in the other shouting Jamaican patois and trying hard to copy Caribbean music like Calypso, Ska, Reggae and Rock Steady is the very definition of Cultural Appropriation. It's truly an embarrassment, innit...? It's "in the blood" of some and the DNA of others to regard the culture, aspirations, freedom and even lives of people of the Caribbean to be somehow "owned" by them; the Smell of Smug...

If Reggae was fair game for Britz, they would not have to seek instruction in how it should be done. Do you need to ask how to play a Beatles tune or one by the Bay City Rollers? No. Because in those two cases you are not stealing someone else's culture.    

We had a case in Canada recently, of an European artist who made a career out of copying Innuit Art. Once the Innuit brought it to light, patrons ceased to buy it. Thousands of people realised the extent of Cultural Appropriation. It was high theft. Mass production of Innuit Art by Europeans with the profits going elsewhere. I guess millions still cannot understand. It's like trying to tell a European lad in 1776 that slavery is a high crime...

Bands I've been in, when considering repertoire, have taken a pass on I Shot The Sheriff knowing how foolish it would look on stage. "Whee! Look at me! I'm a Reggay Man!"... European tourists in the Caribbean DO NOT want to see Europeans playing steel pan or Calypso or Reggae. That is fact, not opinion. However, they can buy a steel pan and take it home for personal enjoyment. But don't try and perform in public and turn a buck out of Caribbean music. Or any other people's music.

Speaking out on Cultural Appropriation is not racism. Hiring Euro lads to play Reggae is. Why can't you hire people who are of the culture you are trying so hard to assimilate? Multiculturalism never ever meant that you could turn a profit by selling other people's culture. Go and play a Jig or copy The Beatles in a look-alike band. Reggay is the culture and religious belief of millions of people living in the Caribbean. It's not just a Pub song for someone's  drunken enjoyment.

 

Edited by StringNavigator
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