Free Bass Transcription: “So What” Bass Line by Paul Chambers

This week’s transcription is the 9+ minute opening track on the best selling jazz album of all time, Miles Davis 1959 Kind of Blue, titled “So What.”

A few pointers for the transcription – on the famous bass intro, in measure 16, 24, etc. (similar measures), Mr. P.C. plays something around a quarter tone above E.  It’s not precisely an E, nor F, but in between.  I’ve listened to several different recordings of the song where Paul plays in this manner.  I like this “messier” approach in contrast to recordings today where most instruments tend to play everything clean and clear.  It’s not that I like one more than the other per se; but I take away something important from the bass intro: the feel and groove is as important as the notes!

Interesting side note: on many other live versions of Chambers playing with Miles post-studio (i.e. Zurich, the Olympia, Stockholm, etc.), the song is much, much faster, like 250+ bpm, with Paul still churning out the bass intro note for note, along with 10 minutes of walking bass!

Somethine else I noticed that I hadn’t before… he strongly outlines a Db major on the “B” section rather than Eb dorian.  For those who know your theory, this all makes perfect sense, as Eb dorian is what you get when you play the Db major scale starting on the 2nd degree.  BUT.  It’s one thing to know theory, and it’s another to play it effectively… and also to the band leader’s liking (whose preferences can change wildly from person to person).  Both Evan’s (piano) and Miles (trumpet) strongly support the Db major in their playing as well.

I’m hoping to offer this in a PDF so people don’t have to download 7 pages; may be another day or two before that happens.  Happy playing!

[Edit: Here’s the PDF for people who want the whole thing in one shot.]

[Update: a sharp reader, Pete, noticed that there’s a repeat measure at 199.  The measures are correct in the original Finale file, but for some reason the error occurs when exporting to jpg.  Can’t seem to get it fixed, so for now, be aware that the error is there!]

So What p1So What p2    So What p3So What p4So What p5 So What p6 So What p7

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10 thoughts on “Free Bass Transcription: “So What” Bass Line by Paul Chambers

  1. My goodness! Paul Chambers – what else is there to say? Days go by and there’s so many things I wish I could practice. This would be certainly high on the list. I’ll TRY!! Thank you SO MUCH for posting these. It’s like a gold mine!

  2. Hi Peter,

    Just found your site. Thanks for this transcription–I’ve been working on transcribing this myself for a while so it’s great to have something to compare to.

    Oh, and Paul Chambers is amazing. What a fun and jazzy line.

  3. Great Job, man. You may want to look at bar 26 and others like it, I think the notes in the second half should be Db, Eb, slide to F is correct, then back to Db. The whole bar should be up a half step from the phrase we all know and love. Really appreciate the work.

    • Thanks James for the comment! Went back and listened to it just now… I’m pretty confident in the D natural that Paul plays in the 2nd half of bar 26. I know a lot of guys play a Db since the real book lists “Eb-7 Dorian” as the second chord, but to my ears, Chambers opted for the D natural on the original recording. Creates some tension, for sure!

      In the end it’s prolly subjective – thanks for the opportunity to revisit this, and for reading! Cheers –

  4. thanks for the transcriptions. i just started getting into jazz and playing double bass so these transcriptions are priceless. if you do requests, can you transcribe “remember” by paul chambers? thanks again!

  5. To discovered paul Chambers as a bass player is like buying a piece of land very cheap (his short life) and to your amazement you have found a gold field on this land. thank you for the knowledge man you are great!!!

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