Monday, April 21, 2014

Jesus Christ Superstar - Everything's Alright

Well seeing as how its Easter and all, I thought it would make sense to put this up now, this is "Everything's Alright" from the 1973 movie adaptation of the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar. I'm not a religious person and I don't like musicals, so it is very curious to me that I like Jesus Christ Superstar so much. A big part of it is the way Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice (music and lyrics respectively) present a much more human side to the story of the passion of Christ, showing the compassion in Judas and the fears and doubts in Jesus. Another thing that appeals to me is the actual musical style of JCS, it's not the overly theatrical music of "Phantom" or "Cats", and for the most part it's not cheesy. The music is 60's R&B mixed with rock, the vocal performances are incredible, and the bass playing by Alan Spenner on it is glorious.

This piece is more of a ballad, but its a very interesting song that embodies all of my favorite elements about JCS. First, its the only song where all 3 main characters Jesus, Judas, and Mary sing. Second, its a funky "waltz" in a 5/4 time signature that is done so well and subtly that one can't almost tell that the timing is odd. Third, it presents a soft side to the Judas character, a charitable quality that makes him likeable, and it also shows a logical and realistic side to Jesus in the story "there will be poor always/ pathetically struggling/ look at the good things you've got" he says. And fourth, you can tell there are a couple of small mistakes in the singing and playing on this track (hear Judas' voice "crack" at 1:25) but it wasn't edited or re-done, because the vibe mattered more than everything being perfect. I am a big fan of recordings like this, they are much more real and moving than the sterile and polished picture-perfect ones of recent times.
The bass playing on this song is not the most complicated compared to other ones on the musical (listen to "What's the Buzz" for a full out funk workout) but its still intricate, and considering that I'm more of a heavy metal bass player it was quite the challenge. I decided to try and get every single note perfect for my transcription, and i believe i did, but i know that when i made the video i missed a couple of notes here and there. Alan Spenner, the bass player on the original recording, keeps building the intensity and intricacy of the bass lines, and he hardly ever repeats himself, which is a testament to his creativity, specially considering that he most likely improvised the whole thing. A highlight for me is at 1:10 when he slides that A mayor chord into the E mayor chord. I also found it very interesting that at the end of both Jesus' and Judas' singing parts the song changes to a 3/4 time signature, and Spenner showcases a lot of ideas vamping over that B chord and turning around back to the top of the form.  I decided to use my 1976 Rickenbacker for my video to get a bit of that old-school sound, I hope you enjoyed it.

Here's a link to the tab of the bass part here

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Annihilator's "Imperiled Eyes" by Timo Ahlström

Timo Ahlström
Wow it is hard to believe that its been almost a full year since I last posted anything on here. I apologize to those of you that check this space for my absence. I have a few videos ready to go and that should catapult me back into posting regularly.

This post is all about my friend Timo from Finland. I first found out about Timo back in 2010 when I auditioned for the bass part in Annihilator. I was checking out some of the videos that people were posting on YouTube for Jeff Waters to see and consider, and that's when I found Timo's video. He was flawless, and making it look extremely easy, so much so that I was sure he was going to get the part. We were able to meet later that year in Frankfurt at an open rehearsal. That's when I found out that Timo is actually a guitar player, and a wicked one at that! Jeff even let him play a song with us at rehearsal and he played that perfectly as well. Check out his rendition of Imperiled Eyes, one of the hardest Annihilator songs out there (I'm still trying to find my jaw after watching his video). Oh and don't forget to listen to Timo in his two bands:

Here's Timo's blurb about Imperiled Eyes:

"Hello people! I’m Timo Ahlström from Finland. I’m a BIG Annihilator fan and I know Al because we both auditioned for Annihilator's bass player spot back in 2010. Al got the job and he deserves it because he’s an incredibly talented bass player. Also we both love Rush!!!

Anyways I love Jeff Waters’ work with Annihilator and I’ve been a big fan ever since I first heard their music. I’m very happy to say that I’ve gotten to know him and he also plays a guitar solo on my band's (Freedomination) song 'Hide Your Self'!!

The first record that I bought from Annihilator was 'Never, Neverland'. This song is from that album and it’s called 'Imperiled Eyes'. The song is F****** HARD TO PLAY! I did quite many takes before I 'nailed' it. Still I couldn’t do the pre-solo and solo part 100 % accurate. What amazes me most is that these guys have actually played the song live!!!

So I play in two bands myself: Freedomination (a metal band which is heavily influenced by Annihilator, Megadeth etc) and also a horror punk band called Horrorfeast (Misfits anyone?!). I hope you enjoy the video!!!

Timo jamming with Jeff Waters

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Warmachine - Moving On

The Left for Dead line-up

It was a half a year ago that Warmachine began the process of making our first ever music video. It took a long time because some unforeseen circumstances forced us to delay its release. But the wait is over and you can now see the brand new video for "Moving On" here!

To celebrate the release of the Moving On music video, I've decided to put up a video of myself playing along to the it, and tell you a little bit about the story behind the song and video.

When Joe Di Taranto was writing the songs which would end up on our latest album "Left for Dead," the rest of us in the band were quietly putting our own parts together to the demos he would send us every couple of days. Moving On came towards the end of the writing process, and I will never forget the reaction that our then drummer Adam Raymer and I had to the demo Joe sent us: we were both a little puzzled and even worried. The song was in a very basic form, just a skeleton of what it would end up being, and at that stage it sounded so far removed from anything we had done up until that point. I remember thinking that it was too soft, too "mainstream". But Joe kept telling us not to worry, that he had a "vision" in his head of how the song would sound in the end, and that it would be a great track: heavy, catchy, a true Warmachine creation. The song turned out amazing and I have never doubted Joe since then.

I love this song. Even after listening to it 3 million times I'm still not tired of it. It has such a great pace, awesome vocal melodies and performance, wicked drums, melodic solos, in fact the least interesting part of this song is my bass part, ha! There's even a little nod to Jeff Waters and Annihilator in the second guitar solo: as soon as Johnny Salerno came up with his solo for this song I said to him "hey! That's an Annihilator riff". This song was written before I had joined Annihilator, but Joe, Johnny, and myself have been fans of the band for years, so it's no wonder that Johnny would subconsciously use a part of the guitar melody from "21" on his solo here (2:50 on my video of the song)

Warmachine - Left for Dead
The tuning for this is Drop-C (from low to high C-G-C-F) and the bass part is quite simple, I mainly play eight-notes throughout following the rhythm guitar part, except for the bridge which has that sliding part (2:18). However the line I played in the video during the guitar solos is a little different from the one I played on the CD recording, because during the recording I used my 5-string Yamaha instead of the Ibanez Iceman from the video, and so the Bb note at 2:40 (in this tuning its the 3rd fret on the A string) I had to play it an octave higher. You can find the tab to the bass part here.

Big thanks go to Sean Gregory at TRH Music Group and Murray Daigle at MDS Recording who engineered and produced the recording of "Left for Dead" and to all the guys and girls at Otalko Productions who did all the work for the video.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Tip #1: play the same note in a different position

For this post I decided to hand out a small tip for beginner bass and guitar players. You all probably already know this, but just in case: remember that you can play most notes in more than one place on your fretboard. I'm going to use this Baroness song "March to the Sea" from their new album Yellow and Green to demonstrate what I mean. Click here to get the TAB and standard notation.

This song is very very simple in its form. The entire thing: intro, verses, choruses, and guitar solo has the same chord progression:
|F   | F  C/E| Dmi   | Dmi C|F   | F  Ami| Dmi   | Dmi C|
So it is a perfect song to show you how to play the same lines in different positions of the fretboard. For this you will need a good knowledge of the notes on your fretboard. Here's a chart for a 4-string bass tuned to "drop-D". From low to high the tuning is D-A-D-G
Check out how I play the initial line all on the same string (the "E" string tuned down to "D") (see figure a) and how the second time I played the high octave D and C notes on the A string (figure b). The second way of doing it requires less shifting from the left hand, so it should make it easier to play, but there is a slight difference in the tone of the notes even though their pitches are the same. The reason why the sounds qualities are different is mostly because, since the E string is thicker than the A string it produces a "darker" tone. Also when pressing on the 12th fret instead of the 5th the length of string that is vibrating is shorter, affecting the tension and thus the tone. This difference in tone is most noticeable in the way I played the second halves of each verse at 0:56 (figure c) and 1:46 (figure d). You can really hear the much brighter tone of the D note on the G string at 1:50.

Figure a

Figure b

Figure c

Figure d

All this information can be very useful when you are trying to figure out how to play a bass line:

- Having alternative positions in which to play a line can let you find a position that is most comfortable for you. This comes in very handy for beginners reading TABs, don't forget that you don't necessarily have to play it exactly as written.

- You can manipulate the sound of your notes based on where you play them. Want a brighter sound? Go for higher strings and/or lower frets. Or play it all on one string for a more even tone between all the notes.

Try it yourself, can you find other ways of playing this bass line?

Drop me a line here or on Facebook if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions for other tips. And don't forget to check out Baroness' new album, it rocks!

"Yellow and Green" Cover art

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Rainbow - Run With The Wolf

Rainbow with Dio

On this day, back in 1942, one of my favourite Rock singers was born. Ronnie James Dio would have been seventy years old today, and somehow I can imagine that, if he had not left us two years ago, he would have celebrated his big "seven-oh" on a stage somewhere rocking out like only he knew how to. So today I have decided to send off this little tribute into cyberspace in the hopes that somewhere out there Dio will get a chuckle out of it. Make sure to keep your horns up in the air while you watch this video of myself playing "Run With The Wolf" from Rainbow's album "Rising"

Rainbow - Run with the Wolf (BASS Guitar Cover) from Alberto Campuzano on Vimeo.

This whole album was a favourite of mine right from the beginning. It's a perfect mixture of Ritchie Blackmore's neo-classical heavy metal and Dio's fantasy filled lyrics and themes. Run With The Wolf is edgy, with lots of attitude from all the musicians. Dio is amazing as always, delivering his powerful voice with emotion and intensity. His parts are laid back but still driving, and his creativity is evident in how he makes slight changes to his phrasing and even uses different melodies for each chorus. The last one being my favorite: I get chills every time I hear that line "when the siren calls you goooo". I love the vocal harmonies during the choruses and how they are panned all the way to the left. It makes it feel like he's whispering secrets in your ear when you listen with headphones. Also present is his patented ad-lib vocal lines at the end of the song. Oh Ronnie you are dearly missed!

Ritchie Blackmore is great on this one too. His tone for the rhythm parts is very crunchy and almost sounds like a distorted organ. His main solo is played with a slide and is much more melodic than what I'm used to hearing from him. I guess he tried to get a bluesy sound to go with the heavy shuffle groove of the song. At about 2:37 in the video his harmonized thirds are reminiscent of The Alman Brothers. Ritchie rips another much more typical solo in the end, although there is no harmonic minor scale in there like he would use normally. Maybe it's because the song is not in B minor, which seems to be his favorite key to solo over.

Jimmy Bain on bass is solid, he doesn't do anything too fancy, but just lays down a heavy pocket with drummer Cozy Powell. The whole groove is interesting to me, and hard for me to really nail, because it has the feeling that everything is on the back end of the beat, almost as if they might slow down, but they never do. Its brilliant. And that shuffle feel works so well with the main guitar riff. I love it!

My first introduction to Dio was from listening to this Rainbow album, and I still feel there's a special magic captured in those recordings. I know quite a few Dio fans that are not too familiar with his Rainbow stuff. Do yourself a favour, and in honour of his birthday go run check it out!

Click HERE for the bass transcription of this song in standard notation and tab.


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Rush - Cold Fire

Geddy Rocks!
It was only a matter of time before I had to do a post about Rush, seeing as how they're my favorite band and all, so this post may be a long one.

You may be wondering why I chose this particular Rush song when there are so many others that are more popular or with more interesting bass parts, but don't be fooled, even though Cold Fire is the second last song from the Counterparts album (which is not as well known as Moving Pictures for example) this song has all the qualities that I love about Rush: great song writing, amazing musical performances by all members, thoughtful lyrics, beautiful singing, all of it in a package that still breaks the mold of what a typical radio rock song should be like. I guess this is why we consider Rush to be a Progressive Rock band.

From 1993, Counterparts is my favourite modern-era Rush album (from the 90s to now) because it is a very rocking album. The keyboards that dominated their 80s sound are pretty much all gone on this one, there are some phenomenal bass songs, in fact, this is the album where Geddy went back to using his old '72 Fender jazz bass that he used on Moving Pictures; and also this album has a lot of darker sounding songs, it has a bit of a heavy emotional mood to me. 

If you've never heard Cold Fire before I recommend you listen to it once before reading my notes on it, and see how many of the little things I will mention you heard on your own. 


The first thing I noticed when I heard this song is how Geddy strums that riff at the beginning of the song. I have seen him do it live and he basically uses one or two fingers on his right hand to strum the strings of his bass, much like a flamenco guitarist would. The way I did it at first try was making a lot of noise, because I kept hitting the open A and sometimes E strings. So I realized I had to rest my thumb on the A string and touch the E string with the side of my thumb so I could mute both strings.
Next I had to figure out the structure of the song. I wonder if you noticed that the song is not based on the typical groups of 4-bar groupings that dominates western music. Instead this song has sections of 10, 22, 14, and 18 bars.
Here's a list of the sections of the song and the number of bars in each. 

Intro: 10 bars
Verse One: 22 bars
Chorus One: 6 bars
Break One: 4 bars
Verse Two: 20 bars
Pre-chorus One: 16 bars
Chorus Two: 14 bars
Guitar Solo: 12 bars
Break Two: 4 bars
Pre-chorus Two: 16 bars
Chorus Three: 18 bars

Geddy is so creative in his playing that he is always changing how he plays each section. He starts by playing very sparsely, leaving a lot of room between notes, and gradually increases the intensity of his bass line by adding more notes and different rhythmic figures. He uses just about every trick in the bass-playing book: lots of slides, muted or "ghost" notes, hammer ons and pull offs, strumming, and oh did I mention a lot of sliding?. The only thing Geddy doesn't do, and i've never seen him do it, is slap the bass (ironic if you've watched "I Love You, Man"). 

It wasn't until I actually sat down to learn the song note-for-note, that i realized Geddy doesn't repeat a single bass fill. Yes, some of them are similar, but he never plays two of them the same way. Sometimes he plays a scalar line that connected two chords, as in the pre-chorus (at 3:27 in the video), and other times he just plays one note and changes the rhythms to make it interesting (3:59). Also notice that Neil Peart often joins him with the drums at the tail end of the fill, making it sound so tight and composed (2:03 and 3:39).

Speaking of the drums, Neil is also in top shape here, not so much in terms of his technical ability, but his creativity and writing skills are on full display. Since he writes the lyrics to every song, Neil is very aware of the vocal lines and the words, and he writes his drums parts in a way that complements them. This song is about a conversation between a man a woman, talking about relationships. Listen to the verses and notice that, in both of them, when the man speaks Neil changes his drum beat and goes from playing the high-hat to a tambourine, and then goes right back to the high-hat when the woman responds. Neil is essentially creating a specific "voice" for his male character; a way of distinguishing between the two people in his story.
He also changes to the tambourine from bar 5-12 of the guitar solo, playing the high-hat on the first and last 4 bars of the solo. Typically most drummers would make the change on bar 9 and just split a section right in the middle, but then again Pear is not your typical drummer. Neither is he your typical lyricist. Who else would use the word "phosphorescent" in the pre-chorus of a song, and still make it so easy to sing? 

Other highlights of the song for me are: Alex Lifeson's choice of guitar sounds, from that very edgy and harsh tone of the beginning, to the echoey and spacey sound in the verses that makes it reminiscent of the 1950s; the guitar part in the chorus of this song reminds me of his part in the chorus of "Subdivisions" or maybe the main line of Blue Oyster Club's "Don't Fear the Reaper"; another little detail of this song that i love is the keyboards that come in half way through the pre-chorus, its very faint, but its there and it adds that little touch that completes the section and builds into the chorus.

Well, I did warn you this might be a long one, but I have a hard time stopping once I start talking about all the little things that make me love Rush. I can never get enough of them and how much attention to detail they pay to every bar of every song. I will have to do another Rush post eventually, maybe something from Caress of Steel?

Until next time!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Nocturnal Rites - Still Alive

I'm back!

It has been a really long time since I added anything to my blog, and I apologize for that; I just have not been too inspired to write. I have had no problems learning new material on the bass, and in fact I have a few videos already made, but when I sit and try to do this written part I just stare at the white screen, the vertical cursor line blinking on and off.

Well that all changed after this weekend. I just came back from playing the Loud Festival in Sofia Bulgaria with Slayer, WASP, Symphony X, and other awesome metal bands. I had an amazing time, both on and off the stage, I can't wait to get back to Bulgaria (hopefully it won't be too long). The great experience from the trip totally inspired me to get back into writing great things about the music that drives me, and to re-start my blogs what better song than Nocturnal Rites' "Still Alive" from their 2005 album Grand Illusion.

I heard this band for the first time in 2008 when a fan of Warmachine's posted a message on our site saying that our music reminded him of Nocturnal Rites. Having never heard of them I proceeded to find their website and listen to a couple of their songs. I was hooked instantly. Their modern era with vocalist Jonny Lindqvist is full of very catchy songs, killer guitar riffs, and phenomenal vocal performances, as well as solos by Nils Norberg who soon became one of my favorite lead guitar players. "Still Alive" has all of these typical Nocturnal Rites elements.

Nils Eriksson's plays a bass part that is not intrusive, and yet it complements the guitars while accenting certain riffs such as in the verse at 0:50.  I played the song on my 5-string bass, tuned down a half step (Bb-Eb-Ab-Db-Gb) The solo section I had to play up an octave at 2:47 because my low B string is too floppy in this tuning for it to sound like its supposed to.

Jonny's vocals remind me so much of Dio at times, very powerful and with a lot of grit. The guitar solo is great also, Nils builds it up with his different scalar runs but contrasts them by playing slower melodies with bends as well. And he manages to incorporate a little bit of wah effect and some whammy bar at the end. Really tasty.

For me this is a great example of what makes Power Metal so appealing, it pumps me up, it makes me want to raise my fist in the air and sing, and if the situation presented itself this would be a perfect soundtrack to go into battle with. It sounds cheesy, but I know a lot of you know what I'm talking about. Even though Nils Norberg is not in the band anymore, I am still very much looking forward to the next Nocturnal Rites album, and I've heard rumors that it will be coming sometime this year.  

It's good to be back writing for this. Stay tuned for more real soon!