Anyone who follows me on twitter will know that, recently I’ve been tweeting a lot about the Foo Fighters. It’s been a kind of obsession for me.
To be honest, I do this from time to time; I discover something (old or new to me) and fixate on it for a long time (until something else comes along it feels, at times).
A few years back it was The Beatles, prior to that it was the writings of Koji Suzuki (I still have to arrange with James some way of getting them back, at some point). Recently, as I said at the beginning of this post, it’s been the Foo Fighters.
This sparked just as I went into the local cinema to see Back & Forth – the Foo Fighter’s documentary. This was shortly before the release of their latest album Wasting Light. Soon after, I’d figured out how to play 6 of the songs from that album on my bass. Then I decided to go through their back catalogue in my music library (I have all of their album CDs aside from Skin and Bones) and learn to play as many as I could.
The day that I can play See You, will be the day that I make it as a musician – in my eyes. It’s got such an amazing bass line, but it’s so difficult for me to learn.
Meet The Band
Before I continue on, I’d better introduce you to the band. By that I mean, my bass guitars. Like most serious hobbyist (is that even a thing?) musicians, I’ve got several bass guitars. All three of which, I’ve had for years.
The first is my Stagg bass guitar. This is the first bass I ever bought. It’s actually a shade of purple (one that varies between Electric Purple and Dark Purple depending on the level of light), but always shows up in Black whenever it’s photographed.
Next is my Aria. This is the second bass guitar I ever bought. It’s a cool shade of blue, and has active circuitry inside. This means that it has a (sort of) internal amplifier which boosts the signal before it hits the amplifier that the guitar is plugged into. This means that it requires a 9v battery to produce any sound.
And, finally, my Hofner STYLE Violin Bass. It’s actually manufactured by a company called Richwood; which means it’s a cheap knock-off. But it’s still fun to play the early Beatles stuff on this one. The switch controls lend a completely different feel to it, compared to the other two bass guitars. And, as you can see, it’s in dire need of a good clean.
Where the notes from the Stagg and Aria seem to go one for ever when played, the Richwood seems to produce notes that last very little longer than one bar (on a 4/4 scale). I think that’s related to it being a cheap version of the Hofner original design, although I’ve never played an original Hofner (seeing as they’re so bloody expensive). That or it could be the action on the strings. Or I could just suck at playing.
Put your answer on the back of a postcard, seal it in concrete, and fling it into the ocean whilst whistling Dixie.
The Aria is the only guitar out of the three that is not tuned to E (i.e. it’s tuned in Drop D). That means, instead of the strings being tuned to (lowest to highest) E, A, D and G, it’s tuned to D, A, D and G. This allows the Aria to produce lower notes than the other two. This is really helpful if you need an extra step on the lowest string.
Examples of both tuning standards can be found here (tune my bass.com) by clicking “4 String Bass” then either “Standard” or “Drop D”
I’ve decided to tune the Aria down to Drop D because there where times when I’d be practising a set and, right in the middle, a song in Drop D would come out of nowhere. Now, it’s easier and quicker to use a guitar that’s pre-tuned than it is to have to re-tune the guitar mid set.
Anyone who’s seen Blink 182 perform live can attest to how long it takes to re-tune a single string, in the middle of a song.
This means that, not only are the songs I perform in Drop D quicker to start (especially since I can’t tune perfectly by ear… yet), but they sound heavier. The active circuitry really helps to power the lower sounds through, over and above the melodies being played by the guitarists.
Anyway, this arrangement has helped me to power through the learning and practise sessions with most of the Foos catalogue. As far as I can tell, one third of their songs are in Drop D. Certainly half of Dave Grohl’s original demo’s tape (you’ll know this as their first album) was in Drop D, and most of their well known songs from the first 3 albums are in Drop D (Monkey Wrench, Everlong, Alone + Easy Target, Live in Skin and Headwires). Even Krist Novoselic’s guest bass line for I Should Have Known is (I theorise) in Drop D. At least, I think it is because I can’t pick it out from Nate’s bass line clearly enough. Maybe someone can shed some light on this for me?
I’ve played the bass line for I Should Have Known in both E and Drop D and they both sound fine to me
After a pretty heady practise session, yesterday, I decided to have a look on the iTunes store and see if I could find the Foo Fighters’ cover of Band On The Run. I couldn’t find it on there, but I did find something else that’s quite interesting.
I found an album by the Vitamin String Quartet called The Shape & Colour of My Heart. You might be able to guess that it’s a Foo Fighters tribute/cover album by a string quartet. This sounded like a strange concept to me, at first. But it works really well. Along the same lines as Sting’s Symphonicities album… but better.
You can find samples on the Amazon.co.uk page, here.
My favourite from the album has to be (and this is a tough decision) Times Like These. They’ve taken an emotional song (it was written by Dave after Taylor dropped into a coma from an overdose. “Hey, I don’t want you to die, man” is what Dave said to him when he came round) and made it even more emotional, some how.
A good test for a piece of music, in my opinion, it to change the instruments or genre and see what happens. If it comes out as good as or better than the original, then the song writer did a good job, in my opinion.
With that in mind, I’m going to leave you with an embed of the Vitamin String Quartets version of Times Like These, enjoy.
I sound like some kind of compère, there.