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Ska Bass


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Hey I play a lot of jazz, classical, rock, and some punk. And my friends wanna start a ska band. Does anyone know whats really different with ska bass from the other stuff ive been doing?



See that bass? Grr I wish it were mine. What am I stuck with? A lousy Kay Bass, a beat up school owned instrument nonetheless.
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Ska is a lot of walking lines. It's basically a TASTEFUL bass solo the whole song. A lot of movement, never hanging on one note for very long at all. Just pick up some Reel Big Fish for some really good ska bass lines. There are some others, but that guy is the best one that stands out in my head at 4 am.
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Also check out:


The Mighty Mighty Bosstones

The Blue Meanies

The Specials

Fishbone (early stuff like "Lyin' Ass Bitch")





If you listen to these guys, you'll get the idea.



"To fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting."

--Sun Tzu

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If you're going to play covers, be aware that generally you will have to learn the original bassline correctly, in order for the song to work AT ALL.

Like its "cousin" reggae, in a majority of cases the bass line IS the song (along with the vocal melody, of course - the counterpoint between these two elements often being the most distinctive thing about the arrangement).

Guitarrists & keyboardists will be of no help; they generally are oblivious to this basic characteristic of the style. In the reggae style, of course, Aston "Family Man" Barrett (w/Bob Marley) pretty much laid down the road for melodic bass lines, espec. in the one-drop style. (Worth a lifetime of study; lack of attention to HIS parts, & of course the ever-popular "dumbfuck rock drummer not realizing the kick & sidestick are on 2&4, rather than 1&3", are the most common features of "jam" desecrations of these songs.)

Robbie Shakespeare is the other towering figure among Jamaican bassists, espec. the rub-a-dub fusion style he & Sly developed w/Black Uhuru & other artists. (In a way, this sounds a little more like slowed-down ska than most of the Wailers' style, & DAMN, he lays down a hefty groove!) :love:

For 2nd-wave British-Jamaican "2 tone" ska from about 1979-1984 (main inspiration for most of the current ska bands), ditto on Benloy's Horace Panter (Specials) recommendation. :cool:

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after you've checked out all the bands from above, you might check out some aussie ska, area 7!... lol

the ska bassist is a big part of the band, and plays awesome solo like tunes for the whole duration of each song. whenever im at a ska gig, i just stand there, and all the vocals, trumpets, sax, guitar all ceases to exist as i lose myself in the bass.... reel big fish's "beer" has an awesome bassline

- roses on your breath but graveyards on your soul -
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I must disagree with some of the bands suggested...they're good, for the most part, but you should read a little on the subject & get recordings by some of the original late 1950s/early 1960s Jamaican artists (like the Skatalites) rather than decades later re-interpretations by others.

It is a lot like "speeded up reaggae" (or actually, reggae is slowed down ska) but ska's a lot less kinky in syncopation.

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Ditto on d's Skatalites recommendation - that's the rootsy stuff! :thu: (Their recent "reunion" releases are somewhat disappointing, though - look to the 60's/70's material for inspiration.)

For rocksteady (& some proto-ska) there's a great-sounding 2-CD compilation called "Duke Reid's Treasure Chest", that's worth seeking out too. All 60's stuff, & makes clear why so many reggae artists cite listening to American soul and R&B from Detroit, Atlanta & Memphis among their influences. (Imagine those classic Motown/Memphis beats turned around backwards!)

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