11 Page Transcription of Paul Chambers - "If I Were A Bell"

Updated: Jan 17, 2020

Can we all just take a moment to be thankful?

Detroit-raised Paul Chambers started on tuba.

For my money, "enjoyment" and "educational" form the perfect intersection at Paul Chambers.

Chambers' bass line on the 1956 recording of "If I Were A Bell" with the Miles Davis Quintet embodies this wonderfully!

Before I proceed, one thing that may be noticeably missing from this transcription (and all of them for that matter): chord symbols.

Why? Three reasons:

  1. It's more helpful for me to improve sight reading when I can't secretly rely on hitting the root note of the chord symbol sitting above the staff.

  2. It gives readers the opportunity to print it out and write down chord symbols themselves to help memorize the tune.

  3. I like studying songs with my ears first and my eyes second.

  4. Believe it or not, I'm actually helped less by line analysis than I am by playing the line repeatedly, memorizing it, and playing along with the recording. This helps internalize all the stuff that these masters do so well: time, form, rhythm, etc. The fundamentals. Eventually, this helps us form an intuition -- a foundation -- about what great walking bass lines should sound like. A critical starting point from which to launch wherever you like.

Okay, on to the line.

One unique aspect of this line: the leaps! So many leaps! Whereas "So What" is more shapely and linear--if you took a pencil and "connected the dots" (note heads) you'd have a relatively smooth, wavy shape--"If I Were A Bell" is a bit more jagged as seen in:

  • Measure 62, the drop from middle C to low A

  • Measure 78, he leaps an entire "12th" interval!

  • Measure 109, an 11th drop, immediately followed by a 12th leap!

  • The list goes on. Don't forget to use those open strings!!!

No doubt due to more chord changes, but one could easily play the entire song in first position, whereas Chambers gives the line so much personality and shape when he takes it into orbit.

#basstranscription #ifiwereabell #paulchambers #freebasslines #freebasstranscriptions #freebasstranscription #freetranscription #milesdavis #relaxin

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