Flowers Bass Guitar
I hadn’t heard of the song “Flowers” before checking out the bass guitar part for it. It’s quite new, so that is no surprise. But, yeah, I liked it. Starting with it by playing the bass line no doubt helps my positive association with it. The groove is there, though. It’s very minimal in its layers. Essentially you only have a simple drum groove, a simple bass groove, and some synth pads supporting the vocals. Really, not a lot going on. Miley Cyrus’ vocal performance on this doesn’t need a lot to be going on. She delivers a great sound and attitude and it feels effortless.
There is a C Major 7 chord right in the beginning before the vocals come in, but the whole is in A minor. It’s a 4-chord repeated harmony throughout with a couple deviations where it does a modal interchange by hitting the major V chord, E Major. You could say this is taken from the Harmonic Minor scale, which could be the case. To me, since the harmony is so strongly rooted in A Natural Minor, I think of it as borrowing from the A Major scale.
First things first, I’m no bass player. I get along using my guitar technique and call it a day. In this case I decided to play fingerstyle, even though I usually just stick to using a pick. It is a simple enough bass part and I thought I could use the practice. Also, there is a definite timbre difference when using fingers vs. a pick. Fingerstyle suits this song more, in my opinion.
I ran a Warwick bass through a Hotone solid state bass head into a Torpedo Captor X for cabinet simulation and to provide a load to the amp without connecting to a speaker. I went for a cut to treble, diminished mids, and boosted bass for my EQ. The gain was about at about 12 o’clock, as I didn’t want it breaking up too much but did want the thickness and punch a little push would give. It also helped smooth the tone out.
This done I sat back and worked my way slowly through the song. I started at 100bpm, which was a tempo relaxed enough for me to not feel like I was pushing my right hand too hard. Like I said, I’m not great at fingerstyle, and on top of that it had been a good while since I’d played bass at all. At this tempo I was able to ease back into it without stressing my technique. After a while I jumped up to 110bpm. After a few runs through there, I played along with the song. I find this to be much more stimulating than a simple click track.
Note: yes, I could have slowed the actual track down and played along with it the whole time. But, there is a lot to be said for the naked vulnerability of playing with just a metronome. You really can’t hide when it’s just you and a tempo. Also, it’s hard to hear your tone properly in a mix.
Bumps in the Road
There was a little struggle for me, even on this straightforward bass part.
The marked measure is not in and of itself very difficult, but in context I just couldn’t remember to hit it. Granted, I didn’t spend a lot of time memorizing the song, but normally something like this wouldn’t throw me off. The problem was due to it being very similar to another line in the bass part that happens a few times throughout the song.
You can probably see the similarity here. Anyway, it didn’t take too long to get my muddled brain the remember that this change was upcoming. It was a point that took a bit of extra work, though.
This next measure was where I really only hit a problem once I reached full speed. At 118bpm my right hand technique started to falter.
It was the 16th notes, as you may have guessed. I found my right hand wanting to tense up on me as I played them, which is the surest indicator of a technique problem. Admittedly, I didn’t fix my right hand technique, instead relying on pure luck and intentional relaxation to see me through the part. This is not an approach I would recommend, but I was working with time constraints and just needed to get it done. Still, that feels a lot like an excuse.
I personally really enjoyed playing this part. It felt groovy and especially fun on the chorus with the staccato notes. Maybe I’m a little too easy to entertain when it comes to playing bass. Mostly I was just happy that I pulled it off without resorting to the use of a pick.
Have you tried the part? What did you think of it? Let us know in comments either here or on YouTube.
And here’s a link to the video: