Here we go with another bass tutorial in the popular West African style called assouf. Don’t hesitate; get the tablature, the drum backing track and the bass backing track at the end of this essay! It’s a 6/8 time musical piece, which is quite common in this genre. As opposed to our previous assouf tunes, this one has quite an array of chords. If you want me to type out the progression, well, let’s take a deep breathe, it is: I-I-V-V-ii-vi-IV-V-ii-vi-IV-V; ii-IV-V-ii-IV-I-ii-IV-V-ii-IV-V. Something like that. -.- The bass line has an expressively melodic nature as well. The tab/sheet music is not only notated in the key of D major, it plays in it, too. It’s one of those rare West African pieces that are in a major key. Deal with it. So get your fingers and/or your thumbpicks and fingerpicks ready and let’s dive into it!
Soft, Sliding Melodies
The first, mellower part conjures a relaxed mood with its uplifting melody line. Don’t miss the sliding parts, they ornament the bass line in a distinctive way. This part is of course full of syncopation, which shouldn’t hit you as a surprise, if you followed our previous African bass/guitar tutorials. The greatest challenge in this section is to get the descending line right on the E string. These three notes follow each other on the 7th, 5th and 3rd fret both on the same string, and the 1st two of these are 16th notes. These things together don’t exactly make it the easiest move. Just be patient with your practice and make sure that you don’t make these notes sound too murky and undefined.
Funky Octaves, Fast Descending Lines
The 2nd, quicker part of the song starts out with these defining octave figures. If you want to capture the essence of the piece, don’t forget to include the softer but deliberate ghost notes (aka dead notes). Interestingly, even though the bass line moves quite quickly between these octaves, the notes are well laid out under the fretting hand’s fingers, so you probably won’t run into difficulties during playing. At least if you play in the closed palm style, with (or even without) fingerpicks & a thumbpick. There is a string skip from the D string to the E string, but it’s no big deal either, especially playing the above mentioned way. Hey, I’m all for making the thumbpick + fingerpicks style more popular on bass. It’s that much fun! After going through the required repetitions, the tune ends with a rhythmically arpeggiated power chord (tonic, fifth, octave).