The bass lesson above is of the West African assouf style again. If you would like to learn this piece as accurately as possible, downloading the tab at the bottom of this tutorial is highly recommended. Assouf – often called the West African “blues” – is very popular in the countries of that area, but it’s gained quite a following all around the world as well. Traditionally it originates from Berber people, especially Tuaregs. The genre utilizes modern instruments as well as traditional ones. In many different African music styles, the bass guitar is dominant, and it’s the case in many assouf tunes, too. Our song is in C dorian, written in B-flat major. Dorian mode – and a modal approach – is very common in West African genres. The chord structure can be written as ii-ii-V-I-ii; I-ii-I-ii-I-ii-I-ii.
The beginning part of the song uses plenty of sixteenth notes, and it operates with the rhythmic accents in an interesting way. You’ll notice that even though I chose not to indicate them in the tab, in the 1st phrase of the tune, I play those clicky, staccato sounding ghost notes. You can play the bass line without these, especially if you don’t play with thumbpick and fingerpicks. It’s your choice. The picks bring out the attack of the notes naturally, so they can be used in a musical way. Make sure that you get the duration of those “lazy” sounding dotted 16th notes played on the A string. These occur first at the end of measure 3. The way of how this section uses a mix of short and long notes creates a kind of tension that makes this kind of bass line quite catchy. When you go through the first section the 2nd time, there are minor 3rd and 5th ornaments. These appear first in measure 9 and measure 13.
Sliding Grace Notes & Rhythmic Hammer-ons
The 2nd part of the tune begins with a tiny but noticeable slide, starting from a grace note. With some patient, slow practice, you’ll get this one right. This section of the song is a musical question & answer. Right after the question-phrase is played, it gets repeated an octave lower as an answer. Notice that when this sequence occurs the 2nd time, there are 32th note embellishments placed in the phrases in both the higher and the lower octaves, in the form of hammer-ons and pull-offs. Don’t forget to slide down the ending note for the “coolness factor”.