Studio Blog

Transcribing Bass Lines ( Popular Music ) Part 1

Transcribing Bass Lines

Now that I’ve completed my listening of popular tunes in C major, I am transcribing bass lines of my favourite tunes.

Learning Outcomes

  • Parse together the harmonic progression of the tunes
  • Reflect on how the rhythm of the bass line affects the mood and direction
  • Reflect on the usage of chords outside of C major

This is difficult for me, as I have never done this before! I will be relying solely on my ears, so I expect to be repeating the song many times over before I finish.

Like I’m Gonna to Lose You – Meghan Trainor Ft. John Legend


After listening a couple of times, I find that the harmonic progression is on a loop throughout the entire song.

The Bass Line:

I am not super confident about the accuracy of the rhythm! The bass line is difficult to hear with so much focus on the singers’ voices.

The Chord Progression:

Cmaj       IEmi     IAmi     IFmaj Cmaj/E Dmin G

There are no chords outside of C major here. I enjoy the last bit of this progression, where the bass line descends by step until it drops down to the low G before returning to the C as it loops. This gives me a fulfilled feeling of knowing where the beginning and the end of the loop is. However, I noticed that although the harmonic progression doesn’t change, the rhythm and the octave of the bass line varied throughout the song.

More interesting, is the rhythm in the first two bars of the loop. The hoppy rhythm pushes the song forward; although it is lyrically a low energy song, the rhythm gives it a slow-dance like vibe.  In addition, the last half beat of the first two bars, offer a chromatic or step-wise transition into the next bar, making the progression seem natural and smooth.

This was lots of fun! More bass lines to come.

Take Piano Lessons with Eric Here


Popular Music in C Major Listening

After a couple of sessions of working on the Mozart Sonata ( and now having my practice plan in place ), I decided to take a detour into popular music in C major listening. I started by googling the top 10 popular songs in C major.

Piano Lessons Richmond C major Listening

Initial Reactions:

  • I felt a very strong A minor presence in many of these tunes
  • Many of the songs borrowed chords outside of C major and A minor
  • F major (subdominant) was used commonly in prechoruses and bridges – It can be used to create a pushing and escalating feeling
  • Use of A minor creates emphasis – sometimes dramatic, sometimes powerful, sometimes emotional
  • Lots of step wise motions in harmonies
  • A variety of moods were created by C major (Dance-like, sadness, hopefulness..)
  • In this particular playlist, the use of piano is significant in many of these songs.


  • How do we differentiate a pop tune from a major key and it’s relative minor key?
  • Do pop artists consider key when they write songs or is it based on vocal range?
  • What will transcribing the bass line reveal about the harmony?


Popular Music in C major Listening


Take Piano Lessons with Eric Here

Front to Back

In the last two piano sessions, I simply worked on Mozart piano sonata as a whole. There were lots of things to work on! I particularly wanted to work on the evenness of eighth notes in the left hand, adding dimension to the trills before the cadences of sections and capture that Mozart elegance.

It’s time like this when I wonder about my own practice philosophy. Like many students, I often find myself in a loop playing the piece from front to back. This habit seems almost ingrained in me; I do it without thinking.

Front to Back

I wonder, what am I trying to achieve with this? To be honest, I believe that it’s just simply fun to be able to hear the whole piece, even when there are sections that are rocky to get through.

On further thought, I think this feeling is natural. It’s a piece of music I’m interested in and find beautiful, so naturally I would want to listen to the whole thing. Even when aware of effective practice methods, I find myself engaging in block practicing.

I believe that approaching practice without a plan can be very abstract; Where do I start? Where do I end? The beginning and the end of course. Practicing without a plan encourages playing the piece front to back.

Testing out this theory, I am coming up with a plan!

Mozart Sonata Piano Practice Plan

Excerpt 1:

Goal: to play rhythm evenly to add consistency

Excerpt 2:

Goal: practice fingering to third bar to create small transition into F major.

Excerpt 3:

Goal: smoother and more elegant execution of trill, especially the ending of the trill

Whole Piece x 1
Excerpt 1 x 3
Excerpt 2 x 3
Excerpt 3 x 3
Excerpt 2 x 3
Excerpt 3 x 3
Whole Piece x 1
Excerpt 1 x 3
Excerpt 3 x 3
Excerpt 1 x 3
Excerpt 2 x3
Whole Piece x 1