Get Lucky :: Daft Punk :: Nathan East

I’m sure there are some people out there who don’t like Daft Punk’s recent release Random Access Memories but I haven’t met them yet.  This will be a record I can come back to again and again and never get tired of it.  It wasn’t until after I first listened to the record that I learned that there are real live human beings playing instruments throughout the record.  What a novel idea for a dance/pop record in these digital days.  Get Lucky features Omar Hakim on drums and Nathan East on bass.  It’s a master class in rhythm section playing between two of the best in the business.

The song is straight forward harmonically with a chord progression Bmi – D – F#mi – E for the entire tune.  It might be simple but the song has hooked 1000s of people world wide.  Have you heard that old joke that pop/rock musicians play 4 chords for thousands of people and jazz musicians play 1000s of chords for 4 people?  It’s a 5 string bass tune.  Nathan hangs out on the low B and D a fair bit.

The bass line is a pleasure to listen to.  The bass tone captured on the recording is brilliant. It’s warm and punchy with every note crisp and clear.  Listen to it on headphones.  That’s how I want my bass to sound.

The line itself follows a fairly consistent rhythmic pattern throughout with variations between verses and chorus.   Nathan uses a lot of 16th ghost notes which really help give the line some motion.  The transcription on playback sounds a little sterile compared to the ‘feel’ on the record.  But that’s the difference between the good time of the machine and a bassist like Nathan.

I could have written out the bass line using a lot more quarter/sixteenth notes and rests which would have looked a lot more complex.  After consulting with some folks with more transcription experience I decided to write it out as simply as possible.  I’d rather be handed the simplest chart possible when I have to read.  Either way this would be a tough read!

The line is played in a muted, staccato style throughout and have included those markings in the transcription.  If I left out the staccato marking on the transcription the playback would not have sounded quite right.   It still feels a bit too straight but Nathan’s notes are there.  The transcription ends at the vocal break in the middle of the song.

Click to go to the transcription 

I tried to find contact information for Nathan to ask about the recording but struck out.  I did find this short interview which is quite revealing in terms of how the final bass track was arrived at.  “We spent a few days in the studio about 9 months ago with a full rhythm section, then came back for a few more days of bass overdubs recently. No music in advance.”   Nathan also says,  I heard the song and we discussed the approach so I played a lot of bass tracks with various ideas and they comped the best takes.”  The question I had is whether the bass was recorded before Pharrell’s vocals since there are parts of the bass line that follow the vocal rhythm but the vocals were recorded later according to the interview.

If you haven’t heard the tune before have a listen below.  Sounds much better on headphones.

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