Tall Ships

According to some interviews, this Squackett song came about after Chris Squire was testing a new Yamaha bass which was offered to him. The riff was then recorded and, as far as I can hear it, a four-bar sample is repeated throughout most of the song. When I began to analyse it, I faced some curious things that made me wonder and I tried to find explanations for – trying to figure out how the bassline was played, fingering patterns, tuning etc… which is after all what I do with all my bass covers. So, what I will write are my suppositions, doubts and decisions, based on what my ears told me. The two first repetitions are quite audible but as soon as the other instruments come in it starts to become difficult to hear the bass notes so clearly.

i) I did play the whole thing live but I edited the first four bars and copy-pasted it a few times to “simulate” how the samples were put together – you will notice on the sections where the video footage of me playing is repeated (but not the background video embellishments)

ii) It could be that the original bass recording is slightly flat in respect to the other instruments because I got a slight sense of a (acoustic) beat when the two basses are clearly audible at the start. Maybe the bass wasn’t tuned to a tuner – after all Chris was just testing. When the other instruments come, that feeling is not there anymore (Chris’ bass is lower in the mix).

iii) The riff repetitions are all the same with one exception. After the first “pause”, it begins again, and there is a little acoustic guitar solo. Here the endings of each half riff were swapped. The last beat of bar 2 is now in the place of bar 4’s last beat and vice-versa (3:40/3:46). That was a smart edit, as it creates the tension for the next heavier section. On the clip I didn’t edit this using copy-paste – I just played it like that.

iv) Tuning – this song uses a low fifth string. Could be a 5 or 6-string bass. Here I have two big doubts. Did Chris use the lower string tuned to B, like the standard tuning, or, like he also used before, down to A?  Because there is a very low A in the “pause” section (3:12) that could be played by the bass. Well, Chris could have detune the bass just to hit that note as well. Still undecided, the instrumental four-bar bridge used a low D (with octave leap), then comes the big question.  What low note is played on the last beat of the 3rd bar (1:37,2:23 and 4:28)? At first I heard an E flat and it sounded good – but it’s really hard to hear the bass here. I searched finger patterns to play that note and I found something not completely in my way of thinking of “that’s how Chris would move his fingers”. I tried with the fifth string tuned as B. For the A tuning it was really unlogical because the E flat would be two frets farther away from where the rest of the notes were happening (on the first 3 frets)… so I started hearing again that note and I started to think that it’s actually E natural. Perhaps due to the slightly flat tuning that I mentioned before it sounds something in between? It’s hard to say – very hard to hear. But, finally I decided to play it as E natural, so I could use the E open string and it made more sense with the overall fingering. This way I decided to use the low A tuning (I could gladly hit that note, even if it’s not the bass) having just to adapt to play the low D on the fifth fret.

I used my Warwick Thumb NT and the Ampeg SVX plugin. Hope you like the clip!

Bass: 1992 Warwick Thumb Bass 5-string

Strings: Warwick Red Strings (45-135, stainless steel)

Amp emulator: Ampeg SVX

Signal path: Bass→PC→Ampeg SVX


2 responses to “Tall Ships

  1. Good job Miguel. Could please provide the tabs for this? Greetings from a brazilian fan- Bruno,.

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