Bass lessons.

This is a work in progress, on this page you will currently find a Mick Karn Transcription, click the link beneath that for my Morphine transcripts project. This section of my site will be expanding over time to include more bass lessons, information, transcriptions, original instructional/music videos and advice.

If you don't know what Tablature is, click here.

From time to time people ask me for private musical instruction, which I sometimes provide, schedule permitting, rather than posting some basic introduction to the instrument, I thought I'd delve into a master class of sorts, first lesson is one of the trickiest weirdest basslines I'd ever heard up to that point, Mick Karn was one of the few unique voices in music on any instrument, and he played quite a few, primarily he's known for his landmark work on fretless bass. The first time I heard this song, it took me a while to realise he was repeating himself, it seemed so otherworldly. Hard to get back to that early mindframe, my mind having been so profoundly warped, in no small part by him. He was a big influence on my approach to music, the doors were blasted open to include anything one could imagine, there were no longer any rules, although he made his own.

Tribal Dawn bass tab by James Mobius. song by Mick Karn (R.I.P)

      I made my old bass teacher Steve Cardoza figure this out for me back in the early mid 1980's (sorry Steve) quite a challenge (my ears weren't adequately trained yet) because Mick, as you know, was from outer space, but he got it, I'm not sure how well I ever had it, I've played it to myself over the years, but I just sat down and really listened to the original studio version and realised, whatever I had learned previously, had either d/evolved or been forgotten, or something, so I listened very carefully and re-figured out what Mick was doing, the intial trill, is an approximation, hard to write it down precisely, and I will be doing this in tablature only for now anyway, though I think I may do an instructional video for this one for my Utoob channel

      I don't own any fretless 4 string basses currently (2 five strings, and a 2 string slide bass), but the tab will be for 4 string bass which is what Mick played on this recording originally, a Wal fretless. (oh how I want one, or some of their pick ups so I can build a bass with that sound)

      trill (approximate)
G ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
D ---15-13-15-13-15-------15-------------------------------------------------13-----------------------------|
A --------------------------------------0-0--------------------12-13------------------14-13------------------|
E -----------------------15-----------------------(9)-9-11------------14-15-----------------------------------|

G ---------------0------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
D ---15-15-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
A ---13-13--------------5--8-(5)-8---7\-------------------------------------------------------------------------|
E ---------------------------------------------------0------------------------------------------------------------|
                                                ^implied/muted       (^ slap, LR)

one time towards the end there is a variation on the intro phrase:

G ----------------------------14-14------------|
D ---15-13-15-13-15--------------------------|
A --------------------------------------0-0-----|
E -----------------------------------------------|

      I had added a few bits in my head over the years, and left some out, nice to know again what it really is supposed to be. the 1st 9th fret on the E string is muted, the open G string is popped, the 2nd useage of the 5th fret on the A string is implied rhythmically, but may not be actually played, the last note, open E is held (LR = let ring) and slapped with the thumb, or finger, for best effect. a synth washes in an A chord over that, but the bass doesn't actually play A (despite the temptation). and that is the whole tune, there is a long break with sax, also played by Mick of course, along with everything else, I forget if he had drum programming help on that disc at the moment, have to pull out the vinyl to see, and some tribal children chanting, there's a live version you can find on Utoob with guitar, different, but Mick's part is the same, he sings a bit too on it, and it's very cool.

Here you can hear this song via youtube video embedded below, please visit and buy some of his music, he died tragically young of lung cancer, leaving behind a wife and young son who could use your help. Along with Stanley Clarke and Jaco Pastorius, I count Mick Karn as the 3rd element of the holy trinity of electric bass, his importance and originality cannot be overstated, even as people's awareness is woefully inadeqaute for an artist of his stature and significance.

A new undertaking for me, I've built myself a 2 string slide bass, and am busy transcribing some of the music of Mark Sandman, and his band Morphine. Click here for that.
Mark invented the 2 string slide bass and got an incomparably original and beautiful glassy tone with it, a true pioneer, as Les Claypool said, Mark is one of the most innovative bassists of the last 20 years.