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December/January 2017

by Rob Burns

Deep Thinking: Some 12/8 Xmas Trickiness With The Verlaines!

by Rob Burns

Deep Thinking: Some 12/8 Xmas Trickiness With The Verlaines!

As it’s the Christmas period, I thought I would do some shameless marketing. There is a new album, ‘Dunedin Spleen’ from The Verlaines, a Dunedin band with which I play, that’s due for release in the new year. My friend and colleague, Graeme Downes has, as always, composed all the material and there is enough of it for a double album. (That option is still being discussed.) Graeme’s music is among the toughest I have ever played in terms of keys and the use of tempo changes and irregular metre, often all in one song!

The extract below looks deceptively simple but the 12/8 time signature and Cb key signature throw a few spanners into the works. Also, I played it on a five string so the Eb’s in the transcription have been taken up an octave so that it can be played on a four string. The reason for the use of this key is that Graeme wanted his vocal to be in its lowest register, given the gravity of the lyrics. The first bar was the click track count in, so that’s not on the video. You will find the track, AWCWD, on YouTube.

deep thinking verlaines

The way I counted it was ‘1e a, 2e a, 3e a, 4e a’ (like ‘123, 223, 323, 423’) in order to get the swing feel that Graeme wanted. You will also notice at the ends of bars 7 and 14 that there is a group of three quavers resembling a triplet. These groupings are common in 12/8 and you just need to play in the groups of three listed above.

In terms of the notes played, I just played as if I was a fret lower than what would have been written if the notes were not all a semitone flat, and made sure that I didn’t look at the fingerboard. In that way, I just had to look out for the odd incidental passing notes where Graeme introduced some chromaticism. I did make the crotchets longer than they look, given that most are followed by a quaver rest. These slightly longer notes make the bass line flow with the drums more easily than if I had made them shorter and added to the swing feel.

Anyway, look out too for a second video, Church And State, which should be available by the time this issue of NZM is published. Have a great summer and see you next year. Any guesses about what the title AWCWD stands for?

Dr. Rob Burns is an Associate Professor in Music at the University of Otago in Dunedin. As a former professional studio bassist in the UK, he performed and recorded with David Gilmour, Pete Townsend, Jerry Donahue, Isaac Hayes, Sam and Dave, James Burton, Ian Paice and Jon Lord, Eric Burdon and members of Abba. He played on the soundtracks on many UK television shows, such as Red Dwarf, Mr. Bean, Blackadder, Not the Nine O’Clock News and Alas Smith and Jones. Rob is currently a member of Dunedin bands Subject2change and The Verlaines.