by Rob Burns

Deep Thinking: Sidney Carton’s Steps

by Rob Burns

Deep Thinking: Sidney Carton’s Steps

This Deep Thinking piece is a solo bass tune with a nod in the direction of Charles Dickens (a ‘nod’ being the important word…). I would like to say it is a ‘far, far’ harder piece than the last piece we looked at but it isn’t. However, it is a reference to a particular Dickens book! The tune is called Sidney Carton’s Last Few Steps (look up Sidney on Wiki and you will get the ‘nod’ reference).

This is one of my tunes that uses the picking hand in a claw picking technique so that the picking thumb plays the lower notes while picking fingers 1, 2, and 3 pluck the chords. Some have three notes, others two.

deep thinking

The wiggly lines down the sides of the chords mean that the chord is ‘broken’ into separate notes, one note following the next. I have used several arpeggios throughout the piece that you might be familiar with from past tunes we have played.

Bar 1 is built around an E7 chord with an F natural rising to an F# producing a slight dissonance, while bar 2 moves from E7 to D7 with the A in the bass. This is followed by a C#7 chord with G# in the bass. Bar 3 repeats bar 1 and bar 4 uses a chromatic passage of 7 chords from E to G in quavers. These four bars are then repeated.

The three bars that follow the repeat line have C major chords followed respectively by C# minor, Bb major, and C# minor again. The F natural at the end of each bar acts as a passing note back to C major. This sequence is followed by a bar made up of Eb diminished arpeggios and is two groups of four semiquavers and then four quavers with a pause on the last note.

Finally, we return to a fast sequence using the open low E string and the E7 chord that opened the tune. The very final note is another E, this time at fret 7, string 3 and it can be fretted or played as a harmonic by lightly touching the fret with a fretting hand finger.

Watch out for blisters if you are not used to using your fingers in this technique and try it slowly at first. (I always say that!) See you next time.

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 band, The Verlaines.