1/2-step Transcribing (Too Low)

Okay, feel free to fix that subject. I’m not really sure what to call it…

When our Worship Leader sends out the song list for the week (now, I am only practicing with our Praise Team at this time - they pipe my sound through my ears so I get a feel for playing in a group but I won’t play during the service), I go to either WorshipOnline or WorshipArtistry and try and find the music. More often than not, what I find is in a different key.

Just this past week, I realized that if the song is in the key of B and the list is sent to me in the key of Bb, I can just move down a fret. Yeah, I know, that was covered early in the lessons but I’ve slept since then. :wink:

However, what do you do if you’re sent music in the key of Bb and the song should be in the key of B and you have several notes on the open E string (Love So Great for example)? I mean, there’s nothing lower than a the open E string. I have detuned down to Eb for other songs when I practice by myself but it’s not convenient to do so in a group and I don’t have a hipshot on that string (well, on any string). I realize it would work to play that note as a high Eb but… that just seems wrong to me. :grimacing:

Heh, I have thought about improv just playing a triad in that key and see what he says but he’d know what I’m doing.

I’m only slightly frustrated by this. Coming across stuff like this is a puzzle to me that I try and solve. I’m having fun transcribing on tab sheets and following along in the lessons here. I guess I’m mostly curious. I’m not ready to purchase a new bass (the one I’m using [a Fender Jazz Bass] was loaned to me by the church) but I did wonder if a 5-string bass would help (I’ve watched Josh’s video on this and, no, I don’t want to add another string into the mix at this time). At 54, I am having a load of fun with this.



As I see it you have 3 choices.

  1. You can detune a half step to Eb which, as you said, can be inconvenient in a live setting.
  2. You can play the song one octave higher so that the Eb on your A string is the lowest note (I do this fairly often in my church).
  3. You can buy a 5 string bass. :grin:

You’re doing well with your solutions so far.

My question is - when you’re playing music, are you working from a written bass line?
Usually in worship band situations, I’ve received a lead sheet. Something that has either the singer melody or the words, and then the chords that the band needs to play to back up the melody.
Is that what you’re working with?

When I’ve worked from those charts, many times the rehearsal music is not in the right key. I have to do two things.
Thing 1 - listen to the rehearsal track to figure out how it should sound.
Thing 2 - play to the chart with a drum track, trying to follow the song pattern that I learned when I was listening.

This way I’m not learning it in a key, and then moving fingerings (as you hinted at with the open E string problem). I’m playing to chords, and if the key changes, I play to the new chords.

Not sure if this helps or is clear. Holler with more questions as the changing keys of songs when playing with different singers / bands is a constant real world problem for all of us out there!


Usually in worship band situations, I’ve received a lead sheet. Something that has either the singer melody or the words, and then the chords that the band needs to play to back up the melody.
Is that what you’re working with?

I am not. That is what my wife (keys) and daughter (singer) get. I have seen that but wasn’t sure what to do with it. What I usually do is go online and look for bass tabs. Once I find them, I figure out what key I should be in and then try to adjust. Then I’ll play with the bass track that my wife and daughter get.

I think I understand what you’re saying… By not learning the song in a specific key it’s easier to adjust and play the new chords.

Oh, I’ll have more questions. :wink:


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This is - quite literally - the key to the bass universe opening at your fingertips.

The chord chart (or lyric sheet) is the key to all gigs. It’s the most common way for people to give us music to learn and it’s the language most people will expect us to understand - even if it’s just spoken and not written down - to talk about what is happening when in a song.

There may be good tutorials out there, Josh may have a video, but my recommendation would be to find a legitimate teacher and book just one lesson and bring in the playalongs and the music sheets and get a focused “basics of reading chord charts” lesson.

Basically, you need to play the correct root note at the right time during the song, and the chord chart tells you what root note and when.
The other notes you get to add depend on what type of chord it is.
The more you know your fretboard, scales and chords, the better you’ll be at musically navigating the chord chart information.