The Chicken. A beginner's journey

I mentioned in another thread that I was trying to learn The Chicken bassline as played by Jaco Pastorius.
If you are unfamiliar with it, here is a video

I had never heard of this piece before yesterday (07/04/2020) but something about the bassline grabbed me and I decided I needed to learn to play it.

I put the track on repeat on spotify and played in none stop for a couple of hours whilst I worked to try and get the general form into my head and then did a little youtube viewing to try to work out the basic bassline and chord progression.

Because I normally need a scary goal to achieve stuff and because I think it might help others, I have decided to document my journey of learning this bassline.

I am not looking to emulate Jaco’s exact bassline throughout the song but I would like to get to a point where I can play the basic riff all the way through the song including the unison part and then to be able to improvise little variations to spice things up a little.

So (and this is going to be embarrassing at first) here is my first attempt. Please bear in mind that a few hours ago, I had never heard of this song.

I welcome all criticism and advice. I can take it!

The Chicken. Day One


Awesome :+1:


Great initiative… takes balls to do that!! Kudos for that alone!

Now - and I am just curious here - did you find some sheet music or did you “transcribe” the line from hearing Jaco play it?? The reason I ask is because I don’t think you have the right phrasing here…

I made a very quick and dirty recording how I hear the groove/phrasing. It is in 80 bpm. It is not played perfectly well (mainly because I haven’t really practiced this), but I think it is closer to what the groove is… again, this is how I hear it! Maybe it could be an idea to find other recordings of The Chicken to double-check!? Other versions of the song might have an easier to identify bass line! Also, doesn’t Josh break it down in this video?? (Haven’t listened closely to that video of his in a while).


Thanks @joergkutter
I just found some YouTube videos that showed how to play it. I am going to concentrate on the riff over the Bb chord for a day or two so I can get the phrasing nailed before trying to play it over the whole chord sequence.


Sounds like a plan! I tried to find some sheet music that was not a note-to-note transcription of what Jaco plays, but more the standard riff, but so far only found something on a Korean website :joy: (and even that is based on Jaco’s version, I guess).
I couldn’t grab the whole thing, but here is that main riff over the first chord:
Screen Shot 2020-04-08 12 00 16 AM
So, he also makes a little ornament on every second phrase, but I guess it would also be Ok to NOT do that for a start :grin:


I have just got into the studio and I am going to have a go at playing along with the version you posted earlier and see how I get on


Whilst searching for info on this piece I found this video which I think is going to be a great help.

I really like James and have seen many of his videos in fact it was one of his videos I used to learn Message in a bottle in a day.
He has a follow up video showing how you can embellish your basic bassline but I haven’t had a chance to watch that one yet
One thing at a time.

Day Two of learning the Chicken (Jaco Pastorius)

Today I am concentrating on just the main riff over a single chord in an attempt to get it under my fingers in etched in my brain.

More tomorrow


niiiiiice. Progress is easier to watch than accomplish!


I’m already looking forward to the next one. :+1:

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Today I am adding another chord which is slightly harder as it has no open strings
I have also introduced a slight variation to the main riff


Nice update!!

How did you decide on this exact version of the main riff?? Is that what James was teaching? Did you download the sheet music or tabs he was talking about? (Obviously, I haven’t watched the entire video…)

I am mainly wondering about that E in there when you play the Eb - E - F sequence!? I think it should rather stay on the Eb, i.e., Eb - Eb - F (see the sheet music excerpt I had dug up and posted earlier in this thread).

Anyway, you see what you did!?! I got really interested myself to dig into this tune now :joy: Thanks!!


This is what James is teaching as the basic riff. He does do a follow up video that adds some more variety and complexity and I will move onto that when I have mastered the simple version.
Jaco plays lots of variations and improvisations and I think this will be a long term project over the coming months.


OK, thanks! For sure, no reason to delve into all the variations and improvs Jaco is playing. I was just curious as to why there isn’t even a clear consensus among teachers/players on how the main riff is played.

Still, great challenge to work on!

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Here I attempt to play one round right through. I tried several times but couldn’t get it mistake free but this was the best one.
Tune in tomorrow when I will try to play through the whole song.


Yes! Great progress! Enjoying the series.

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I’ve been meaning to ask, how do you like your Laney rig? Did it meet expectations? Anything you particularly do or don’t like? Wish you had gone bigger/smaller/different?

It sounds like you’re getting a real smooth tone out of it. :+1:

Thanks for doing these videos. It’s pretty cool to see somebody going through the whole process like this.

Hi @eric.kiser
I love it. I don’t really know enough about all the things it does yet but I like the tone and it is super loud if I want it to be.
No problems with the low end with just the 2x10 cab. I might add a 1x15 later but at the moment it is all good
I have been plagued by some intermittent scratching noises but I think I have narrowed that down the the short lead between my bass and the wireless transmitter.

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No update today as I have just not had the time
Hopefully there will be an update tomorrow

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It looks like it’s coming along pretty good to me anyway :+1: