How To Play Cantaloupe Island by Herbie Hancock – YT118

Paolo Bass Lab PLUS Membership, blog, Song Analyse

In this bass guitar lesson I’m going to show you how to play Cantaloupe Island by Herbie Hancock.

If you’re just starting out playing Jazz or want to go and play at a Jazz Jam session there’s a good chance you may see this tune!

This tune was originally recorded in the mid 1960s and you can clearly hear the jazz and rock influences. 

If you get asked to perform Cantaloupe Island there’s also a good chance you’ll also get asked to play another Herbie Hancock tune which we covered on the eBassGuitar Blog last week -

Here’s a link to the Watermelon Man Lesson

I also encourage you to check  the original recording because it has the legendary Ron Carter on double bass from the album 1964 Empyrean Isles.

Backing Track

If you want to get the backing track used in this lesson, you can get it as part of The Jazz Jam Backing Track Album Volume 1 - this is a collection of the 12 most popular Jazz songs beginner to intermediate bass guitar players will find on jam sessions. This album is made especially for bass guitar players and uses 100% real musicians - nothing computer generated!

Click here to get your copy of the Jazz Jam Backing Track Album Volume 1

Part 1a: Learn The Cantaloupe Chord Sequence

Cantaloupe Island is a simple, yet slightly unusual tune. It’s a 16 bar chord sequence in the key of F minor. It can be broken down into the following 4 bar sections:

  • 4 Bars of F Minor 7

  • 4 Bars of Db7 (This chord is completely unrelated to the F Minor key signature!)

  • 4 Bars of D Minor

  • 4 Bars of F Minor 7 to finish the sequence

Part 1b: Learn The Cantaloupe Bass Line

There is a set bass line for Cantaloupe Island and it’s important to learn this first. You can split the 16 bar sequence down in two core ideas:

  • A simple ‘Box Shape’ bass line which is built using the root, 5th, flat 7th and octave for the Fm7 & Db7 chords. The second note is ‘pushed’ before the beat and placed on beat 2+. This is found in bars 1-8 and 13-16.

  • A sparser D minor chord groove. This uses the root and 5th played together. The second chord of each bar is ‘pushed’ and placed on beat 2+.

Part 2: Adding The ‘8-7-5’ Fill

Once you’ve mastered the chord sequence and the bass line above the next stage is to start improvising your own bass lines over Cantaloupe Island. There’s loads of space to get creative and inventive!

Here I’m going to show you a simple idea called the ‘8-7-5’ fill. This uses the octave, flat 7th and 5th of each respective chord and falls nicely under the hand using the box shape. 

Rhythmically, we’re going to place octave, flat 7th and 5th on the last 3 ‘8th notes’ of each bar on beats 3+, 4 and 4+.

Once you’ve got the bass line down below you can try reordering the 3 notes. There are plenty of options to have some fun with this idea once you are comfortable!

Part 3: Creating D Minor Bass Fills

One idea you’ll hear many bass players use over the D minor section, in bars 9 -12, is to create a 2 bar phrase where the original chord idea stays the same in the first bar and a bass fill is placed in the second bar.

To create the fill I’m going to use the D Minor Pentatonic Scale. Here are 4 examples of simple bass fills you could play which are perfect for beginner to intermediate bass players.

Example 1

Example 2

Example 3

Example 4

Lesson Wrap Up 

Cantaloupe Island is one of those classic jazz tunes you’ll perform time and time again. It’s very straightforward and the great thing is you’ll hear both beginner all the way to professional musicians playing this piece.

Don’t forget to check out the Watermelon Man Lesson (eBassGuitar Lesson Blog) too because many of the ideas there are directly transferable to Cantaloupe Island.

You’ll also find learning Walking Bass will massively help you come up with creative ideas which will work over this tune. Make sure you check out my book ‘The Essential Guide To Walking Bass for Bass Guitar Players’

My book and my full Walking Bass course ‘The Essential Guide To Walking Bass’ are available inside the Bass Lab PLUS Membership.

The Bass Lab PLUS is complete program for the beginner to intermediate bass player - Join FREE Today with a 14 day trial.

All Bass Lab PLUS courses are easy to understand and simplify complex ideas so bass players in the early phases of learning can make rapid progress and achieve results that impress their friends and family fast.

Good luck and get stuck in!


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