In today’s bass guitar lesson I’m going to show you how to simplify the Eric Clapton version of ‘I Shot The Sheriff’ into 3 core ideas.
Whenever I learn a new song I’m always looking to identify and breakdown 3 things very quickly:
The key signature, chord sequences & basic song structure.
A fundamental bass groove or feel
Any unison or musical phrases that need to be specific and tight.
I Shot The Sheriff can be broken down into 3 basic sections:
An 8 Bar Chorus
A 13 ½ Bar Verse
A 2 ½ bar ‘Unison Figure’ at the end of the verse.
The backing tracks used in this lesson can be found inside ‘Backing Track Vault’ inside The Bass Lab PLUS Membership. I’ve split each section into loops to make practicing the ideas in this song simpler.If you are not a member of the Bass Lab PLUS you can join today FREE with a 14 Day Trial by clicking here
All of the chords in I Shot The Sheriff are based on one fundamental scale - The G Natural Minor or G Aeolian Scale. I recommend practicing this first so you understand where all of the basic chords and note choices are derived from.
The Chorus & Funky Groove
I Shot The Sheriff starts with the Chorus section. The chorus is 8 bars long and just has two chords - G minor & C minor.
I’ve picked one fundamental groove which is running throughout the song. The groove is a funky feel and there are plenty of variations you can play on this once you are comfortable with this initial 3 note groove.To make note placement simpler and more accurate I’ve added the ‘counting below each note’. We are splitting a beat in to 4 using the 1 - e - & - a | 2 - e - & - a counting system for 16th notes.
I like to start by splitting the verse into two ‘subsections’. Start off by learning the 2 bar chord sequence in bars 1 & 2 then learn the unison phrase that starts in bar 11.
To make the unison phrase simpler I’ve added the counting below each note. Try and ensure the notes are played as long as possible so they run into each other with no gaps.
Part 2 - The One Note Scalic Approach
To finish off this lesson I want to show you a simple bass line creation formula called The One Note Scalic Approach.
The great thing is you can hear Eric Clapton's bass player using this idea many times throughout the original tune - so this is 100% real world.
The basic principle is to ‘approach’ each chord change (or target note) from one scale note below, on beat 4& or 2&. To do this we use the G Minor scale we practiced earlier in the lesson.
Make sure you ‘slide’ into the target note below because this adds an articulation which sounds great on the bass! If you play the ‘approach note’ firm enough and slide, there is no need to replay the target note on beat one of the bar.
Lesson Wrap Up
Being able to simplify songs into 2 or 3 core ideas is a great skill to have because it makes learning songs so much faster. It also makes it so much easier to start creating and improvising our own bass lines.
If you'd like to discover a whole course on how to create bass lines make sure you check out the Rock, Pop & Motown Bass Line Creation Course inside the Bass Lab PLUS membership.
This is a 6 module course that teaches everything a bass player needs to understand how to play grooves, fills, approach notes and riffs over a wide variety of pop, rock and motown feels.
The Bass Lab PLUS also has live song analysis workshops where you can learn songs just like I Shot The Sheriff every month in an easy to understand, informal way.
Good luck and get stuck in!
JamesP.S. If you'd like to grab the backing track used in this lesson you can find these in the Bass lab PLUS Membership.