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Simple bass lines are not simple at all. Try playing something hooky and groovy using just three notes. It's a challenge indeed.
Simple bass lines are not simple at all. Try playing something hooky and groovy using just three notes. It's a challenge indeed.
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Bass Around the World #15: John Deacon Grooves

John Richard Deacon is best known as Queen’s bass player. What is less known is that he was trained as an electronics engineer and in 1972 he built a Deacy amp from pieces of electronic equipment found in a skip. Queen’s so-called guitar orchestras were created using this DIY-made amp. How cool is that?

Deacon's style

Deacon as a bass player created an original style: very hooky, groovy, and at first sight simple-sounding bass lines. However, this perceived simplicity was in fact masterwork, always fitting the songs perfectly with impeccable melodic approach and tone. Apart from his bass contribution, Deacon also composed several hit songs for the group such as "You're My Best Friend," "Another One Bites the Dust," and "I Want to Break Free"; he co-wrote "Under Pressure," "Friends Will Be Friends," and "One Vision." His main instrument throughout his Queen years remained a Fender Precision Bass, but he also played an Eko, a Rickenbacker 4001, a Roger Giffin custom bass, and a MusicMan Stingray. Deacon preferred to play with the fingers of his plucking hand as he was inspired by the bass lines on Chic, Michael Jackson, and Stevie Wonder records. 

Lesson time

As a fine example of Deacon’s approach, we’ll be playing and digging into his bass line in "Another One Bites the Dust." 

The verse is a brilliant disco-style groove using a four-on-the-floor pattern with Em minor pentatonic tones (E, G, A, B, D). This iconic bass line becomes a chorus hook when Mercury joins in with the unison rhythmic vocal phrase which gave the song its name.  

The bridge part utilizes some gentle chromatic passing notes between the C and G chords, giving it the needed harmonic change before coming back to the verse/chorus disco line. 

And this two-part structure is basically the whole song, with one exception—the F# before the clap-along breakdown part.

This bass line is great for your muting skills as all notes are played "kick drum style," as I personally call it—every bass note has a very distinctive length that simulates the sound of the kick drum. Use both hands for muting, with a light touch in your fretting hand and resting your fingers on the strings with the plucking hand. 

Have fun and make your staccato notes dance. 


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Marek Bero
Bass Gym 101 books, touring & session bass player, football tactics aficionado.