Dave Ellefson’s Twiddly Fills

Dave Ellefson’s Twiddly Fills

Dave Ellefson is a Thrash Metal bass god. A master of precise and intricate pick playing and the hands behind some icon bass lines in Megadeth.

It’s no easy task keeping up with Dave Mustaine’s riffing but over the years Dave has shone alongside many great musicians and never broken stride.

What follows is a quick look at a couple of his iconic 1 bar bass solo/fills.

I’ve not done this before but I’m going to include not only the JTR, UG and Songsterr tabs but an audio clip of the isolated part too.

Go To Hell

Released on the Hidden Treasures album and as part of the Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey soundtrack, the song Go To Hell is tight and mean with Mustaine on fine snarling form vocally.

This song is stuffed to the rafters with some classic Megadething and nestled in the middle of all of it is a single bar, at breakneck speed, that is all Dave’s!

Like much metal music, the production is “woolly” to say the least when it comes to the bass guitar but after isolating and cleaning it up I’ve worked out what he’s playing…

Here are the UG and Songsterr tabs.

UG Version

Songsterr Version

The UG version is close, but no cigar… The Songsterr version is nowhere near and reads like someone just kind of went, “ah well, no-one can really hear it so play whatever…”

Below is the JTR tab and the audio:

At Speed

At 80bpm

And here is the isolated and slowed down audio from the record.

I hope that’s clear. Even after isolating it and trying to clean it up it’s still a bit floofy in terms of the mix…

Let’s move on to the next track.

Take No Prisoners

This song is pretty fast; the bass fill is a blur of notes so again, it’s really hard to pick it apart on the recording at full speed. 

I’ve used the isolated bass track (thank you YouTubers…) and then isolated the bass fill and cleaned it up in the same way as I did with the Go To Hell fill.

Even after than it’s still really hard to hear.

Let’s take a look at the UG and Songsterr versions:

UG Version

Songsterr Version

Both the UG and Songsterr versions have some right bits but mostly wrong bits.

UG have the downbeat being an F# (which is correct) while Songsterr have it as a B which is not correct…

Now, there’s something that neither one has taken into account: this fill is an overdub (or underbub really because it starts on the 1 but under the F#).

Not only that, they both have the direction of travel in the riff as Tap to Pull-off when it’s actually Tap to Hammer-on. The notes clearly, when slowed down, go High-Low-Mid, High-Low-Mid…

I’ll add a YouTube video where you can see the motion of Dave’s hands clearly, albeit briefly, moving in a Hammer-on motion.

Now to the notes. UG has a couple of the right notes but the rest are wrong and because of the direction of travel the whole riff is wrong. Songsterr, meanwhile, has the right notes but the wrong pattern.

Because they both get the direction of the pattern wrong and neither allow for it being an overdub and despite Songsterr getting the notes right but in the wrong order, they both have to be marked as a fail.

Below is the JTR tab and the audio at speed and at 90bpm with preceeding and following bars to provide context.

At speed it’s really messy sounding!

At speed

At 90bpm

And here is the isolated and slowed down bass from the record with the YouTube vid set to start at the bass fill.

I hope that this has helped and cleared up decades of confusion! It certainly did for me. 😂

I love these two songs and Dave Ellefson is one of my all time favourite bass players. He’s consistent and plays with touch and aggression and imagination and is a true champion of the instrument in metal music.

Video essay on this to come soon…