Pantera – Becoming Bass Line: The Right Way

Pantera – Becoming Bass Line: The Right Way

Track 2 on the monstrous Far Beyond Driven album sees Dime in fine Whammy pedal form and Vinnie doing a totally iconic Kick pattern but this song also has a trademark, muscular, rock solid bassline from Rex Brown.

One of the first things we have to address is the tuning for this.

The bass is in C Standard tuning and not in Drop C tuning. For a more detailed explanation of what’s happening and why that is, scroll to the end of this page. I don’t want to hammer you into submission with esoteric music nerding up front!

Other Tab versions...

As per usual, let’s take a look at how the others have tabbed it out. One of these makes no real sense at all when you stop to think about it!

Songster: They get the tuning right but then instantly, for reasons that I can’t fathom, get the very 1st riff wrong and then continue wrong compounding their first mistake!

It’s almost amusing how wrong it is 😂 Honestly, if you’re working on the assumption that C# (1st fret) is the lowest note of the entire song then why not tab it out in C# Standard and use the open string?! 🤪

I digress…

UG: They get the tuning and the key wrong but the very 1st riff right. 

SheetMusicDirect: This is the “for sale” officially licensed tab, it’s also the one on which nearly all other tabs are based. So much un-necessary mess to unpack here!

The tuning is wrong (this is the tab where most people get their idea of the tuning from) and the key is wrong too.

Reading this and trying to cummunicate with your guitarist(s) you’ll be in a world of chaos…

According to this tab you drop tune to D Standard then drop tune the bottom string another step to drop C and then have you read this tuning as E standard but dropped D tuning all while the guitar is in D standard which means that your lowest note, which you’re thinking of as D is now a tone lower than the lowest note on the guitar which IS actually D!

Confused? I know I am!

Just tune the whole bass down to C Standard and write out the tab as if it’s in E standard and you’re playing in F#m.

Simples.

Let’s take a look at how simple that makes it

The opening Riff

So, this song starts with a chopped up, really heavy riff on the open low C which comes back in various places throughout the song.

Since we’re in a Standard 4th’s interval tuning, when tabbing this out, we can just go straight ahead and write this as the low E. Guitar Pro gives you the option of moving the pitch of the postion occupied by C on the instrument.

In our case here, C in E standard is on the 8th fret on the low E string. Because we’ve tuned down 2 whole steps, A♭ is now sitting at the 7th fret on the E string and that means GP now knows how far to offset things while still keeping the notation in E standard positions.

This low C (open E string) matches up with what Dime’s playing: a C5 (5th fret D position).

It makes things SO much simpler and easier to read and write!

Into the link riff

Remember, the guitar is in D Standard so Dime is playing in the Em chord position but you’re a step lower so you need to play as if you’re in F#m on the 2nd fret of the low E string.

The official tab from SMD (and by extension, the UG one and countless others) makes a pig’s ear of this too!

The Link Riff on the bass is outlining a 5th chord, a powerchord, while Dime does the Whammy pedal squeals.

Because they’ve tabbed it in Dropped C tuning rather than C Standard tuning you’re playing the 5th of the chord with the same finger as the root note, rolling back and forth across the 2nd fret.

This seems a bit awkward to me.

In a C Standard tuning you’d be playing this 5th note in a traditional powerchord shape (no rolling back and forward over the 2nd fret required) and that would leave your hand already in positon to play the 2, 4, 5 frets run up on the E string.

It’s maybe nitpicking but that just feels like a more natural hand shape, especially if you’re running about on stage…

The official tab then adds in some fruity little passing notes as a turnaround. Again, hard to play when running about and also means that the powerchord is now being played by your middle finger which leaves you with an even weaker grip on the neck!

The Songster tab does the same rolling finger move at the second fret but instead of the 0 – 1 frets run up it does a 2 – 1 frets rock back and forth.

Not only that, though, the Songster version gets the end of the riff completely wrong!

Meanwhile, the UG version of the Link Riff is strangely “simple”, just a plodding 8th note rendering…

The Link Riff the right way

Here’s what Rex is actually playing:

The Songster version has the right idea of going from high to low on those 16th notes but seems wedded to the 1st fret as the lowest note of the song for reasons that still escape me!

The official version thinks it goes from low to high. They’re both wrong.

The official tab gets the end of the riff right while the Songster one ends a semitone too high. Neither of them mark up the vibrato that Rex is soaking that last note in!

What he’s playing sounds like this:

The verse riff P.1

The Verse Riff is a slightly stripped back version of the Link Riff with Vinnie half-timing his drums for the first half of it.

Let’s look at how the others have it tabbed:

The official tab almost gets it right but insists on the passing note of the 1st fret…

The Songster version is sticking with it’s semitone wobble on the 16th notes and STILL gets the end of the riff wrong! 😂

Here’s the UG version of the Verse Riff. As you can see, it’s not even rhythmically correct let alone tonally!

Here’s what Rex is playing during the half-time feeling part of the Verse.

You can see that he’s still rocking those pull-offs to give it momentum. Here’s how it sounds:

The verse riff P.2

The second part of the Verse (with the overlapping vocals) is just the Link Riff.

I won’t go into great detail about it because I’ve already covered it. However, on the fourth time round you slide up from the 5th fret into the Chorus.

the chorus

Let’s see how the other’s have tabbed it out:

There’s really not much to say about the Songster tab of the Chorus other than the entire thing is completely wrong because it’s a semitone too high! 🤣

Not to mention that they’ve got you finishing the first part of the riff on the 1st fret (wrong) and then moving up to the 4th fret to pull up into the next section of the Chorus. Why not just pull up from the 1st fret where you are already?

Rex is pulling up from the 1st fret but the low note of the Chorus is the open string (the low C) and it’s heavy as fook!

The available pages of the official version don’t go up to the Chorus so there’s no way to the know if they got it right but the here’s the UG version:

What can I say about this abomination?

The notes in the red boxes: where the holy hell did they get that idea from?! It’s almost as laughably bad as the Songster version of the Chorus being an entire semitone too high!

Here is the Chorus written out the right way:

Note: the last 2 notes in the red box are not a mistake. On the first and last Choruses in the song, Rex is playing the quarter note on 4 and then a whole note for the next bar. This whole note lands with Vinnie’s kick drum so it does make sense in context.

Here’s how it sounds:

After that it’s rinse and repeat. Link Riff, Verse, Chorus are all the same with the exception of tying the last notes together in the Chorus like so:

A couple of bars of the chopped up riff as a Pre-Solo on the open 6th string and then you’re into the Solo which is the Link Riff we’ve already looked at, then it’s out into Chorus 3 with the ending as per Chorus 1.

2 bars of Chopped Up Riff and then its the Outro which is the Link Riff again and then some stabs on the 2nd fret on the low C (E String) and you’re done!

Music theory madness

Buckle up, this is going to get a bit… interesting!

Ready?

The guitar is tuned down to D Standard and all the tabs get this correct. From the perspective of the guitar and in pure harmony terms, the song is in the key of Dm.

When a guitar is tuned down a whole step and maintains the Standard 4th’s tuning format it should be treated as, tabbed out and talked about AS IF it’s in the tuning of E standard for the sake of simplicity and clarity.

I’ve been at a few band practices over the years where the guitars have been tuned down and one guitarist who’s thinking in E Standard says something like, “yeah, we go from the low G to the 5th D and then to the A…” and the other pedeant guitarist has said, “No, you mean F to C to G don’t you..?”

Just think of your down tuned guitar as being in E standard (even if you’re in B standard tuning!!), it will save you a buttload headaches when you’re explaining riffs between yourselves…

Down, Down, Deeper & Down…

Things get a bit more complex with the bass on this song though.

The bass is tuned down to C Standard! A whole tone lower than the guitar!

You could play this in Drop C if you want (see the above essay for more details on why it’s not this in my opinion) but since you only need to play one note that’s on the A string, C Standard just makes things easier.

This is where it gets a bit head melty…

Remember, we’re in the key of Dm. That means that the 2nd fret on the E string is D (so that we’re on the same root note as Dime) but because we’re in a Standard 4th’s tuning and thinking in terms of E Standard it’s also F#!

Confused? 😂 There’s more…

The low E string is really C. The song is in Dm which makes C the 7th degree of the scale (D, E, F, G, A, B, C, D) which Dime plays on the 5th fret of his A string with the D5 position powerchord in the intro and link riff (this powerchord is harmonically C5 but because it’s a standard tuning we’re thinking of it as D5 remember?).

Here we go

It gets really weird from here… Sorry.

We’re in Dm, the bass is a whole tone lower but still tuned to 4th intervals so we’re thinking of it in terms of E Standard. This means that when we play in Dm from our 2nd fret, in the E Standard model, we’re effectively playing the song in the F#m key position (F#, G#, A, B, C#, D, E, F#)!

If you’ve been following then you might have noticed something: our low E string is harmonically is but in the E Standard model it is E; in the key of F#m, E is also the 7th degree of the scale (F#, G#, A, B, C#, D, E, F#)!

The long and short of it all:

We’re harmonically in Dm, the guitars are tuned to D Standard but thought of as E Standard, the bass is tuned to C Standard but also thought of as E Standard, thus the guitars are thinking in terms of the key of Em and the bass is thinking in terms of F#m!

Told you it was potty…hope this little theory diversion hasn’t wrecked your head too much!

*** For the record, I’ve tried playing this in both Drop C and C Standard and C Standard simply makes the pull-offs in the riff easier, allowing the whole riff to flow more naturally. Think “Through The Never” by Metallica; imagine trying to play that with the 5th of the chord on the same fret as the root!***

Buckle up, this is going to get a bit… interesting!

Ready?

The guitar is tuned down to D Standard and all the tabs get this correct. From the perspective of the guitar and in pure harmony terms, the song is in the key of Dm.

When a guitar is tuned down a whole step and maintains the Standard 4th’s tuning format it should be treated as, tabbed out and talked about AS IF it’s in the tuning of E standard for the sake of simplicity and clarity.

I’ve been at a few band practices over the years where the guitars have been tuned down and one guitarist who’s thinking in E Standard says something like, “yeah, we go from the low G to the 5th D and then to the A…” and the other pedeant guitarist has said, “No, you mean F to C to G don’t you..?”

Just think of your down tuned guitar as being in E standard (even if you’re in B standard tuning!!), it will save you a buttload headaches when you’re explaining riffs between yourselves…

Down, Down, Deeper & Down…

Things get a bit more complex with the bass on this song though.

The bass is tuned down to C Standard! A whole tone lower than the guitar!

You could play this in Drop C if you want (see the above essay for more details on why it’s not this in my opinion) but since you only need to play one note that’s on the A string, C Standard just makes things easier.

This is where it gets a bit head melty…

Remember, we’re in the key of Dm. That means that the 2nd fret on the E string is D (so that we’re on the same root note as Dime) but because we’re in a Standard 4th’s tuning and thinking in terms of E Standard it’s also F#!

Confused? 😂 There’s more…

The low E string is really C. The song is in Dm which makes C the 7th degree of the scale (D, E, F, G, A, B, C, D) which Dime plays on the 5th fret of his A string with the D5 position powerchord in the intro and link riff (this powerchord is harmonically C5 but because it’s a standard tuning we’re thinking of it as D5 remember?).

Here we go

It gets really weird from here… Sorry.

We’re in Dm, the bass is a whole tone lower but still tuned to 4th intervals so we’re thinking of it in terms of E Standard. This means that when we play in Dm from our 2nd fret, in the E Standard model, we’re effectively playing the song in the F#m key position (F#, G#, A, B, C#, D, E, F#)!

If you’ve been following then you might have noticed something: our low E string is harmonically is but in the E Standard model it is E; in the key of F#m, E is also the 7th degree of the scale (F#, G#, A, B, C#, D, E, F#)!

The long and short of it all:

We’re harmonically in Dm, the guitars are tuned to D Standard but thought of as E Standard, the bass is tuned to C Standard but also thought of as E Standard, thus the guitars are thinking in terms of the key of Em and the bass is thinking in terms of F#m!

Told you it was potty…hope this little theory diversion hasn’t wrecked your head too much!

*** For the record, I’ve tried playing this in both Drop C and C Standard and C Standard simply makes the pull-offs in the riff easier, allowing the whole riff to flow more naturally. Think “Through The Never” by Metallica; imagine trying to play that with the 5th of the chord on the same fret as the root!***

Summary

Not a structurally complex song but it’s got plenty of groove and some super heavy riffs to play with. The real challenge with this song is hearing what’s going on; the production is so heavy and thick and the tunings so low! Not to mention that Dime is really chunking down on his chords making it even more murky…) but the details are there to be teased out.

I hope you’l agree that the tab I’ve created is right and that you’ll enjoy playing it. I can’t believe how wrong these other tabs are and that no-one’s ever bothered to call them up on it! 😂

So, until the next time, may the riff be with you.