Learn to Play: The Bass Techniques of Radiohead's Colin Greenwood

Last Wednesday, Jake Hawrylak was in the studio to teach us how to play Joe Dart's basslines from two songs, "Dean Town" and "Cory Wong," by popular American funk bank Vulfpeck. This week, he's turning his attention to Radiohead bassist Colin Greenwood, showcasing three specific and definitive aspects of his playing: his funkiness, the melodic nature of his lines, and his inventiveness in writing each of his parts.

Jake starts his Greenwood lesson by breaking down his work on "Paranoid Android" from the band's 1997 release, OK Computer. It's a great demonstration of how well Greenwood can craft a creative and melodic line that will sit comfortably within the song, without dominating the mix or demanding too much attention.

Next Jake turns to "Morning Bell," off of the band's Kid A. It's a song in 5/4 that Colin keeps extra interesting by avoiding the first beat for most of the song's measures. "It's super rhythmic, it's super grounding, but it's clever," Jake says. "But for the first section, he's just peddling that A, and he's always avoiding the one."

How funky Greenwood can get can be heard with his drop-D bass work on "I Might Be Wrong" from 2001's Amnesiac. The syncopated figure is always rooted to the one, but its clever variations keep the bassline changing throughout the song.

"Myxomatosis" from 2003's Hail To The Thief is a monstrous bassline. To teach this fuzzed-out part right, Jake plugs into a Way Huge Russian Pickle to dirty up his tone and demonstrate how Greenwood manages to snake around the beat—while again varying his part continually without drawing too much attention to it.

The last song Jake digs into is his favorite of all of Greenwood's basslines—"15 Step" from Radiohead's 2008 release, In Rainbows. Greenwood's part is particularly important because it holds the groove throughout the entire song, telling the audience exactly where the beats are in the song's odd 5/4 time signature. And, as Jake says, "It's driving without being over-the-top."

Grab your bass and play along with Jake in the video above, and be sure to check back next Wednesday for another of Jake's lessons on bass guitar.

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