Flea's 'Aeroplane' Bass Solo
by Daniel Dotor
The following is a demonstration and analysis of Flea's solo on the Red Hot Chili Peppers song 'Aeroplane' from their 1995 album 'One Hot Minute'.
I have provided a video demonstration, full tab and backing tracks for the solo. In the analysis section you will also find audio examples of key phrases both at full, and at 50% speed as well as analysis of each phrase.
This is a backing track that we made for you to practise this solo to.
This is the same backing track at 70% speed repeated five times.
Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea (real name Michael Balzary) is one of the most revered rock bass players of the last 30 years and for good reason. Upon closer inspection Flea is far from your average Rock bass player as is demonstrated by his ability to execute and compose catchy bass lines that appeal to both the average listener and musicians. Playing for the Chili Peppers requires Flea to be adept at funk, ballads, folk and Pop. From aggressive punk influenced lines to slap bass and melodic lines Fleas musicianship is always impressive.
This article covers the bass break/solo during the song 'Aeroplane' from the album 'One Hot Minute'. This 8 bar bass solo is basically in a G blues tonality but really outlines a two chord vamp moving from G7#9 to C7 with every bar starting with the root note of the chord.
Apart from Flea's outrageously funky feel and tone the solo features some very useful harmonic approaches that should be analysed, understood and then employed in your own playing.
16th note phrases:
This solo features 4 separate 16th note figures that are repeated throughout the solo a number of times. Nailing each of these figures with a metronome is a great way to get comfortable with the feel of this solo.
See below for examples of these rhythms for you to practise.
Chromatic approach notes:
Both the #9 and Major 3rd are played over the G7 chord and during bars 1 and 7 the Major 3rd of G is preceded by the Root and then chromatically approached by the #9. This is a staple of the funk sound.
Bars 2 and 6 feature a figure that again incorporates a chromatic approach, this time the line starts on the 4th of C descends to the Major 3rd and then jumps to the #4 of C which is a chromatic approach to the root of G.
Chromatic ascending & descending lines with pedal notes:
Bar 4 features a brilliant idea using a chromatically ascending line with a pedal tone, the Bb is used in between an ascending line of C, C# and D (this type of idea is often seen in its descending form in Bebop).
Bars 7 & 8 contain a the most technically challenging part of the solo. Again it uses chromaticism (this time descending to the target note of C in bar 9) and the open D as a pedal tone.
Be sure to practise this phrase slowly and cleanly so that it is ultimately easier to execute at full speed.
The b5 of G which again is a staple of funk and blues is featured in a variety of ways. In bar 4 its parts of an ascending line, in bar 5 its played on its own and could be viewed as an upper chromatic to the root of C, and in bar 7 its part of a fill.
As you can see this bass break actually features some great chromatic ideas that can be used to spice up your funk playing. My advice is to isolate each idea and lear to apply it to other chords.