When did Steve really start playing power chords so much

naranja

Nomad

The above is Angel and the Gambler live 98. Steve plays basically the whole thing, strumming chords with his nails.

When did Steve start playing so many power chords on his bass? His early bass work was always very busy, fast finger work and fills. There may have been the occasional chord like he may play them in the big stops in Hallowed but mainly no chords.

Then on Seveth Son, especially the title track I would notice how he would play the first best of a bar by letting a chord ring out and then play the rest with fingers.

This would become his style in the 90s with simplier less and less busy basslines with nearly all root note lines, often punctuated with a power chord at the start of the bar.

This isn't a criticism, I just found it interesting, and noone ever talks about it much. I'll read magazine articles about maiden and they'll talk about his two fingers clacking away but no one ever mentions that he's been strumming his bass (almost like lemmy) nearly as much as he's been clacking away at it for the past few decades.

Which brings me onto the Blaze era where Steve began to actually play almost entire songs in power chords. He would play certain parts like this for heaviness and thickness in the sound but then finger for the faster parts. Songs like Angel and Lightning are played nearly the entire thing strummed. This carries on Into the reunion, Blood Brothers at Rock in Rio for example.

I just found it interesting how he almost totally changed his style of playing.

When do you remember him playing bass chords in the eighties?
 

Niall Kielt

Pulled Her At The Bottle Top
Good question and I look forward to hearing some insight from some knowledgeable cat.

You say he went to power chords for most of the Blaze era. Now I haven't listened to either album for a while but I seem to remember some blistering bass lines in The X Factor. Man on the Edge stands out. Like I say, I haven't listened to either album for a while but last time I heard TXF the bass playin really stood out.
 

naranja

Nomad
Oh yeah. Bass chords aint a criticism, they can and do sound great. Just TXF especially he would really blast some chords out on places like the slow heavy bits of edge of darkness. Yes there was some great playing on txf. A step up from his work on no prayer and Fotd
 

naranja

Nomad
It was VXI where he really began to play almost whole songs in chords- angel, lightning maybe a few others. I always liked it and I strum bass chords with my finger nails just like him because of his influence
 

Niall Kielt

Pulled Her At The Bottle Top
Yeah, I'm a fan of the strum too and try them out if Im in the same room as a bass. I seem to remember a chat on here where people lamented the loss of the fills in the live setting. I haven't analysed this myself and haven't really noticed but I tend not to analyse music in-depth. I know that I love some of these fills when I hear them but dont necessarily notice if they are missing. Have you noticed this decrease in bass fills live?
 
I agree with all your comments. Thinking back, power chords are used sparingly on the first seven albums. Here's what I can think of:
  • "Iron Maiden" - at the start of the climax at the end of the song
  • "Number of the Beast" and "Hallowed be thy Name" - power chords are often added for emphasis live, but I don't think there are any on the studio version of the songs
  • "Total Eclipse" - not sure if this counts, as it's a b-side. But the bass power chords are quite distinct during the intro (same riff repeated near the end).
  • "Still Life" - the loud, ringing C in the chorus is a power chord
  • "To Tame a Land" - chords during the dramatic start to the instrumental section (D, A#, G)
  • "Aces High" - clear usage of power chords during the intro (F#, D)
  • "Powerslave" - used during the pre-chorus (E, C, G#)
  • "Caught Somewhere in Time" - loud, ringing power chords during the intro (E, C, D; E, C, A; E, C, D; D, B, C)
  • "Heaven Can Wait" - yes, but it's not just power chords, and he's playing an actual melody with chords during the intro (as opposed to just power chords for emphasis)
  • "Alexander the Great" - a few chords for emphasis
  • "The Evil That Men Do" - clear usage during the intro (E, D, C, etc)
  • "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son" - loud, ringing chords during the intro (C, D, E), then emphasis added during change in root notes throughout the song
I don't know how to play too many songs from the next two albums, so I don't think this is a complete list. But there are definitely power chords on "Holy Smoke" (the intro), then a ton on "Afraid to Shoot Strangers" and "Fear of the Dark" (heavy usage on both - setting the stage for what he'll do the rest of his career).

As to why? I don't know. But it seems like Harris went from using power chords occasionally for emphasis, to using them as a mainstay on "The X Factor". On that album alone, they're used on "Sign of the Cross" (but only the live version, from what I can tell), "Lord of the Flies" (extensively), "Fortunes of War" (repeatedly during the long intro, and also during chord changes during the rest of the song), "Look for the Truth" (very extensive!), "The Aftermath" (strumming during instrumental section), "Judgment of Heaven" (during intro - but he's playing an actual melody here, using more than just power chords), and "The Edge of Darkness" (emphasis when chords change). So I think only four songs didn't have bass chords on "The X Factor".
 
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naranja

Nomad
Yes that is a great list.

I would be very surprised if he used power chords more than 5% of the time on Iron Maiden and Killers the albums, and even when he plays live now even if its a simple line in the song from an E to a C to a D or something there will be no chords. Yet if the same chord sequence was written on Dance of Death for instance then there would be chords at the start of each bar. He was jumping all over the fret board with rather difficult and intense, well fast, basslines on those first few albums and that carried onto at least Seventh Son, though even by then probably less so.

Yes Fear of the Dark was a big setting of the stage for Harris and his writing style. He had definitely done it before, but here (and then from the moody x factor onwards) steve would play the power chord shapes softly, doing that thumb finger style between the root and the fifth. And then when the song gets heavy, strum those chords. This became basically a default Harris song writing technique for better or worse.
 

naranja

Nomad
Yeah, I'm a fan of the strum too and try them out if Im in the same room as a bass. I seem to remember a chat on here where people lamented the loss of the fills in the live setting. I haven't analysed this myself and haven't really noticed but I tend not to analyse music in-depth. I know that I love some of these fills when I hear them but dont necessarily notice if they are missing. Have you noticed this decrease in bass fills live?
Do you mean playing the older songs? As far as I have noticed he doesn't change the older songs basslines live but I may be wrong. New songs live obviously don't really have fills
 

naranja

Nomad
I can play Iron Maiden style bass chords rather well but I have never been sure how Steve plays the main riff strummed on Lightning strikes twice

From 2 minutes in-


The main riff from 2 minutes in is BBB A B, as far as I can tell and Steve seems to keep his power chord just on the B chord on the D and G strings, is he hitting an open A there as well? Always perplexed me, I get how he plays the rest, just not the main riff under the fast verses.

from 2 mins in here too

 
Part of the reason for him continuing to use chords so much - nowadays, with three guitarists, even though Harris is usually pretty high in the mix, maybe he feels he needs the power chords to be heard. So that would explain why he keeps playing them. But that wouldn't explain why he started doing this during "FOTD" and "TXF", when it was only Murray/Gers as guitarists.

The toughest album to play overall, in my opinion, is "Killers". He was too busy writing crazy riffs and lightning-fast fills to play a single chord on the album, as far as I can tell.
 

naranja

Nomad
Part of the reason for him continuing to use chords so much - nowadays, with three guitarists, even though Harris is usually pretty high in the mix, maybe he feels he needs the power chords to be heard. So that would explain why he keeps playing them. But that wouldn't explain why he started doing this during "FOTD" and "TXF", when it was only Murray/Gers as guitarists.

The toughest album to play overall, in my opinion, is "Killers". He was too busy writing crazy riffs and lightning-fast fills to play a single chord on the album, as far as I can tell.
Crazy stuff back then. I doubt the thought of using a chord even cross his mind.

Regarding a point someone else made. Does he still play his old fills and complicated bass stuff live? As far as I can tell he does.
 

Whooten

Ancient Mariner
The toughest album to play overall, in my opinion, is "Killers". He was too busy writing crazy riffs and lightning-fast fills to play a single chord on the album, as far as I can tell.
And to take it a step further, it is interesting that apart from Wrathchild (which they occasionally play live), songs from Killers has been eschewed for well over a decade now.
 

The Flash

Dennis Wilcock did 9/11
Killers is Steve's finest hour as a bassist. Nowhere near his finest as a songwriter, but Steve and Clive's performances make the album a worthwhile listen for me.

The Number of the Beast probably has his best combination of basslines and songwriting.
 

srfc

Ancient Mariner
Steve's best bass lines are often in songs he doesn't write, 23:58 (best ever), Wasted Years, Sanctuary for instance.
 

naranja

Nomad
Steve's best bass lines are often in songs he doesn't write, 23:58 (best ever), Wasted Years, Sanctuary for instance.
True. Often in songs he writes he will just be playing the root note and I guess when writing he is busy focusing on what the other instruments are going to do
 

phantomoftheicarus

Bleeding Freak
Killers is Steve's finest hour as a bassist. Nowhere near his finest as a songwriter, but Steve and Clive's performances make the album a worthwhile listen for me.

The Number of the Beast probably has his best combination of basslines and songwriting.
Agreed completely
 

GhostofCain

Ancient Mariner
The Number of the Beast probably has his best combination of basslines and songwriting.
He did co-write some great stuff on that album :D and the bass lines are great too. I think I prefer them on Powerslave though.

I much prefer his busy bass lines than the open chords. I think this could be one of the reasons why I do not like The X Factor that much.
 

The Flash

Dennis Wilcock did 9/11
I much prefer his busy bass lines than the open chords.
I think everyone does. Bass loses its magic when its only purpose is to beef up the guitar sound. The prevelance of that approach in modern metal productions annoys me quite a bit.

Shame 'Arry went that route as his career progressed as well. No stand out basslines from him in the Reunion era.
 
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