“Schism” by Tool

Tool3Today’s Classic Bass Line is “Schism” by Tool.  Emerging in the 1990’s, Tool bridged the gap between classic heavy metal and progressive rock, mixing grinding guitars, dark thundering rhythms, and challenging lyrics.

The Age aptly described Tool as “the thinking person’s metal band.  Cerebral and visceral, soft and heavy, melodic and abrasive, tender and brutal, familiar and strange, western and eastern, beautiful and ugly, taut yet sprawling and epic, they are a tangle of contradictions.”

“Schism” is in Drop D tuning (DADG).  This classic line by bassist Justin Chancellor includes staccato triplet hammer-ons and grinding double stops.  Chancellor uses a pick and recorded this track on his 4 string Wal Mk 2 Bass.  This song changes meters frequently (see below), so it is important to listen to the song several times to internalize the rhythmic structure.


Justin Chancellor

Song meter
A possible analysis of the meter changes is found in the August 2001 issue of Guitar One magazine. As transcribed by Adam Perlmutter, the song starts in 5/4 for one measure followed by 21 measures of 6/4 (or 5/8 and 7/8 alternating), up to the first interlude, which is a bar of 3/8, three bars of 13/8, and a bar of 10/8. (This can be also interpreted as four 13/8 bars, but played with a 3/8 upbeat.) The next verse is eight bars of 6/4 followed by another interlude that fits the same pattern as the first. The next section is four bars of 6/4 followed by one bar of 11/8. Another eight-bar verse in 6/4 follows, with an interlude containing the same as before, except the final 10/8 bar is replaced with an 11/8 bar setting up the middle section, which is four bars of 7/4 before settling into a pattern of alternating 12/8 and 15/8, one bar each, twelve times.

Accurate TABS are here.

Below is the original recording, the isolated bass track, and a good cover.  Learn it!

“Schism” by Tool (Original)

Isolated Bass Track

Good Cover by Remi Zik