Kpopalypse tabs: Red Velvet – Rookie

Something different for Kpopalypse tabs, this time Kpopalypse shows you how to play Red Velvet’s “Rookie” on bass guitar!

The four-stringed or five-stringed bass guitar is actually a much more common instrument than six-stringed electric or acoustic guitar on k-pop tracks.  Not all Korean pop songs have guitar, but bass of some sort is in almost everything, and even when some bass is synthesised, hand-played electric bass is still a quite common element used to drive the rhythm of the song and provide extra punch.  Red Velvet’s “Rookie” is a good example of such a track, a song where the bass guitar absolutely drives both the song’s rhythm and melody more than anything else.  The below should demonstrate this for you in practical terms, as well as give you bass players a bit of a workout.  Let’s take a closer look.

Red Velvet – Rookie

Structure and timestamps:

Intro – 0:09
Verse 1 – 0:21
Pre-chorus – 0:44
Chorus – 1:07
Verse 2 – 1:19
Pre-chorus – 1:54
Chorus – 2:18
Breakdown – 2:29
Chorus – 2:53

Key and time signatures

Ab minor – 4/4


The bassline of “Rookie” sounds complex at first listen, as it continually walks through the Ab minor scale, and for almost the entire song, each note is repeated twice.  However each section of the song follows a very strict pattern that never changes.

The intro – this part is actually completely synthesised on the recording and is an octave lower than written, but I’ve played it on the bass anyway.

The verse – the verse plays the first bar once, then the top line three times, and every fourth time it switches to the bottom bar.  Then, if the verse wraps around on itself, the process repeats again, so you have to quickly flip from the end of the second line around to the mini-bar of the first line.  If moving to the pre-chorus instead, you have to be ready for that.  The challenge of playing “Rookie” is not in playing the individual parts, but in connecting them together.  The verse is purely in the chord of Abm.  Most importantly, don’t let the notes ring out – the gaps between the passages should be dead silent on the bass guitar.

The pre-chorus – the chords here are VI-V-i, or | E – Eb – | Abm – – – , over and over.  “Rookie” isn’t a complex song in terms of harmony or melody, and the most important parts of the song don’t have any harmonic or melodic changes at all outside of what the bass guitar does.  This is why this tab focuses on bass guitar only.  The bass in this section is very busy and constantly playing.

The chorus – back to Abm for the chorus.  Don’t forget to do the slides, because they sound cool. Apart from this, the chorus and verse are very similar, the only other difference being the chorus doesn’t have that little block of three notes every time it begins, you’ev just got the slide starting every couple of bars instead.

The breakdown – in the video above I’ve improvised a few extra notes into the breakdown, just to make it sound a bit more fluid on a live instrument, as on the original song it sounds like the live bass drops out and the bass notes in the breakdown are pure synth like the intro.  It’s hard to be sure about this, most modern producers tend to favour a blend of live and synthesised sound and it’s not always completely clear on a very high-polished pop track (like any SM production) what the source is.  If you want to transpose or play chords here on another instrument, the harmony that corresponds with the five notes in the break section is VI-V-i-VII-V, or:

| E – – – | Eb – – – | Abm – – – | Gb – Eb –

Note that it’s unusual to have a bass-driven song in the key of Ab, the bass guitar is in fact probably tuned down a semitone to Eb, however I’ve worked out the tabs in standard bass tuning anyway just to save you the hassle of retuning your bass.  When songs are in unusual keys that make it harder to play on instruments, it’s usually for the convenience of the singers so everything fits comfortably within their vocal range.  Most k-pop singers aren’t really that great at singing (because there’s no reason why they need to be), so the instrumental is worked around their abilities just so they sound more natural when singing the song and can perform it easier.

Another thing to note is that the original song probably has five-string bass, I suspect this because I can hear the bass on the recording slide down in the chorus a lot further than I’m able to go on the instrument depicted (which actually belongs to my girlfriend, hopefully she doesn’t mind me desecrating it with k-pop hahaha).  However I felt that playing it on a four-string bass would be more practical as that’s what most bass players actually own and there’s not much point doing a tab for the small minority of k-pop fans who actually own a five-string.  Obviously if you were to play it on a five string, it would be wise to make use of the lower register for the breakdown notes in particular.  Also note that I’m playing this song with a pick, but there’s nothing wrong with using fingers to play it, just remember that whichever method you choose, apart from the breakdown you should deaden all notes when note actually playing to keep the rhythm of the song sounding punchy and clean.

That’s all there is to it.  I’d rate this song at about intermediate level for bass players, it’s certainly not hugely advanced but if I was a “lookie rookie” on the bass I probably wouldn’t pick this as my first song to learn, even though there’s only a few parts it requires a bit of dexterity to get around the instrument and hit all the changes in time.  My recording of it is only average because I didn’t really practice it at all between working it all out and doing the video, but it should at least give you a feel for how the song is supposed to be played.

That’s all for this edition of Kpopalypse tabs!  Hopefully you enjoy getting to grips with “Rookie”!

I could find a picture of any member of Red Velvet with a bass guitar, this picture of Joy with an acoustic will have to do.

9 thoughts on “Kpopalypse tabs: Red Velvet – Rookie

  1. Maybe I’m biased because I knew that The Colleagues that composed this song is African-American, but I always feel that he brought some of “black music” associated elements like jazz or funk in it. Do you feel this way too?

    • I don’t really think about it, mainly because when you get right down to it, all popular music is derived from black music. Some styles have stereotypically been more associated with black people because there’s more black people visibly working in those fields, but if you trace the origins back, anything with a beat in it is basically black music of some sort.

  2. Since it’s a 4/4 structure, i’m trying to find a way to correct someone about the breakdown (which you pointed out very clear) and the bridge too (which goes around between the verse and chorus)… but i don’t know how to tell the person ’cause they may think telling this is embarrassing.

    • Yeah the videos I do are really just to demonstrate the tabs in action. I’m sure that for every cover I have posted or ever will post, there’ll be better versions out there. It’s just to show method.

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