The “Getaway” Lick

When learning the keyboard parts for a cover gig, once in a while you come across a certain lick or phrase that is just nasty. Take, for instance, the Earth, Wind & Fire funk classic, “Getaway.” Nailing the groove is a challenge in itself, but there’s a blazing synth break at around 2:20 that demands some special attention. Let’s grab this lick from the record and get it under your fingers.
Publish date:
Updated on

EWF keyboardist Larry Dunn presumably played this line on a Minimoog, which uses up to three oscillators to produce its sound. If you have a 3-oscillator analog (or analog modeling) synth, use saw waves and set Osc 1 to the 32' register (–2 octaves) to get the deep bass component of the sound. Set Osc 2 to 8' for the heart of the lead voice, and Osc 3 to 4' (+1 octave) also tuning it up a minor third (frequency +3 on a Mini). Keep Osc 3’s level lower than 1 and 2, just to add the right touch of dissonance.

Haven’t done much of your own transcribing before? Bands need players with keen ears, and transcribing your own parts is a great way to develop your own listening and playing skills. Fast licks such as this lick from “Getaway” are a great workout to transcribe.

But how do you get started? There are plenty of computer programs for slowing music down without changing pitch, but you may already have one — a free one, at that — without realizing it. The unassuming and ubiquitous Quick- Time Player from Apple ( is a free download for Mac and Windows. Under the Windows tab, there is a window called “A/V Controls,” which has useful functions for transcription, including a rewind jog control, and pitch and time controls.

If reading music is your strong suit, try transcribing the phrase directly from your ears to the page by writing notes as you hear them, then check each note with the keyboard. If you don’t like notation, I recommend selecting a few notes at a time, and alternating between listening and playing each group of notes. There may be spots where it’s difficult to make out a note or two over the rest of the track, but not to worry. You want accuracy, but if you’re close enough, you can capture the style, sound, and articulation of the lick and still be effective.