Here’s a video showing the bass guitar beginner how to play bass to Uptight by Stevie Wonder:
Here’s a video showing the bass guitar beginner how to play bass to Uptight by Stevie Wonder:
Here’s a video showing the bass guitar beginner how to play bass to 25 Miles by Edwin Starr:
This tune was originally released in early 1970 – it was featured on Edwin Starr’s 2nd album which was also called 25 Miles.
The song – and the bass line – is based around a 2 bar pattern that repeats throughout the tune. This 2 bar pattern is only broken by breakdown sections where the drums and vocals carry the tune forward. There are a series of short, mostly chromatic, fills used in the bass line to bring the main groove back in.
I’ve split the lesson into the main groove, and then the different fills that are used to bring that groove in.
Here’s a video showing the bass guitar beginner how to play bass to What Does It Take (To Win Your Love) by Junior Walker.
This tune was a massive crossover hit for Junior Walker in 1969.
The bass line is built around a 2 bar pattern that shifts from a root note fo D to a root note of C. There are a couple of variations to the pattern at the lead out of each section. I’ve split the video into two parts – there’s the Intro and there’s the verse.
This is a pretty easy bass line – but if you’re a beginner learning a bunch of songs is a great way of coming up against real world scenarios and solving them to improve your bass playing.
Here’s a video showing the bass guitar beginner how to play bass to Heatwave by Martha Reeves – the original bass line was played by James Jamerson.
This tune was originally released in 1963 by Martha Reeves & The Vandellas. The tune was penned by the prolific songwriting team Holland-Dozier-Holland.
The tune is based on a cycle fo chords that are diatonic to the key of Eb and in the lesson I teach the 4 bar intro, and then go bar by bar through the instrumental play through of this progression, and the first vocal run through of this progression.
There are 3 things to really take note of in this line: Jamerson uses first position exclusively and never steps outside it. (First position equals you cover frets 1 to 4 with your fingers).
Jamerson also uses a quarter note walking rhythm – which contrasts against the rhythm that the other Funk Brothers are playing (voiced most noticably by the sax).
And thirdly, Jamerson uses a lot of chromatic approach notes – but pays everyone off by resolving to a root note.
Here’s a video lesson showing how to play James Jamerson’s bass line to Jimmy Mack by Martha & The Vandellas.
James Jamerson’s basslines were the foundation of the motown sound – full of complex 16th note passages, dissonant passing tones and intense syncopations. Amazingly the majority of them were improvised from chord symbols.
Any bass player wishing to progress on his instrument can learn from Jamerson – indeed the list of bass players who credit Jamerson as a primary influence include John Entwistle, Paul McCartney, John Paul Jones, Pino Palladino and Billy Sheehan.
1) I Was Made to Love Her – Stevie Wonder. The bassline on this track is a study in itself. Every measure is unique, there is not a single measure that repeats throughout the tune and yet the groove is utterly compelling from start to finish.
2) Bernadette – The Four Tops. Another mighty groove, check out the version on the Standing In The Shadows of Motown Deluxe CD (see below), it’s remixed and there are sections featuring just Jamerson. Essential listening.
3) Home Cookin’ – Jr Walker & The All Starts. Another amazing line. Jamerson played some great lines on saxman Walker’s records – and Home Cookin’ is just about the best!
4) What’s Going On – Marvin Gaye. From the What’s Going On album, I think the first album where Jamerson actually received a playing credit. Iconic tune, great bassline. Check this out – Jamerson’s bass part isolated! Very cool vid to listen to!
5) Fever in the Funkhouse – James Jamerson. About the only track credited to Jamerson, you’ll have to search around to find it on one of the myriad of Motown compilation albums but it’s worth the trawl. A horn led instrumental track driven by another great Jamerson line.
Since I originally created this course I’ve dived deeper into Jamerson’s work. And I’ve created a course breaking down Jamerson’s stylistic devices into its consituent parts, and then teaching those parts in a step by step fashion. You can read more here:
Cracking The Detroit Code
And I’m also working on a project called Motown Style Grooves that will teach a bunch of 4 and 8 bar grooves in the style of Jamerson (and maybe Babbitt and Felder), and more importantly teach you HOW you can take those 4 bar grooves and take them to the nth degree.
1) Standing in the Shadows of Motown Deluxe Edition.
This is the CD that accompanied the film/DVD about the Funk Brothers (which is also an absolute necessity). The Deluxe Edition of the CD features a bonus disc – this disc features remixes of the original Motown Masters with most of the vocals stripped away so you can hear what all the instruments were playing! It is eye opening (and ear popping!) – it’s as if you’re in the studio with the Funk Brothers yourself!
IMO the price of the whole deluxe edition is justified by the very last track – ‘You’re My Everything’ by the Temptations. On this remix EVERYTHING has been stripped away, bar the vocals and the bass. It’s absolutely stunning. Truly. Go buy it today.
2) Motown Chartbusters Vol 1 to 6.
You can buy this compilation as a box set – or buy the discs individually (which works out slightly cheaper). Either way it’s pretty inexpensive and you’ll have a bass playing masterclass in your hands – all the great motown hits ranging from Stevie Wonder and the Tempations to the Four Tops and the Supremes. Jamerson plays on nearly every track (there’s 96 songs over 6 CDs).
3) What’s Going On – Deluxe Edition
This iconic album was remastered and rereleased as a Deluxe edition recently, it’s worth its place in your question because as well as one of the great Motown albums you also get Marvin Gaye recorded live at the Kennedy Centre in 1972 with Jamerson in his band. As far as I know this is one of the few live recordings available to feature Jamerson, if anyone knows different please let me know via the contact form.
4) Earl Van Dyke – The Earl of Funk
This might be hard to find – but track it down if you can. Earl Van Dyke was the unofficial leader of the Funk Brothers and this 1970 album is an instrumental workout and features Jamerson on some material you won’t find anywhere else – eg covers of Cissy Strut by The Meters and Sly Stone’s Thank You Fallettinme Be Miceelf again.I particularly like Jamerson’s work on My Cherie Amour and The Flick.
5) The Complete Motown Hit Singles Vol 8 – 1968.
This one’s for completists only…another 6 disc compilation, this one pricy. If you can afford this it is a great way to check out some of Jamerson’s motown work with lesser known singers (eg Chris Clark, Jimmy Ruffin, Rita Wright, Edwin Starr etc etc). The smash hits are well documented, but there’s some interesting basslines going in amongst the songs that didn’t chart so highly on their original release.
There’s basically 3 books you can buy that feature Jamerson transcriptions.
The first – and a must have for any bass player – is Standing in The Shadows of Motown by Allan Slutsky (aka Dr Licks). As well as featuring a ton of partial and full transcriptions of some of Jamerson’s seminal moments (I was made to love her, Home Cookin, What’s Going on, Reach Out, Bernadette, the list goes on and on) this book is also a poignant biography AND there’s a 2 CD collection that comes with it featuring backing tracks and Jamerson’s lines played by guys such as Geddy Lee, John Entwistle, Rocco, Will Lee, John Patitucci etc etc. I’ll be posting a full review in my Bass Books section soon…
The second book of Transcriptions is called Motown Bass Classics. This one features 21 motown tunes with Jamerson’s lines transcribed AND tabbed for those of you who can’t read music (if not, why not?). If you’ve got Standing in the Shadows above this book doesn’t cut much new ground, there’s a few tunes in it not covered by the Allan Slutsky book. If you can’t read music but can get through tab, this might be a good place to start….
The third book of Jamerson Transcriptions is called Motown Bass(Bass Signature Licks) by Dave Rubin. I’ve got this book somewhere (been meaning to sell it though), it’s kind of OK but if you’ve got the Slutsky book there’s nothing new here (except tab).
There’s also a few Jamerson lines in the R’n’B bass bible – although there’s also some Duck Dunn, James Brown and assorted others! – but again if you’ve got Standing in the Shadows you’ve probably got most of the tunes already!
Here is a list of video lessons featuring Motown songs on the How To Play Bass website. James Jmaerson was the bass player on the majority of these but Bob Babbitt and Wilton Felder are also represented:
What Does It Take (To Win your Love) by Junior Walker/James Jamerson
Come See About Me by The Supremes/James Jamerson
Back in My Arms Again by The Supremes/James Jamerson
Heatwave by Martha reeves/James Jamerson.
Ain’t Too Proud To Beg by The Temptations/James Jamerson
Jimmy Mack by Martha Reeves & The Vandellas/James Jamerson
Mama’s Pearl by The Jackson 5/Welton Felder
ABC by The Jackson 5/Welton Felder
I Want You Back by The Jackson 5/Welton Felder
Tears of A Clown by Smoky Robinson/Bob Babbitt
Stop a passerby in the street and ask them this question: Do You Know Who The Funk Brothers were? And the majority of people you ask won’t know the answer.
Yet if you ask them who Elvis was? Or who The Beatles were? Or who Madonna is? Or Michael Jackson?
Those same people will know them all. And here’s the thing – The Funk Brothers played on more Number 1 records than all of the above artists COMBINED.
The Funk Brothers were the in house musicians for Motown records, when Motown was based in Detroit (so from approximately 1963 until Motown relocated to LA in 72/73). And though Motown had a ton of great singers – The temptations, the Supremes, Smoky, Stevie, The Four Tops, Marvin Gaye – pretty much all of the MUSIC that those singers sang over was played by The Funk Brothers.
And I was thinking about Deliberate Practice today as I was driving along. And in the car at the moment I’ve got MOTOWN CHARTBUSTERS VOLS 1 – 6 – which is a great 6 CD snapshot of the classic Motown period (approx. 65/66 to 72)
And it occurred to me that The Funk Brothers were a great example of Deliberate Practice in action – and the activity that they ‘deliberately practiced’ was providing the musical backing to all those great Motown acts, as well as a whole host of lesser known Acts.
So let’s take a closer look at The Funk Brothers – and see how ‘deliberate practice’ turned them into the biggest hit making machine the pop and rock world has ever seen.
The first key principle of Deliberate Practice that we’re going to look at is Repetition. Now back in the day when The Funk Brothers recorded with those great Motown acts they recorded direct to 2 track or 4 track recorders.
That meant everyone was in the studio together. All the singers. Any brass musicians or string musicians. And The Funk Brothers. So on some songs there might be upwards of 20 people involved in the playing and singing of the song.
And because they were recording direct to 2 or 4 track that meant that if someone made a mistake then they had to stop the tape rolling and start again. And although the Funk Brothers were truly a band of brothers, they also liked to ‘rag’ on each other. And so if someone had made a mistake that caused a take to have to be played again that musician would be twice as determined that it wouldn’t be HIM who made a mistake on the next take. Or the take after.
So there were often multiple takes of a song before the producers got one ‘in the can’ that they liked enough to use as the Master. And this repetition – plus the constant ‘ragging’ that went on – served to raise the quality level of each track.
Now we’re not talking Feedback that guitarists are usually guilty of! We’re talking feedback in the sense of constructive feedback that would allow the musicians to play better parts. Or interpret their parts better.
And at Motown whoever was producing a particular session – Berry Gordy had his songwriters and producers organized into teams – would go around between takes offering instructions to the musicians. “That didn’t quite work, try this.” And so the musicians had immediate feedback on what they had just played.
Plus nearly all of the Funk Brothers were first and foremost jazz musicians who played 5 or 6 nights a week in the jazz clubs of Detroit. And often the band leader – keyboard player Earl Van Dyke – would call out suggestions to the other musicians based on jazz standards that they all knew and played regularly.
So there was constant and timely feedback on what each musician needed to do to get better. (By better, it’s important to be aware that I mean better at delivering that musician’s role within the dynamic of the group sound – not to get better individually).
For anyone to get better at anything they are practicing they need to stay in a zone where they are constantly learning.
And for The Funk Brothers this was true in every session. Because every time they nailed a song then the producers would pull out the next song from Motown’s conveyor belt. So there were always new and fresh challenges.
Also new songwriters and arrangers came into the Motown machine, and tunes got rhythmically and harmonically more complex. Compare some of the simpler early Motown tunes like My Guy or Baby Love with some later period Motown tunes like For Once In My Life. Or Bernadette. Or Love Child.
The difference is startling – but chronologically is only two or three years different.
It’s possible to objectively assess The Funk Brothers growth as a musical unit through the years that they played together thanks to a series of great reissues of Motown tunes – a series of CDs called THE COMPLETE MOTOWN HIT SINGLES OF 1963 or 1964 or 1965.
And if you listen to tracks from these CDs what happens is that The Funk Brothers really start to gel around 1964 (songs like Pride and Joy, How Sweet It Is, My Guy) and then start hitting their stride in 1965 (Uptight, Stop In The Name Of Love, Nowhere to Run, Same Old Song) and 1966 (You Can’t Hurry Love, What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted, This Old Heart Of Mine.
In 67 and 68 there’s a serious upturn in both the quality of the Funk Brother’s output – and its complexity – (Bernadette, For Once In My Life, Heard It Through The Grapevine, Love Child, Reflections) – and these years represent the peak output of The Funk Brothers.
From 1969 there were still high points – but the Motown machine was growing and new musicians were brought in to help out with the recording duties. And whilst the quality was still high – Motown’s recording system had been delivering consistent hits for 5 or 6 years by this period – the number of exceptional tracks starts to tail off.
The main take away from this post is that although we’re looking at Deliberate Practice and how it can be applied to bass playing, Deliberate Practice is a system that can be applied to just about anything to make you – or a group of people – better on a constant and continuous basis.
Here’s a great old clip featuring Jamerson with Martha Reeves:
Here’s the next in our celebration of Jamerson’s genius on his birthday:
If you ever go to a jam or a rehearsal no-one will ever – EVER! – ask you what scales you know. They might ask you if you can play Superstition in E though. Or Cocaine in D. Or Good Times in E.
That’s what how-to-play-bass.com is all about…learning songs.