Lessons  For Bass Players From The Movie Yesterday!

Before we talk about lessons for bass players from the movie Yesterday here's a quick plot summary (which you can see on the image of the movie poster too):

  • a struggling musician wakes up after an accident and finds out he's the only person in the world who knows about the Beatles
  • he starts playing their songs and saying they are his
  • he becomes a big star and has to deal with everything that results from this

You're Probably Wondering How This Relates To The Bass?


In the Movie the main plot set up - that everyone forgets the music of The Beatles - is caused by an 'extinction event.' - some kind of global blackout.  The hero - struggling musician Jack - is exempt from this as a result of being in some kind of coma (I've not seen the movie so don't know the particulars - and yep, it's pretty far fetched).

But bass player's knowledge of their instrument has been affected in a similar manner by our own 'extinction event.'  Before I talk about that...let's just talk about how the vocabulary of the bass guitar developed:

  • the first bass players were either upright bass players who played electric for easier recording....or guitarists who played bass on recordings because electric was easier to record than acoustic
  • early bass vocabulary either derived from the blues (upright players - or was root-5th orientated (converted guitar players)
  • the two guys primarily responsible for changing this in the 60s were James Jamerson (Motown) and Paul McCartney (Beatles...funnily enough)
  • Jamerson and McCartney (who influenced each other) influenced the next generation of bass players (e.g. John Entwistle, John Paul Jones, Jerry Jemmott, Rocco Prestia, Chuck Rainey...and so on) by the bass lines they recorded
  • Recordings in the 60s were mostly done by bands 'live' in the studio. The bass vocabulary introduced by Jamerson and McCartney was spread via many recordings and the manner of recording 'live' in the studio fostered an improvisatory approach
  • this recording approach started to change with the introduction of 16 track tape and then 32 track tape and then 64 track tape
  • but bass players still had access to the rich vocabulary introduced by Jamerson  and McCartney and lines played by bass players that 'punched in' (fixed mistakes) were still influenced by this vocabulary

Until bass players got hit with our very own "extinction event" and that event was something I call...


The Cubase Revolution

  • in the mid to late 80s the combination of cheap home computers with reasonable processing power and cheap recording software (like Cubase) led to a revolution in song writing and recording
  • the ONLY instrument at that time that could be used to record parts using Cubase was a keyboard
  • whilst some of the early Cubase pioneers were good keyboard players...there were two problems:

  • Problem #1 - not all keyboard players (even the good ones) knew much about the history of the bass guitar or its vocabulary
  • Problem #2 - Cubase gave rise to "the cut and paste" musician - you could record a section of a tune once and then literally copy and paste it with a mouseclick to other parts of the song


How These Problems Have Compounded Over Time


...as more "cut and paste" musicians (who don't play bass) created and released music using Cubase and without prior knowledge of the rich history of the bass:

  • more would be musicians heard that music and subconsciously thought that the bass lines they were hearing were the norm
  • when they became musicians they emulate what they've heard and has been influential to them
  • in their turn they create and release music with simple repetitive bass lines ...
  • ...and more musicians are exposed to this and think this is the norm and this becomes a self perpetuating cycle

  • the Cubase Revolution has been ongoing for 30 years and as the rate of technology has advanced exponentially, so has its effect on musicians
  • not only has the recording industry been catastrophically affected by this,  but the live music scene has been decimated by the widespread use of 'programmed' music - and live music was the other way that the rich bass vocabulary used to be spread

if you look at the bass lines of post Cubase Revolution band and compare and contrast them with pre Cubase Revelution bands what you can clearly hear is that there is a vast...

Bass Vocabulary Knowledge Gap

  • what's ironic is that there has never been more published music available for bass players
  • plus the Internet Revolution means that a good teacher is only a mouse click away...
  • ...not to mention the tens of thousands of YouTube videos and the thousands of transcriptions that you can find online (though some are of dubious quality)


...and if playing a transcription was some kind of magic pill system of assimilating that knowledge then all you'd have to do is buy Standing In The Shadows Of Motown or a McCartney bass book, learn a few of those transcriptions and you'd be good to go....so that raises the question:

How Do We Close This Knowledge Gap

Over the last 10 years here are the steps I've taken to close this knowledge gap:


  • Analyze (and transcribe) hundred (if not thousands) of transcriptions by bass greats like Jamerson and McCartney
  • Do comparitive analysis on these transcriptions to isolate common vocabulary
  • Codify that common vocabulary
  • Systemize it so bass players just like YOU can learn it without doing the endless hours of work the above entails

Even that is not enough though - there's one more piece of the puzzle that's needed:

So What's The Missing Piece Of The Puzzle?

The Missing Piece?  It's simply having a Practice System that motivates you to actually implement the systematic information that you're presented with, and that holds you accountable.

That's it.


(And yep I know that's not rocket science - but often the best solutions are simple once they are pointed out.)

which is why I'm excited today to introduce...

The James Jamerson 30 Day Challenge - Level 1

Learn the foundational devices from the playing of the Godfather Of Bass in a 30 Day Challenge!

First up, What Is A 30 Day Challenge?

Whether you've been following me for a few days or a few years one thing you may not know is that I'm a total geek about topics like deliberate practice and the neuroscience of learning and how to be a better teacher.

Recently I've been learning about the psychology behind "challenges" and how they can help to promote learning.

Here's how they work:

  • focus on a specific piece of skill in the discipline that you are learning
  • challenge yourself to practicing that skill for a relatively short period of time (days and weeks rather than months or years) - in this case 30 days organized into six practice weeks of 5 days
  • commit to practicing that skill each day for achievable practice sessions of 30 to 60 minutes for each of the 30 days of the challenge

There is plenty of neuroscience to back up that this approach works...but I took it for a test drive myself to see if it did - and that was with a bass related skill and a non-bass related skill.

And I was so impressed with the results that over the upcoming months I'll be running numerous 30 Day Challenges.  This is the second that I've set up (and I've incorporated material and approaches into this that I learned from the students on the first Challenge).


The Specific Bass Skill I Chose To Work On For This Challenge

What I chose to work on for this challenge was teaching the foundational devices from James Jamerson's playing and teaching both how you can learn them thoroughly so they become part or your own vocabulary and also how Jamerson used them to create bass lines and show you exactly how YOU can do that too.

How Does The 30 Day Challenge Work?

The James Jamerson Level 1 30 Day Challenge starts... 

...on Monday November 4th.  There will be 5 days of "pre training" that will start before that.

Every week day a new lesson will go live in The Challenge...

Each lesson is concise and to the point.  As a 'learning principle' for the Challenge I'm guided by a concept called "The Learning Staircase."   So every day you'll learn something that will help you climb to the next step of the learning sequence built into the Challenge.. You'll get an email when the new lesson goes live and I post about it in the private accountability group as well where you can ask questions.

Each daily lesson...

...will take less than 30 minutes to read, watch the musical examples (every musical example is filmed) and absorb.

Putting The Daily Lessons Into Practice...

As well as downloadable backing tracks in MP3 format that you can use to practice with, each lesson also includes an Action Plan that you can use to guide you into practically transferring the teaching in each lesson to your bass.  (The backing tracks are at different tempos so you can pick a tempo that's suitable to your ability level.)

Adding Secret Sauce #1...An Accountability Group

Here's A Weird Pyschological 'Hack'

Focusing on something for 30 days is a proven way to acquire new skills, take existing skills to a new level...basically to get shit done.

But there's a simple thing that you can do on top of this that massively increases the chance that once you've started a challenge like this that you'll go onto complete it.

This simple thing is this: be an active part of an accountability group. (Sidebar: you may be thinking: this adds a heap more time to my daily allocation to the challenge.  You'd be wrong though...this can be done in 5 minutes or less.)


Private Facebook Group

For the 30 Day Challenge this accountability group will be a private Facebook group.

As I said above you can do this really simply.  At the very basic level it's a question of simply going to the group and under each post where I confirm that the latest day's training is live you simple type something like: Have seen the training and done my day's assignment.

If you commit to just doing that simple thing (as well as reading the training and doing the practice) then you just multiplied the chances of completing the 30 Day Challenge exponentially.

There's more you can do...but at the basic level that's it.


Other Uses Of The Accountability Group

You can also use the group to ask questions about the course material, or post observations.

If you have a question, there's a good chance that other folks in the group will have a similar question.  By posting your question in the group you're not only helping youself by getting an answer to something that you're not sure of (which is my failing...not yours!) but you're also helping your fellow students as they all get the chance to see the answer I post.


Sidebar 2: Weird Fact

I've done other trainings where we've used a private facebook group.  And I can usually tell within a few days which students will go on to complete the training (and improve their playing and get massive Return On Investment) and which students won't.

The metric I use to predict this success: how often they post in the Accountability Group.

That's it.

Posting in the accountability group regularly exponentially increases the chances that you'll actually practice and implement the material in the challenge.  If you do that...you'll improve your bass playing.

Don't Take My Word For It Though

This is the second time the James Jamerson 30 Day Challenge I've run.  I've screenshotted a couple of comments from the Accountability Group for you to check out below plus I've got a bunch of email testimonials...some of these will appear in the next few days! Here's the first:

Here's the next:

So How Much Is The Investment In The 30 Day Challenge?

I wanted to make this challenge totally affordable but also be enough money so that those students who take the Challenge value what they've invested in and it gives them a kick to do the actual work.  (If they don't do the work...it's just information that's going unused and collecting virtual dust on the Interwebz).

For the 30 Day Challenge itself (plus the accountabilty group) I decided to make the investment required...

Just $125

To put that in context...it's less than the price of a fancy cup of coffee a day for the 30 days of the Challenge...less than the price of a meal out at a reasonable restaurant for you and your family...less than the price I pay for my Internet/TV/Phone package each and every month (and you get unlimited access)...

On It's Own That Represents A Great Investment...

But If You Enroll Today...Here's What You're Going To Get

If you're ready to commit to the James Jamerson 30 Day Challenge now then click the 'Join Now' button below and do your Paypal  or Credit Card Thang...and note that with all the bonuses that you get that you'll have 2X or 3X your initial investment before you've even checked out the first day of the Challenge!

Need More Information Before You Make Your Decision?

Below are details of the bonuses:

Bonus 1 - Vanishing Tutorials Collection Vol 1 (value $97)

The only way to access this collection is as a bonus to one of my 30 Day Challenges - like this one! -  50 song tutorials in interactive notation and tab (soundslice) plus videos. If you need a song list let me know...



Bonus 2 - Vanishing Tutorials Collection (value $97) 

On the free how-to-play-bass.com site a tutorial goes live every Tuesday and then the following Tuesday it 'vanishes' and a new one takes its place.  So far I've done 35 of these in the second volume....the plan is to do 50 before Volume 3 starts.  And if you want to know where these tutorials vanish to...it's their own collection of tutorials that you'll get permanent access to as a bonus to the 30 Day Challenge.

Bonus 3 - Analyzing Bass Lines (value $47)

This is a collection of columns that I wrote several years ago and compiled into a PDF eBook.  Analyzing bass lines will allow you to discover your own patterns and ideas - this eBook will teach you the process of going through this and being able to do it.


Bonus 4 - Deliberate Practice For Bass Version 1.0 (value $47)

In 2010 I wrote a 300 plus page book about applying Deliberate Practice for bass which used to sell for $77.  Now I no longer sell this book because my understanding of deliberate practice has outgrown what I originally wrote about - but the information isn't outdated in any way and is still 100% relevant.  One day I'll write Version 2.0 which will layer in the understandings I've gained in the last 8 or 9 years that go beyond this...but this is still a great place to start learning about what should be a foundational level topic but that: (a) no-one really teaches and (b) no-one who does mention it seems to properly understand

Bonus 5 - Ain't No Mountain High Enough - Video Case Study (value $30)

At the end of the Challenge I'll walk through the main sections of Marvin And Tammi's version of Ain't No Mountain High Enough and talk through what devices Jamerson is using and how he's putting them together.  (This has to be at the end of The Challenge as you need the information you're going to learn in the Challenge to fully understand this.)

Bonus 6 - Creating A James Jamerson 'Style' In Band In A Box Case Study (value $27)

Band In A Box is a great practice software that I constantly praise.  But you can do plenty of other practice things too...one of which is to create your own 'style.' If you create your own James Jamerson style then you can create sight reading etudes/Jamerson style lines at the touch of a few buttons .  This Case Study will walk through the process of how to do this. (This bonus goes live at the end of the challenge).

Bonus 7 - 20 Soul And R&B Song Tutorials (Value $30)

If you're interested in this 30 Day Challenge then you're probably a big Soul and R&B fan. Built into the 'Bonus and Pre-Training' section of the James Jamerson 30 Day Challenge are 20 Song Tutorials. These tutorials have interactive soundslices so you can actually hit 'play' and see what the notation sounds like! You can also add fretboards, loop, slow down, add metronomes and other cool stuff.  (Song List TBC)

Daily Lesson Format

Here's how each lesson is presented:

  • Text + Notation/Tab + Video

    Each of the daily lessons has its own unique web page in the 30 Day Challenge.  Lessons consist of text, musical examples and videos of the musical examples.

  • Downloadable PDF

    Each of the daily lessons is also available in PDF that you can download.  (At the end of the Challenge there will be a Complete PDF of the entire challenge available to download).

  • MP3 Backing Tracks

    Over the course of the 30 Day Challenge there will be a number of practice tracks that you can download, load to your MP3 player of choice and use in your practice space to implement the Action Plan available in each lesson.

  • All Musical Examples Filmed

    All of the musical examples in each of the lessons are filmed (at the ‘boundary’ tempos of 120 BPM and 80 BPM ) and the videos are embedded adjacent to the appropriate notation on the lesson page.

The Second Secret Sauce - Deliberate Composition

The secret sauce in the 30 Day Challenge is a process called 'deliberate composition."  To demonstrate I've taken a composition from one of your fellow students.

Firstly this composition comes from the  first run of the James Jamerson 30 Day Challenge which took place several months ago.

Secondly here’s how the student - a bass player called Leela from the US -  self identifies as a bassist : "I’m a roots and fifths, quarter note, two beat kind of bass player…folk and country styles."

The image below is the first 16 bars of a composition that she created for Day 21 in the Jamerson Challenge. As you’ll see this is quite an advanced bass line which if memory serves she composed on the piano rather than the bass. But how it was composed is very much a secondary consideration compared to the fact that it WAS composed. Here’s the first 16 bars of that composition:

McCartney Day 7 - Leela's Composition from howtoplaybassdotcom on Vimeo.

Now go back and read again how Leela self identifies as a bass player, then look over the composition again and watch and listen to the video of me playing it.

That should serve as a really powerful illustration of what you can do with deliberate composition - and providing you follow the instructions set out in the Challenge literally ANYONE can do this!

Day 10  100% Money Back Guarantee:  I know that you'll find the unique tutorial combination of video, notation/tab and backing tracks in the  James Jamerson 30 Day Collection will help you step up your bass playing, understanding of bass line creation AND putting your own bass lines together.

I want you to be just as confident with your purchase though, so there's a guarantee period.  If for whatever reason you're not satisfied by Day 10 of the challenge all you have to do is drop me an email and let me know.  I'll refund your purchase ASAP with no hassles and no hoops to jump through, and we can part as friends.

To enroll, simply hit the bit yellow JOIN NOW button below.  That will take you to the offical enrollment page on my 80-20 Site. If you've never accessed anything there before then set up an account using your best email address and a password and then proceed and do your Paypal Thang.  (Also you can enroll using credit card).



When you go to a gig, a jam or a rehearsal or play with other musicians  no-one will care whether you can play  diminished scale licks or machine gun triplets or non-muddy chords.

Instead they'll ONLY care  about you filling your role as a bass player.  I think of James Jamerson as the Godfather of bass and for close to 10 years he was in the trenches nearly every day creating bass lines to songs often from chord sheets scribbled on the back of a sandwich bag!

Taking this 30 Day Challenge will start you on the process of incorporating some of his foundational playing devices into your toolbox plus we'll look at how to use this information to actually create interesting bass lines.

Paul Wolfe/how-to-play-bass.com

P.S. In case you're one of those people like me who likes to skip to the end...here's the deal:

When you join the James Jamerson Level 1 30 Day Challenge (for just $125) you're going to get access to a unique 30 Day Challenge that will improve your bass playing, improve your understanding of constructing bass lines and kick start the process of confidently creating your own interesting bass lines modelled on the earlier playing of the Godfather of Bass!  Plus there's several hundred dollars of bonuses....so you've got value for money BEFORE you even go to the first pre-training day!

  • Q.Do I Have Access To The Lessons For Just The 30 Days Of The Challenge?


    The Lessons will appear on a daily basis….once the Challenge is complete you will  retain unlimited access to the Lessons.


    The Accountability Group will only remain open for a few days after the 30 Days is over.  (And remember that the 30 Days is structured into six learning weeks of five days).

  • Q.What Level Of Theory Do I Need To Have?

    A.Required theory level is pretty basic – you need to know what root notes and thirds and fifths and sixths and so on are.  And how to find them in specific keys or chord centres.

  • Q.This Is Jamerson Level 1? Is There A Level 2?

    A.Good question.  The answer is: not yet.

    When Level 2 goes live you’ll get priority notification if you’re interested.