James Jamerson is one of the most influential bass players in modern history. His work on countless Motown hits, back in the early 60's and 70's, inspired every generation of bass players to come, across virtually every style of music. If you play R&B, funk, pop, jazz, or even rock, you've likely been influenced by Jamerson and his Motown sound.
Andrew Ford’s Motown Bass Survival Guide examines all of the essential concepts and techniques you need to know to get that signature Motown sound. In the first section, you’ll explore concepts like reharmonization, embellishing passing tones, muting, ghost notes, and other essential approaches through a variety of exercises to help you integrate them into your own playing.
”I’ll show you Motown grooves and bass lines with embellished passing tones, muted non-diatonic ghost notes, root five movements, major pentatonics, question and answer phrases, reharmonized chords, open string pivots, and a signature bass run concept I like to call ‘dropping the biscuit’ — in short, all of the essential Motown techniques and grooves.”
In the second section, you'll work through a series of performance studies designed to help you apply each of the concepts and techniques from the first section in a Motown context. Andrew will first perform the groove and then break it down note-for-note explaining the underlying techniques and harmonic approach.
Out of Sight - ”This is a 4 bar groove based on Stevie Wonder's "Uptight (Everything's Alright)", it's in Db. In this study, we'll look at the role of bass notes in reharmonizing chords. This is not reharmonization in the traditional sense, but it definitely changes the timbre of a song. Instead of pedaling Db for the whole phrase as was most likely written by the songwriter, we'll use Gb in the bass over the Cb chord in the second bar making it more like a Gbsus and use Ab in the bass over the B chord in bar 4 making it more like and Abm7.”
My Love - ”This study is based on another Stevie song, "My Cherie Amor". Here we'll look at a Jamerson-like approach to embellishing a passing tone in Db. Here we'll work on enhancing or embellishing a passing tone. The passing tone in question happens in bar 3 on the and of 4. Basically, we are going from B (or Cb) to Ab. We'll use a Bb passing tone to bridge those two chords. We use other rhythms and notes around the passing tone to enhance it and create an anticipation of the passing tone.”
The Way You Mess Around - ”This study will look at the use of non-diatonic ghost notes in this groove based on The Spinners' "It's a Shame". We're in the key of Ab here. Ghost notes are used often in Motown style playing. Here we illustrate the use of non-diatonic ghost notes, using muted notes that are not in the key, scale, or chord we are playing. In bar two, we use an open E while playing an Ebm7 chord, normally unheard of, but as a ghost note it's very effective.”
It's What's Up - ”In this study, we'll look at the use of pentatonics in a groove based on Marvin Gaye's iconic "What's Going On" in the key of E. Pentatonic-based riffs are common in Motown style bass lines. Jamerson often used a 5-6-1-6 movement over major chords to make his bass lines sing more, become more melodic. The major pentatonic scale is used almost entirely in these first two bars.”
Sweet Love - ”This study is in the key of C and demonstrates the use of triads in a Motown style bass line. This one has a shuffle/swing feel played so well by Jamerson because of his jazz, blues, and gospel background, it is based on Marvin Gaye's "How Sweet It Is" and spotlights his use of the triad to outline chords. Over the C chord, we use exclusively the major triad, C, E, and G. In bar two, we use only the A minor triad, A, C, and E. In bars 3 and 4, we get away from the triad in favor of a bluesier pattern.”
Hand in Hand - ”In this performance study, I demonstrate the "dropping the biscuit" concept, it is in the key of F. This one is based on another Stevie Wonder classic, "I Was Made to Love Her". We have an active line that changes directions horizontally very quickly and demonstrates our dropping the biscuit technique. We drop it in bar 1 descending down to that major 3rd, A, on the last 16th note of beat 2. Of course, we need those in-between notes before we get to the A to create the dropped effect.”
Standing in the Dark - ”In this performance study, we take a look at Jamerson’s signature use of root fifth movement. This four-bar groove is based on The Four Tops' song "Standing in the Shadows of Love" and is in Bb minor. A lot of classic root-fifth movement throughout this example, starting in the first bar where we pivot between Bb and the F below. In bar two also we have an Ab to Eb movement. That continues in bar 3 with the Gb to Db rhythms and lastly, in the 4th bar we have an F to C pivot surrounded by a few other notes, rhythms, and ghost notes.”
The Feeling is Mutual - Now we'll take a look at open string pivoting as done by Jamerson in this example in the key of D. This groove is based on a song by Smokey Robinson called "I Second That Emotion". Jamerson often made use of open strings, and with his flat-wound strings and muted sound, he was able to keep those strings from ringing excessively as open strings tend to do. In bar two here, we use the open A string as a pivot to go from F# to B and create this bouncy feel and forward movement.”
All of the performance studies are tabbed and notated for your practice, reference and study purposes. You’ll also get Guitar Pro files so that you can play, loop and/or slow down the tab and notation as you work through the lessons. Plus, Andrew includes all of the backing tracks for you to work with on your own.
Grab your bass and let’s get our Motown Groove on with Andrew Ford!