What really made James Jamerson so great?

Published November 3, 2018 in Bass Lines & Grooves

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James Jamerson, bass player for Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, Martha and the Vandellas, The Temptations, The Supremes and many, many more is one of the most legendary bass players of all time.

But why?

What really set him apart from the rest?

Why would record company giants such as Motown Records actually postpone recording dates until Jamerson was available to cut the track?

Pretty unique, right?

Well, if you look at Jamerson's past, the answers to the above questions are all there.

He had a very unique skill set that gave him the ability to create and execute bass lines and grooves like no other bass player had ever done before.

That's what gave James Jamerson his unique super power, and ultimately why he became one of the most game-changing bass players in the history of modern music.

In this lesson we're going to explore the genius of James Jamerson. You're going to see just how unique and revolutionary his approach to bass playing really was.


Lesson Summary:

  • Today we’re talking about one of the greatest bass players of all time; the amazing James Jamerson.
  • Find out how he applied his upright bass playing to the electric bass.
  • And how you can get the James Jamerson ‘bounce’ into your own playing.
  • We talk about his rhythmic focus, ‘the hook’ and why he only used one finger.
  • I also breakdown his iconic bassline on Steve Wonder’s ‘For Once In My Life.’
  • And give you a crash course in his unbelievable tone and technique.


Key Quotes:

“If you’re a James Jamerson nerd or if you just want to take your bass line creation to the next level, stick around because this is going to be super interesting for you.”

“We’re going to break down the first 8 bars of ‘For Once In My Life’ by Stevie Wonder, which was recorded in 1968 with James Jamerson on bass.”

“Jamerson was a piano player when he was a kid and he really understood chord structure. You can definitely hear that in his basslines.”

“It’s claimed that the Funk Brothers played on more number one hits than the Beatles, Elvis Presley, The Rolling Stones and The Beach Boys combined!”


If you enjoy this lesson, you'll really dig these courses:

1. A Masterclass in Bass Line Creation and R&B Bass
2. The Bass Line Series: 10 Classic Bass Lines
3. Functional Theory for Bassists Vol 1
4. The Groove Formula


As always, see you in the shed...

Scott :)

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