Bass Tricks: The James Jamerson Motown Bass Sound (VIDEO)

Learn the tricks behind James Jamerson's iconic tone with this helpful video from
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It is hard to speak of the bass guitar without mentioning the Motown recordings of the 1960's and 70's and their most famous session bassist, James Jamerson. Jamerson played on dozens of Number One hits and changed the way bass was applied to pop music forever. In this video, Reverb's Bass Tricks series explores how to replicate Jamerson's infamous thumpy tone. First there is the ACME Motown D.I. WB-3, which was designed to closely replicate the D.I. units Motown had specially made. Then there is how to set up a Fender P-Bass to Jamerson's specifications. Lastly, there is the picking method that completes the picture. Read more about James Jamerson's tone and the gear used in this video here.

Performed by Jeremy Kay

Gear used:
Fender Precision Bass
ACME Audio Motown D.I. WB-3
Ampeg Portoflex B15n
La Belle 760 FL Strings

0:00 - "Ain't Too Proud to Beg" by The Temptations
0:59 - Signal Chain
1:57 - "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" by Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell
2:41 - Bass Set-Up
3:55 - "Heard It Through the Grapevine" by Marvin Gaye
4:30 - Picking Technique
5:40 - "Reach Out, I'll Be There" by the Four Tops
6:33 - "What's Going On" by Marvin Gaye

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Secrets Of The Motown Vault

CALL IT A PERFECT STORM OF BASS. The setting is Studio A at Universal Mastering Studios East, in midtown Manhattan. Sitting at opposite ends of the board are Anthony Jackson and James Jamerson Jr., the world’s foremost authorities on the style and substance of Motown master James Jamerson. Harry Weinger, VP of A&R for Universal Music’s catalog division, with a menu of original session tapes at his fingertips, starts the Supremes’ 1968 single, “Reflections.” Instantly, and without noticing the other, Anthony and James Jr. begin intently playing air bass, each precisely matching the notes emanating from the speakers. And what notes they are. With several instruments turned off in our custom mix, and Jamerson’s bass boosted, his part is more than just ghost-in-the-machine groove, it’s a living, breathing entity that can physically move you—as we learn when one of his token drops causes our collective bodies to bend sideways in delighted reaction. Recalling his vault experie