This style of music was recorded mostly in Detroit in the 1960s and used some of the greatest studio musicians of all time – The Funk Brothers. It’s such a strange phenomenon that the bass had only been around as a mass-produced instrument for a few years when James Jamerson came along and cemented himself as one of the greatest of all time on the instrument. His basslines have stood the test of time containing a mercurial mix of flair, complexity, groove, and melody. Listen to enough of them and you start to pick out patterns.
This quick video lesson highlights his use of the root, 5th and 6th intervals in It Takes Two by Marvin Gaye and Kim Weston.
Every bass player should know their intervals inside out. If you haven’t downloaded my free ebook then do so right now as there’s a handy Interval Cheat Sheet in there linking a pattern on the bass to a famous tune. This is a fantastic way to train your ear to hear intervals.
When you become proficient at this you can easily:
- compose your own basslines
- work out existing basslines quickly
- jam whilst spontaneously coming up with cool-sounding lines
Here’s the pattern up close:
In the above diagram, Bb is the root note (in the red). Move that note anywhere on the bass and the intervals will follow.
Here are a couple of songs that use this pattern:
- Higher and Higher
- It Takes Two
Watch the video, learn the pattern and then commit it to memory. It will come up time and again in many styles. Look for similar patterns in every bassline you learn. They’re everywhere!