Monday 20 April 2020

Online Bass Lessons

Hi everyone,

If you wish to use this lockdown time to further your bass studies, then I am now offering online lessons. Please get in touch if you wish you develop your understanding of James Jamerson, or work on your bass playing in general.

Whether you are a seasoned player or a complete beginner, I will work with you to tailor a comprehensive syllabus focused around your musical goals and ambitions, with a strong foundation of essential musical theory.

Slap, fingerstyle, plectrum and palm muting; all techniques can be covered, as well as sight reading, scales and modes, ear training, critical listening and performance skills.
Just want to focus on one genre or player? Not a problem - I can create in depth case studies of particular bands, techniques or bassists.

About Me

Credits include performances at 2000 Trees Festival, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, The Great Escape Festival and BBC Radio sessions, as well as several international tours and soundtrack work for film and television including Sky and Aardman Animations.

Bass tutor at the British Institute of Modern Music teaching BA (Hons) Professional Musicianship.

Editor of ‘Jamerson Analysed’.

You can see my website here -

I look forward to hearing from you.

Thursday 2 August 2018

Darling Dear - Jackson 5 (1970)

Hi all,

So recently I decided to go through some of the oldest posts on the blog and update the videos. Well.. as this was my first analysis (way back in 2012!) I decided to give the whole thing an overhaul. It's such a great track, and a firm favourite amongst bass players, so I felt it deserved a little more detail than the original post contained.

This track is classic Jamerson - often cited (alongside 'For Once In My Life') as one of his all time greatest bass lines. It's a challenging piece, with very little repetition of phrases and some tricky rhythmic elements. If you haven't worked through this piece before then do yourself a favour, get 'Standing In The Shadows Of Motown' (link on the right) and just get playing!

As with all of my posts, the goal here is to demystify Jamerson's playing and figure out what exactly is going on. Even with a line as complex and challenging as this one, when you break down his note choices it's reassuringly simple - chord tones, chromatic runs, open string skips, syncopation.... nothing crazy going on here at all and within reach of all of us.

Anyway, enough from me. I've chosen a handful of extracts from this transcription to analyse below, and as always there is a cover video at the bottom. If you like this content then subscribe on YouTube, message me on this blog, book a Skype lesson etc.... It's great to hear from you.



The intro to this track sees Jamerson use some heavy chromaticism, running up to an F and back down to a D. Rhythmically the emphasis is always on the downbeat at the start of the bar, but throughout the intro he begins to rhythmically develop his line, using some syncopated phrases to create a really nice bouncing feel before chromatically ascending / descending again. This rhythmic development creates a feeling of forward motion - building up throughout the section and into the verse.

Verse 1

This first verse is one of my favourite sections of the whole piece. Using the root, minor seven and fifth over the Cm9 chord, he creates this really strong, grooving phrase that transitions down to an F via a chromatic open E right at the end of the bar. Over the Eb/F he climbs up through the chord using mostly scale tones (root, fourth, major third, fifth and sixth), with the exception of a little minor seven / major seven movement towards the end of the bar. Straight away we are hit with some strong syncopation - with notes often stretching over beat transitions (for example in bar two we have an A tied between beat one and two, a C between two and three etc...) which is a rhythmic concept that extends throughout this piece.

It's quite remarkable that within only a couple of bars Jamerson's line has ranged all the way from a low E, grooving up and down the octaves all the way up to a high Bb in bar three. Over this Bbmaj7, he plays the root note in semiquavers for the entirety of beat one, before moving down to the major third, fourth and fifth, again employing some heavy syncopation. Using A as a passing note on to the next bar, Jamerson outlines the triad, a touch of chromaticism (the E natural) before playing this driving line based mostly around the chromatic movement between A and Bb. By starting this bar on a low Bb, as opposed to a high Bb in the previous bar, he creates a completely different feel, rhythmically and sonically, despite playing over the same chord for those two bars.

Chorus 1

Over the Dm7, Jamerson plays this really cool phrase the ascends all the way up the octave, employing some use of chromatic passing notes (namely the G# and C#) before using a C# to descend chromatically down the the C natural in bar two. His rhythmic choices in the first bar are great, with the dead note at the end of the bar helping establish a solid syncopated feel. The walk down from C in bar two is largely based around fourth, fifth and minor third - outlining the chord beautifully. Flicking between the C, Bb and G at the end of bar two not only grooves well, but harks back to his phrase at the start of the first verse - a nice moment. A quick open A chromatically bridges to the Bb in bar three. Over the Bb, he plays a line with a very chromatic feel (particularly the use of the diminished fifth and perfect fifth), with his rhythmic choices adding a sense of urgency and build -  really driving the song forwards. Over the F in bar four of the chorus, Jamerson decides to leave much more space - stripping back the busy, syncopated playing from the previous bars in favour of just letting a low F hang for a moment - before quickly jumping up an octave and descending down chromatically towards the next bar.

Bridge - A Lesson In How To Use Chromaticism

By now we are familiar with Jamerson's rhythmic feel for this track, and we can see some similarities between the first bars of the bridge and verse. A quick use of the major third (note this is over a Cm7) adds tension but is quickly resolved, and Jamerson plays mostly chromatic movements based around the fourth and fifth. It's worth having a look here at Jamerson's use of varying note length when using chromatic passing phrases. Whenever he plays a quaver it is always on a 'strong' note - in this case either the root or fifth of the chord. All of the chromatic phrases that tie together these chord tones are semiquavers. He is careful not to hang too long on a 'wrong note', and always resolves these moments of tension by returning to a much stronger chord tone. Our only exception is right at the end of the first bar, but even here this low E soon resolves to an F in the next bar. A similar use of this concept can be seen in bar three, where Jamerson puts a strong emphasis on the A (the major third) and C (the fifth), with passing notes used in between. When using chromatic passing phrases such as this, you can get away with playing notes that fall outside of the chord as long as the the pull of the ascending or descending chromatic phrase is strong enough. Some of the ways we can ensure our chromatic phrases don't sound 'wrong' is by playing them quickly and using them to bridge between strong chord tones - just as Jamerson does all the time!

Last two bars of the Bridge

I just wanted to quickly mention the last two bars of the bridge. In the first bar, Jamerson keeps it simple, both rhythmically and with his choice of notes - using mainly roots and fifths. The line he plays over the Gm7 however it a classic example of how Jamerson can play something relatively simple, but still extremely effective. Through the climb he plays mainly scale tones, tied together with moments of chromaticism (particularly towards the end), and again manages to smoothly ascend right up the bass from a low G to a high C# passing tone to the D in the next bar.

Chorus 2

Over the Dm7 chord, Jamerson flicks between the root, major seven and minor seven, before skipping down the fourth, chromatic flat second and root of the chord. By jumping to a octave D at the end, he can lead easily into the C of the next bar. After outlining the chord with the root, fifth and major third, he uses a chromatic walk down to the Bb. The semiquaver - quaver - semiquaver rhythm  that he uses over the Bbmaj7 is very common in many of his lines. Over the F he skips up the arpeggio, before using a chromatic walk down to the next chord. Again we see him bridging together simple and strong arpeggio based phrases with chromatic runs, allowing his to quickly jump up and down the octaves whilst keeping the line smooth and funky.

Verse 2

This is such a cool little phrase that I had to include it. This phrase always really sticks out, ascending nice and high before coming back down using the same rhythmic syncopation that we have come to expect in this track. In terms of note choice it's very arpeggio based - again using the root, minor third, fifth and minor seven to outline the chord, before ascending chromatically to the next chord.

Ending Vamp - Changing Up The Register

This is a great example of how Jamerson can approach the same chord progression in a fresh and exciting way each time. Keeping the note choices similar but altering the register in which he plays, he dances up and down the octaves and completely changes the feel of each two bar phrase. Both sets of two bars have a very similar rhythmic approach, but you can see how we begin on a low Bb in bar one, and then up an octave for bar three. This is really great technique which you can apply to your own playing - just some slight variations in register can really change the whole feel of a passage, and playing a very similar phrase in a couple of different places on the bass can create a completely different sonic characteristic.

Wednesday 11 July 2018

Reflections - Diana Ross and The Supremes (1968)


Going to be taking a quick look at the track 'Reflections' by Diana Ross and The Supremes.

I've decided not to do a full in-depth analysis of this one as it's quite straight forward, with Jamerson pretty much sticking to a root / fifth approach throughout the entire song. He links phrases together with some classic chromatic passing runs, and really just holds it down, grooving throughout. There is a tricky transition into the Bridge, where we have a quick key change before heading on back into a chorus.

Keeping it nice and simple, once the rhythmic and melodic feel is established in the verse he repeats it over and over. The chorus is less staccato, creating a driving motion that really takes it up a notch, propelling the song forward. We've got open stings bounces, arpeggio skips, chromatic runs... Classic Jamerson through and through.

I've uploaded the full transcription below, as well as a quick cover video.



Full Transcription

Saturday 16 December 2017

At Last (I Found A Love) - Marvin Gaye (1968)

Just a quick analysis today… I stumbled across this song last week and set about transcribing it straight away. It’s a fairly unknown album track from Gaye’s 1968 album ‘Heard It Through The Grapevine’, but it has the most fantastic vocals and bass breakdown showcasing some stellar bass chops from Jamerson. It’s a great example of his signature open string bounce technique, and for that reason (as well as just being really cool) it is worth a closer look.

This bass break is essentially constructed from two Eb major phrases; one bouncing from an open A string and ascending through scale tones, another from an open D and descending down through scale tones. In the first bar we can see Jamerson hitting an Eb, before using the open A to bounce down to the major third, G. From another open A we bounce up to the Ab, the fourth, before climbing up to the fifth (Bb) and seventh (D) via another open A. This whole phrase is basically an ascending phrase from the third to the seventh, tied together with lots of open A string bounces between the notes.

The second bar sees a very similar approach, but instead, here we begin on the Eb and descend downwards using the open D to a flattened seventh (Db), before using another open D to bounce down to the sixth (C ) and the fifth (Bb). In the last beat of the bar Jamerson heads back up to a C and D, ready for the Eb in the next bar.

This pattern continues with bar three being a very similar ascending phrase to bar one, using the same open A string bounce, and bar four being almost identical to bar two, and so on.

One of the only real breaks from this open string bounce comes in the fifth bar, where Jamerson plays a simple ascending phrase beginning on the root, before asking up through the third, fourth, and an A natural chromatic passing note up to the fifth. Beat four of this bar is played as two eighth notes, which is a rhythmic feel that is present throughout this section.

Jamerson establishes a strong rhythmic feel within the first couple of bars that he pretty much sticks to throughout this section. On the first beat he will either play two quavers, or a dotted quaver followed by a semiquaver. Beat two is almost always a quaver followed by two semiquavers, with the final semiquaver being tied to the first semiquaver of beat three (creating a quaver), before playing another semiquaver followed by a quaver. This creates that syncopated bounce that gives this section its groove. As previously mentioned, beat four is almost always just two quavers, although in the second to last bar we see a quaver followed by two semiquavers – acting as a pickup into the final bar.

In the final bar Jamerson breaks from the established rhythmic and melodic feel and begins his approach back into the chorus. The rest of the band re-enter at this point, which might explain why he strips his playing right back. The first couple of crotchets are on the root and third, before playing a very typical Motown figure featuring an eighth note run using the fifth, sixth and root.

This extract is a great example of how Jamerson uses open strings to add bounce to his playing. These open strings are often non-diatonic notes, but by using them quickly and moving to a stronger chord tone the tension is quickly resolved. This tension and release, coupled with the ascending / descending phrases and bags of groove make this bass break a new favourite of mine.

Full Transcription

Friday 20 January 2017

Reach Out I'll Be There - The Four Tops (1967)

I've had lots of emails and comments from people over the years asking me to analyse this particular song, and I can see why. One of his most famous lines, it's classic Jamerson through and through - taken from a great Motown track from the labels heyday. It also happens to be one of the more challenging tracks I work through with my first year students at BIMM Bristol, so hopefully they will also find this insightful. Here we go!


The intro to this track is a classic Jamerson groove. Here he sets up a strong rhythmic theme that extends throughout most of the song - crotchet on the first beat of every bar. Using just root and fifth, he creates a syncopated groove through the Ebm, with the final F acting as a dominant approach to the Bb in the next bar. Over this Bb he continues to skip up and down the octave, before a simple chromatic move over the last beat of bar two.

The groove repeats for bars five and six, with seven seeing a slight rhythmic variation over beats three and four. We are dealing with the same notes here, just root, fifth and octave, but rhythmically be begins to change it up a little. For most of the final bar he just hangs on that high Bb, before a quick drop the octave and into a chromatic passing phrase to the Ab in the next bar.

The tricky thing about this passage is the rhythm. It's really syncopated, it varies slightly throughout the eight bars and it's pretty fast. Melodically however, this is quite straightforward - essentially just sticking to the root, fifth and octave of each chord, before transitioning to the next chord via a chromatic phrase.

Verse 1
Sticking to playing a quarter note Ab on the first beat of the bar, Jamerson then playing a quick fifth (Eb) before walking up to the Db. He continues to hold this for the whole first beat of bar two, before a quick rhythmic ghost note phrase over beat two. The quaver walk at the end of bar two is a simple one - here he plays the fifth, root and sixth of the Db major chord, before a final G that acts as a chromatic step back to the Ab in the third bar. This two bar phrase forms the verse groove, and is repeated a couple of times.

The combination of a solid down beat on the one, the semiquaver skips on the Eb and the walking phrases over the second half of the bar are classic Jamerson. Anchoring the groove, outlining the chords and giving the song a real driving feel.

In bar six we see a slight variation right at the end, where he plays an A to chromatically walk up to the Bb in the next bar. Over the next four bars he straightens out the groove and sticks mainly to driving quavers. For the most part he just plays the root notes of each chord, with the first couple of bars descending right down to a low Gb. In the last beat of bar eight he jumps right up the octave, walking down to the D and ascending up to a high F. This simple switch in registers is very effective at building the track towards it's chorus.

The last beat of bar ten sees Jamerson drop back down the octave via a now familiar root / fifth phrase, and into the bass break. I'll look more closely at these breaks later on, so for now lets move on to the chorus.


By the time we get to the chorus, the root / fifth octave skips are familiar territory - which is great as they form pretty much this whole section of the track. Sticking to a strong emphasis on beat one, Jamerson dances up and down the octave over the Bb, always with the semiquaver in the same place on the and of two (2e&a). Rhythmically he changes it up a little over the Ebm, but still we are playing around with the same couple of note choices, root and fifth.

After repeating the phrase we move onto bar five, where we see a final A natural right at the end to chromatically pass up to the octave Bb in bar six. Here we have a simple three note phrase over a high Bb, which is then echoed the octave down (via a ghost note) before hitting the open A to transition back into the verse.

As far as Jamerson lines go, this chorus passage is pretty straightforward. The verse deals with very similar rhythms, so once you have got the octave skips down the rest of the chorus falls into place.

Pre Chorus Runs - A Comparison

Run 1

Run 2

These little bass breaks are great, but the slight variations between them are often overlooked. There are three of these one bar bass breaks in the song, two are the same and one is different. Lets take a closer look... Both begin with the two hits on the F, followed by a quick open A. Run 1 is an ascending phrase, walking up from the F to a G, Ab and A natural. Essentially a chromatic walk up to the Bb in the chorus. Run 2 is slightly different. Here we play the G natural, Ab and A earlier in the bar, before hitting that Cb (just a B natural) and descending to the Bb in the next bar. A very slight variation that changes the approach note before the chorus. One ascends up from an A, one down from a B.

Other than that, the track is pretty straightforward. It's quite repetitive, and aside from a couple of very slight variations it sticks to the same verse and chorus phrases throughout. It's a great example of a Jamerson line - a driving groove with some simple yet effective note choices, tied together by some chromatic passing phrases.


Wednesday 14 September 2016

Skype Lessons and Guest Contributors

I have decided to give the site a bit of an overhaul, both visually and in the way it works. From now on, Jamerson Analysed is open to guest contributors. Anyone who wants to get involved in the project is now able to, and can submit their own articles and cover videos to the website.

Furthermore, I now offer lessons via Skype. This is obviously open to anyone who has an interest in Jamerson and is working on a specific piece, but also to people who would like to improve and develop their bass playing in a more wider sense.

For more information on either of these things, please follow the links to the right of the page.



Wednesday 25 March 2015

Bernadette - The Four Tops (1967)

Hello everyone,

So here is my analysis of Jamerson's playing on the Four Tops song 'Bernadette'. Coming from Jamersons late 60's heyday, this is just classic Jamerson through and through. Often held up with other songs like 'What's Going On', 'Darling Dear' and 'For Once In My Life', 'Bernadette' is considered by many (myself included) to be one of Jamerson's best, and most recognisable lines.

That said, when breaking down and analysing his playing it becomes apparent that there isn't actually anything too 'out there' going on here. Compared to something like 'Darling Dear', this is actually relatively straight forward; with repeated phrases anchoring the song's verses and chorus'.

As always, there is a video at the bottom of the article. Thanks for reading this and please share the page with others. If you're feeling really generous, you can even donate to 'Jamerson Analysed' using the button on the right.



Intro and Chorus 1

After a couple of bars following the band with the stabs on the Eb, Jamerson drops into one of his most instantly recognisable bass lines for the first chorus. He skips up the Eb arpeggio via the root, major third, fifth and arrives on the octive. Then, immediately he skips back down the arpeggio and, via a D passing note, arrives at the Dbadd9 chord in the next bar, where he begins to do very much the same thing. This skipping up and down the arpeggios, as well as the chromatic passing notes to tie together the chords, is textbook Jamerson. Nothing too fancy or complicated, just taking simple chord tones and making them sound great.

This concept continues up to the Bb, where a simple root note and quick open D passing note takes us to the Db. Here, after establishing the Db, he plays a simple yet effective semiquaver run consisting of the root, fifth, major 7, root and the flattened 2nd. Or, out simply - a chromatic run back up to the Eb. As I have pointed out in previous analysis', although playing notes that on their own would sound 'wrong' (such as a flattened 2nd), by using them as part of an overarching concept like a chromatic run they begin to sound completely at home within the song. The pull of the chromatic figure is so strong, that's all you hear. You don't notice, and it simply doesn't matter that there are some 'wrong' notes being played.

After playing the same descending arpeggio line again, he changes his playing over the Cb/Abm, choosing instead to play longer notes that rise chromatically from the Ab to the next bar of Bb. This really sticks out in the track - after a relatively busy chorus, the slower, more gentle chromatic line in this bar works very well. The bar of Bb sees Jamerson essentially just expand on his already established arpeggio phrases from before. Here he uses the root, third, fifth, flat seventh and octive to outline the chord, whilst keeping the driving rhythm from earlier in the track.

Although there are some slight variations in later chorus', what we have here is essentially the same line used in every chorus of the song.

Verse 1

There is a little more variation between some of the verse lines, although again Jamerson seems to settle into a line and stick to it. Rhythmically, he tends to spend at least one whole beat on the root of each chord, following the progression; this is usually in the form of some ties quavers. This does a couple of things; firstly it means that the chord progression is really well established by the bass, and secondly it doesn't actually leave that much time in between root notes to add much else to the line.

In the first bar, he simply ties together the Gd/Db and Ebm with - you guessed it - a chromatic phrase. In the second bar however, he chooses to do something a little different on the Db7sus, playing quite a tricky little phrase that uses the root, fifth, sixth, root, major third, fourth and sixth. All chord tones so in some respect it's a straightforward phrase, but actually playing it is a little trickier! The next time we arrive at the Db7sus, he plays a slight variation that sets us up for the Abm in the next bar really effectively. By finishing up on an Eb, he is using the 'dominant approach', approaching the next chord from it's perfect fifth (which, by the way, is a concept is explored thoroughly in the excellent book 'Building Walking Bass Lines' by Ed Friedland. Highly recommended).

After just sitting on the root note of Ab, he plays a driving line over the Gb/Bb that culminates in a chromatic passing note up to the Db. Here, he plays a more complicated figure that uses the root, sixth and fifth in a classic Jamerson style, before again returning to the Eb for the dominant approach. The rest of the verse essentially sees the same phrases being played again, albeit with some slight variations. That's the thing with 'Bernadette', once you've worked through a good portion of the song you start to see familiar phrases come up and again and again.

A slight variation to the Dbsus and Db bar sees a chromatic climb up from a Db, to a D, that finally resolves in the Eb of the chorus.


The Gb sees Jamerson use a simple root, second, third walk up to the Cb in the next bar. Here, he plays the root and fifth, before climbing chromatically up the Eb, where a root, fifth and minor seventh phrase, plus a little chromatic approach note, takes us to the Bb and Cb°7. The line essentially repeats itself up until the Ebm, where after skipping around the root, fifth and seventh, he plays a lovely chromatic ascending phrase from an Ab to a Bb, which is held until the next verse. Whilst the bridge isn't at all flashy, and certainly isn't the hook of the song or his bass line, it is a really good example of how some simple, well placed note choices are all you need. Focusing mainly on chord tones, and strung together by the occasional chromatic passing note, Jamerson both outlines the tonal quality of the chord progression and keeps the rhythmic and melodic concepts already established in the rest of the song.

Verse 3

I have included verse 3 in this analysis to highlight the subtle variations in his playing between the different sections of the song. Although Jamerson's playing in this verse is very similar to both verse 1 and 2, it's the slight differences that make it worth a closer look. Firstly, on the Ebm in the first bar, he does something slightly unusual. He arrives at the Eb a quaver later than the rest of the band. Truth be told, I'm not sure why he chose to do this. It could have even been a mistake (although he does do this thing a few times in this piece), but whatever the reasons, it does make the bass stick out a little more than usual. The very brief Eb/Db that he suggests here works well, and is over so quickly that it is hardly even noticed.

Another slight difference worth  noticing happens in the fourth bar, over the Db7sus and Abm/Db. Although still ending up on the Eb (the dominant approach), he chooses instead to play a chromatic line from the Db. Slightly different from before but still just as effective, it highlights just how Jamerson often plays around with his bass lines; changing bits here and there and improvising parts as and when.

The second to last bar of the verse sees Jamerson again play around with his established lines. This time he plays a more rapid semiquaver run over the chords, leading up to the final bar of a familiar Db phrase.

Final Notes

In a nutshell, this is a great song for a number of reasons. Not only is it a fantastic bass line that is instantly recognisable, but in my opinion it also starts to shows another side to Jamerson's playing. I know that he has some incredibly intricate and complicated lines, with dazzling semiquaver runs that skip all over the fret board. But what I really like about Jamerson is when he sits back and just grooves. Although still a pretty complicated line, this is a good example of how Jamerson finds a groove or a melodic phrase, and just sits with it. He does his job as a bass player and ties it all together. It doesn't have to be over complicated, it just has to work; which is exactly what this line does.

Friday 15 November 2013

I Heard it Through the Grapevine - Gladys Knight and the Pips (1967)


Today I will be looking at the Gladys Knight and the Pips song 'I Heard it Through the Grapevine'. Although Marvin Gaye's recording of this tune is far more famous, the bass line on this version is just fantastic. I have worked on this piece on and off for the last few years and I personally see it as one of the more challenging Jamerson lines that I have played. In particular, it's the fast arpeggio figures over the C7 chord that get me - pretty tricky stuff!

Anyway, I hope you enjoy this analysis. As always, there is a video at the end.

Oh and please feel free to contact me either through the form on the right, or my website



So then, as you can see this line is pretty simple in terms of Jamerson's melodic choices. In fact, it's basically all arpeggios. A very simple root / fifth movement takes us through the C7 chord in the first bar and a half, before climbing up to the high G via a simple arpeggio line. The G7 and F7 figures are equally as simple, using root / third and fifth to outline the G7, a chromatic walk down to the F, more fifths and roots and a quick open A to bring us back into the C7 in bar four. The strong, driving rhythm (particularly over the C7 chord) propels the song forward, and the simple note choices outline the chords perfectly.

The next four bars are basically identical, aside from the G right at the end of bar eight, acting as a step up to the A in the next bar. Over the Am chord, Jamerson sticks again to a strong root / fifth movement, only touching on the seventh at the end of the bar. The F7 line is equally as straight forward, only using an A and D (3rd and 6th) right at the end before dropping into the chorus groove. The chorus for this song kind of overlaps with the tail end of the verse, so Jamerson hits this C7 / F7 groove early - defining what is to be THE chorus groove for the rest of the tune.

For me, this is where things get interesting...

Chorus 1

This is a very good example of how Jamerson can take a simple theme and gently vary it. Take a look at the four bars of C7..... they are pretty much identical. All contain some form of classic Jamerson arpeggio drop - quickly skipping through the root, fifth, third and occasionally seventh. The variation in the fifth bar is a slight rhythmical change, as well as using the Bb (the seventh) as a part of the arpeggio drop. This is very similar to bar seven, but this time the Bb is dropped down an octave and placed after the drop.

In terms of the F7, bars two and four see a simple root, third, fourth, chromatic passing note and sixth figure. Note how even though that 'wrong' chromatic note - the B natural - is played for a whole beat, it still sounds good? This is a great example of how the pull of a chromatic line allows you to get away with quite a bit! (See my other analysis' for more examples of Jamerson doing this kind of thing... it's all over his playing and in my opinion is a strong indicator of his Jazz background). This use of 'wrong' notes is most evident in bar eight, where that low E lasts for quite some time - but again the chromatic phrase over the last two beats kind of justifies it.

Back to bar six, we can see Jamerson make a slight variation to his F7 line, whilst still keeping it's defining feature - that chromatic pull - intact. He is really good at this; playing around with his phrases whilst still keeping the key themes pretty much the same. (I personally think this is partly how he could get away with playing such busy lines on what are essentially pop records). A similar thing is seen on bar eight, where the chromatic phrase over the last two beats is still there.

Jamerson chooses to stick to mainly the root note of C over the next few bars, breaking up his line and taking it away from his pre established themes. A really simply but effective chromatic phrase in the last bar rounds the chorus off perfectly and brings the song really nicely back to a verse groove.


What is really cool about Jamerson's playing on the bridge is how it is as if he just sees it as six bars of F7, rather than a whole new section of the song. The strong chromatic feel of this section is reminiscent to his line over the F7 chord in the chorus (he even plays that exact line in the final bar). Using a mixture of strong chord tones, tied together in typical Jamerson fashion with quick chromatic passing notes, he navigates through the bridge. Notice how he always lands on the F, the root of the chord, on beat one - really establishing the chord before skipping off up and down the octaves. The rhythm of this section really adds to the driving feel of the song, with the chromatic passing notes adding quick moments of tension and release.

Chorus 3

What I really wanted to highlight in this section is how Jamerson introduces more variations in the line, whilst still retaining the feel and sound of the established chorus groove. As before, it's the C7 that sees the most variation - look at how he plays with the rhythm throughout this section. Harmonically, he isn't really complicating things and sticks mainly to the same group of notes. I get the impression that he was just having fun at this point, just playing around with the line and improvising some new ideas.

I really like how the F7 in bar eight walks up to the high A in the next bar, simply through the seventh and root heading up in that direction. The figure over the Am is something that we haven't seen before - but is still in keeping with the ideas that he has already played. Simple chord tones outline the chord, before heading on down to the F7. Here, he plays a really nice open string line that drops down the octave (a classic Jamerson technique is to use open strings), before walking chromatically up to the C7 in the next bar.

In summary, this is a really good example of how good Jamerson can make those chord tones sound! Through playing with the rhythm and note choices, he keeps the line funky, driving and interesting, whilst complimenting the track perfectly.

Saturday 31 August 2013

I'm Gonna Make You Love Me - Diana Ross & The Supremes & The Temptations (1968)

Hello everyone,

During my study of Jamerson's work, I have started to notice two distinct approaches that he takes to a song. The first, and most well known, is his incredible ability to improvise over the chord changes. Songs such as 'For Once In My Life' and 'Darling Dear' and good examples of this, rarely having two bars the same throughout the entire line. Dazzling semiqaver runs that skip across the octaves occur frequently, as do the classic chromatic movements that drag the song from one chord to another.

Another side to his playing is his ability to come up with a relatively simple line and slowly develop and expand it throughout the course of the track. Today's analysis definitely falls into this category. What I have tried to do here is highlight and compare the gradual variations that Jamerson makes to the line as the song progresses, whilst still sticking to his pre-established harmonic and rhythmic movements.

Verse 1

This first verse sees Jamerson establish a rhythmical figure that he uses throughout the track. Right up until the end of this verse, he always holds the first note for at least one beat, anchoring the chord and usually consisting of some tied quavers. Using a very arpeggio focused figure, he climbs up to the D in bar two via a simple chromatic walk. This concept is expanded in bar three, where the chromatic movement occupies half of the bar.

Bar four sees an interesting fill consisting of a root, ninth and seventh. He remains in this higher register for the start of the next bar, before moving back down to a C / C# walk at the end via a classic Jamerson arpeggiated drop.

Bar seven, with its quick use of an open A string builds rhythmically towards the bar eight E7 run. Using the root, second, third, fourth and fifth, he outlines the chord and approaches the Am7 via it's fifth, an E. This dominant approach anticipates the chord change perfectly and creates a very strong sense of resolution. The rhythm of bar eight is very much in keeping with the pre-established feel of the track, focusing on the quaver / semiquaver combination, whilst still building and propelling the song forward.

A simple combination of root notes and chromatic runs is all that is needed to navigate through the next two bars. In bar eleven, Jamerson begins to build up into the chorus, introducing more rhythmic and harmonic variation (note the classic Jamerson movement in beat four), before pedalling between a D and B over the C/D chord. A quick A in the final quaver acts as a chromatic approach to the Bb in the chorus.

Chorus 1

By and large, Jamerson sticks to the root and fifth notes throughout this chorus, often linking chords together with chromatic semiquaver runs lasting for one beat. He chooses to highlight the descending movement of the chords, first the Bb, A, G and F, then the C, Bb, A and F. Like the verse, he often sticks to the root note of the chord for at least one beat, further cementing the already established rhythmical theme.

What is interesting about this line is how he develops and varies the verse and chorus parts, adding in different fills and making new rhythmical decisions. By looking at Verse 2, you can see these small changes being made.

Verse 2

Notice how the line is essentially the same as in the first verse, aside from some small differences. Most notably, he chooses to develop the semiquaver run in the last beat of bar two and six, emphasising the drop down to a low G in the next bar. Also, whilst still playing an octave based figure in bar four, this time he doesn't play the ninth.

This gradual expansion and development is also evident in Chorus 2.

Chorus 2

Again, this is pretty much the same as the previous chorus, but with the same slight variations. Some of the note choices in the chromatic runs are different, as well as slight rhythmical variations - particularly in the first bar.

Bridge Run

After outlining the Gmaj7 with a root, fifth and octave figure, a quick chromatic fill brings us to the next bar. Here, Jamerson drops down the E7 via the root, seventh, fifth, fourth, third, second and root in a fast semiquaver run, before climbing back up to a G# that anticipates the A in the next bar. The heavy use of the open E in the last half of the bar allows him to use the G and G# chromatic figure whilst still enforcing the tonality of the chord. This scale based fill is really the only one of its kind in this piece, and after this Jamerson drops back into playing his already established figures.

Chorus 3

Looking at this, you can again see how he chooses to stick mainly to root notes, intermixed with brief fifths and semiquaver fills that tie the chords together. Even in this last chorus, he doesn't stray away from his already established line. This is interesting for Jamerson, as even on tracks where his playing is relatively simple, the last chorus tends to be where he lets himself go a little. On this track, this is not the case and we see him playing a simple line right up until the end of the song.

For me, this is a great example of a relatively straightforward bass line that just does the job perfectly. Anchoring the song with a set line that he sticks to for the whole piece, he gently varies his playing throughout the verse and chorus sections.

Tuesday 18 June 2013

Ain't Nothing Like The Real Thing - Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell (1968)

Hello everyone,

Sorry about the long period of silence but I have been finishing my degree! Now it is all done I can get back to more regularly posting on this blog.

Today I will be analysing 'Ain't Nothing Like The Real Thing', the classic Gaye / Terrell track. A favourite of mine, it is a good example of how Jamerson can construct a simple yet effective bass line that drives the song forward. Hope you enjoy it! As always, video is at the bottom.

P.S. This site has been steadily getting more and more views every month (more than I could have ever imagined when I first posted!) and I have decided that I would like to involve you all more in the blog. I am working on a way for you to vote on which line you would like me to analyse and cover next. I have had lots of feedback from visitors to this site saying how useful they found the analysis and I think that it would be cool for you to be able to request certain tracks. So, keep your eyes peeled as I will try to get some sort of message / voting system up and running ASAP.

In the mean time, keep playing and listening to Jamerson's work... there is a reason why he is still so highly regarded after all these years!



Chorus 1

The classic root, fifth, major sixth line that runs throughout the first two bars is a standard Jamerson figure that features in many Motown tracks. What is interesting about this particular example however is how he chooses to continue playing the line over the Fm, strongly emphasising the flattened seventh (Eb) and later the fifth (C). By sticking to this hook he can create a strong rhythmic and harmonic feature of the song, one that he returns to throughout the track.

A quick open A at the end of bar two acts as a chromatic passing note into the bar of Abmaj7. Rhythmically this bar is very similar to the previous two. Harmonically, he simply outlines the chord through the use of the root, fifth and major seven, before again using an open string (this time E) to jump down to the F. Here, he simply climbs and drops through the root, fifth and octave, before returning to the already established pickup into the next bar of Eb. The overall effect is that of a strong rhythmical establishment that drives the song whilst only using relatively simple note choices, sticking mostly to arpeggios and chord tones.

Verse 1

After thoroughly establishing his chorus phrase, Jamerson allows himself a great deal more rhythmic and harmonic freedom when playing through the verse. Using only the root (Eb) followed by a quick open E passing note, he plays through the Eb chord and into a driving phrase based around F, Bb and G that climbs up to the Abmaj7 in the next bar. Here he outlines the Abmaj7 using the root, third, fifth and a quick passing fourth, all whilst using the quaver / double semiquaver rhythm that features throughout the line. He then holds a G (root), before a quick ghost note into an impressive semiquaver run. Although this does outline the G7+ to some extent, using the root, second and third, it is arguably more of a build up into the next bar, where he simply holds a C for half the bar.This is a good example of how Jamerson adds tension and release through the use of rhythmical variations.

Over the Cm7 he plays a chromatic walking feature that jumps between scale tones and passing notes. This establishes a rhythm that features in the first half of the next bar. Here he plays the root of the Bbm7, a passing D onto the Eb and a passing G onto the Ab. The use of these non-diatonic notes from open strings is something that Jamerson frequently uses and here it adds to the driving rhythm of the line.

A simple walk down through the root, major seven and sixth of the Abmaj7 chord takes us to the Eb, where after a root based phrase he again returns to the already established root, fifth and sixth hook. After a full verse of new rhythmic and harmonic ideas, the return to this familiar phrase grounds the song; giving the listener an already featured movement, whilst also building up to the next verse.

Verse 3

This is a good example of how Jamerson can recall phrases used in previous sections and develop them either rhythmically, harmonically or both. The first bar shows him repeating a phrase that is used in both previous verses. In bar two he outlines the Abmaj7 through a quick semiquaver run of root, third and fifth, before doing the same on the G7+. Interestingly, he ignores the sharpened fifth in the augmented chord, opting instead to play a D natural. Like in the first verse, the result is a phrase that acts more as a build up into the next bar, rather than a strict outline of the chord. The speed of the D natural means that it does not clash with the other instruments on the recording.

In the next bar, he once again references and develops the previous line, making rhythmic and harmonic variations whilst still outlining the chord through a walk down to the next bar (Bbm7). Slowly developing and expanding a line is a common Jamerson technique, adding enough variation to keep the line interesting whilst still returning to pre-established phrases.


A classic Jamerson line, he navigates through this section using both arpeggios to outline the harmony and fast chromatic semiquaver runs to string together the different chords. After outlining the Gm7 and G7 through a simple arpeggio, Jamerson then uses a B and A natural to climb down to a Bbm7. Although the B natural is not found in the Cm7 chord, the bouncing rhythm leads the listener to the next chord, minimising the effect of this 'wrong' note.

Over the Abmaj7 he plays a chromatic semiquaver run that walks up to a Bb in the next bar. A similar line is present when he plays over the Db°7 chord, climbing up to a simple F octave drop in the next bar. After a root based figure over the Ab/Bb, he again introduces the Bb C Eb C hook that anchors the line.

Second and Seventh bar of Chorus 3

These two bars show how throughout the song Jamerson has established and expanded upon certain phrases. Compare the first example to the second bar of chorus 1. Notice how the line is almost identical, except from a couple of variations. The last chorus is the climax of the song and to add rhythmic build Jamerson uses almost exclusively semiquavers.

The same can be said for this second example. Again, compare this to the third bar of the first chorus. Here he also plays a very similar line, but adds the semiquaver run on beat three to drive the song forward. Through the use of the open A string he adds a chromatic feel to the line, the speed of which propels the song towards its conclusion.

Notice how throughout this song, Jamerson uses many 'wrong' notes. In particular, he uses the open E and A strings as part of a semiquaver chromatic run up to the next chord. The speed of these passing notes means that rather than the note sticking out as being 'wrong', it forms part of a larger passage that often links the chords together. This is a very common technique that Jamerson uses and you can spot it in many of his lines.

Ain't Nothing Like The Real Thing - Marvin Gaye / Tammi Terrell (1968) from Chris Axe on Vimeo.

Monday 1 October 2012

For Once In My Life - Stevie Wonder (1968)

I haven't posted in a while, but I have a few good ones lined up. What better place to start than one of my favourite Jamerson lines, 'For Once In My Life'. As usual, video link is at the bottom.

Verse 1

After the guitar / drum intro, Jamerson strongly establishes the root of the F chord in the first bar. It is also good to note that straight away he introduces rhythmical features that are used throughout (the tied quavers, the dotted quaver followed by a semiquaver). Over the F+, he focuses strongly on the third and sixth, common in Jamerson's lines; also making use of open strings to add fluidity to jumps and position shifts.

In the next bar, after again establishing the F, he chooses to use an Eb as part of his line, creating tension against the sixth, D. After a quick C# passing note, he used chord tones to 'walk' down to the Gm. By now, he has created a habit of emphasising the 'one', often spending at least a dotted quaver on the root note at the beginning of the bar. This idea continues throughout much of the piece.

Over the Gm, he uses a standard Jamerson mix of chord tones, with chromatic passing notes along with the frequently used semiquaver-quaver-semiquaver rhythm. He then climbs from the D, down to the G in the next bar and continues this motion down through the D+, again using chromatic passing notes to smooth out the line. In my opinion, this is a good example of Jamerson's walking bass knowledge creeping into his Motown work.

Over the Gm in bar five, Jamerson makes use of the F (the flat seven). Interestingly, he stays on this when the chord changes to Gm(maj7), only going to the F# right at the end. Despite this 'wrong' note, the rhythmic and melodic theme is strong enough to propel his line along. In the next bar, after walking up to the C9, we see a figure that is used frequently throughtout the piece. The C, D, F, C semiquaver fill can be seen as either the root, second, fourth and second of the C9 chord (making good use of the D, the 9), or as the fifth, sixth, root and sixth of the next chord, F. A movement that Jamerson uses in many Motown songs (Higher and Higher by Jackie Wilson immediately springs to mind, but I'm sure that there are many more), it both ties the chords together and introduces a rhythmical figure that is a key feature of he line.

Another common Jamerson move is the juxtaposition of fast and slow sections, an example of which can be seen between bars six and seven. With longer notes, all scale tones, he climbs easily up to a high F in bar eight. With crotchets on beats one and three, followed by fast semiquaver runs on two and four, the rhythmic choices make this line interesting, whilst adding motion to the song as a whole. He used lots of chromatic notes to tie the chord tones together and, at the end, to walk to a low F.

Build at the end of Verse 1

Although not particularly complicated, these two bars show Jamerson locking in with the Unison line played by the other instruments. The 'galloping' feel used in the first bar add pace and build to the song, before the release in the last bar. The C at the end of bar two acts as a dominant approach to the F in the next bar, another example of walking bass theory in Jamerson's lines.

Verse 2

The first four bars of Verse 2 show Jamerson using very similar rhythmic and melodic movements to the first verse, only varying the line slightly. For example, in the second bar he quickly drops down to a low F, as opposed to staying up high for over a beat in the same part of the first verse. In bars three and four, the chord progressions varies from the first verse, forcing Jamerson to create a new line. The skip up through the Gm7 arpeggio is another commonly used Jamerson move. Over the C9, he places a strong emphasis on the low E (the major third of C9). Whilst still a chord tone, this creates a sense of tension (partly due to the unusually long note length), before being resolved by the chromatic walk up to the G in the next bar. Again, this verse is heavily syncopated, but still with a strong emphasis on the 'one'.

Key Change

Rhythmically, the strong dotted quaver / semiquaver motion propells the line along, driving and building up the the unison line over the next four bars. Jamerson sticks to the root notes of the chords throughout the modulation, only breaking away at the end of the last bar with another of the fifth / major sixth figures that are commonplace in this song.

Cb6 figure in the 12th bar of the Bridge

This fill is a good example of how Jamerson can take simple note choices and construct an interesting and functional line. Rather than emphasising the major sixth, he chooses to 'skip' down the arpeggio (an example of a Jamerson 'drop'), before using an open A natural at the end to lead up to the Bb in the next bar.

Verse 3

Much like the other verses, there is a strong emphasis on the first beat of every bar. In the first bar, Jamerson simply climbs through the chords, using the D at the end to outline the Gb+. He then chooses to highlight the semitone gap between the Gb6 and the G°7. This creates a strong movement and sense of build up to the Abm7 in the next bar. In the last bar, we see one of the few ghost notes in this piece. Through using a ghost note, not only does Jamerson create rhythmic interest, but also acts as a brief bit of tension and resolution against the Db7.

For Once In My Life - Stevie Wonder (1968) - Bass Cover from Chris Axe on Vimeo.