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Can someone explain this to me? (Re Jamerson)

Discussion in 'Bassists [BG]' started by Wasim, Jan 1, 2007.

  1. Wasim


    Dec 10, 2004
    Read this in one of the interviews on Bob Babbit's site (in the Articles section)

    "By watching Jamerson, I saw certain things that he did that would tell me how he would play other lines. We both came from upright bass. And, the difference between upright bass and electric bass is that on the upright bass, you don't use the third finger on your left hand until your one octive up. Whereas on a guitar or electric bass, you're using one, two, three, and, four. So that explains a lot of things about his bass playing and how he went about doing certain things."

    I've never played upright, so maybe someone could explain this to me? I love Jamerson's bass playing so understanding how he did is really interesting to me.
  2. Scottgun


    Jan 24, 2004
    South Carolina
    In traditional instruction for double bass, the third finger is not used in the lower positions--it's index, middle and pinky. The third finger replaces the pinky when you move to thumb position (Using your thumb on the fingerboard.)

  3. Wasim


    Dec 10, 2004
    Okay, thanks. From Babbit's comment, he seems to think this contributed to Jamerson's style on electric bass? I'm not sure how.
  4. Scottgun


    Jan 24, 2004
    South Carolina
    Without specifics, I'm not sure either. I played both and can't think of anything that would amount to a major difference as far as what kind of style you develop.
  5. BassLand


    Mar 20, 2000
    Lost Angeles
    I play both basses and share Jamerson's RH technique on both. As far as LH technique, I use electric (all four fingers) and use thumb pivot to make up the distance between notes on the upright. If you look at your palm relaxed you may notice a slight difference in distance between the 2nd and third fingers and third and 4th (pinky). I think I read somewhere that the 2nd and 3rd fingers share a tendon.
  6. He is talking about 1-2-4 fingering vs. OFPF (One Finger Per Fret) fingering.

    On lower positions, many people feel more comfortable using their pinky for the third fret and skiping the ring finger until you get higher up the neck - this is more what upright players tend to do as well, as it's less of a stretch.
  7. Wasim


    Dec 10, 2004
    Cheers everyone

    Must say I almost always favour pinky over 3rd finger. That's something I'm trying to work on.
  8. Classical bass or Simaldl fingering dictates certain note choices and forces a lot of shifting to play chromatically. Please also note that Jamerson played a lot of the classic Motown lines in first or open position which is awkward for a lot of the flat keys that many Motown tunes are in. Those 2 technical factors had a significant impact over the choices that Jamerson made. Couple that with Jamerson's love of jazz and his constant search for the elusive note and groove and you may get some idea how he got to those lines.
  9. studentaccount1


    Nov 14, 2006
    I think it is ring and pinky that share a tendon.
  10. Wasim


    Dec 10, 2004
    Yes the chromatic thing is something I notice in lines like Ain't No Mountain High Enough and Darling Dear. From reading the Standing in the Shadows of Motown book it comes across that maybe transposing chromatic playing into popular music was not the norm when Jamerson first came onto the scene - as in that was one of the jazz techniques Jamerson brought into his playing.

    Also the open note thing you mention is interesting because when I play along to Jamerson riffs some lines feel like they probably were played using open strings but don't sound right when I play them like that - maybe because of Jamerson's dead strings and calibre of technology back then? The sound seems too warm for open notes, if that makes sense?
  11. Yes, his open string tone was probably affected by his dead flatwound strings and by the piece of foam that he supposedly placed under his strings (under his bridge cover).
  12. Wasim


    Dec 10, 2004
    Ah the foam... did Jamerson use foam? I wasn't sure if it was just used by people who wanted to copy his soft tone...
  13. After learning some stuff from the SITSOM book, I have changed my technique as I now use my pinky for octaves rather than my 3rd finger. I'm also starting to use my pinky instead of my 3rd finger when playing in first or open position. This change leads to less stretching of the fingers, less bending of the wrist, more comfort, fewer injuries/strain and more durability.

    Another major technique change that I have gained through learning Jamerson/upright style is to use open strings whenever possible rather than 5th fret. Upright players use open string notes to give them a moment to jump to other positions on the neck (important as an upright neck is big). The open note can be legato, staccato or often a ghost/dead/muted note. Rock bass players (like myself) often lack the muting skills that you need in order to prevent open strings from continuing to ring after you have moved on to the next note but the payoff is worth it. Learning how to slap/pop also builds excellent muting technique that you can use in fingerstyle playing.
  14. The foam was standard equipment on earlier P-basses, one of the gearheads here could probably tell you the exact models and years.

    Jamerson just left the foam there, and used flatwounds, and never changed them. So you get muted thump + muted thump + muted thump!

    Then there was also the matter of his fingers, or more prescisely, finger...

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