Jamersons action..

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by tvbop, Sep 24, 2021.

  1. tvbop


    Mar 11, 2021
    Just a thought. Does anyone anywhere play any bass with a neck like a banana and massive string to board action the way Jamerson did, has anyone even ever tried it? I just think it amazing he could play all those extraordinary lines on a bass that by all accounts was for mere mortals, virtually unplayable.
    TerenceE, IamGroot and DJ Bebop like this.
  2. PrairieThunder13


    Dec 21, 2015
    I did about 10 years ago. It's not hard if you use a kind of funky "upright but sideways" technique and approach the instrument in an upright-like manner as jamerson did. I stopped since it left me with a lot of bad technique habits that took me a couple years to ditch, never allowed good intonation and left me feeling tonally limited. It was also really hard on my instruments which is the biggest reason why not to do it for anyone else out there thinking about it. Now i'm down to 6-7/64" at the last fret and between none and 0.012" of relief. Everything is better.
    gebass6, rickwebb, DrewD and 4 others like this.
  3. Gorn

    Gorn Supporting Member

    Dec 15, 2011
    Queens, NY
    Did he want it like that? Or was it like that and he got used to it? And did he prefer giant heavy strings or is that’s what was available?
    Gothic, dkelley, Iristone and 5 others like this.
  4. StrongRat

    StrongRat Supporting Member

    Aug 14, 2020
    San Diego
    My pbass is set up with Labella heavy gauge with high action. I've had it like that for about 2-3 years and it's been my main bass that I use. It is definitely way different than my other basses. You have to put more strength fretting, which I think is the cause of some bad habits of mine (using too much strength in the left hand).
    johnnynitro and DJ Bebop like this.
  5. Mushroo


    Apr 2, 2007
    Here's some footage I've never seen before. Crystal-clear view of Jamerson's bass and left-hand technique. His neck doesn't look bowed to me, and he seems to be playing with a moderate touch. I think there are a lot of myths and legends about James Jamerson; take any stories you hear about him with a grain of salt.

  6. Ed Goode

    Ed Goode Jersey to Georgia Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Nov 4, 2004
    Acworth, GA
    I agree … Jamerson was a DB guy, so a lot of that technique is evident in his playing, but the tales about his unplayable bass never rang quite true to me …
  7. WillyW

    WillyW l’art pour l’art, fonction de baise

    Dec 10, 2019
    looks like a light touch to me.

    maybe if you put his bass in a storage shed for 30 years and then get measurements off it..... it must be how he played it...
  8. tvbop


    Mar 11, 2021
    My guess is as a DB guy he wasnt too fussed about the setup on what was essentially a "guitar" and some of those early P basses had a tendency to bend a bit. I have to say tho that video goes someway to dispelling the bent neck myth especially at 0.19...and he seems to be playing with an easy touch...Cant think where I read that story, might have been in the Shadows Of Motown book.
  9. Mushroo


    Apr 2, 2007
    If you look at 0:56, the photo of him playing upright, it looks like his middle finger is twice as thick as his ring finger!
    bigthemat likes this.
  10. Killing Floor

    Killing Floor Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2020
    Austin, TX
    Carol Kaye used pretty high action. Intentionally. Not due to any neck issues. If you carve funk in your bass you can do anything.
  11. MrSidecar

    MrSidecar Supporting Member

    Apr 9, 2008
    Copenhagen, Denmark

    at least the High action thing is what happens when you put LaBella Jamersons on your unprepared p-bass without adjusting the truss rod. I know that first hand :) maybe that’s where the folklore comes from, or maybe somebody referred to his bass years after the fact where god knows what could have happened to the neck to mess up the relief.

    As to him playing with high action- the footage looks otherwise, we’ll never know for certain but either way, his lines are there and they are awesome regardless.

    Les Fret, P. Aaron and IamGroot like this.
  12. BobDeRosa

    BobDeRosa Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 16, 2012
    Finger Lakes area of New York State
    Owner, Tritone Jazz Fantasy Camps
    I also find it interesting that, like many of us who started on upright with Simandl technique, he doesn't seem too worried about one-finger-per-fret. And he's often called the world's greatest.
  13. MrSidecar

    MrSidecar Supporting Member

    Apr 9, 2008
    Copenhagen, Denmark
    To intentionally add to the folklore-

    maybe the strings were so stiff that anything a living breathing human could do to them would always look like a light touch.

    Ok, I'm sorry.

    covermego likes this.
  14. Jeff K

    Jeff K Supporting Member

    Jul 9, 2005
    Memphis, TN
    I've always preferred a slightly higher action than most bassists. Probably not "Jamerson high", but I just love the note clarity from a higher action. I'm not a slapper though, and like to dig in at times.
    Joebone, Retro, mikezimmerman and 2 others like this.
  15. Mushroo


    Apr 2, 2007
    I've never seen video evidence of any top pro bass player using strict "one finger per fret" in the 1950s and 60s. Even Jaco used 1-2-4 in the lower positions (and he had giant, double-jointed hands).

    I think it really only became popular in the 1990s. Certainly the bass heroes I grew up with in the 1980s (like Will Lee, Billy Sheehan and Stu Hamm) weren't one finger per fret players.
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2021
  16. Esteban Garcia

    Esteban Garcia bassist, arranger, aelurophile Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2018
    Portland, OR
    1. As others have said, I'm not convinced he played with a banana neck and quarter inch string height
    2. There is no good reason to play a modern instrument set up that way (and lots of good reasons not to), even if you are used to string bass action
  17. All_Thumbs


    Dec 6, 2016
    I have LaBella DTF’s on my Fender Precision. I struggled at first. I was tempted to remove them for lower tension strings. But I wanted that Jamerson sound. What I’ve noticed is my left (fretting) forearm is noticeable larger than my right forearm. I have videos of me playing that looks like playing with very light touch. My fingertips are heavily calloused. Worst of all, I still don’t sound like James. My .02
  18. dougjwray


    Jul 20, 2005
    As others have said, his action might not have been THAT high.
    But my *guess* is that he was a serious upright player who considered the P-Bass kind of a new toy-- you bought it off the shelf, used the strings it came with, and earned some cash with it. (It probably paid for itself after a couple of sessions.) He might never have even bothered with a set-up.
    LeFunk Machine likes this.
  19. NoiseNinja

    NoiseNinja Experimental-psychedelic-ambient-noise-drone

    Feb 23, 2011
    My preferred string action could probably be considered as lower medium, 2mm (~0.079" ~ 5/64") low E string @ 12th fret, 1.5mm (~0.059" ~ 4/64") high G string @ 12th fret.

    But there is such a thing as too low action for me, any lower than above and I get too little resistance when fretting notes, not being able to feel when I fret the notes, as in practically 0 resistance, as it would be if the action was any lower, and I wouldn't be able to adjust my fretting strength and it would just overall throw my playing off and feel all wrong.

    Any higher and I would feel it inhibited me from playing optimally.

    As to weather Jamerson played with insane high action, it doesn't really look like it judging from the video posted earlier in this thread.
    DJ Bebop and InhumanResource like this.
  20. sotua


    Sep 20, 2004
    Somewhere in time
    That's how I learned to play. Because my first bass was a particleboard piece of poopie. I attribute my strong left hand to learning with that sky-high action (and of course it had ultra low frets which made for a really tricky combo)
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