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James Jamerson isolated recording question

Discussion in 'Bassists [BG]' started by bolophonic, Jun 16, 2017.


  1. bolophonic

    bolophonic Supporting Member

    Dec 10, 2009
    Durham, NC
    Let me preface this by swearing my undying reverence for Mr. Jamerson. But is it my imagination that the intonation on his bass sounds noticeably out of whack on this famous recording?
     
    getrhythm and NigelD like this.
  2. JimmyM

    JimmyM

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Always sounded terrific in the track itself, so even if it is out of whack, it doesn't really matter.
     
    mussa, joebar, Raulplaysbass and 7 others like this.
  3. He had very high action. This can affect intonation.
     
    bobyoung53 and ICM like this.
  4. Reedt2000

    Reedt2000 Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2017
    Central New Jersey
    There definitely are some spots where notes feel out of tune. If (as mentioned above) his action was really high this might be from over-fretting. What a great bass part. Absolute, 100% perfection on every single note is an artifact of the modern recording process. Back in the day all it had to do was sound good, not be flawless under a microscope. As also mentioned above the part sounds awesome in what you accurately describe as a "famous recording:
     
    ICM, trothwell and Jhengsman like this.
  5. bolophonic

    bolophonic Supporting Member

    Dec 10, 2009
    Durham, NC
    That has been my philosophy since I started playing.
     
  6. BrotherRay

    BrotherRay

    Nov 28, 2016
    Detroit, MI
    In Alan Slutsky's SITSOM book, he relates that Jamerson never never wanted to change his strings, or clean his fretboard. "The dirt keeps the funk in" he said. Slutsky also says when Jamerson followed Motown out west, one of the issues he has was that his strings were so old they would no longer hold their intonation. When offered suggestions to change his strings, especially to the new rounwounds, he was too set in his ways, wouldn't change. All that to say, perhaps it's an old strings intonation issue.
     
  7. jasmangan

    jasmangan

    Jul 13, 2008
    It seems like every time I'm about succumb to the urge to open my wallet and shell out some clams to get my cranky self a "modern tone", I hear one of these "vintage" tracks and the urge completely goes away.
     
  8. dtripoli

    dtripoli

    Aug 15, 2010
    CA
    Yup, possibly outta whack, but like JimmyM sez, it didn't matter.
    What did matter was how it fit in the mix. Paul McCartney's isolated tracks sound odd also but
    superb in the mix.
    What Jamerson was doing was almost a percussive type thing and whether the intonation was perfect
    or not, no one but us musicians listening intently to isolated tracks would even notice.
     
    BrotherRay likes this.
  9. mrufino1

    mrufino1 Supporting Member

    Aug 2, 2005
    Nutley, NJ
    In addition to the statements above, It's also possible that the intonation at the saddles was never adjusted, especially as the strings got on in years. Also, I bet they were tuning to a piano or something, most likely not an electronic device, and then tuning the bass by ear to itself. Also, if you use the 5th and 7th fret harmonics its actually not precise because they are different harmonics in the series - better to use 7th and 12th fret so it's an octave, which is not what typically is done on upright, where his roots are.

    In the end though, "perfect" track, that whole arrangement is magic.
     
  10. mrufino1

    mrufino1 Supporting Member

    Aug 2, 2005
    Nutley, NJ
    One other thing - I've heard it mentioned that the motown studio experienced rapid temperature shifts when the air conditioning was turned on and off (obviously off for tracking). That could affect it
     
    bobyoung53 likes this.
  11. JTE

    JTE Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    This is absolutely wrong. It'the fifth of the opening string harmonic, the 7th fret node, that's the problem. The octave harmonics (5th/17th fret and 12th fret) are exact octaves unless your strings are bad. 12/7 is as out of tune as 5/7 because the 7th fret harmonic is not the same pitch as a tempered 5th.
     
  12. mrufino1

    mrufino1 Supporting Member

    Aug 2, 2005
    Nutley, NJ
    cool, I thought it was 7 and 12, that explains some things for me and I'll use 5/12 to tune. Either way, 5/7 definitely isn't exact. Thanks for clarifying.
     
  13. JTE

    JTE Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    5/12 won't tell you anything. Using he 5th fret harmonic on the E and 7th fret harmonic on the A compares the octave E to the fifth degree of h A, which is an E note also, except that fifh degree is not tempered. To tune you need to compare strings to each other. Because that 7tg fret harmonic is pure instead of tempered, it won't be right. It's still practical for getting close but you need to tweak things so all strings are equally out of tune with each other. I use 5/7 to get close, then compare the fretted 7th fret A string against the 12th fret harmonic on the E.

    But that's not got much to do with Jamerson. The intonation on his bass was likely off and that is different from the open strings not being in tune with each other. I suspect, coming from double bass, he simply didn't mess with the bridge.
     
  14. mrufino1

    mrufino1 Supporting Member

    Aug 2, 2005
    Nutley, NJ
    Yes, after trying it I realized they're not the same note and understood what you typed. I usually check the open string against a 2nd fret octave too in addition to using a tuner.

    But, you are correct, I highly doubt it occurred to him to adjust the bridge. I have no complaints either way.
     
  15. Wanna hear some crap intonation? Listen to some isolated Macca on Hofner tracks. I miss when that type of thing was actually put to wax. Like Jimmym said, if it sounds good, it is good.
     
  16. scatman

    scatman

    Jun 12, 2003
    A friend of mine who's a jazz drummer, and a stickler for intonation, mentioned many years ago that the famous 'Blue Note piano' was never perfectly in tune! But he had enough sense to recognize the soul of those recordings!

    Ronnie Baker of Philly International is my main influence. I recognize that he wasn't always 'tuned up'! (Love Is The Message might be a tad 'sharp'!). But who am I to judge? I never contributed to a billion-dollar sound, billion-dollar genre nor put an entire city on the musical map with my basslines!
     
    mussa likes this.
  17. Bob_Ross

    Bob_Ross Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 29, 2012
    Does anybody else wonder how they extracted an isolated bass track from a recording that was made in 1966 or '67?

    iirc Motown was recording on 4-track tape machines up until at least 1968, meaning that even if the bass got its own dedicated track during the basics, it would have been submixed into a composite rhythm section track when they did the bounce to add vocals and orchestral sweetening.
     
  18. JimmyM

    JimmyM

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Maybe it would, maybe it wouldn't. Bass was extremely important to Motown engineers, and it's highly possible they never submixed it. And it's also possible that they use different machines and reels of tape to submix and the originals were left intact.
     
  19. mrufino1

    mrufino1 Supporting Member

    Aug 2, 2005
    Nutley, NJ
    No, Motown was on 8 track long before that, and but the end of the 60's/start of the 70's on 16 track. If you check out the ain't no mountain multitrack it is 8 tracks- 2 tracks of drums (each track is a whole drum kit- 2 drummers on that and many other Motown songs), bass on its own track, all 3 guitars on another track, piano and vibes on one track, orchestra on one track, and Marvin and tammi each with their own tracks.

    Oh, and check out the multitrack to hear her vocal- she is absolutely shredding her voice by the end.
     
    Bob_Ross likes this.
  20. Mediocre poeple love to talk about the mistakes of great people to feel not so mediocre. I'm a fanboy, so everything Jamerson played just sounds great to me. Therefore I'm not mediocre:)
     
    project_c likes this.
  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

     
    Feb 26, 2021

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