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Motown-James Jamerson sound

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Stumbo, Mar 3, 2008.


  1. Stumbo

    Stumbo Wherever you go, there you are. Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 11, 2008
    the Cali Intergalctic Mind Space
    Song Surgeon slow downer software- full 4 hour demo
    Regarding how to get the Motown sound (kinda mimics a stand-up bass, very little ring to it), I put LaBella James Jamerson strings flat wound (.110 E) on my '83 4 string Ibanez Musician bass about 10 years ago but only recently have been reading up on him.

    One thing that I noticed was that he used a stock P-Bass with a string dampener under the bridge pickup cover. I didn't know that and alway thought that just with the Jamerson strings that I was getting "the sound". Obviously not.

    I've seen several homemade examples of various types put on different basses that seem to work but always seem...well, homemade.

    Recently I've been on the hunt on how to get "the Motown sound" without putting some foam on my bass or anything that looked like it came out of my laundry room or kitchen.

    In my search to find a reliable, easy to use, easy to remove, cheap, and stock-looking method, I stumbled up something that you all be interested in that doesn't require any modification to your instrument, create any type of foam "crumbs", doesn't fall apart or require anything that might damage your instrument.

    1) I obtained a black 7.5 inch long by .5 inch wide Velcro cable tie (available at any office supply store).

    2) I then pressed on two small strips of industrial Velcro (the fuzzy part) to the non-fuzzy side of the Velcro cable tie to build up the thickness.
    3)I then installed the cable tie (with the industrial Velcro on the strings) pretty snugly between the bridge pickup and the bridge.

    Note: the cable tie closes with the end being pulled towards the G string.

    After playing a bit with it, I discovered the following:

    1) Depending on how thick the additional velcro is and how heavy a gauge string is used, you may have to put more or less extra strips.

    2) The cable tie can be moved closer or further away from the bridge, depending on the amount of dampening required.

    3) The cable tie can be angled a bit to change how much dampening required, especially good for changing the dampening on the individual strings.

    3)The cable tie can be installed very tightly or not, depending on the dampening required.

    4). After installing the cable tie, I pressed the top and bottom of it together so more Velcro fuzz was touching the strings.

    5) A 6.75 inch cable tie length will work fine as well.

    Check out Jason Long on Youtube to get a good dose of the Motown bass lines of James Jamerson.
    Check out James Jamerson's exact playing position on Marvin Gaye's "What's Goin' On" at: http://youtube.com/watch?v=Y9KC7uhMY9s It's a live version and a great listen.

    If you try it, let me know how it works out.

    StringDampenerscan.

    KC
     
  2. GeneralElectric

    GeneralElectric

    Dec 26, 2007
    NY, NY
    Its under the bridge cover, not the neck cover.

    A good way to get the Jamerson sound is to, infact, play with one finger like he does.

    A good mute, in my opinion is mouse pad foam cut into the shape of the bridge heel and folded in half.
     
  3. Stumbo

    Stumbo Wherever you go, there you are. Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 11, 2008
    the Cali Intergalctic Mind Space
    Song Surgeon slow downer software- full 4 hour demo
    Thanks for the info.

    I updated my post for the "bridge" string dampener.

    The mouse pad is a great idea. I've seen several types of material used successfully for a string dampener. If you don't have bridge cover, what I came up with can be used on stage without worry of it falling off the bass. It's also easily adjustable for different neck/string widths and position on the strings for different amounts of dampening and with its black color, it's barely noticeable.

    "A good way to get the Jamerson sound is to, in fact, play with one finger like he does."

    Jason Long, on one of his youtube videos, made the same observation. It changes your technique on how your attack gets the notes off the bass.

    Thanks for your reply.
     
  4. GeneralElectric

    GeneralElectric

    Dec 26, 2007
    NY, NY
    Alternatively, what you can do, is loosen the strings and place thin strips of mousepad between the saddles and strings.
     
  5. BassLand

    BassLand

    Mar 20, 2000
    Lost Angeles
    The Mouse Pad material is exactly what fender used (only thicker). Anoher hint is to play close to the neck. Since Jamerson never removed his PU cover, he was forced to play north of the cover (near the neck joint).
     
  6. sevenyearsdown

    sevenyearsdown Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    Sanborn, NY
    It is my understanding that Jamerson also had the action set very high on his p-bass to make it feel closer to a standup. I think I read that it was even "unplayable" for an electric by modern standards.
     
  7. fjbass78

    fjbass78

    Jun 21, 2007
    Indiana
    One more thing about Jamerson that I read was a lot of people thought his bass (funk machine) was almost unplayable. The neck needed adjustments, and the action was real high. I guess that's why Dr. Licks (Allan Slutsky) says you never heard any fret buzz on his bass tracks.
     
  8. fjbass78

    fjbass78

    Jun 21, 2007
    Indiana
    Sevennyearsdown beat me to it, but he's right!
     
  9. Ten Four One

    Ten Four One

    Dec 5, 2006
    Occasionally some guy in the back of bass player will come along with a glue-on thing that you can flick on & off that looks pretty professional. Not that I would muck with glue and such.*

    I use keep a bell on my p-bass and stick some foam in there. One bad thing about the bell with foam combo - if you have the bass upright and out in the air, it collects dust, even if you play the bass regularly.

    * Google leads me here: http://www.bassmute.com/
     
  10. sevenyearsdown

    sevenyearsdown Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    Sanborn, NY
    Hey great minds right!:D..............
     
  11. Stumbo

    Stumbo Wherever you go, there you are. Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 11, 2008
    the Cali Intergalctic Mind Space
    Song Surgeon slow downer software- full 4 hour demo
    Jamerson plays about 1'-2" in front of the PBass pickup. Check out his hand position at: http://youtube.com/watch?v=Y9KC7uhMY9s

    There are many references to "the hook" because he played with one finger but on the video he doesn't play with a fist and his index finger extended. He also plays very close to the tip of his index finger. That changes his tone as well.

    It's reported that he also did not change his strings unless they fell apart. Dead strings also gave him part of his sound.

    Today I took off some 14 year old LaBella Jamerson strings from my Ibanez bass and installed new ones. There's a huge difference in tone between the old and new but the differences were more than just sound. The dead strings don't vibrate as much and don't stretch much when pressed on. This allowed lower action but since the strings were stiff, it wasn't easier to play. The new strings stretched more, were easier to press down and had tons more sustain.

    I haven't heard anything about which amp he used, though.

    I was also looking into piano felt as an alternative material to mute the strings.
    I'll post something if that works out.
     
  12. Stumbo

    Stumbo Wherever you go, there you are. Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 11, 2008
    the Cali Intergalctic Mind Space
    Song Surgeon slow downer software- full 4 hour demo
  13. Geezerman

    Geezerman

    Nov 28, 2004
    Chicago, IL
    I guess for all the motown recordings he went DI
     
  14. Ten Four One

    Ten Four One

    Dec 5, 2006
    No, there's double-stick tape, which they recommend over screwing it on. They only recommend screwing it on if your bass has a carved or arched top.

    Still, I wouldn't double-stick tape my bass - a brand new one, maybe because the thick modern varnish will probably shrug off even a year's worth of sticky tape, but in the long run, I'd want a better solution than that.
     
  15. Mark Wilson

    Mark Wilson Supporting Member

    Jan 12, 2005
    Toronto, Ontario
    Endorsing Artist: Elixir® Strings
    Here's my solution.

    [​IMG]
     
  16. Stumbo

    Stumbo Wherever you go, there you are. Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 11, 2008
    the Cali Intergalctic Mind Space
    Song Surgeon slow downer software- full 4 hour demo
     
  17. Mark Wilson

    Mark Wilson Supporting Member

    Jan 12, 2005
    Toronto, Ontario
    Endorsing Artist: Elixir® Strings
     
  18. Commreman

    Commreman Faith, Family, Fitness, and Frets Supporting Member

    Feb 12, 2005
    New Jersey
    Jamerson didn't go direct. He used an Ampeg B-15 with the lows boosted.
     
  19. In Slutsky's book there's a picture of Jamerson's rig -- it's a big ol blue tuck- and- roll Kustom.
     
  20. As I recall from the book Jamerson owned both a B15 and that Kustom Rig. The recordings for Motown were done direct.
     

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