Studying the Lemon Song

Discussion in 'Recordings [BG]' started by Quatzu, Jul 9, 2013.

  1. Quatzu


    Jul 15, 2008
    Detroit, MI
    I have a hunch that everything I need to learn can be learned by studying the Lemon Song.

    I am, so far, completely self-taught with a very limited musical vocabulary, so forgive me. I have a few questions and theories about the Lemon Song and I would like to hear your input.

    After a few years of exploring many forms of bass playing, it dawned on me that I should probably focus on John Paul Jones' Zeppelin work for a while. After all, I'm a drummer who has pretty much every Zeppelin song absolutely imprinted in my heart, and I can't tell you how valuable that toolbox is.

    First, is the Lemon Song "twelve-bar blues?" If it is, I finally get it.

    Second, I get that the chord progression is E, A, B, E, essentially. Are any of these flat? How does one tell? What would I do with that knowledge?

    I see the very basic principles at work in this very standard song, but I know there's some underlying and unifying theory I am missing. I can see how JPJ treats the root, I can see how he applies what I think are called "chromatic approaches." I can mimic the way he gets around within each chord, and how he gets from chord to chord, but I don't yet understand why he does what he does and how I would apply that to other progressions.

    So what is he doing and what else can I learn from the Lemon Song? For my own purposes, I have built a Lemon Song framework in Garageband that I can noodle with. What would you guys focus on when practicing along?

    Hope this makes sense.

  2. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Inactive

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    Don't over think it. He pretty much landed the root one 1 and used the rest of each measure to get where he was going. Yes, it is an awesome bass line, full of neat tricks and tasty lines. But it isn't worth building your entire study of theory around. I assure you he wasn't thinking modes or scales when he played it. I am also pretty sure it never sounded the same twice.

    I'm not trying to poo poo your ideas per say. I tell people all the time that JPJ taught me how to play bass. But just don't assume you are going to learn a metric ton of theory from that one song. You aren't. You will pick up some good tricks and a little bit of info, but not an entire course study in music theory.
  3. Yes, it is twelve-bar blues in the key of E. And you are correct about the progression. Like you said, there's a lot of chromatic approach to the song, but with the core progression there are no flats. Really don't know how to explain how to tell that, but with that you can know the song is just the three major chords as roots. With that, you can figure ways to work around the majors. But for what he's doing I'm lost too. The Lemon Song is a PHENOMENAL piece to study (my personal favorite bassline. Ever.), and I haven't spent much time studying so I'm not so sure why he does what he does. Regardless, you can learn a whole lot from that song. Hope this helps!
  4. jaywa


    May 5, 2008
    Iowa City, IA
    The Lemon Song is essentially JPJ's tribute to James Jamerson.

    I don't know if Jones has ever stated that in so many words, but Jamerson's influence is ALL OVER that bass track. And I say that as a compliment and as a huge fan of both of those world class players.
  5. SN transcription attached. Great bass line.

    Attached Files:

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