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the Standing in the Shadows of MOTOWN (the James Jamerson book)

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Later_Peter, Jul 22, 2017.

  1. Received a brand new copy (with the 2 CDs intact) via Abe Books $15 (shipped)...
    Just sayin'
    Leo Smith, nixdad and Oddly like this.
  2. I thought this book was a good read.
    nixdad likes this.
  3. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    It changed my bass playing life.
    Igor's chromatic excercise is still one of my go-to warm ups. (in spite of the transcription error in there)

    also useful is Chris Axe's Jamerson analyzed wep page.
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2017
  4. Badwater


    Jan 12, 2017
    I have the DVDs, great documentary of music history from the players. Interesting, all the hits, and most people never heard of the Funk Brothers. I didn't until several years ago when I saw the DVDs. Sad, that back in the day, musicians never got credit for their contribution in music history. I'm glad they have this documentary of music history. This also caused me to explore the history of Stax, Chess, and other recording groups of the era. It's amazing what the internet has, and the associations the great music acts have within the network of recording studios. And also interesting is finding out who the original songwriters were, that also never got much credit for their art.
    Later_Peter and nixdad like this.
  5. slagheap


    Dec 23, 2011
    fantastic book. taught myself to read with it. god bless alan slutsky, i say.
  6. nixdad


    Aug 15, 2008
    Los Angeles, CA
    I can't agree more. We referred to this as "the bass players bible" when it was released, and sold this book (which came with cassette tapes at the time) by the boxloads.

    Writing the book lead Allan to learning about the rest of The Funk Brothers and the to the documentary being made. More importantly, it lead to all of these musicians getting notoriety and credit they deserved.
    JimK and Later_Peter like this.
  7. Bill ONeal

    Bill ONeal

    May 28, 2017
    I've transcribed almost every bass line Jamerson played over my past 40 years of playing bass. No better teacher! Transcribing them yourself is far better than learning from a book. It won't teach you Jamerson's feel or the subtleties of his playing style. No short cuts!
    Garret Graves and nixdad like this.
  8. Beff Juckley

    Beff Juckley

    May 20, 2020
    So you recommend against buying the book? I'm just getting started on learning how to read and transcribing and I was thinking of using this book as a tool for both. I would transcribe Jameson's lines as best I could and then go to the book and see where I'm wrong.
    EddiePlaysBass likes this.
  9. Rhythmman535

    Rhythmman535 Supporting Member

    May 9, 2007
    Rochester, NY
    Transcribing the lines yourself is definitely the better way to go but it's not the only way. You do what works for you and keep in mind that the book could be wrong but you're not trying to edit the book. Working on your reading and transcribing skills is what's important and however you get there is all that matters.
  10. dangevans


    Mar 26, 2014
    This book transformed me as a bass player. Work your way through it, and you will not be "just another bass player" anymore. You'll read better, play better, come up with more tasteful (yet creative) parts, and also learn about someone who is definitely one of THE biggest influences on popular music in the 20th century.
    Beff Juckley likes this.
  11. Beff Juckley

    Beff Juckley

    May 20, 2020
    What was your approach to make the most of the book? Anything specific you did in relation to absorbing the material or taking it into your playing? I'm keen to take as much out of the book as I can.
  12. dangevans


    Mar 26, 2014
    This was around 20 years ago when I got it. But my main thing was I was playing bass for the first time in a band, doing okay enough where I kept the gig (although we hardly got paid gigs)... I always liked the Motown bass lines, saw the book at a music store, started paging through it and recognized a ton of songs with great bass lines.

    The book discusses James's style, how he played, what he played, etc., which was interesting and beneficial. In fact, I went from a pick to playing with one finger, which proved (at the time) to be a key ingredient to the style- it limited you in some ways, but kept you even and provided a very strong attack. I went back to a pick eventually, but still played in the style when I can- meaning, no matter what your playing style, you can still eventually play the pieces in the book.

    Lot's of syncopation in the tunes- if you play along with the songs on CD (or online), this will improve your time- especially when plating off the beats. Lot's of chromatic studies in the tune, too- very useful for many songs in regards to fills and passing tones. I remember the use of the open strings in order to move up and down the neck was very useful, as well as studying "ghosted" notes. Plus, no tab- it forces you to read music, and to understand some pretty complex rhythms.

    Most of all, I remember working through the book, and having so much of it look super complex on the sheet music. I compiled the original recordings (not the ones with the book) to understand the rhythms, but ALSO to see how the bass parts relate to the music. What people forget, even though Jamerson's bass parts could be quite busy, they seemed to ALWAYS fit in with the song and the vocals. This was very important to my growth as a player- once I started getting better with the Motown style, I tried it in the tunes with the band- what I was doing wasn't fitting quite right, but once I studied more, I realized that busy parts work only if the song dictates it. As Joe Osborn would say, "Let the song tell you what to play."

    Hope this helps! It's a real tough book to work out of, but in a good way- super cool tunes, and it will make you better at playing. I still pull it out now and then to work out of. :)
    Beff Juckley likes this.
  13. ahadl2500

    ahadl2500 Supporting Member

    Nov 28, 2003
    Greenwood, IN
    The best way to approach this book IMO is as a learning tool. It is a great read, but the charts in the back are where the real education is at. Learning how to play most of them (all of the full charts and several of the snippets) has significantly impacted who I am as a bass player.

    I am not saying everyone needs to play through all of them. You could be a happy and successful bass player without knowing the book exists. I am saying that picking several and solidly learning how to play the charts paying attention to rhythm, context within the song, and how everything fits in the chord structure is a fantastic educational exercise.

    Most of the songs are difficult (even the slow ones have enough syncopation that they can take work). Slow the metronome down, work them a few measures at a time, then speed it up. Depending on how frequently/long you practice, it may take you a long time to get through a single chart, but it is worth it. The chops/ability to read the songs come with solid practice. This is a great book to put in the practice with.

    Disclosure: I may have enjoyed this book a little too much. I own 3 copies of it at this point. My favorite is the old spiral bound version because it sits on a music stand better.
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2021
    Beff Juckley likes this.
  14. Leo Smith

    Leo Smith

    Oct 21, 2009
    Buy the book! The music transcriptions are only about a third of the book. The rest is a history of The Motown studio in the 60s with Jameson as the central character. The author was able to interview most of the musicians while they were alive and the memories of those times were still very fresh (remember the book was first published in the late 1980s).

    Your plan to transcribe then check your work is an excellent idea. Then you can play along with the backing tracks that are on the CD.
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