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Thursday, November 6, 2014

Marvin Gaye "What's Going On" Isolated Bass

It's time for some Motown magic with the isolated bass track from the Marvin Gaye masterpiece "What's Goin' On." The song features bassist James Jamerson at his best, even though he played the song laying on his back as he was blind drunk!

Motown songs from this era were recorded on an 8 track where many instruments were mixed together, but Jamerson always got his own track. Here's what to listen for:

1. Jamerson's timing. Regardless of what physical state he was in, the man's timing is impeccable. He's always spot on. Remember, this was way before the days of DAWs and the cut and paste mentality that we have today.

2. He was free to play what he wanted. Contrary to what we do today, there was no set part for Jamerson to play, so he free-forms it for the entire song (and most of the others he played on too), and pretty much never repeats a lick.

3. Jamerson's tone is unique in that the sound was damped by a piece of foam underneath the strings at the bridge. He never replaced the strings unless one broke, and the neck of the 62 Fender Precision was reportedly so warped that it was unplayable except to him. The bass was taken direct and intentionally slightly overdriven at the console.

4. Jamerson's technique was also unique in that he only used his index finger to pluck the strings.


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